uses Nabok ov’s Humbe rt Humbert to show . ..
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Why Guantánamo was a success
March 2009 | 156 » Web exclusive »
The Guantánamo Bay detention centre has been widely denounced as a legal and moral failure. Yet for those who created it, its legacy is a triumph
The dust appears to be settling on Guantánamo Bay; by presidential decree, it will be closed within a year. The last British detainee, Binyam Mohamed, was released on 23rd February. The Guantánamo experiment was, say its critics, a comprehensive failure. But this depends on what it was trying to achieve. The strategic victories it won for the Bush administration during the eight years of its existence will last much longer than the camp itself.
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But the greatest strategic victory won is in the field of ethics. In his book Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity (1989), the philosopher Richard Rorty argued that the point of ethical discussion is to sensitise us to the suffering of others, and he uses Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert to show us that complicity with a cruelty teaches us how to be cruel.
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Of course, the closure of Guantánamo is undoubtedly a good thing. But if we let ourselves believe that this marks the end of a dark period of history, we have vastly misunderstood the full extent of what is at stake.
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