Considering Guantanamo

I’ve been asked if there were parallels between the Guantanamo detention camp and the Japanese American concentration camps, and if there were parallels, what were they? Both entities were created out of a time of war and violated civil rights. Similarities also arise from the racism and prejudice against the racial groups, but the camps had fundamental differences. One distinction is that the camps have been run by different agencies. The Japanese American camps were run by the War Relocation Authority, a civilian agency created by the US government. The US government violated the Constitution by forcibly removing a mass of Japanese Americans from their homes, regardless of age, sex, age, and citizenship without due process of law. Guantanamo, on the other hand, is a detention camp run by the justice department and holds non-American individuals with suspected ties to terrorist groups. There is one recorded instance of an American who was captured in Afghanistan and detained at Guantanamo; however, he was eventually released and forced to renounce his citizenship (see Yaser Esam Hamdi). There is also substantial documentation that the incarceration of Japanese Americans was not a military necessity. Though the Japanese did bomb Pearl Harbor, there is no documentation of espionage within the Japanese American community (see summary in Personal Justice Denied). On the other hand, there have been documented Al Qaeda cells operating within the US, such as the result of 9/11.  However, the prisoners at Guantanamo have also been denied due process of law, calling into question whether or not the detention center’s existence is justified. Human rights organizations helped bring to light on an international scale the inhumane treatment of the prisoners, suspect conditions and violation of legal rights under the Geneva Convention. Japanese Americans who were incarcerated received an official apology from the US government with the passing of the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, over 40 years after the last camp closed. The US hasn’t yet closed Guantanamo or declared it unconstitutional, but perhaps time will tell. Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who was incarcerated at Heart Mountain, advocated “no racial profiling” after 9/11. Muslim Americans weren’t forcibly removed from their homes en mass like the Japanese Americans, but bigotry and fear against Muslim Americas, Islamic religion, and Arabic-speaking countries exist to this day and have influenced government policy such as the Patriot Act. In a time of war, when fear is high, maintaining the legal systems’ blindfold and even scale are paramount. The War on Terror challenges the Constitution and is an easy outlet for social prejudice based on race and religion.

One Response to Considering Guantanamo

  1. andy says:

    I think it seems logical to draw parallels, but I also think they’re quite different situations, though related by originating in wartime paranoia, and of course both practicing detention without trial. But Guantanamo is a different animal in that it holds enemy combatants and other suspects, whereas the Japanese American camps were systematic acts of unjustified xenophobic racial paranoia against ‘normal’ people. By comparison, none of the detainees in Gitmo are there purely BECAUSE they are Islamic or Middle Eastern.


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