By Retired Colonel Ann Wright Truthout 1/9/06

January 11, 2007, marks the five-year anniversary of the first prisoners sent by the Bush administration from Afghanistan to the US Naval Base prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Over 770 prisoners have been incarcerated there in the subsequent five years, “the worst of the worst,” according to former secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld. After five years, only ten have been charged with any crime. 379 of the “worst of the worst” have been sent home with no charges and no apologies, after years of imprisonment. Torture and other inhumane treatment of prisoners have occurred routinely in the prison. 29 prisoners have made 41 suicide attempts; three were successful. All prisoners are depressed and despondent.

On January 9 to 13, 2007, I will be a part of an international delegation of former prisoners, families of current prisoners, US lawyers and human rights activists who will march to the US Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay to demand that the prison be closed. The march is a part of the January 11 International Day to Shut Down Guantanamo.

As I look into the US Naval Base at Guantanamo, I will be filled with sadness and anger with what the Bush administration has done in the name of “national security,” national security that has been jeopardized by policies in the prison that have undercut the moral and ethical foundation of our country.

As a retired US Army Reserves Colonel and US diplomat who helped reopen the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2001, I am going to Cuba to march to the gates of the US Naval Base to demand accountability for violations of domestic and international law against prisoners and to protest the incredible costs to our international standing as well as to our common humanity caused by the Bush administration’s policies on detention, interrogation and torture. The name “Guantanamo” will now live in infamy in the annals of history.

To the world, the term “Guantanamo” means inhumane treatment at best and torture as the norm. Plain and simple, no matter how the Bush administration tries to parse the definition of torture, we know it when we hear it: solitary confinement for months on end, extreme changes of temperature, waterboarding, beatings, deprivation of sleep, high intensity noise and light. They can tell us that “alternative” techniques are approved, but we know what they are – techniques that the president, if they were used on him, would call torture.

“Guantanamo” stands for being outside the rule of law – no hearings, no notice of evidence, no habeas corpus for fellow human beings. It means an administration that has attempted to be the law rather than follow the law.

“Guantanamo” stands for shielding from prosecution for their illegal criminal activities those who have been involved in illegal detention, torture and rendition.

“Guantanamo” stands for the sacrifice of our morality and humanity by allowing the prison to stay open.

I firmly believe that to regain some respect in the international community, and for the sake of our national spirit and soul, the prison in Guantanamo must be closed and the US military must be removed from adjudicating “enemy combatants” cases.

Instead, I believe the federal courts must administer the laws of the United States against persons charged with “terrorist” crimes, as the courts have done in the past. For the United States to ever hope to salvage some modicum of its stature in the area of human rights, the legal process for those accused of criminal, terrorist acts must be transparent and fair. The “Guantanamo process” is neither.

For our own humanity, I call on the new Congress to acknowledge the capabilities and history of our civilian legal system, abolish the Military Commissions Act, designate the federal courts to hear the cases, and close Guantanamo.


Ann Wright is a retired 29-year US Army Reserve Colonel and a 16-year US diplomat who resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

Other members of the delegation to Guantanamo are:

Zohra Shaban Zewawi and Taher Deghayes, mother and brother of Omar Deghayes, from Dubai Asif Iqbal, a former detainee in Guantanamo released in March 2004

Medea Benjamin, Global Exchange and CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Cindy Sheehan, “peace mom,” Gold Star Families for Peace

Bill Goodman, attorney and legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights

Adele Welty, 9/11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows (her son, a firefighter, was killed on 9/11)

Jodie Evans, CODEPINK: Women for Peace

Tiffany Burns, Gold Star Families for Peace

Mat Whitecross, co-producer of the film “Road to Guantanamo”

Catherine Murphy, documentary filmmaker who will document the delegation