The gross treatment of Haitians in Guantánamo remains an appalling chapter of the site’s history. It featured everything that goes against American ideals. The fact that the United States has continuously exploited the legal black hole of Guantánamo is perplexing – why would a country that espouses liberty and freedom treat people so inhumanely? Only when Americans propagate the ideals we espouse can we strengthen our interests and position in the world.
The case of Guantánamo demonstrates that the United States acts in a way that does not, nominally, go against its own ideals. When it denied Haitians immigration, it invariably declared them economic refugees instead of political refugees. This declaration suggested that Haitians do not have the right to move to the United States. On top of this, the framing of Haitians as AIDS-infected, voodoo-practicing people, suggested that their immigration will harm the right of American people. Furthermore, the deliberate location where America has abused Haitians also means that the victimhood of refugees has been largely isolated from the widespread knowledge of the general public. These examples show that the United States frames its action in a way that seemingly does not go against the principles that it propagates, which is important in that it keeps the US’s soft power strong.
Guantánamo is far from an isolated case. While the United States trumpets human rights and freedom on the world stage, it actively perpetrates human rights violations across its borders. The channeling of vast resources to the Colombian government for cracking down on human right activists is just one of the many cases in which the United States funds dictatorial regimes that follow American policies. While supporting these regimes, the United States, ironically, portrays itself as a warrior of freedom by condemning other countries for human rights violations. For example, it criticizes China for not giving Tibet enough freedom. It also castigates Russia for vetoing UN resolutions when it was the United States that has vetoed the highest number of UN resolutions. This propaganda of American ideals is important because not only does it give the US a moral high ground, but also makes its people believe that the country is practicing the American ideals. Insofar as the general public believes this is indeed the case, the United States can continue its foreign policy in a way that advances its interests even though the policy perpetrates actions that violate the American ideals of liberty and freedom.
Of course, America is not the only country that places its interests ahead of justice. The only difference between America and other countries is that other countries use different tactics to ensure that they can get away with doing whatever is in their interests: the US creates the impression that it cares about justice and freedom; other countries use cultural difference or other means as excuses for committing acts of injustice. Recognizing the disparity between what a country propagates and what it does is the first step to stop these injustices.
Posted by Thomas Yim – Brown University