Friday, November 14, 2008

"The Company We Keep"

In Friday's Sun-Times, Neil Steinberg penned a surprisingly poignant column about the supposed shame Guantanamo Bay brings upon the United States. I was particularly struck by the parallels to our own studies, especially regarding civil liberties in our "Perilous Times" unit.

Steinberg's introduction to this topic was the case of Bo Kyi, a dissident from the country of Myanmar, who spoke in Chicago recently about the plight of his friends back home who received 65-year prison sentences for "attending protests [and] distributing leaflets." Sound familiar?

Interestingly, several other speakers at this event mentioned the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, and their hope that the United States would soon shut down this facility, which many citizens believe has become a "blot on America's reputation." 

But Steinberg lamented that too many Americans do not view this detention facility as a problem:
They don’t understand the company we’re keeping, don’t realize just how frequently torture is used around the world. Nor do they grasp that their excuse — national security — is the exact same rationale offered up by every barbarous regime for the confinement and abuse of heroic champions of justice such as Bo Kyi.
Sound familiar?

In the post-September 11 world, why should we even care about what others think of us? Read the entire (very short) article. Do you agree with Steinberg's argument(s)? What has our own history taught us? Think about your own studies grappling with the events of 7 eras of American warfare. And consider these parting words from the author: 
The truth is, in times of peril, our nation’s overreactions — from Lincoln suspending habeas corpus to the internment of Japanese citizens during World War II to Guantanamo Bay — never make us safer, never improve the situations they were meant to confront.



maddie hilbrant said...

I think this is such a controversial topic that is not seen that often today. I definitely agree with Steinberg's opinions. I think Guantanamo Bay is a rediculous and unfair way of protecting our country. Guantanamo Bay is no different than Osama Bin Laden keeping Americans held hostage and saying that he was simply protecting our country, however on the other hand you could argue that we have not been attacked since 9/11 but who is to say that Guantanamo Bay is protecting us? I think it is completely unfair and the US should have no special privelages than any other country.

andrea said...

I agree with Maddie that guantanamo bay is unjust to the people who have done such unharmful things like attend a protest. I want to know whether or not this would fall under cruel and unusual punishment?

Matt L. said...

I agree with Steinberg's idea that the overreactions never do anything good for the country. In fact I think that the more a person questions his government the more patriotic and heroic the person is because he is exposing the inconsistencies in a government. For instance, if a government says torture is not right and then uses it in war time to protect national security then whomever uncovers this is the true patriot.

Boris P said...

I think that Guantanamo Bay is a necessary sacrifice of public view in order to preserve our nation's safety. Obama's plans to get rid of it seem impulsive and uncalled for. While some civil liberties may be broken,Guantanamo protects our Homeland from terrorists. Would you rather us not have it ,but instead have another 5000 people killed in a terrorist attack ? Would it be worth it then ?

Adam said...

Guantanamo Bay is a hard topic to talk about. I agree with Mr. Steinberg, Andrea, and Maddie that is is unfair and unjust. I think our country is being somewhat hipocritical with our use of Guantanamo bay. How is it just for us to detain "enemy combatants" who we view as suspicious or a threat to our country? Other countries are not out rounding up suspicious Americans individuals and detaining them. What makes the US different from all other countries that allows us to do this? And how can we be positive that everyone in Guantanamo bay is a serious threat to our country's safety? I think it will be interesting to see what Obama does with Guantanamo Bay, and what he does with the prisoner's detained there. At the same time, I can understand why many people are in favor of Guantanamo Bay. After 9/11, our government felt vulnerable. We had just suffered a terrible loss and we were afraid of having a repeat. While I don't necessarily agree with what Boris is saying, I understand why he is saying it.

Kimber said...

Unfortunately it has been in the name of “National Security” that the United States has engaged in problematic programs such as the “Perilous Times” after WWI, establishing work camps for Japanese during WWII, invasion of personal privacy after 911, and the current prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is a fine line between protecting our country and violating civil rights. I believe we have to be true to our beliefs, moral, and ethics while protecting our country. The end does NOT justify the means. Torture can never be an acceptable method to gain information. I do not have as much of a problem with our government monitoring web sites and emails, even though this is a violation of privacy.

Matt H said...

I really don't think strongly about Guantanamo Bay either way. If I had to pick a side, I'd want our government to get rid of it, unless we had evidence that "Person X" was/is affiliated with Al-Qaeda. In that case, I'm ok with it and some how, I'm pretty sure that at least a couple of the people in Guantanamo are/were affiliated with terrorism of some sort. However, I'm fairly certain that a massive majority wasn't affiliated at all.

Jackie said...

“In this post September-11th world, why should be care what others think?” Because we aren’t the only country in the world! There is this idea that some American’s hold, that we are an island, and we shouldn’t worry about anyone but ourselves. It is this mentality that will never bring upon progress. In order to face the huge problems that are beginning to appear before us, we need to work as one world, not a couple hundred countries. That may sound overly ideological but we do need at least some level of unity. We are a huge country, with a huge amount of sway on smaller countries. We will never be able to crawl safely out of things like climate change, the food crisis, and the ever growing water crisis, if we only think of ourselves. So many American’s are yelling for change. We need to be the change we seek in the world!

Zack said...

It is very suprising to me, that as a nation we still allow Guantanamo Bay to have as much authority as it still has. Anyone who takes more than five minutes to assess the past and present history of that prison would know that it is flawed. Guantanamo Bay perfectly sums up how people in our country have capitalized on the post 9/11 fear that so much of our citizens our going through. The threat of terrorism has never been more real to many people. Due to that terror, institutions like Guantanamo Bay are allowed to stay open. Hopefully in a few more years people will wake up and stop living in fear.