Critique on “Don’t Close Guantanamo” by Jennifer

Link To Original Article

“Don’t Close Guantanamo” is a New York Times article written by Jennifer Daskal, who is a fellow and adjunct professor at Georgetown Law Center. She has served as counsel to the assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice and as senior counter-terrorism counsel at Human Rights Watch. The Guantanamo Bay Prison, a United States military prison facility, is today considered one of the most notorious emblems of the War On Terror.The facility was founded by the Bush administration in 2002. The facility has been steeped in controversy due to its legal status and the human rights issues it has been alleged of violating.In fact, the events at Guantanamo Bay do not just limit themselves to the aforementioned cases but have also provided a fair representation of American foreign policy in recent times.It was a bone of contention between the Bush and Obama administrations and most recently  President Trump clearly stated his stance on the issue by announcing in January that he was going to fill Guantanamo up with “bad dudes” (BBC News).Since Daskal, a lawyer specializing in terrorism and international law was famously a part of  “Al Qaeda 7”, a group of lawyers representing Guantanamo Bay detainees and maintained an opposition to the continuation of the facility, hence it is quite startling to see Daskal change her stance with the publication of this article. The author assumes the perspective of an individual who has been very much against the institution and attempts to reason why assuming such a perspective is an essentially flawed decision. Daskal uses employs persuasive tactics such as ethos and coherent structure to lend substance to her argument, her reasoning is weakened by occasional fallacies and selective reasoning hence proving unsuccessful in justifying her argument and proving unsuccessful in convincing informed readers why Guantanamo should be closed.

The author starts off the article by recalling her initial opposition to Guantanamo, and her headstrong obstinacy against those questioning the “legitimacy of [her] convictions” against Guantanamo (Daskal).  She then proceeds to explain the inevitability of her eventual change of stance. Over the course of the article, Daskal makes several arguments in favour of Guantanamo with the aid of political reasons: closure of the facility would jeopardize the prisoners as well as the general public, given there is no guarantee that detainees would be better off in US prison facilities or they would be inducted in terrorist organisations upon liberation.Moreover, interminable imprisonment in such facilities may result in the establishment of a dangerous “precedent” by the US government for the future (Daskal). While the author recognizes the extensive and intense opposition to Guantanamo as well as the ethical quagmire it is perpetually trapped in, she urges that closing down the facility, in the current state of affairs, is not only improbable but could also have potentially hazardous ramifications.

Over the course of the article, the author ascertains that any major component she discusses is supported by either her own knowledge or that of other credible sources in order to strengthen the ethos element of her persuasion. Daskal’s personal credentials not only provide strength to her claims but also remind readers of the credibility of her contention, as her experience gives her authority to comment on the topic at hand. The author’s citation of the report by “Barack Obama’s administration” in emphasizing the threat posed by escaped inmates add weight to her argument. Another example is Daskal’s reference to the eventual ‘tipping point’ of Al Qaeda and the relief it will provide to the issue of Guantanamo, where she cites “Jeh Johnson, the then Department of Defence general counsel”. Through these credible sources and her own authority writing on the topic at hand, the writer tries to make an impression on the readers, who would also be instinctively inclined to endorse a claim she presents, since it is also supported by such well-established parties.

Daskal complements her use of ethos with a cohesive and thoughtfully structured flow of ideas that serve the purpose of keeping the reader engaged while maintaining the persuasive and comprehensive quality of her argument.Even the article title  “Don’t Close Guantanamo”, itself is an element of this endeavour since it immediately clarifies the author’s stance and upon comparison to her initial position favouring “closure of the detention facility” (Daskal), immediately stimulates the interest of the reader, since he or she desires to learn about what exactly made the author change her mind. This curiosity is further increased by avoiding any mention of the reasons for the first three paragraphs of the article. Rather, she uses this initial phase to lay down the foundation of her argument and trace the transformation of her stance. Daskal employs a strong natural tone as well as an anecdote to portray her own reactions, allowing the readers to empathetically visualize the situation from her perspective. However, when Daskal goes on to detail the shift in stance, she portrays it as “the writing on the wall”, a damning reality she had been oblivious to all this time (Daskal). In doing this, she holds the expectation that readers, too, see this certainty and are influenced to change their position on the issue. Daskal’s presentation of her main argument comes next, and by ensuring that she addresses the problem both from the inmates’ and the public’s side, she maintains a fluid and cohesive progression of ideas. Daskal specifically utilizes the ubiquitous compare-and-contrast technique to show how the  Guantanamo facility has improved over time and is, indeed, much better than US mainland prison facilities. The article essentially follows a circular pattern, as the writer’s concluding remarks once again show an inclination towards closing Guantanamo, at least from an ideological perspective. However, by expressing the hope of the eventual Guantanamo 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 sole feasible solution to the Guantanamo problem. This is condensed in the final line “In the meantime, we should keep Guantanamo open”, which leaves no accommodation for debate while also simply reiterating the main premise.

However, despite the author’s use of ethos and structure, her argument is marred by certain logical fallacies. Her assertion that closing down Guantanamo would send prisoners into worse conditions on the US mainland is such an example; there is no solid explanation as to why the choice is necessarily and only 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 rehabilitation of released convicts that would guarantee them the rights they had ‘won’ at Guantanamo, or providing inmates the opportunity to contest proper trials in US civilian courts. Indeed, assumptions are a banality all over the article; Daskal later engages in a tricky argument when she claims that the closure of Guantanamo would lead to a “facility readily available” (Daskal) for disposing of future dissidents. However, no information is provided to support this claim and the author simply assumes that the transfer of 112 prisoners would set a precedent for maltreatment by future administrations. Daskal is unable to formulate a cause-and effect relationship hence proving unable to substantiate her claim.  Furthermore, at the very end of the article, Daskal strays away from the core of her argument by rather than merely requiring a guarantee of the rights of prisoners and the security of alternative facilities, she instead abandons these issues and instead proceeds to demand an end to the War on Terror first. The gross of all impact of such logical fallacies is a fall in the persuasive nature of Daskal’s argument, as the use of flawed logic indicates an argument that is either not well thought out or intrinsically feeble in nature.

Faulty assumptions and logical fallacies are not the only problems with Daskal’s argument. The ethical and legal issues surrounding Guantanamo Bay are also another topic that Daskal fails to discuss comprehensively. Irrespective of its actual purpose, the facility has become the epitome of human rights violation. The usage of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques, also known as torture, has continuously triggered strong opposition, both within the prison boundaries and on an international level. To illustrate, we may study 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, “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 and a serious instance of human rights violation. Other accounts provided by prisoners include “being held in darkness and isolated from other prisoners for long periods”, and being placed in “coffin-shaped boxes” (Rohde). Moreover, besides torture, the legal status of Guantanamo inmates itself is also quite opaque; 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 imprisonment of these prisoners is, therefore, a direct violation of both international law and common ethical values, and hence creating a damaging impact on the American image worldwide.Since Daskal opts to completely avoid the legal and ethical crises that Guantanamo is facing, this abates the persuasiveness of her argument as a whole.

Throughout the article, the writer treats Guantanamo simply as a prison facility, without accounting for the background politics and the broader ramifications of keeping Guantanamo functional. While Daskal does recognize the  “policy imperatives in favor of closure” (Daskal), plain acknowledgment, in this case, does not make present a solution these exigent issues. In fact, the disregard expressed by the author for the political reasons for closing Guantanamo significantly impacts the persuasiveness of her argument. In essence, 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 isn’t closed permanently, “the black mark of Guantanamo will remain” a notoriously indelible object of the American War on Terror (Cohen). Indeed, it is well known that Guantanamo Bay has become a major enlistment location 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 Qaeda’s literature and how Anwar al-Awlaki, a prominent 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 during the Obama tenure, recognized 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 serve to fan the flames of international terrorism. It is therefore rather incongruous that, when the author urges readers to wait for the War on Terror to end before closing down Guantanamo, she inadvertently advocates to extend that very same war by supporting one of the core reasons behind it.

To conclude, while Daskal’s use of ethos and structure allows her to build a fluid and cohesive argument supported by expert knowledge, she ultimately fails to convince the reader of keeping Guantanamo functional. Flawed logic and faulty reasoning undermine the persuasive element of the argument being presented.Moreover if viewed in its entirety, her article is unlikely to sway readers to her cause. The closure of Guantanamo Bay would prove to be a refreshing and significant change to proceedings and will hopefully signal the end of a dark era of American politics as well as draw an end to the War on Terror.


Works Cited

Cohen, Michael “Guantanamo ‘war on terror’ camp is a big stain on Obama’s record” The Guardian, Guardian Media Group, 31st October 2015, Web 22 Nov 2015

Daskal, Jennifer “Don’t 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 Qu’ran abuse” The Guardian, Guardian Media Group, 6 June 2005, Web 22 Nov. 2015

Postel, Thérèse, “How Guantanamo Bay’s Existence Help’s 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 2015

“Donald Trump Says Guantanamo Bay Releases Must End.” BBC News. BBC, 03 Jan. 2017. Web. 15 Apr. 2017.


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