A Collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh

Beyond Orwell: the existential threat of Guantanamo detainees

Ben Davis [University of Toledo College of Law]: "Taking together the report of the Justice Department filing to reduce access of lawyers to GITMO detainee clients, the medical establishment's approach to those detainees, and snippets of George Tenet's interview on 60 Minutes about his new book, one can see that these detainees are perceived as much more than just enemies of the state. Rather they are existential threats to the self-image of all the persons saying "We do not condone or do torture."

What the representatives of the state say and what these detainees say was done to them is too much of a contradiction. To eliminate the contradiction, the representatives of the state do everything to eliminate the existential threat to their self-worth - to silence the threatening other vision. Of course, this can be psychologically reconciled through seeing these detainees also as existential threats to the state - enemies of the state - against whom all can be done as the end justify the means. In this regard, they seek to remind us of the feeling after 9/11 to help them rationalize their actions beyond law.

This reminds me of the discussion of thanatophores ("death bringers") in a book entitled the Psychopathology of Institutional Links. The way to battle death bringers in that book was to "bring light". This effort to bring light is precisely what so many persons are trying to do to fight this very twisted stuff that goes even beyond Orwell. We should continue to resist these efforts to legitimize an illegality and gain our acquiescence - if for no other reason then to lay down a marker that certain types of state action are simply not acceptable. This is the task of citizens as they speak to their government. We should not grant (nor permit these representatives of the state to grant themselves) some type of absolution - way too convenient. Not before the full story comes out and high-level civilians are made accountable for what they countenanced and ordered."

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.

Support JURIST

We rely on our readers to keep JURIST running

 Donate now!

About Professional Commentary

Professional Commentary is JURIST's platform for newsmakers, activists and legal experts to comment on national and international legal developments.

Hotline welcomes submissions, inquiries and comments at professionalcommentary@jurist.org.

© Copyright JURIST Legal News and Research Services, Inc., 2013.