Monday, January 26, 2015

Ron unexpectedly rants about torture

I'm totally surprised that I find this a topic to write about. Two books led me to face a topic I have previously sublimated because of its complexity and horrors.   In trying to recall issues of torture, brutality and injustice during World War II, nothing comes to  mind that compares to the accusations that are surfacing presently save for being appalled by the treatment of our personnel by the enemy and our disregard for the freedom of Japanese/Americans.  And yet the issue of closing the Guantanamo Bay prison persists as a political football as the continuing accusations of brutality and inhumane treatment of prisoners by our government continue to mount.  What should I as a citizen think - what should I do to make sure we are doing all we can to protect our citizens in the future and yet continue to feel that our government follows humane and and fair practices of justice - that we do not succumb to inhuman treatment of prisoners in seeking security?

Thus it was my good fortune to be a part of a book group discussing the Pulitzer prize-winning book, 
The Looming Tower
 by Lawrence Wright. Although published over eight years ago it was recommended as the definitive book about the role of Al Qaeda in leading to the events of 9/11. While reading the book presented me with many problems with its unfamiliar names and locales, I felt I finally had a basic understanding of the history, structure, role and methodology of Al Qaeda as led by Osama bin Laden.

I then felt that I would become further enlightened by attending a presentation about the book Guantanamo Diary, the first and only diary written by a still imprisoned Guantanamo detainee.   Discussing the book at Politics and Prose Bookstore were two of the author's attorneys since the author, Mohamedon Ould Slahi, remains a prisoner in Guantanamo Bay. The book is based on notes made by him the first five years of his imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay in 2002.  In these 13 years  of imprisonment he has never been charged with a crime and five years ago was recommended for release at a hearing in Washington, D. C. by District Judge James Robertson.  The book was edited by Larry Siems, was didacted (censored), declassified by the government and released after a seven year legal battle. The information about his torture and extreme punishment has been corroborated by multiple government interventions.  The personal description of Slahi's torture and continued incarceration for over 15 years without being formally charged are extremely dramatic.

Slahi's  involvement with Al Qaeda began in 1991 when Al Qaeda was supported by our government in resisting Russia's invasion of Afghanistan. In the mid-1990s as Al Qaeda changed its focus to hostility toward America, Salah terminated his allegiance and involvement with the group.  I am impressed by Slahi's response to incarceration and the logic for his release from Guantanamo Bay. Having had the book but two days, I have only begun to feel its impact, but I feel supported in my perception of the book by the reviews of the book in yesterday's (9/25) New York Times and The Washington Post.

As I have indicated earlier blogs, I truly believe that the present crisis even exceeds that which my generation was able to overcome. We are in a time of war, and 9/11 showed the vulnerability as never before of our shores in facing an enemy that uses totally inhuman practices in striking out at civilians and military personnel alike.

Yet as too often happens in time of war nations have too often failed to live up to professed ideals out of fear. Our nation's history is fraught with examples of our abridging personal freedoms and human rights of our citizens in time of war. While I yield to no one in taking all appropriate steps to protect our citizens, I want to continue to feel that there is something about our national pride so that - even in wartime - we maintain proper respect and care for individual rights and freedoms. Thus I'll continue to study this issue and and encourage all to be knowledgeable of the issues involved.  How fortunate I feel to live in a city where so many forums are available for consideration of such issues.  Please know that my other blog - - is available every Friday listing free intellectual and cultural events in the city.

1 comment:

  1. 13 years (and counting) in prison, no charges, release recommended by a federal judge. It's really hard to believe these are the actions of our government. Disillusioning.