Monday, May 01, 2006

The Face of Evil

I know the detention of hundreds of people at Guantanamo Bay, without any proof of their guilt, is an old "story" formost of us... Hardly likely to arouse interest and anger, as it gets tucked away as just one of those oddities of the contemporary world, and its sense of justice...

So my first reaction to the following recent news item in the New York Times ("U.S. Says It Fears Detainee Abuse in Repatriation") was to treat it as a joke, an irony:

A long-running effort by the Bush administration to send home many of the terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been stymied in part because of concern among United States officials that the prisoners may not be treated humanely by their own governments, officials said.

...till, I read the graphic narration of My Guantanamo Diary (The Washington Post, written by Mahvish Khan, a US-born Pashtun law student at the Univ of Miami School of Law):

Highly recommended!

Some excerpts:

"I've now been down a total of nine times. And each time, I'm struck by the ordinariness of Guantanamo Bay, the startling disconnect between the beauty of the surroundings and the evil they mask... I expected a stern, forbidding place. Instead I found sunshine and smiling young soldiers, boozy nighttime barbecues and beaches that call to you for a midnight swim. I've also found loss and tears. Over three months, I've interpreted at dozens of meetings with detainees and heard many stories - of betrayal and mistaken identity, of beatings and torture, of loneliness and hopelessness."
"Ali Shah Mousovi... is a physician from the Afghan city of Gardez, where he was arrested by U.S. troops 2 1/2 years ago. He tells us that he had returned to Afghanistan in August 2003, after 12 years of exile in Iran, to help rebuild his wathan , his homeland. He believes that someone turned him in to U.S. forces just to collect up to $25,000 being offered to anyone who gave up a Talib or al-Qaeda member.... Transported to Bagram air base near Kabul in eastern Afghanistan, he was thrown -- blindfolded, hooded and gagged -- into a 3 1/2 -by-7-foot shed... was beaten regularly by Americans in civilian clothing, deprived of sleep by tape-recordings of sirens that blared day and night. He describes being dragged around by a rope, subjected to extremes of heat and cold.... He doesn't know why he was brought to Guantanamo Bay."

At 80, Haji Nusrat - detainee No. 1009 - is Guantanamo Bay's oldest prisoner. A stroke 15 years ago left him partly paralyzed. He cannot stand up without assistance and hobbles to the bathroom behind a walker. Despite his paralysis, his swollen legs and feet are tightly cuffed and shackled to the floor. He says that his shoes are too tight and that he needs new ones... He has a long white beard and grayish-brown eyes... He comes from a small mountain village in Afghanistan and cannot read or write. He has 10 children and does not know if his wife is still alive -- he hasn't received any letters.

U.S. troops arrested Nusrat in 2003, a few days after he went to complain about the arrest of his son Izat, who is also detained at Guantanamo Bay. Nusrat is charged with being a commander of a terrorist organization in Afghanistan with ties to Osama bin Laden, and with possession of a cache of weapons.

"I've listened to Wali Mohammed protest that he was just a businessman trying to get along in Taliban-run Afghanistan. I've watched Chaman Gul, crouched in his 7-by-8-foot cage, weep for fear that his family will forget him. I've marveled at the pluck and wit of Taj Mohammad, a 27-year-old uneducated goat herder who has taught himself fluent English while in Cuba...

No matter the age or background of the detainee, our meetings always leave me feeling helpless. These men show me the human face of the war on terrorism. They've been systematically dehumanized, cast as mere numbers in prison-camp fashion..."

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