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Shutting Down the Guantanamo Bay Essay


The Guantanamo bay facility, located in Cuba has long been criticized heavily for breaking the Geneva law conventions. There are hundreds of detainees being held without trial and have not been convicted of any crime.

Many argue that it is in the best interest that Guantanamo bay should be shut down, yet some believe it keeps the world safe. I will discuss the brutal life these detainees suffer. A recent study has been made about the life in Guantanamo bay. Seven people volunteered to take part in witnessing firsthand how it feels like to live in Guantanamo bay.

The test last 74 hours and only four people made it. Many prisoners are psychologically damaged from the use of mental torture that exceeds any physical torture. I will state all the facts with reliable sources that explain why Guantanamo bay should be moved to another location. The hype and deception the American media has built on Guantanamo Bay has negatively affected US policy in the age of post 9/11 terrorism.

With the increasingly bad reputation of Guantanamo Bay both in the US and abroad, many critics have argued that the facility should be moved to the US with the belief that the laws of the Geneva Convention, and the United States own policies regarding the treatment of prisoners would be more likely to upheld. However, we should consider that this prison is to hold some of the most dangerous human beings on earth, and that sometimes special techniques are needed to handle extreme cases in the service of the nation’s security.

Geneva Convention

The Guantanamo Bay detention center has been the subject of international controversy with concerns being raised that the facility encourages the violation of international law and standards. One specific international standard that the Guantanamo Bay is accused of violating is the Geneva Convention.

Schneider documents that the Geneva Conventions of 1949 were adopted after the Second World War following a realization that combatants had been tortured, dehumanized and executed by their captors (424). The US is a signatory to the Convention and therefore under obligation to obey the comprehensive legal regime for the treatment of detainees in armed conflicts articulated by the convention.

The US administration has stripped the individuals held at Guantanamo Bay off the protection afforded to them by the Geneva Convention. It has done this by classifying the detainees as “unlawful combatants”. Schneider explains that this label ensures that the detainees are not subject to the Geneva Convention of 1949, which regulates the treatment of detainees in an armed conflict (423).

The US government has not been treating the detainees at Guantanamo Bay as Prisoners of War (POW). If it had been doing this, it would already have violated a number of Articles in the Geneva Convention.

Schneider explains that according to Article 13 of the Convention, prisoners are to be afforded dignity by their captors (426). The detainees at Guantanamo Bay were not afforded this privilege and they were ferried to the facilities in an undignified and humiliating manner. In addition to this, the US government does not give the detainees an opportunity to write to their families as directed by Articles 70 and 71.

Michaelsen and Cutler state that the reasons given by US officials for denying Taliban and al-Qaeda detainees the POW status are illegal (293). The authors explain that some of the detainees have not been accused of any crimes and doubts exist concerning their guilt. In such a case, Article 5 of the Geneva Convention states that a detainee captured under suspicion on having committed a belligerent act should enjoy the protection of the Convention until his/her status is determined by a competent tribunal (Michaelsen and Cutler 293).

Techniques of torture

In the past, the US military explicitly prohibited the use of threats or coercion in during interrogation. Interrogators had to use a set of 19 approved interrogation methods that were considered humane (Jones 40). However, the attacks on New York and Washington on 9/11 changed this. Under the Bush Administration, new ways to apply pressure to individuals under interrogation were drawn up and employed extensively especially at the Guantanamo Bay facilities.

There have been numerous allegations of mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay. The most terrible reported mistreatment has been in the form of physical and psychological torture to the detainees. These Allegations of torture have damaged the reputation of the US government both internationally and domestically.

One torture technique employed by interrogators at Guantanamo bay is sleep deprivation. The detainees are kept from sleeping and when they manage to sleep, it is only for a few interrupted hours. This torture technique was used against Mohamed al-Kahtani who was captured in Afghanistan and sent to Guantanamo Bay due to suspicions that he had tried to take part in the 9/11 attacks.

Jones reveals that according to al-Kahtani’s treatment logs, the prisoner faced a daily routine of just 4 hours of interrupted sleep for weeks on end (40). Blaring music was played to act as disturbance and keep the detainee from sleeping.

Guantanamo bay interrogators also use the water boarding torture technique. In this method, the person being tortured is restrained and a piece of cloth is placed over his face. The interrogator proceeds to pour water over the covered face causing the victim to experience the sensation that he/she is drowning and this leads to extreme pain (Jones 41).

This technique is has numerous adverse effects on the subject as it can lead to lungs and brain damage. Victims of this technique are often reported to suffer from psychological effects many months and years after the torture event. The 9/11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was subjected to up to 180 instances of water boarding during interrogation at the Guantanamo Bay camp in March 2003 (Jones 41).

Guantanamo Bay detainees are made to maintain stress positions for prolonged periods of time. The rationale behind this torture technique is to have the individual inflict pain upon himself as he maintains the rigid position for long periods of time (Blakeley 48). This technique violates International Humanitarian Law which denounces the use of torture for interrogation purposes.

Electronic music has also been used as a tool of physical and psychological torture at the detention center in Guantanamo Bay. Branden reveals that FBI field agents at the center have described detainees being subjected to extremely loud music in a process known as “acoustic bombardment (128).

This torture technique has lasting physical and psychological effects. Many victims become hyperacousive and they are unable to tolerate even slight noises. This torture method can result in psychotic episodes when the victim hears a sound reminiscent of that used to torture him (Branden 130).

Post 9/11 Age of Terrorism

While terrorism has always been a part of human life, the events of September 11, 2011 marked a new age of terrorism. The attack carried by al-Qaeda terrorists on US civilian and military targets proved that the US was vulnerable to attacks from international terrorist organizations.

The 9/11 events demonstrated that the greatest threat to US peace and Security emanated from international terrorists (Mabee 387). The 9/11 attacks were followed by widespread panic and fear by the US population. People felt unsafe and they called on the government to take steps to enhance homeland security. As a consequent, the American homeland was turned into the new frontier from where a war on terror would be initiated and an environment of heightened securitization was enacted in many cities.

A significant consequent of the 9/11 attacks was the declaration of the global war on terror by President Bush. The Bush Administration was forced to take up radical steps to deal with this major threat. These steps were aimed at reassuring the public and ensuring that future attacks could be prevented.

The declaration of war on terror was therefore quickly followed by the invasion of Afghanistan, the country that had provide safe refuge for the al-Qaeda terror network which was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The attack against Afghanistan led to the capture of hundreds of suspected terrorists (Hammond 220). These captives needed to be detained in high security facilities and interrogated for intelligence that would assist in safeguarding America.

The Guantanamo Bay detention facility was opened as part of the Bush initiated global war on terror. The Guantanamo Bay prison facility was unlike any other detention center in the US.

The unique nature of this facility was based on the understanding by the Bush Administration that the nation was fighting a new kind of war and against enemies whose only purpose was to destroy the peace and freedom of US citizens.

An exceptional detention center was needed to contain the worse of these terrorist elements. Officials at the center were authorized to use enhanced interrogation techniques in order to glean any valuable intelligence from this hard terrorists.

Opinion Polls on Guantanamo Bay

Most Americans are of the opinion that their government should change the way in which it treats the individuals at the prison. A survey by the World Public Opinion indicates that 66% of Americans feel that their government should abide by international standards when dealing with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay (1). Most citizens do not think that the US government is justified in its decision to make Guantanamo Bay a place where international rules are not upheld and torture tactics are used against detainees.

The cost of operating the Guantanamo Bay facilities have led to support for the prison to be closed. The Obama administration has revealed that each inmate at Guantanamo Bay costs $800,000 per year to house and maintain. This translates to about $150million per year in operations at the prison camp making Guantanamo Bay an expensive affair for the US government (Crowley 35). Taxpayers feel that it is unfair for them to be paying this huge amount for a facility that does not promote their national security.

In spite of the support for radical changes at the prison, different views are expressed pertaining to what should be done to the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The Gallop polls indicate that most Americans are opposed to the idea that terrorist suspects would be transferred to local prisons. Jeffrey reports that in 2009, only 23% of surveyed Americans supported a move to close the Guantanamo Bay detention center and transfer the suspects to prisons within their states while 74% strongly opposed any such moves (par. 4).

The media has been more favorable in its coverage of Guantanamo By during the Obama Administration than it was during Bush’s time. Findings indicate that most media and opinion polls intensely challenged the pro-Guantanamo Bay frame presented by the Bush administration.

This positive outlook has been promoted by the earnest determination by the Obama Administration to close the camp at the soonest possible date (Crowley 1). Even so, the media has continued to reveal that the Obama administration continues to use some of the torture tactics started by the Bush regime on the Guantanamo bay prisoners.

Bush vs. Obama on Guantanamo

The Guantanamo Bay detention camp was established by the Bush Administration in 2002 as part of the global war on terror efforts. The rationale behind establishing the detention center in this Naval Base in Cuba was that the facility and its inmates could be considered outside US legal jurisdiction.

Bush was in support of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. His administration viewed this facility as integral to the international security of the US in the post 9/11 years. President Bush provided legal support for Guantanamo Bay and various legal memos were written to justify the denial of rights for the detainees who were categorized as “unlawful combatants”. Under the Bush regime, the CIA was granted legal permission to use torture against detainees at Guantanamo Bay (Blakeley 245).

President Bush approved of the use of torture techniques, which he referred to as “enhanced interrogation techniques”, against terror suspects. Top officials in his government officials such as former US Vice President Dick Cheney have been quick to defend this techniques arguing that they are not torture but rather, they are good programs that provide valuable results (Blakeley 544).

By the time Obama took office from President Bush, Guantanamo Bay had become synonymous in many people’s minds with torture and human rights abuse by American interrogators. President Obama therefore embarked on a mission to make reforms that would effectively end these practices.

One of the central campaign promises made by Obama in 2008 was that he would close the notorious military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. He began acting on this promise on the second day of his term in office. Crowley reports that on January 22, 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order to close Guantanamo Bay prison facilities (33). According to Obama, this prison camp had reduced the moral standing of America to the rest of the world.

President Obama has argued that closing the Guantanamo Bay detention center is imperative since this prison has become “an international symbol of US mistreatment of terrorist suspects” (Jeffrey 1). In spite of the promises and commitment shown by Obama, Guantanamo is still open today.

The president contends that he has had to deal with a myriad of political obstacles that have thwarted his attempt to close this infamous prison. In spite of his plans to close down Guantanamo Bay, Obama declares that the US must continue with its efforts to detain or kill suspected terrorists in order to deal with the terrorist networks that threaten US homeland security.

Nation-less Prisoners

The detainees at Guantanamo Bay detention facilities are obtained from different countries and held there due to suspicions of terrorism. Some of the prisoners have been rendered Nation-less due to their detention at this prison. Their countries of origin have denounced the prisoners and effectively revoked their citizenships. By being refused by their own countries of origin, the prisoners do not have a place where they can be repatriated.

Closing Guantanamo prison will be a hard task to accomplish due to the existence of these Nation-less Prisoners. If Guantanamo were closed, these prisoners would have to be brought into US prisons.

Crowley confirms that there is widespread opposition to the idea of bringing individuals who are considered dangerous terrorists into US prisons (33). However, the US is responsible for this prisoners being nation-less. The US government therefore has an obligation to hold the prisoners within US prisons since it caused them to be denied by their countries of origin.


This paper set out to argue that the Guantanamo Bay detention facility operated by the US military should be shut down since it promotes the gross violation of the rights of prisoners and does not achieve any real benefits for the nation.

The paper has articulated the ways in which this detention facility violates the Geneva Conventions. It has also shown that the interrogators at the detention center use torture against detainees. This torture methods damage the prisoners physically and/or mentally. Opinion polls show that Americans are opposed to the mistreatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

This paper has noted that while the closure of Guantanamo Bay prison is a key priority for the Obama administration, the actual implementation of the plan is going to be very difficult. Even so, these efforts to close down the detention facilities must be pursued. If this is achieved, the US will uphold the international standards of human rights and improve its image to the global community.

Works Cited

Blakeley, Ruth. “Dirty Hands, Clean Conscience? The CIA Inspector General’s Investigation of ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ in the War on Terror and the Torture Debate.” Journal of Human Rights 10.1 (2011): 544–561. Web.

Branden, Joseph. “Biomusic.” Grey Room 45. 1 (2011): 128–150. Print.

Crowley, Michael. “Why Gitmo Will Never Close.” Time 208.22 (2013): 33-36. Print

Hammond, Allan. “Two countries divided by a common threat? International perceptions of US and UK counter-terrorism and homeland security responses to the post-September 2001 threat environment.” Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 4.3 (2008): 218–239. Print.

Jeffrey, Michael. Americans Oppose Closing Gitmo and Moving Prisoners to U.S. 3. June. 2009. Web. <>.

Jones, Dan. “Beyond waterboarding: the science of interrogation.” New Scientist 205. 27 (2010): 40-43. Web.

Mabee, Bryan. “Re-imagining the Borders of US Security after 9/11: Securitisation, Risk, and the Creation of the Department of Homeland Security.” Globalizations 4.3 (2007): 385–397. Web.

Michaelsen, Scott and Cutler Scott. “Beyond and Before the Law at Guantanamo.” Peace Review 16.3 (2004): 293–303. Web.

Schneider, Daniella. “Human Rights Issues in Guantanamo Bay.” Journal of Criminal Law 68.5 (2004): 423-439. Web. Print.

World Public Opinion. Americans Say US Should Comply with UN Judgment and Change Treatment of Guantanamo Detainees. 11. May. 2006. Web.

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