The Ordeal Of “The Other”

On the possible closure of Guantanamo Bay:

The prison facility at Guantanamo Bay needs to be closed because of what it stands for, not only in the United States, but also around the world. Much of the news media and many politicians have attempted to soothe us into accepting the goings on at Guantanamo by telling us it could only happen to non-Americans, sending the message that people from outside of America do not deserve the same basic civil rights that Americans do. The foreigner has become “the other;” someone we do not have to feel empathy for or even attempt to relate to, serving to demonize and lessen the humanity of foreigners. Guilty until proven innocent is not the “American way,” and our inhumane treatment of the detainees is shameful.

Above The Fold
Above The Fold

the paper, 11/18/08

On the front page of today’s New York Times, “the other” tells his story.

Detailing the various abuses  suffered at the hands of the U.S. government, “An Ex-Detainee of the U.S. Describes a 6-Year Ordeal” tells the story of  Muhammad Saad Iqbal who, after his arrest in Jan. of 2002 was shuttled around the globe, spending time in various prisons as part of a system of extraordinary rendition before landing in Guantanamo Bay. Times video is available here.

“Mr. Iqbal was never convicted of any crime, or even charged with one,” writes the Times. “He was quietly released from Guantánamo with a routine explanation that he was no longer considered an enemy combatant.”

The  imprisonment, interrogation and alleged torture of Iqbal, according to the article, stemmed from comments made by the professional Koran reader about his knowledge of shoe bombs. Iqbal now denies making those statements.

According to an unnamed senior American official familiar with Iqbal’s situation, after being “interrogated for two days, American officials generally concluded that he [Iqbal] was a braggart, a ‘wannabe,’ and should be released,” writes the Times.  “‘He was a talker,’  the senior American official said. ‘ He wanted to believe he was more important than he was.’”

After his arrest, Iqbal alleges that he was subjected to numerous inhumane abuses:

Mr. Iqbal said he had been beaten, tightly shackled, covered with a hood and given drugs, subjected to electric shocks and, because he denied knowing Mr. bin Laden, deprived of sleep for six months. “They make me blind and stand up for whole days,” he said in halting English, meaning that he had been covered with a hood or blindfolded.


When he replied that he had never been to Afghanistan and had not met Mr. bin Laden, the Egyptians tortured him with electric shocks, he said. “I cry and I yell,” he said. “Also they gave me brain electric shocks.” He said he was forced to consume liquids that were laced with drugs “so you don’t know what you are talking about.”

In early April, he said, the Americans flew him to Bagram, the American air base outside the Afghan capital, Kabul. He was held there for almost a year, at times shackled and handcuffed in a small cage with other detainees, and further interrogated, he said.

Available at the Times website.
Online video.

The heinous practices undertaken at Gitmo, along with the torture by proxy administered by foreign intelligence agents, is a scar on what America is suppose to stand for.  Never mind that Iqbal  never should have opened his mouth in the first place and is an idiot for doing so.  The alleged torture by the U.S. government, used in the name of shielding America from a dangerous “other,” is downright shameful.

Before we can ever move forward as a nation, the crown jewel in this vile system, Guantanamo Bay, must be shuttered. Hopefully, its closure will be among the first things accomplished by our President-elect so that our country can begin the return to what it once was.

Today’s paper was not the first time the Times has written of Iqbal or the Bush Administration’s policy of extraordinary rendition. A December of ’05 article detailed Iqbal’s suicide attempt while in U.S custody, an occurrence not all that uncommon to other detainees. The detainee also has a page on the Times‘ “Guantanamo Docket,” an approximate list of 779 detainees held  at the prison.

More information about extraordinary rendition can be found in the first segment of an episode of PBS’s Frontline, available online here.


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