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Ali Hamza Afghan 19110016

Professor Aqila Zaman
22nd November 2015
Dont Close Guantanamo
The Guantanamo Bay detention facility is one of the most infamous symbols of the
modern War on Terror; ever since its establishment in 2002, the site has been mired in
controversy due to its murky legal status and alleged violations of human rights. The facility
has in fact seen so much debate that it has turned into a political hot potato of sorts,
constantly tossed about between the Bush and Obama administrations. The prisons
significance is not to be understated; the abuses and violations that happened in Guantanamo
have been an indication of American foreign policy in the past decade. Jennifer Daskal is a
highly regarded American lawyer specializing in terrorism and criminal law; she has worked
as both a lawyer in the Department of Justice and as a counsel for Human Rights Watch. She
was famously part of the Al Qaeda 7, a group of government lawyers who represented
Guantanamo Bay detainees and thereafter opposed the base. It was, therefore, surprising that,
in a January 2013 article for the New York Times titled Dont Close Guantanamo, Daskal
argues against the closure of the infamous detention facility. In her article, Daskal reasons
from the viewpoint of someone long opposed to Guantanamo and highlights how such a
stance is mistaken, or perhaps impractical. Although Daskals use of ethos and coherent
structure contributes to the persuasiveness of her argument, her occasionally fallacious
reasoning and selective argumentation undermine her stance and ultimately fail to provide
informed readers with any convincing reason as to why Guantanamo must be closed.
Daskal begins her article by recounting her initial opposition to Guantanamo, and her
initial stubbornness against those questioning the legitimacy of [her] convictions against


Guantanamo (Daskal). She then explains the inevitability of her eventual change of heart and
the writing on the wall she had previously refused to see. Citing political realities and
practicalities, Daskal makes several arguments in favour of Guantanamo: prematurely
shutting down the facility would endanger both the prisoners and the general public, given
there is no guarantee that detainees would be given better treatment in US prisons or that they
indeed wouldnt join Al Qaeda upon release. Additionally, allowing infinite detention within
US prisons is likely to set a dangerous precedent for disposal of future political actors
(Daskal). While Daskal admits the overwhelming support levied against Guantanamo and the
ethical issues surrounding it, she urges that closing the base, according to current political
realities, is both unlikely and dangerous.
Throughout the article, Daskal ensures that any major point she makes is backed up
by either her own knowledge or that of others in order to establish ethos. Her own credentials
as a former Department of Justice lawyer provide her with a reputable position, and reassure
readers of the legitimacy of her argument, as her experience gives her authority to comment
on the topic. Her usage of the report issued by Barrack Obamas administration in making
her point about dangerous convicts adds to the weight of her argument. Another example is
her reference to the eventual tipping point of Al Qaeda and the relief it will provide to the
issue of Guantanamo, where she quotes Jeh Johnson, the then Department of Defence
general counsel. Through the use of both her established sources and own authority in her
writing, the writer attempts to gain credibility with readers, who would naturally be inclined
to agree with a point she makes if other, informed parties also agree with her.
Daskal compounds her use of ethos with a coherent and logically structured flow of
ideas that is primarily designed to keep readers interested while making her argument
persuasive and easy to comprehend. The title, Dont Close Guantanamo, itself is a part of
this effort; it immediately asserts Daskals position, and, when contrasted with her initial


position favouring closure of the detention facility (Daskal), creates a sense of suspense for
readers, who would naturally be curious as to what made Daskal change her mind. This
curiosity is further played upon as she doesnt disclose her reasons until three paragraphs
later. Rather, she uses this initial phase to provide relevant background information and detail
her transition from support to opposition. Her natural tone and narration of her own reactions
essentially place the reader in her own shoes; anyone in favour of closing Guantanamo would
obviously be indignant and react defensively if told they were wrong, yet when Daskal
goes on to detail her change of mind, she portrays it as the writing on the wall, a reality that
was obvious all along (Daskal). In doing this, she hopes that readers, too, see this inevitability
and are persuaded to change their stance. Daskals presentation of her main argument comes
next, and by ensuring that she addresses the problem both from the inmates and the publics
side, she maintains a logical and thorough flow of ideas. In particular, she uses comparison
and contrast to show how Guantanamo has improved over the years and is, indeed, much
better than US mainland prisoners. The text ultimately follows a cyclical structure, as the
writers concluding remarks once again favour closing Guantanamo, at least ideologically.
However, by confining this eventual closure to a near, but vaguely defined future where Al
Qaeda is defeated and there is a realistic hope for closing Guantanamo, Daskal essentially
reaffirms her point that her solution is the only appropriate, short-term solution to
Guantanamo. This is summed up in the final line In the meantime, we should keep
Guantanamo open, which leaves no room for argument and restates the authors main thesis.
However, despite Daskals use of ethos and structure, her use of logical fallacies
undermines her argument. Her assertion that closing down Guantanamo would send prisoners
into worse conditions on the US mainland is an example of an either-or fallacy; there is no
concrete reason as to why the choice is necessarily between a lenient Guantanamo and
abusive US prisons. By limiting the discussion to these two, she assumes there is no middle


ground, such as a facility specifically for the released prisoners that would guarantee them the
rights they had won at Guantanamo, or giving the 112 inmates proper trials in US civilian
courts. Indeed, assumptions are common in Daskals piece; she later indulges in a slippery
slope argument when she claims that the closure of Guantanamo would lead to a facility
readily available (Daskal) for disposing of future dissidents. Again, she gives no evidence to
support this claim and assumes that the transfer of 112 prisoners would set a precedent for
abuse by future administrations. She fails to establish an explicit cause-and-effect relationship
between the two, and so is ineffective in conveying her point. Furthermore, at the very end of
the article, Daskal shifts the goalposts for her argument; instead of merely requiring a
guarantee on the rights on inmates and the security of any other facility, she instead
overshadows these problems with her insistence on ending the War on Terror first. The
overall result of all of these logical fallacies is a decrease in Daskals persuasiveness, as the
use of faulty logic indicates an argument that is either not well thought out or inherently
Assumptions and logical fallacies are not the only problems with Daskals reasoning.
The ethical and legal issues behind Guantanamo Bay are also another topic that Daskal does
not elaborate on. Regardless of its intended purpose, the camp has become synonymous with
violations of human rights. The usage of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, also known as
torture, has repeatedly incited outrage, both within the prison and in the international
community. An example is the case of Majid Khan, a Pakistani citizen captured by the CIA
and currently held in Guantanamo. Khan, speaking to his lawyers, gave details of rectal
feedings by CIA interrogators, who forcibly held him down and, in a procedure that his
lawyers called rape, rectally infused him with a [puree] consisting of hummus, pasta
with sauce, nuts, and raisins, an account that was supported by CIA cables (Rohde). If true,
such an incident classifies as sexual violence, which is a war crime. Khans account matches


other detainees descriptions of treatment that could be classified as torture, including being
held in darkness and isolated from other prisoners for long periods, and being placed in
coffin-shaped boxes (Rohde). Besides from torture, the legal status of Guantanamo inmates
itself is murky; as of November 2015, 107 prisoners remained at Guantanamo, with 48
recommended for release and a majority is not facing any charges at all (Presse). The
incarceration of these prisoners is, therefore, a direct violation of both international law and
common ethical values, and a negative strain on the American image worldwide. The fact that
Daskal chooses to deliberately exclude this legal and ethical context significantly takes away
from the legitimacy of her argument.

Throughout the article, the writer treats Guantanamo merely a prison, without
considering the politics behind it and the wider repercussions of keeping it open. While she
does acknowledge the policy imperatives in favour of closure (Daskal), mere
acknowledgement, in this case, does not make these imperatives go away. In fact, the
carelessness with which Daskal disregards the political reasons for closing Guantanamo
significantly damages the persuasiveness of her argument. Put simply, the Guantanamo Bay
base has, through its well-documented abuse of human rights, become one of the most
prominent elements of American foreign policy; Michael Cohen, in an article for the
Guardian, laments how, if the facility isnt shut down, the black mark of Guantanamo will
remain a memorable part of the American War on Terror (Cohen). Indeed, it is well known
that Guantanamo Bay has become a major recruiting point for radical terrorist organisations;
Therese Postel, writing for the Atlantic, notes how the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo
Bay has been featured prominently in Al Qaedas literature and how Anwar al-Awlaki, a
known pro-Al Qaeda cleric, issued a lecture discussing the plight of prisoners in the prison
camp, which encouraged Nidal Hussain, the Fort Hood shooter to carry out his fatal attack


on a US military base (Postel). Even Joe Biden, the vice president of the United States,
acknowledged this fact, claiming that the facility was the greatest propaganda tool that exists
for the recruiting of terrorists around the world (qtd. in Glaister). Keeping the facility open
would only provide fuel to the fire that international terrorism has become. It is therefore
rather ironic that, when Daskal urges readers to wait for the War on Terror to end before
closing down Guantanamo, she unknowingly prolongs that very same war by supporting one
of the reasons behind it.
While Daskals use of ethos and structure allows her to build a smooth, coherent
argument that is backed up by expert knowledge, she ultimately fails to convince the reader
of keeping Guantanamo open. Her faulty lines of reasoning and exclusion of key ideas all
serve to erode her persuasiveness as a writer, and, when taken as a whole, her article is
unlikely to change the minds of even the least informed readers. The closure of Guantanamo
Bay is a welcome and long overdue process, one that will hopefully signal the end of a dark
era of American politics and the winding down of the War on Terror.

Word count: 2037

Works Cited


Cohen, Michael Guantanamo war on terror camp is a big stain on Obamas record The
Guardian, Guardian Media Group, 31st October 2015, Web 22 Nov 2015

Daskal, Jennifer Dont Close Guantanamo, The New York Times, The New York Times
company, 10 January 2013, Web 22 Nov. 2015

Glaister, Dan, Senator Urges Guantanamo closure after Pentagon admits Quran abuse The
Guardian, Guardian Media Group, 6 June 2005, Web 22 Nov. 2015

Postel, Thrse, How Guantanamo Bays Existence Helps Al Qaeda Recruit More
Terrorists The Atlantic, Atlantic Media, 12 April 2013, Web 22 Nov. 2015

Rohde, David, Exclusive: Detainee alleges CIA sexual abuse, torture beyond Senate
findings Reuters, Thomson Reuters, June 2 2015, Web 22 Nov. 2015

Presse, Agence-France, US transfers five Guantanamo Bay detainees to United Arab

Emirates The Guardian, Guardian Media Group, 16 November 2015, Web 22 Nov