In Guantanamo, War on Human Rights Passes for War on Terror

What has the US military done to Shaker Aamer? Have they tortured him so badly they dare not release him in case he discloses the nature of these abuses? Shaker (pronounced Shacker) is a sick man. Why is he the only British subject still in Guantanamo Bay concentration camp? Clearly he has not committed any crime or he would have been brought to trial. At least that is how justice used to be done in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

Shaker has a family in England, including a 10-year old son he has never seen. Imagine being deprived of seeing your newborn son over the first ten years of his life. Imagine missing the first step taken, the first word spoken, the first milk-tooth, the first picture drawn, the first sentence read, the first school, the first school uniform, the first flapping stroke in the swimming pool, the first stroke with a cricket bat and all the other firsts in the life of a father’s pride and joy. That, among loss of freedom, loss of earnings potential, loss of comfort from loved ones, and a whole host of other losses, is what joint British and US intelligence and the legal system have taken from Shaker. In depriving Shaker himself of his freedom, they have deprived his family of the love of a father and husband.

Shaker is a victim. He is a victim of the George W. Bush/Tony Blair war on Islam, otherwise described as the “War on Terror.” For background reasons, let us take a brief look at the factors that led to the arrest and detention of so many innocent people. Most English and American people still refuse to think that the US and Israel could have been involved in 9/11. Quite rightly, no reasonable person wants to believe that their country could kill its own citizens simply to create a new enemy. It is almost unthinkable.

Nevertheless, directly after 9/11 came the anthrax letters: letters sent to several news desks and to two politicians who had spoken out against the war on Iraq. These letters were opened by staff, killing five and infecting 17 people. The strain (Ames) of anthrax was a US strain, and eventually Dr Bruce E. Ivins, a bio-weapons researcher from the US Army Research Medical Institute into Infectious Diseases, was said to have been the lone anthrax letter sender, following his death in 2008. The alleged suicide came just before Ivins was to be arrested for the crime. If others were involved, they will never be found or prosecuted.

One of the really negative results of 9/11, from a human-rights viewpoint, was that it enabled George W. Bush to create a new enemy, since the old enemy of the cold war years, the Soviet Union, no longer existed. Why is having a foreign enemy so important? It might sound a bit preposterous for governments to create an enemy deliberately, but in actual fact this engenders an atmosphere among the populace whereby everyone can rally round in opposition to a common target. It helps take people’s minds off domestic problems. It also allows for changes in law that might not otherwise be possible. After Bush’s announcement of a war on terror, new legislation gave authorities the power to arrest terror suspects and hold them indefinitely without charge or trial, just for suspicion. For more than a decade now, the US and UK have been in a state of perpetual war. This means that proper laws that operate in peacetime and are generally more amenable, reasonable and just to society at large, can be, and are being, ignored, while ultra-harsh wartime measures are in place to everybody’s detriment, except those who would create an enemy that did not previously exist. Thus a basic legal tenet of advanced countries everywhere, habeas corpus, appears to be dead in its grave.

Even worse now, fiction is imitating reality. Hollywood is making films like Zero Dark Thirty (released January 11) that attempt to justify the torture and imprisonment at Guantanamo. It fabricates claims that Osama Bin Laden was captured and shot because a Muslim, Ammar, was tortured. This film serves to perpetuate the myth that Muslims are our enemies. No creditable information is ever obtained by torture. Torture is just a tool of sadists who never had any love in their lives and are incapable of showing love or compassion towards others. Hollywood, as a movie-maker, needs to be flushed down the pan. Another film, Collateral Murder, from Spielberg’s studio DreamWorks and scheduled for release in November, appears to have the sole purpose of discrediting Julian Assange.

What has happened to American justice? The United States has regressed to the days of race hate, except the hate is no longer leveled at blacks but at Muslims. Muslims of any nationality are the target of this more recent hate campaign initiated by George W. Bush and continued by his successor. Unfortunately, even though Uncle Sam has a black president, white supremacy still governs the land of the free. Blacks in the United States fought racism under the leadership of the great martyr and orator, Martin Luther King, and gradually earned some basic human rights, becoming, not the enemy, not second-class citizens unworthy of sitting on the same bus or going to the same schools as whites, but fellow human beings and an integral part of the society. Thanks to the tolerance that replaced the bigotry of former years, the US was able to elect a black president – something that would have been unthinkable fifty years earlier. It should never be forgotten that before the US liberated itself, certain individuals were called “colored” and more derogatory names, and deprived of equal rights.

Shaker Aamer has been cleared for release, yet he remains incarcerated in a Guantanamo cell without a view to the outside world. Like US outposts for extraordinary rendition, Guantanamo Bay is on foreign soil. Being on foreign soil enables US military personnel to engage in all kinds of degrading, humiliating and inhuman treatment of individuals because the prisoners are Muslims, and the US has decided to make an enemy out of Islam. Like the Mafia in the last recession, the US government considers itself to be untouchable. Two petitions have been created by supporters of Shaker Aamer to pressure the US to release him from an unjust imprisonment. William Hague made the following statement on an E-petition site.

“The UK believes that indefinite detention in Guantanamo Bay is wrong and will continue to call for Guantanamo Bay to be closed and Mr Aamer to be returned to his family in the UK. I have personally raised his case with Secretary Clinton on a number of previous occasions, and we will continue to engage with the US on this issue until a solution is reached.”

This case highlights the one-sidedness of the UK’s agreement with the United States. Despite the UK’s discomfort with some of its arrangements with its US ally, the subservience of the UK towards the US is evident. For example, Theresa May recently sent five Muslims, two of whom had spent between them eighteen years in English prisons, to face an indeterminate sentence in Supermax prisons in the United States, knowing the way Shaker Aamer has been treated in Guantanamo. Remember: Shaker Aamer has a son he has never seen.

Editor’s Note: Photographs one and four US Army, and photograph seven by Paul Keller.


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