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Camp X-Ray
2003 - Digital Media

(Written in the late summer of 2003)

What a terrific electrified pattern! Don't ask me how this happened, because I honestly can't recall. I did have to do some touch-ups to ensure that it would tile properly, if I chose to go that route. A lot of these digital paintings look great when tiled -- go set this one to your computer desktop and see for yourself. This baby just looks terrific -- this would make a terrific album cover (hint, hint). All interested parties should drop a truckfull of money on my front porch.

Usually, this is the part where I assume that you know all about Camp X-Ray, but if you're from America, then chances are you don't know much of anything about it. Americans don't know much of anything about anything, actually. People this ignorant shouldn't have easy access to weapons. Sigh.

Camp X-Ray was the first detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for prisoners-of-war captured in the American war in Afghanistan. Of course, the Bush administration decided to classify their guests not as POWs, but as "unlawful combatants." Doing so absolves the United States of any obligations under the Geneva Conventions and international law. Detainees never have to be returned home after the fighting ends; they can be tortured or forced to live in cramped living quarters; they don't even have to be charged with any crime; and, if they do, they would face a military tribunal whose decisions could not be appealed. And said tribunals could have the power to deliver the death penalty.

All of this, you understand, without any appeal to any outside court or international agency. All of this in the name of "national security" and pretending to protect a public scared stupid with visions of terrorist killers and color bars.

During the Iraq II war, the Bushies made quite a fuss about television footage of American POWs broadcast over Arab television, crying foul in the name of the Geneva Convention. The very international laws the President and the White House refuse to abide by. The United States is the biggest bully on the block; we can follow our own damn rules, thank you. And if you have a problem, at best, you are a fool; at worst, you are a traitor.

I remember when the first four detainees from Guantanamo Bay were released. We were promised deadly killers out to attack Americans at the slightest chance. What the world saw was a different reality altogether. One of the men was around 35, the other three were in their seventies. One man insisted that he was over 100, but was obviously too feeble to remember his own age. None of these four knew why they were captured and taken halfway around the world, only to sit in a tiny cell for eight months without being accused of anything. They were simple farmers with no connection to Osama bin Laden, no connection to the Taliban regime. Confused and freightened, they only wanted to know why this had happened to them.

These are your "terrorists," America. This is what you have allowed to happen for the sake of some (hah!) safety. Do you really feel safer? Or do you just run like lemmings whenever the government issues another "warning" or raises the bar to "code orange" again. Does this always happen because Mr. Bush grows tired of having to face difficult questions and prefers to silence dissent? Is his administration just grossly incompetent, or cynically exploiting a nation's fears? Or both?

And don't pretend for a minute that Guantanamo Bay doesn't affect everyday Americans. In the name of "fighting evildoers," the "President" invokes the right to declare citizens as "enemy combatatants," stripping anyone of their Constitutional rights. The right to a trial; the right to a lawyer; the right to face one's accusers; the right to dissent. The Patriot Act has eroded our civil liberties, and the so-called "Patriot Act II" will erode them even further. Does a President have the sole, unchallenged right to declare any citizen, any group (anti-war protesters or whistle-blowers, for example) a, ahem, "terrorist," only to jail them, convict them, or execute them?

Ask anyone who marched for Civil Rights or against Vietnam if the government ever abused its power.

Don't get me started on the reports of beatings, torture, assualts, or the many attempted suicides at good 'ol Gitmo. Those outrages cannot be silenced forever. These prisoners cannot be held forever. One day, sooner or later, they will have to be freed, or given a proper trial. How long will that take? How many months or years will waste away? How will those men feel about the United States when they are finally sent home? What will they tell their loved ones when they finally return? What will be their opinion of the Bin Ladens of the world? How would you feel if it happened to you?

All this to protect us from peasant farmers and children as young as 13. Sure beats worrying about the economy.

And what will become of America's standing in the world? Despite the hopes of the Neocons, there is no way the world would accept an American empire that recklessly follows its own rules. We Americans don't even have the patience for an empire -- isn't that the lesson we're learning from Afghanistan and Iraq? These policies don't even seem to be thought out; was Guantanamo Bay feels like some stopgap that was cooked up until somebody in Washington comes up with a better idea? And just will the end-game be?

That Camp X-Ray exists is a shame. That so few Americans care about it is an even greater shame.