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11 January 2013

Technical note: readers can hear a version of Guantanamera sung by singer Julio Iglesias (b. Madrid 1943) if they click on the headline below.


Yo soy un hombre sincero

De donde crece la palma

Y antes de morirme quiero

Echar mis versos del alma

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera


Mi verso es de un verde claro

Y de un carmin encendido

Mi verso es un ciervo herido

Que busca en el monte amparo

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera


Cultivo una rosa blanca

En julio como en enero

Para el amigo sincero

Que me da su mano franca

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera


Con los pobres de la tierra

Quiero yo mi suerte echar

El arroyo de la sierra

Me complace mas que el mar

Guantanamera, guajira Guantanamera



I am a truthful man

From where the palm tree grows

And before I die I want

To let out the verses of my soul,

O country lass of Guantánamo


My verse is both light green

And  flaming red

My verse is a wounded stag

Whcch seeks refuge on the mountain,

O country lass of Guantánamo


I grow a white rose

In July just as in January

For the honest friend

Who gives me his open hand,

O country lass of Guantánamo



With the poor people of the earth

I want to cast my lot

The brook of the mountains

Gives me more pleasure than the sea,

O country lass of Guantánamo



Below is the sonnet on the plaque mounted on the inside of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Harbour in the estuary of the Hudson River. Penned by US poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) and entitled The New Colossus, it reads as follows:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”



Everybody loves a birthday.

Today 11 Januay 2013 is the eleventh anniversary of the inauguration of the United States torture chamber at Guantánamo in Cuba.

Why is the United States, an avowedly anti-Imperialist power, occupying Cuban territory?

Because it acquired this Cuban enclave – by force of arms – in the Spanish-American war of 1898.

What did Democrat Barack Hussein Obama say when he was campaigning for the US presidency in 2009?

“I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantánamo, and I will follow through on that.”

What, on being elected president, did he do?


According to Wikipedia, in June 2012 no fewer than 169 persons were still detained in Guantánamo.

Are these detainees convicted criminals?


They are “suspects”.

Have they been brought to trial?



Because, despite all the limitless resources available to the US legal prosecution service, insufficient evidence has been unearthed to prove that they are guilty of any crime.

So why keep them in prison?

Because we can.

Hey, say that again.

Because we can.

Why keep them shackled, shoe-horned into phosphorescent orange jump-suits and under 24/7 surveillance?

Why, in order to dehumanise them, to break their spirit and reduce them to the level of animals. Why else? What a silly question.

You see, we can do whatever we want. The United States is the most powerful country in the world. It can do whatever it wishes.

So we do just that.

But what about Magna Carta, Habeas Corpus, the right to a fair trial in a court of law?

That’s for the birds.

Didn’t you read what Richard Nixon, US President 1969-1974, said?

“The law is what the President says it is.”

But what about the basic principle of human rights that the end does not justify the means?

That’s for the birds, too. It doesn’t apply in practice. It’s public relations.

The fact is that we have decided that these guys are our enemies.

Of course, we can’t prove it. But then we don’t need to prove it.

And if anyone objects, well, that’s just too bad.


In a letter to the London Guardian  on 10 January 2012, reader Joy Hurcombe said:

“On Friday 11 January, the US detention facility at Guantánamo will have been open for 11 years. It is universally regarded as a place of torture and abuse, where human rights are routinely violated. While it remains in existence, it stains the reputation of the US and its supporters, and denies justice to the prisoners still held there beyond the rule of law…… On Friday [11 January] campaigners will join the London Guantámo Campaign to tour London embassies, marking the rendition routes of prisoners who were cruelly transported to Guantánamo on secret CIA torture flights. Many countries, including Turkey, Portugal, Spain and the UK, allowed the use of their air space and facilities for these covert operations across national borders, in breach of international rules and agreements…..The route will end at the US embassy for an evening candlelit vigil. We will demand that President Obama fulfils his pledge to close Guantánamo…

 British resident Shaker Aamer [has been] held for nearly 11 years in Guantánamo without charge or trial.”


This is the big one. You cannot uphold human rights by abusing them. Even Chuck Hagel, Obama’s current nominee for Defence Secretary, acknowledges that the existence of Guantánamo tarnishes America’s image, albeit it should be noted that his reported remarks concern not the immorality of the torture camp itself but simply the effect of its existence on US public relations.  The Guantánamo jail was created by President George W. Bush and continues to be maintained by President Barack Hussein Obama for one purpose only: to keep selected “suspects” deemed hostile to US Government interests in legal limbo and, in particular, out of the reach of courts in the USA that might have invoked human rights legislation to free them from indefinite detention without trial.  Ever since the camp was set up, brutal dictatorships around the world – think China or Russia – which think nothing of tossing their own enemies into custodial oblivion (Liu Xiaobo, for instance, or Mikhail Khodorkovsky) have been rubbing their hands with glee. They, at least,  have sometimes mounted a show trial before announcing the pre-determined verdict. It should not be forgotten either that the crimes ascribed to many of the inmates of Guantánamo often involved armed resistance to the US invasion and occupation of Muslim countries in the Middle East and Central Asia – crimes which the US media would term “freedom-fighting” had they involved, say, Texans taking up arms against an invasion from Mexico.

America has long wished to be portrayed throughout the world as a champion of human rights and civil liberties. Well, then, go for it. Not only the world, but America itself, deserves better than the existing immoral quagmire at Guantánamo.

However, we are not holding our breath.

Obama may be an economic dove. In defence and on questions involving human rights he is a hawk.

Stop-press: US director Kathryn Bigelow has just completed a film, Zero Dark Thirty, which, according to the previews, empathises with the difficult job being done by US soldiers deputed to prise information out of Muslim detainees by means of “enhanced interrogation techniques” – torture, to you and me. Well done, Kathryn, nice work if you can get it! And no, we shall not be publicising the release dates.



 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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