Pentagon wants to destroy Gitmo inmates' art on display at college

Some terrorists being held at the Guantanamo military prison in Cuba were allowed to create artworks while whiling away the hours during their incarceration.

Now some of that artwork is on display at John Jay College, and the Pentagon is none too pleased.  It appears that the school is not only facilitating the showing of this "art," but also involved in the potential sale of several pieces.

The Pentagon wants to incinerate the artwork, but some professors have started a petition to stop it.

New York Post:

Thirty-six paintings and sculptures by Gitmo detainees have been on display at John Jay College, but the Department of Defense now wants them destroyed, and administrators at the taxpayer-funded school are bracing for a possible seizure of the works.

In the last few days, more than 350 people rushed to sign a John Jay professor's online petition protesting a Pentagon policy that would see most of the Gitmo Picassos' works incinerated.

"Let them know that burning art is something done by fascist and terrorist regimes – but not by the American people," reads the petition to the Department of Defense, President Trump and the Joint Task Force Guantanamo, among other branches of the military. "Art is an expression of the soul. This art belongs to the detainees and to the world."

Art is, indeed, an expression of the soul.  But you would think it a prerequisite in defining art for the artist to possess a "soul" in the first place.  These are conscienceless, cold-blooded killers.  If they had any kind of a "soul," they wouldn't have helped bring down the Twin Towers or murder other innocents to satisfy their bloodlust in service to their twisted ideology.

The exhibit, titled "Ode to the Sea: Art from Guantanamo Bay," opened Oct. 2 on the Upper West Side campus of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Curated by John Jay art crime professor Erin Thompson with archivist Paige Laino and artist and poet Charles Shields, the free exhibit is on view in the President's Gallery until the end of January.

The exhibition catalog includes an e-mail address for people interested in buying the art.

"Please contact if you are interested in purchasing artwork made at Guantanamo by artists who have since been cleared by military tribunals and released," it reads.

The art was obtained through the detainees' lawyers. Ramzi Kassem, one of the lawyers and a professor at CUNY School of Law who works with a legal clinic that represents Guantanamo detainees, recently told The Miami Herald that, as a result of the school's exhibit, "art would not be allowed out of the prison . . . and would be incinerated instead."

In the past, prisoners at Guantanamo could fill out a form to have their art reviewed by prison authorities for release to their lawyers. The lawyers could safeguard the work until their release or send it on to the families of the detainees. Now that process has been halted.

The Department of Defense's abrupt change in policy has further politicized the already-controversial exhibit at John Jay.

In 2015, artworks by Adolf Hitler sold for $450,000.  There is obviously a market for terrorist art – some of it created by people who helped al-Qaeda carry out its attacks on the U.S. in 2001.  How do you think the families of 9/11 victims would respond to the terrorist-sympathizing professors at John Jay?

"A lot of guys who passed away during 9/11 went to John Jay College, including my brother. I can't understand how this college in particular would allow such a thing. Where's their decency? Where's their dignity? They're delivering the completely wrong message. It's denying and softening what happened. What's next, hanging up the art of John Wayne Gacy?"

— Michael Burke, of The Bronx, whose brother, FDNY Capt. Billy Burke, 46, died on 9/11

"It's like a slap in the face, completely out of nowhere. Let them display that at Guantanamo, not here. It's a terrible precedent to set."

— Jim McCaffrey, of Yonkers, retired FDNY lieutenant whose brother-in-law, FDNY Battalion Chief Orio Palmer, 45, died on 9/11

"I feel completely betrayed. Someone's job should be on the line for this. Using taxpayer money to hang the artwork of criminals in our college for criminal justice makes my blood boil. This is going way too far and is rubbing our noses in the loss we have to carry with us every day."

— Rosaleen Tallon, of Yonkers, stay-at-home mother whose brother, firefighter Sean Tallon, 26, died on 9/11

"I think it's sick and insulting. I was down in Guantanamo and saw these guys in court. [They] have no respect for anyone. They murdered our kids and families and don't deserve their art shown anywhere. The families weren't consulted about this at all. It's like having Hitler do a drawing and hanging his work up. It's a complete disgrace. [Mayor] de Blasio and [Gov.] Cuomo should be held accountable."

— Jim Riches (right), of Brooklyn, retired FDNY deputy chief whose son, firefighter Jimmy Riches, 29, died on 9/11

Displaying the art by Guantanamo detainees is a political statement, not an artistic endeavor.  John Jay College claims that many of the prisoners were tortured – at least, that's the story we hear from their lawyers.  It is impossible to independently verify torture because so many of the detainees had been injured attacking guards and even trying to escape.  But the very existence of Gitmo is an affront to many of the John Jay professors.  Hence the political statement in arrogantly displaying their "art."

These terrorists displayed no regret for their actions and no sympathy for their victims.  Perhaps someone should inform the administration at John Jay that art has context, and in this case, the context is abhorrent.

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