Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights is a product of a January 2004 article by David Rose for Vanity Fair. Following the completion of his initial article and realizing the ramifications of what was happening at the United States detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Rose decided to continue his investigation and expand it into a book length treatment of the subject. The book is based primarily on interviews with British detainees who were captured in Afghanistan and handed over to American soldiers by Afghani warlords as well as interviews with both United States government officials presiding over Camp X-Ray and non-governmental organizations that have sought to improve the treatment of detainees held at Guantanamo.
Throughout his book, Rose argues that the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay has irreparably harmed the United States so-called “war on terror” by abandoning many of the principles of human rights that the United States purports to honor and that Camp X-Ray is an absolute failure. On February 7, 2002 President Bush declared that prisoners held at Camp X-Ray had no legal status under the Geneva Conventions and that they were not prisoners of war but rather were “enemy combatants.” While many may be tempted to see this as the origin of the human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Rose’s book makes it clear that this was merely the date at which official violations of the Geneva Convention became policy — the decision to hold detainees at Guantanamo Bay was made because of the base’s ambiguous legal status. For Rose, this is a logical consequence of a policy of detention that was seriously flawed to begin with as few of the detainees were involved with either al-Qaeda or the Taliban. Instead, Rose describes detainees that were rounded up in mass arrests and those who were sold to the United States in exchange for $5,000 bounties paid by the United States for “terrorists” in Afghanistan.
With a flawed detention process, Rose reveals that the intelligence coming out of Guantanamo has been of little use to the United States government in its “war on terror.” What little detention that has come out of the base has been of the most general nature, describing possible attacks such as those on shopping malls, although as Rose points out, anyone with even the most minimal knowledge of consumerism in the United States would know that malls would be good targets. Rather than acknowledge that most of the 600 detainees held at Guantanamo were not guilty of any crimes, the United States has responded by stepping up interrogations and conducting them using beatings, sleep deprivation, denial of food, and other harsh techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions in order to force detainees into confessing. Rose’s interviews with detainees reveal many abuses during the interrogation process while interviews with US officials reveal the limited value of the “intelligence” gained at Guantanamo Bay.
While making few new revelations, Rose’s book is a useful work that consolidates much of the information available on Guantanamo and directs attention towards the topic, as detentions in Guantanamo have been largely forgotten amidst the almost weekly reports of new abuses relating to the detentions of individuals held by the United States in Iraq. Since the publication of the Guantanamo in late 2004, there have been several new documents released showing that the government authorized treatment techniques that violate the Geneva Conventions as well as the government’s attempts to create a legal framework for said treatment.
David Rose, Guantanamo: The War on Human Rights, (The New Press, 2004).