As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Welcome To Your America

Sami al-Haj is a former cameraman for Al-Jazeera who was arrested by the US military in Pakistan in December 2001, sent to Guantanamo, and held without charges for six years. Last week, he was finally released. The horror that is our detention policies during the war on terror is just starting to be revealed.

AMY GOODMAN: Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj has just been released from Guantanamo Bay. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders issued a statement Thursday saying Sami al-Haj had been tortured while at Guantanamo and subjected to 200 interrogation sessions. He’s lost forty pounds, is suffering from intestinal problems and bouts of paranoia, according to his lawyer Clive Stafford Smith.

Asim al-Haj, who is Sami al-Haj’s younger brother, told Al Jazeera he doesn’t recognize his thirty-nine-year-old brother, because he now looks like a man in his eighties. We spoke to Asim al-Haj on Thursday night, a few hours before Sami al-Haj landed in Khartoum [...]

SAMI AL-HAJ: [translated] I’m very happy to be in Sudan, but I’m very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad, and they get worse by the day. Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values. In Guantanamo, you have animals that are called iguanas, rats that are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than fifty countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges, and they will not give them the rights that they give to animals.

For more than seven years, I did not get a chance to be brought before a civil court. To defend their just case and to get the freedom that we’re deprived of, they ignored every kind of law, every kind of religion. But thank God. I was lucky, because God allowed that I be released. Although I’m happy, there is part of me that is not, because my brothers remain behind, and they are in the hands of people that claim to be champions of peace and protectors of rights and freedoms.

But the true just peace does not come through military force or threats to use smart or stupid bombs or to threaten with economic sanctions. Justice comes from lifting oppression and guaranteeing rights and freedoms and respecting the will of the people and not to interfere with a country’s internal politics.

And while these are the kind of outrages upon human dignity that we're enacting upon innocent people, those who have actually committed acts of terrorism get off scot-free:

ADEN, Yemen -- Almost eight years after al-Qaeda nearly sank the USS Cole with an explosives-stuffed motorboat, killing 17 sailors, all the defendants convicted in the attack have escaped from prison or been freed by Yemeni officials [...]

The collapse of the Cole investigation offers a revealing case study of the U.S. government's failure to bring al-Qaeda operatives and their leaders to justice for some of the most devastating attacks on American targets over the past decade.

Oh, and if you're a lawyer trying to defend anyone suspected of terrorism, as opposed to having been convicted, your communications are being tapped.

Mr. Nelson says he does not dare to phone this client or send him e-mail messages because of what many prominent criminal defense lawyers say is a well-founded fear that all of their contacts are being monitored by the United States government.

Because he is constantly shifting time zones to see his client face to face, “I just don’t sleep normally anymore,” Mr. Nelson said. “But I don’t have a choice. It’s very clear to me that anything I say to my client or to other lawyers in this case is being recorded.”

Across the country, and especially here in Oregon, it seems, lawyers who represent suspects in terrorism-related investigations complain that their ability to do their jobs is being hindered by the suspicion that the government is listening in, using the eavesdropping authority it obtained — or granted itself — after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

This is the state of the world in the Age of Bush. Paranoia, torture, incompetence. Terrorism has truly made us mad. We are so ready for a change.

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