May 19, 2013

The hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay has passed its 100th day. One hundred prisoners have been on strike over their conditions and indefinite detention, and 29 men are being force-fed with tubes to keep them alive. Of the 166 men being held at Guantanamo, only a handful have been charged with a crime. Furthermore, a number of the prisoners were cleared for release years ago, and yet they stay imprisoned.

I believe the nation is at a critical juncture. It’s time to stand in front of the proverbial mirror and ask: Who are we, really? Do we truly value the rule of law and trial by jury? Does it matter to us that men accused of terrorism have languished in a jail for up to 11 years without ever going before a jury? Do we really care who is guilty and who is innocent?

How many of the men at Guantanamo Bay are innocent of terrorism? It may be impossible to know for sure, but that’s the whole point of a trial by jury.

For years, we have known that Guantanamo is a stain on our nation’s reputation, sensibilities and foundational values of justice. Many Americans have been willing to forsake our values in the name of security. I would say that a nation that uses “security” to introduce monstrosity is headed for oblivion. And let us not deny that our nation has engaged in torture, extraordinary rendition and indefinite detention in the name of security.

It is time to uphold our core, national values of justice and fairness. Put the prisoners on trial or release them. Close the Guantanamo Bay prison once and for all.

Vincent Tola, Baltimore

The writer is treasurer of the Baltimore City Green Party.