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Beyond Guantanamo: A Case Study

The interpretation of the Constitution and its implied rights have been argued about throughout history. Recently, it has caused much disruption with the Guantanamo captives. Guantanamo Bay is located at the southeastern section of Cuba and has been under United States control since the 1903 Cuban-American Treaty. Since 2002, the United States has used the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base as a detainment center for captives from the Middle East and around the world.

The protection of the Constitution does not encompass enemy combatants, including those not in uniform and unaffiliated with any known country or foreign nationals outside of the United States. Normally, the rules of war are governed by the Geneva Convention, but this certain group of warriors are not uniformed members of an army or country. This is where the situation becomes difficult. In the classic sense, they are not typical criminals who could be prosecuted in the legal system. However, they are also not soldiers who could be held until the war is over and then repatriated to their country of origin.

At the time of their initial incarceration, the Bush administration looked to Guantanmo for the answer. They wanted to hold them captive there until they could figure out what to do with them. It was clear that the Bush administration wanted the combatants to be kept offshore so that they would not receive Constitutional rights.

There are many conflicting opinions on what to do with the prisoners. Some people feel that they should not be considered criminals and are guaranteed a right to a trial under the Constitution. The treatment of the prisoners has caused a major uproar in the political community. Many people feel that the captives should receive Constitutional protection, as is the case with the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Center for Constitutional Rights was founded in 1966 in the height of the civil rights movement to give legal counsel and financial relief to those in Mississippi. It continues today as a nonprofit organization based in New York, NY. Throughout its 43-year history, CCR has chosen cases that would bring public attention and inspire activists, rather than cases that could necessarily be won, a sort of “success without victory,” theme.

Since 9/11, CCR has become extremely involved with questioning the Bush administration’s interrogation and detainment techinques in the “war on terror,” and most notably in the Guantanamo situation. Along with taking on several cases against President Bush and the United States, CCR has gained a lot of public attention for an ad it produced, titled Beyond Guantanamo. The powerful spot has gained national attention as both an informative political declaration and a brilliant PR tool.

While the ad does not specifically accuse President Bush of torturing Guantanamo captives, it does subtly suggest it. The vivid image of the shredding of the Constitution reminds Americans that their rights should be protected at all costs. Even for people who may not know much about the Guantanamo situation, the ad relates to Americans by promoting the fair treatment and trial of all people.

The ad gained significant media attention, as well as several noted PR awards. Bulldog Reporter, an online source for media news and PR professional networking, awarded the “Beyond Guantanamo: Rescue the Constitution” campaign with the Grand Prize in the Bulldog Awards for Excellence in Media Relations and Publicity. Beyond Guantanamo also won Best Response to Breaking News and Best Issue/Cause Advocacy Campaign and a Bronze Award in the Best Not-for-Profit/Association/Government Campaign category from Bulldog. Bulldog Reporter called the campaign “amazing” and stated that it “was successful in changing public opinion about the closing of Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.”

The Beyond Guantanamo campaign has shown that a strategic and powerful ad can help promote a stance on a very difficult and controversial issue. Whether you are for or against the fair trial of Guantanamo captives, there is no doubt that the Beyond Guantanamo ad will make you think twice about your own opinion. Dealing with a crisis situation takes careful planning and sensitive judgment, and the Beyond Guantanamo campaign took both into consideration successfully.


By Cara Cramer

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