In Guantánamo, ‘national security’ rides roughshod over human rights

Shaker Aamer | January 11, 2014

At best, we are numbers. I worry that when I come home that my children will call for “Daddy”, and I will sit unmoving. I am 239.

The military justifies its actions by claiming to protect the US — but it is also violating the constitution it is meant to uphold

The language that they use here at Guantánamo reflects how they treat us prisoners. Just the other day, they referred to me as a “package” when they moved me from my cell. This is nothing new. I have been a package for 12 years now. I am a package when en route to Camp Echo, the solitary confinement wing. I am a package en route to a legal call. “The package has been picked up … the package has been delivered.”

It is not enough that we are called packages. At best, we are numbers. I worry that when I come home that my children will call for “Daddy”, and I will sit unmoving. I am 239. I even refer to myself as 239 these days. I am not sure when I will ever be anything else. It is much easier to deny human rights to those who are not deemed to be “human”.

I have been reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) so I could mark it with the violations the US government commits against us in this facility at Guantánamo Bay. I have been studying each article and on virtually every occasion I have noted how the US military is doing the opposite. After going through all of the articles, I have identified one underlying motive that leads the US to violate the whole declaration.

It is national security. This is the coathanger the government uses to suspend all of these rights. It is always a matter of national security. The US military violates its own constitution. What is almost sadder is to watch the rest of the world credulously accept that the US government has good reason to jettison the very liberties that the US constitutional convention felt were so important — all in the name of protecting those same rights. At the same time, they conduct a daily charade here in Guantánamo — they stage everything that visitors see, and they brag about how well this place is run. What shameless people they are.

In all of this, the US sows the seeds of its own destruction. Prior to 9/11, few people paid any attention to what is called “Islamic extremism”. Since that time, many people have paid no attention to anything else. What is called “extremism” has nothing to do with a correct interpretation of Islam. Yet Guantánamo is the archetypal example of US hypocrisy, a hypocrisy that is provoking people to turn to extremism. How, for example, can the US purport to export the rule of law to Afghanistan or Iraq when the US tramples on the law at home?

So as I studied the UDHR it was not enough that I should recognise that the US military has instituted a GDNHR — Guantánamo Declaration of No Human Rights. I felt I also had to understand why this was: national security, national security, national security.

It is time for the world to wake up and smell the coffee (or, in the case of English people, you might want to wake up and smell the tea). If we want to preserve and foster peace, we must reject the coathanger of national security, and turn once again towards justice.

This article was published by the Guardian UK on January 11, 2014. Shaker Aamer has been a prisoner at Guantanamo since 2002. He has been cleared for release by both the Bush and Obama administrations. Find out more about Shaker at

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World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.