Wednesday, June 14, 2006
The NY Times Is Not A Construction Zone
Detainees in Despair(Oh, ho. The very popular tourist destination of Afghanistan terrorist training camps. What kind of friends does your brother have, anyway? "...what turned out to be a Qaeda training camp"? What kind of idiots do you think we are? Terrorists are always vulnerable to betrayal. The last thing they do is abduct innocent tourists from Cancun and Cannes and take them to terrorist training camps. You had to get someone to sponsor you in order to get into one of those camps, and your brother's friends were those sponsors. You had to avow to them your absolute commitment to the cause to get into one of those camps, and you did.)
By MOURAD BENCHELLALI
Published: June 14, 2006
I WAS released from the United States military's prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, in July 2004.
In the early summer of 2001, when I was 19, I made the mistake of listening to my older brother and going to Afghanistan on what I thought was a dream vacation. His friends, he said, were going to look after me. They did — channeling me to what turned out to be a Qaeda training camp. For two months, I was there, trapped in the middle of the desert by fear and my own stupidity.
As soon as my time was up, I headed home. I was a few miles from the Pakistani border when I learned with horror about the attacks of 9/11. Days later, the border was sealed off, and the only way through to Pakistan and a plane to Europe was across the mountains of the Hindu Kush. I was with a group of people who were all going the same way. No one was armed; most of them, like me, had been lured to Afghanistan by a misguided and mistimed sense of adventure, and were simply trying to make their way home.("Lured to Afghanistan by a misguided and mistimed sense of adventure..." i.e. went to Afghanistan to join the jihad, right?)
I was seized by the Pakistani Army while having tea at a mosque shortly after I managed to cross the border. A few days later I was delivered to the United States Army: although I didn't know it at the time, I was now labeled an "enemy combatant." It did not matter that I was no one's enemy and had never been on a battlefield, let alone fought or aimed a weapon at anyone.(Okay, so you were part of a stream of people trying to evade the clutches of authority by following an underground jihadist railroad through mosques. An illegal immigrant who had graduated from a Qaeda training camp, you were caught by the Pakistani army who did not want your type in their country and was scooping up your your ilk. So weapons were never a part of the Qaeda training camp? Why not enlighten us as to the course material there? It might surprise you, but a person drafted into the German military who was rounded up by the Allies while on deployment to active duty was also held as a POW until after the war ended. Mind you, those kids were drafted. You went to another country to enlist.)
After two weeks in the American military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, I was sent to Guantánamo, where I spent two and a half years. I cannot describe in just a few lines the suffering and the torture; but the worst aspect of being at the camp was the despair, the feeling that whatever you say, it will never make a difference.(Oh, man, when you have the platform of the NY Times, you should describe the suffering and the torture. By all means, describe away. We await your description with vast interest. Please. Describe it.)
You repeat yourself over and over again to interrogators from the military intelligence, the F.B.I., the C.I.A. The first time you hear "Your case is being processed," your heart, seizing on the hopeful possibilities in those words, skips a beat. After months of disappointment, you try to develop an immunity to hope, but hope is an incurable disease.(And so is life. The purple passion of your prose is not having the expected impact on this reader, who has been blind and paralyzed.)
I remember once an interrogator warming me up during several sessions for a polygraph test I was going to take, that was, according to him, infallible. After I took the test, I was left alone in the interrogation room; an hour later, the interrogator returned. "Congratulations," he said grimly. "You have passed the test." And he gave me a box of candy.(Part of the suffering and torture, no doubt along with the three squares and free medical treatment. Torture candy. Go on.)
In the outside world, I thought, the difference between telling the truth and lying, between committing a crime and not committing it, is the difference between being in jail and being free. In Guantánamo, it is a box of candy.(You were not in Gitmo for committing a crime. You were in Gitmo because you had gone to Afghanistan and enrolled in a training program that was to produce an army of jihadists who had announced war on the United States and any other nation in the world that did not agree with Al Qaeda's purposes. One of the things promised by OBL was that westerners enrolled in the cause would launch domestic attacks within western nations. Oddly enough, you fitted that description.)
I was eventually released and I will go on trial next month in Paris to face charges that I've never denied, that I spent two months in the Qaeda camp. I have a court date, I'm facing a judge, and I have a lawyer, unimaginable luxuries in Guantánamo. I didn't know the three detainees who died, but it is easy for me to see how this daily despair and uncertainty could lead to suicide.(For years I prayed to die every day, because I was in such physical pain. Once I tried to starve myself to death. Don't talk to me about despair. My life got better when I learned to pray for other people. You should try it.)
During my captivity, I saw many acts of individual rebellion, from screaming to hunger strikes and suicide attempts. "They are smart, they are creative, they are committed," said Rear Adm. Harry Harris, who commands the camp. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us."(I agree with Admiral Harris. Every word written here proves to me that you have learned nothing and take no responsibility for your life. You don't have any regard for the true meaning of your own life, and that logically does imply that you have no regard for the life of others. Granted, the lunacy of the NY Times is what gave you this platform - but you are using it to try to get your fellow terrorist enrollees released. In the past, some of those released from Gitmo have been recaptured by Coalition forces during gun battles against terrorists. Since you are currently awaiting trial in France, you probably will not make it back to the battlefield. More than likely, that's why you were released. I sure hope the French authorities ask you a few questions about your brother's friends.)
I am a quiet Muslim — I've never waged war, let alone an asymmetrical one.(You went to Afghanistan. You got into an Al Qaeda traing camp, which was difficult to do. You graduated from it, and were captured sneaking out of the country with a bunch of other graduates. Al Qaeda attacked the US and boasted about it. The US asked the Afghanistan nation to expel Al Qaeda, and it refused. Then a war began, and you were in the middle of it. I remind you, you were not drafted. You volunteered for this.)
I wasn't anti-American before and, miraculously, I haven't become anti-American since. In Guantánamo, I did see some people for whom jihad is life itself, people whose minds are distorted by extremism and whose souls are full of hatred. But the huge majority of the faces I remember — the ones that haunt my nights — are of desperation, suffering, incomprehension turned into silent madness.(Try praying for other people. It works miracles, and no guns are required. Despair is a product of a spiritual deficit, and not of objective circumstances. If I were currently possessed by the will to destroy, I would be in despair as well.)
I believe that a small number of the detainees at Guantánamo are guilty of criminal acts, but as analysis of the military's documents on the prisoners has shown, there is no evidence that most of the 465 or so men there have committed hostile acts against the United States or its allies. Even so, what I heard so many times resounding from cage to cage, what I said myself so many times in my moments of complete despondency, was not, "Free us, we are innocent!" but "Judge us for whatever we've done!" There is unlimited cruelty in a system that seems to be unable to free the innocent and unable to punish the guilty.(I will judge you for what you did. You went to Afghanistan to join a terrorist organization which had as its aim religious war. You graduated from a terrorist training camp, apparently in good standing. You took very committed steps to become an enemy combatant. You were justly imprisoned, and you are lying now. Only a raving fool cannot see what you are all about.)
The Guy might be a smuck, but concentration camps are just wrong. Putting people in camps, without due process of law is evil. This is not rocket science, every nation that has tried it figures it out within a few years the idea was bad. That includes the Brits (SA 1900~1902), The Germans (1934~1945), The Russians (1920~1989), The Chinese (err... they have not figured it out yet), etc. Does the US of A want to be associated with that? How then could the uS claim to be a force for good?
If you throw out the Law to get at the devil, where will you be when the devil turns on you, and the law offers you no protection?
I don't approve of the waterboarding, etc. That is torture. I don't agree with allowing torture.
I DO want to preserve the right of the US to hold people who are captured in actions like these so that they don't end up just killing them.
I agree that they don't legally qualify as POW's. However I think that Powell was right, and trying, whenever possible, to conform to standards of POW treatment is probably the best way to go.
It is not correct to make a correlation between Auschwitz and Gitmo; it mocks and derides what happened to the Jews. I cannot let that pass. You CANNOT make a valid analogy between the pre-war German camps or the camps of the Final Solution.
You might have a better argument with what has been reported about the arrests of the families of Iraqi Baath officials. I know too little to tell on that, but they aren't at Gitmo and never were. My understanding is that they were all in Iraq and that they have all been released.
I don't even agree that this guy is a worthless schmuck - he has made some bad choices, and in this editorial at least, does not appear able or willing to confront them honestly. But no human being is worthless. Some human beings, for whatever reason, do choose to devote themselves to destruction, and must be stopped.
1)When people go to war, they accept certain risks. Do you think the US should have applied legal process for every one of the hundreds of thousands of German and Japanese prisoners we captured during WWII? Would you refer to these POW camps as "concentration camps?" Would you argue that an individual who fights *without* a uniform is somehow entitled to *more* rights than a conventional soldier?
2)Your equation of Guantanimo with German concentration camps is simply obscene. Surely you are aware of what went on in those camps.
I am upset and I don't know how to phrase this properly. It is true that I think we have ethical problems and concerns with SOME of what happened at Gitmo, but we ALSO MUST FACE THE FACT that some of the people at Gitmo believe in doing to the Jews and other people exactly what happened in the camps - destruction. Deliberate annihilation.
The world must do what it failed to do in WWII, which is oppose this philosophy. We did not face the truth of Hitler's intent early on, and because of it MILLIONS of people were willfully and deliberately killed.
Some of the people AT GITMO are the people who believe and have said that there is a valid justification for killing millions of civilians to make their point. They truly believe that everyone who opposes them is an enemy of God and should be killed. They are giving ample demonstrations of their intent by bombing women and children in Iraq, for example.
If you really believe that we must set these people free, you probably believe that the Nuremberg trials were inappropriate.
I am very serious when I write that some people dedicate themselves to destruction and must be stopped. Those who will not learn from history do indeed find themselves repeating it.
I only have two things to add:
1) From this guy's description, Gitmo sounds like a sort of uber-DMV.
2) He may be completely sincere, but experience has taught me to be suspicious whenever I encounter someone who represents themselves in a way that perfectly aligns with any leftist master narrative. Leftism, in my opinion, is so out of sync with the rythms of nature and the real world, that usually these people are simply fictional.
Just to illustrate -- and you've already highlighted this -- in order to take this guy seriously you have to suspend your disbelief long enough to believe that somebody from Europe could wind up in an al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan for 4 months...BY ACCIDENT?!?
As in, "I didn't know she was a hooker!" Or, "she told me she was 18!"
I for one am glad the NYT published the post. It's just the kind of thing middle America needs to see to justify their revulsion at all thing liberal.
As for anon, get real- gitmo is no concentration camp.
I don't recall the Nazis concern for religious and dietary needs of the Jews.
Whatever points anon was trying to make is rendered irrelevant by those kinds of deliberate misrepresentations. Gitmo is not Auschwitz and the Americans are not Nazis, no matter how much anon wants that to be true. If he didn't, he would not have deliberately drawn the connections he did.
As for "I am a quiet Muslim", does that correspond with the terrorist training camp? That one sentence kind of says it all, doesn't it?
I'd like to let Pedro The Quietist have a chat with this Quiet Muslim.
Better yet, I'd like to see Pedro the Quietist's comments on Castro printed in the NY Times. But we both know that won't happen, don't we? We both know what this editorial represents, don't we?
SC&A, good point. Excellent point. When I have finished grinding my teeth down to stubs in the attempt to maintain rationality, I will use the comment to explain the fallacy of those who believe we can simply step out of opposing Islamic terrorism. I appreciate Pedro's, David's and your comments deeply.
Can it be that we must now reteach history? This is the only conclusion which I can draw.
I would answer that to the anons of this era, history was never taught to begin with. Instead, agendized ideologies have replaced the teaching of history and relativism has replaced reality, as if our values could be so easily replaced with the political correctness du jour.
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