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Last week, I said that photographs from Guantanamo now teach us nothing. I should qualify that statement; photographs will tell us nothing new of the military operations, procedures and especially not future plans for the site.

It does not mean, however, that photographs are useless. Visual sources can be presented to refine existing positions of that illegal and politically foolish site.

Looking at the same set of photographs by Tim Dirven, Robert Hariman of NO CAPTION NEEDED has drafted a position that describes the growing and inevitable non-utility of Guantanamo as it relates to the discredited policy that originally led to its construction and use.

An architecture of stupidity begins to emerge.  For example, the extreme functionality of the space that actually inhibits any reasonable use, much less any use that might lead to resolution of the larger conflict. Also perhaps the over-design of the security apparatus: tables bolted to the floor within a cage will have their rationale, but there is something so excessive here that it has to be a sign of arbitrary rules, endless procedures, and near-complete inattention to anything else but the literal replication of the machinery of power.  Nor is that a dynamic process, but one that depends on stasis, on the inactivity, boredom, and habitual resignation to routine evident in the guards’ postures.”

“[Guantanamo] prison is a monument to stupidity.  It is not enough to reform the prison, however.  My point is that the national security state produces stupidity because it depends upon stupidity.  The national interest of a democratic people may be served well by reason, but the modern state, to the extent that it is a regime of coercive control, will rely on another mentality: stupidité d’état.”

(My bolding)

Sometimes the name of this weblog-journal means that I simply cannot overlook certain stories or acts of publishing.

@ Tim Dirven / Panos Pictures

In the past couple of hours, the Guardian website ran a nine image Guantanamo photo-gallery. The gallery launches from the largest and most prominent rectangle of the new Guardian redesign, i.e. it is the top story on the home page.

I can only assume that this is an editorial decision to keep Guantanamo in people’s minds? After all. we’ve been distracted by healthcare reform in the US, the chancellor’s TV debate in the UK, Israeli obstinacy in the Middle East and a new guise of terrorism in Russia for which our numbed minds must recalibrate.

I can only assume this is the Guardian’s decision because the essay is totally non-descriptive – in that it is nothing new. We know there are Uighurs, Chinese separatists, who shouldn’t be there; we know they play soccer in cages, we know there are well-cushioned shackles bolted to pristine concrete floors; and we know detainees on hunger strike are force-fed Ensure by tube.

All I want to say is that you should look elsewhere for Guantanamo imagery. My Guantanamo: Directory of Photographic and Visual Resources is a good place to start.

I’ve also provided the previous insights which go beyond Dirven’s nine illustrative images:

Suicide at Guantanamo?
Justice Denied: Voices of Guantanamo
Bruce Gilden once went to Guantanamo
Interview: “Jane Smith” Former Gitmo Guard
Paula Bronstein: Guantanamo Detainees Young and Old
“There is a lot of long lens imagery of Guantanamo prisoners in their orange boiler suits, but I don’t know what that’s telling me.”
A Dozen Visits to Guantanamo
‘Guantanamo’ by Paolo Pellegrin
Guantanamo Photo Essay

– – –

None of this reflects on Tim Dirven. Dirven is a good photographer and photojournalist (check out his work on Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia).

It’s simply impossible to produce a novel photo-essay when the Joint Task Force of Guantanamo walks you around the camp … and they do it every week … with different journalists.

The US military’s media detail is as well-drilled as any other detail at Guantanamo. In fact, I’d go as far to say that the media-liaisons are, at this point, the most critical employees on the base.


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