Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Gimme that old time profound commitment to justice

Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Wikipedia.
One thing I didn't quite like about the Jon Stewart movie Rosewater (and I should say I thought it was a lot better as a movie than merely politically worthy—very strong and moving) was the scenes where the detained-without-trial prisoner Maziar Bahari interacts with his dead father and sister, which I could understand as a kind of metaphorical cinematographicization of his thought processes in isolation and a dramaturgical necessity—not much you can do to work some dialogue into solitary confinement—but had a somewhat stagy, artificial feeling. I might have felt differently if I'd read Bahari's book, because it looks as if these scenes may have been not so much a dramatization as a representation of what he really experienced, according something I learned today, from Mark Danner's brilliant review of another detainee memoir, by the Mauretanian prisoner Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Guantánamo Diary:
Slahi begins to hallucinate, hear voices: Friends and family “visit” him, attempt to console him; he fears he is losing his mind.
Apparently it wasn't a metaphor at all in Rosewater, just something that happens all the time when you've been sufficiently tortured and isolated.

It brings home how much Iran's government and ours have in common—each nominally led by an appealing, relatively progressive-minded (but frail and compromised) president, while the real power is wielded by a reactionary and corrupt establishment.

Maziar Bahari stuck in Iran was luckier than Mohamedou Ould Slahi in that he got out of his hellhole after 118 days, while Slahi has been held for more than 13 years. He cannot be tried for his presumed crimes because the authorities holding him in Guantánamo can't say what they think he did, other than that he seems to have known a number of bad persons and they believe he is a bad person himself; he's guilty of association.

Judge James Robertson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia granted his habeas corpus petition in 2010, ordering his release for March 22 of that year, but the Department of Justice (Eric Holder, attorney general) appealed the decision and the Appeals Court remanded the case, where it has languished for five years. Now his memoir, written in 2005, has been published.

Last night, President Obama mentioned people like Maziar Bahari and Mohamedou Ould Slahi, not by name, in words that might have been stirring if Slahi, and so many others, were not still in prison for reasons nobody seems able to explain, but are somehow related to the terrified bedwetting nightmares of Senator Lindsey Graham:
As Americans, we respect human dignity, even when we’re threatened, which is why I’ve prohibited torture, and worked to make sure our use of new technology like drones is properly constrained. It’s why we speak out against the deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world. It’s why we continue to reject offensive stereotypes of Muslims — the vast majority of whom share our commitment to peace. That’s why we defend free speech, and advocate for political prisoners, and condemn the persecution of women, or religious minorities, or people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. We do these things not only because they’re right, but because they make us safer.

As Americans, we have a profound commitment to justice — so it makes no sense to spend three million dollars per prisoner to keep open a prison that the world condemns and terrorists use to recruit. Since I’ve been President, we’ve worked responsibly to cut the population of GTMO in half. Now it’s time to finish the job. And I will not relent in my determination to shut it down. It’s not who we are.

As Americans, we cherish our civil liberties....
Really? We do?

No comments:

Post a Comment