According to recent reports, George Bush is looking for a pretext to close the abomination that is Guantánamo Bay. Together with its lesser-known satellites, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and various secret torture camps in eastern Europe, Guantánamo Bay has long been a symbol of Bush’s incoherent and botched ‘War on Terror’.
There have been previous attempts to pierce the fog of secrecy and lies that protects this illegal prison situated outside US judicial scrutiny on the soil of another country. Most notably, the human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith wrote in Bad Men of the inhumane treatment of several of his clients and the horrific limbo of their existence as they are held for years, without trial or due process, as ‘illegal enemy combatants’, a designation recognized only by its inventor, the US.
Andy Worthington’s book, The Guantánamo Files is, as far as I am aware, the first to concentrate not on the processes of the camp but on the lives of those trapped within its walls and wire. Drawing on Pentagon documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act and on the testimonies of the men themselves, Worthington pieces together their stories before, during and – for the fortunate – after their incarceration. From its inception in 2002, a central plank of the dehumanizing strategy at Guantánamo has been the withholding of information about its unfortunate inmates. Andy Worthington has done them and the cause of truth an inestimable service in telling the individual stories of these men, the vast majority of whom committed no crime more heinous than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.