By Brian Wojtalewicz.
Originally published in The Appleton Press on January 8, 2008.
I am frightened by the fact that most Americans live under the illusion that the people that we have imprisoned at Guantanamo and secret “black sites” in foreign countries were actually in combat against us in Afghanistan or Iraq. The biggest reason for this false illusion is Mr. Bush repeatedly branding all of these kidnapped folks as “enemy combatants.” Even the Bush Administration admits that the majority of these imprisoned people were not captured on battlefields or with any sort of violent incident. They were simply fingered as someone connected with Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Tribal enmities or personal grudges were sometimes the reason for making these accusations, but the biggest motivator was simple greed.
For example, in Pakistan, where the per capita annual income is $720, the minimum paid to finger someone as Al Qaeda was $5,000. The temptation led to 369 people being yanked out of hotels, off the streets and at airports, into the black hole of American sponsored or conducted imprisonment and torture. The victims ranged from simple cab drivers to a college professor, a London chef and even kids! Only some of them ended up in Guantanamo. Many are still sitting in “black sites” at prisons in foreign countries. The ones who ended up in Guantanamo got lawyers only three years later. Even after those lawyers have sometimes proved solid alibis, or that they were never in Afghanistan or in any way connected to the Taliban or Al Qaeda, their clients remain in prison.
The documented proof is clear that Cheney, Bush and Rumsfeld approved torture, in the form of near drowning, long sleep deprivation, deafening loud, obnoxious “music,” weeks of solitary confinement, hearing and site deprivation for hours or days. These were just the officially approved methods carried out by Americans. American soldiers or agents have also beaten people to death in Afghanistan, at the Bagram Airbase prison, and in Iraq at Abu Ghraib prison. Of course, sexual humiliations were also carried out by Americans at least at Abu Ghraib.
A 14 year old kid named Yusef was kidnapped in Pakistan. He grew up in Saudi Arabia, and became a young entrepreneur, selling bottled water on the streets. He flew to Pakistan because he thought he could get into the computer business. Just after arriving, he was in a mosque praying with a couple other travelers he met. 9/11 had just occurred and he had no clue about how the world had changed. The Pakistani army surrounded the mosque and arrested a bunch of young men. Because he was Saudi and they didn’t like his explanation for flying to Pakistan, they threw Yusef into prison. The early torturing in Pakistan included cigarette burns to his body. Americans got involved with the interrogation early. They later flew him to Guantanamo in Cuba, where he has attempted suicide twice. When he finally met an American lawyer, it took months for the lawyer to figure out that the Americans were accusing him of being an Al Qaeda financier! Like all the other kidnapped people sitting in Guantanamo and the “black sites” around the planet, he has never been given a trial, or any reasonable chance to prove his innocence and gain freedom.
Yusef’s and many more horror stories are explicated by his American lawyer, Clive Smith, in his book Eight O’Clock Ferry to the Windward Side (watch/read Democracy Now’s interview with Mr. Smith here).
The drowning torture, called waterboarding, the beatings and the other varieties of torture are illegal under international and American law. We prosecuted Nazi and Japanese soldiers in World War II for waterboarding, and even prosecuted an American soldier for doing it once.
The latest news is that our CIA not only did the drowning torture, but supposedly destroyed the videotaped proof of it. George Tenet, the former Director of the CIA (who Mr. Bush gave the Medal of Freedom to), point blank deceived the 9/11 Truth Commission concerning these videotapes. The CIA has officially given us the lame, laughable excuse that they had to destroy the videotapes to protect the CIA employees doing the torturing. As if the face images couldn’t be muted out! I believe the real reason is that our government officials involved really don’t want the American people, and people all over the planet, to witness the horror of Americans torturing people. It reminds me of how some folks in our society expressed a clear hatred of Michael Moore when he released the movie Fahrenheit 911. I believe what they really couldn’t stand about the movie were the depictions of what some of thousands of innocent Iraqi people were going through with our invasion. Too many Americans simply don’t want to face the reality of the killing and violence that is being done to hundreds of thousands of other human beings by our nation.
Do you care about these fellow human beings? Even if you don’t, do you really think that these torture victims, or the surviving family members of the people we have killed, are going to forget? Do you really think that our children and grandchildren are not going to face consequences?