Guantanamo and the Paradox of American Exceptionalism

One of the key aspects of American culture is the idea that a self designated sense of moral superiority allows for Americans to pass judgement on the culpability of those who we deem “other.” As this becomes a more ingrained part of the American doxa and fear comes to govern foreign policy, the United States runs the risk of adopting a culture of dehumanization towards prisoners of President Bush’s “War on Terror.”

Many commentators have used the Guantanamo Bay detention facility as a symbol for American Exceptionalism. As corroborated by various accounts of lawyers that represented prisoners in Guantanamo, the debate over the rights of prisoners reveals the moral superiority complex that the United States possesses. At Guantanamo, it has been debated what rights prisoners deserve. For example, Morris Davis, a lawyer from the camp recounts the debate that he had with his superiors about Miranda rights as well as rights to a quick and speedy trial. Guantanamo serves as a current example of the contradictions that America embraces as a result of the War on Terror. Through my exploration of this detention facility, I hope to demonstrate the way that Bush’s War on Terror echoes the contradictions that plagued Cold War culture. These contradictions, as explored by Kenneth Roth in his examination of the state of United States foreign policy, present the possibility of transforming the United States from “one of the world’s most progressive nations when it comes to protecting the rights of criminal suspects to one of the least.” The current judicial proceedings of Guantanamo Bay have created a void which allows for the growth of moral decay creating a gilded effect. This gilded effect, where the United States presents a façade of morality while existing in a state of moral decay, allows for the corruption of the current justice system and the decay of this country’s current values.

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