New York Times Op-Ed Laments Destruction of Art Created by Guantanamo Detainees

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Joe Simonson Media Reporter
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Professor Erin Thompson argues the U.S. military’s decision to begin confiscating and possibly destroying the artwork created by prisoners at the Guantánamo Bay detention camp mirror the “tactics fit for terrorist regimes,” in a New York Times op-ed on Monday.

“Taking away ownership of their art is both incredibly petty and utterly cruel,” Thompson, an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, wrote in the op-ed. Thompson also is a co-curator of the exhibit “Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo,” which is a compilation of some of the art done by prisoners and currently includes work from suspected al-Qaeda combatant Moath al-Alwi.

The military will now treat artwork by Guantánamo prisoners as property of the US government, rather than that of Cuba’s incarcerated Picassos, according to a report from the Miami Herald. According to lawyers for the suspected terrorists, the military plans to burn their work.

“Making art is a profoundly human urge,” Thompson writes. “Viewing this art has allowed thousands of visitors at John Jay College and elsewhere a chance to see that its makers are human beings. These detainees have been treated in fundamentally dehumanizing ways, from torture to denial of fair trials, and their art reminds us that we cannot ignore their condition.”

The new policy means the artwork can no longer leave the confines of the military base, apparently leaving a dramatic hole in the cultural fabric of Manhattan. And destroying the cardboard-based artwork of Alwi, Thompson surmises, could “encourage” the followers of terrorist groups to attack the West.

“Unless the military reverses its cruel new policy, he can no longer even launch his fragile creations into the world, to be free in his place,” he writes.

So by not allowing leftist professors to parade the work by suspected enemies of the United States around taxpayer-funded universities, the United States is apparently no better than the Islamic State, according to Thompson.

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