One of the distinguishing features of 21st century life is the explosion in the creation of enclosed spaces by erecting barriers – using “barriers” in the broad sense of creating a space or area that is exclusionary.
Three headlines in the past few days illustrate the dimensions of this observation.
The first, from the Christian Science Monitor (May 6), reads: “Iraq's New Gated Communities: Safer, Mixed, Walled-In
.” The story describes the re-creation of Saidiyah, one of Baghdad’s pre-war neighborhoods. Saidiyah a year ago was largely deserted as warring militias battled each other for dominance and the “right” to “cleanse” the area of the minority religious sect.
The net flow of people is now reversing as more and more former residents learn of two developments. The first is the continuous presence of U.S. troops at two locations within the neighborhood as well as an Iraqi army unit. The second development is the construction of a 12 foot tall solid concrete barrier that completely encloses the neighborhood save for a single joint automobile/pedestrian checkpoint under control of the Iraqis.
When asked about the delays getting through the single gate, Iraqis invariably said that the delays were bearable as long as they could be safe within their walls.
While some Iraqis try to get inside Saidiyah for safety, a Washington Post May 6 story relates the status of trials of al-Qaeda and “affiliated” unlawful enemy combatants being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: “Justice System For Detainees Is Moving At A Crawl
Beyond the 775 who have been detained at “Gitmo,” there are also the thousands still confined at overcrowded U.S.-run prison camps in Iraq, at Abu Ghraib (now run by Iraqis), and quite possibly at whichever third country prison still is willing to let the CIA interrogate new “high value” prisoners. One wonders whether Bush will hand his successor the keys to the remaining “black prisons” or let the new president try to figure out where these might be – and whether “torture” albeit never defined by the Attorney General but somehow understood by the average person had continued after 2007.
Bush will undoubtedly pass to his successor in the Oval Office not only a senseless war but an equally senseless “Military Commission” apparatus that has yet to actually prosecute and convict on evidence (or what passes for evidence) any charged with planning, supporting, or knowing about the attacks of September 11, 2001.
In fact, violations by the Justice Department of the human rights of many of the Guantanamo prisoners made pose significant legal obstacles to attempted future prosecutions.
As a matter of interest, what do the three remaining major presidential candidates say they will do when (not if) Bush hands them the prison keys? Alphabetically, from the campaign web sites:
Clinton: “To build the world we want, we must begin by speaking honestly about the problems we face. We will have to talk about the consequences of our invasion of Iraq for the Iraqi people and others in the region. We will have to talk about Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib.”
McCain: “We all have to live up to our own high standards of morality and international responsibility. We will fight the terrorists and at the same time defend the rights that are the foundations of our societies. We cannot torture or treat inhumanely the suspected terrorists that we have captured. We must close the detention facility at Guantanamo and come to a common international understanding on the disposition of dangerous detainees under our control.”
Obama: “my opponent…will not be able to say that I wavered on something as fundamental as whether or not it is ok for America to torture — because it is never ok… I will end the war in Iraq… I will close Guantanamo. I will restore habeas corpus.”
Lastly, the online publication Gov.Ex.com carried what surely must be a horrible sentence for the men and women who will come back from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering psychiatric disorders that raise barriers to humanity, hope, and life itself.
Representatives of the Veterans Administration told Congress Tuesday that attempted suicides by veterans under VA care could exceed 1,000 per month. Moreover, it is quite possible that, as the headline on this story read, “Suicides Of Iraq Veterans Could Top Combat Deaths
The latter now exceed 4,500. Where does it end?