Saturday, May 21, 2005

Do We Expect to Reap What We've Sown?

We need to stop worrying about the whether or not Newsweek was right. We need to worry about the desecration of the American soul.…

In U.S. Report, Brutal Details of 2 Afghan Inmates' Deaths
“The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.

"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.

Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.…”

Guantánamo Comes to Define U.S. to Muslims
“In one of Pakistan's most exclusive private schools for boys, the annual play this year was "Guantánamo," a docudrama based on testimonies of prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, the United States naval base in Cuba.

The cast was made up of students between 16 and 18 years old, each playing the role of a prisoner being held on suspicion of terrorism. To deepen their understanding of their characters, the boys pored through articles in Pakistani newspapers, studied the international press and surfed Web sites, including one that described itself as a nonsectarian Islamic human rights portal and is called cageprisoners.com.

It didn't matter that the boys at the Lahore Grammar School, an elite academy that has sent many of its graduates to study in American universities, lived in a world quite removed from that known by most prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The more they explored, the more the play resonated, the director of the school's production, Omair Rana, recalled Friday in a telephone interview. The detainees were Muslim, many were Pakistani and one had been arrested in Islamabad, the country's capital.

"It was something we all could relate to," Mr. Rana said of "Guantánamo," a play created "from spoken evidence" by Victoria Brittain and Gillian Slovo, a Briton and a South African, that was staged in London and in New York last year. "All that seemed very relevant, very nearby - in fact, too close for comfort."

Accounts of abuses at the actual American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, including Newsweek magazine's now-retracted article on the desecration of the Koran, ricochet around the world, instilling ideas about American power and justice, and sowing distrust of the United States. Even more than the written accounts are the images that flash on television screens throughout the Muslim world: caged men, in orange prison jumpsuits, on their knees. On Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya, two satellite networks, images of the prisoners appear in station promos.

For many Muslims, Guantánamo stands as a confirmation of the low regard in which they believe the United States holds them. For many non-Muslims, regardless of their feelings toward the United States, it has emerged as a symbol of American hypocrisy.…”

In India, a secular country by law whose people and government are growing increasingly close to the United States, a cartoon appeared in Midday, an afternoon tabloid, on Friday showing a panic-stricken Uncle Sam flushing copies of Newsweek magazine down a toilet.

To the cartoonist, Hemant Morparia, it appeared as though the Bush administration's answer to the problem was to bury the truth.

"People suspect American intentions," Mr. Morparia, a Mumbai-based radiologist who doubles as a cartoonist, said. "It has nothing to do with being Muslim."

From Mumbai, India, to Amman, Jordan, to London, Guantánamo is a continuing subject for discussion, from television talk shows to sermons to everyday conversations. In countries like Afghanistan, Britain and Pakistan, released detainees often return home and relate their experiences on television news programs. Accusations of egregious abuse sometimes prompt violence, as in last week's demonstrations in Afghanistan.

Guantánamo provides rhetorical fodder for politicians seeking to bring down United States-allied rulers in their own countries, and it offers a ready rallying point against American dominance, even in countries whose own police and military have been known for severe violations of human rights.

…In Europe, accusations of abuse at Guantánamo, as much as the war in Iraq, have become a symbol of what many see as America's dangerous drift away from the ideals that made it a moral beacon in the post-World War II era. There is a persistent and uneasy sense that the United States fundamentally changed after September 11, and not for the better.

"The simple truth is that America's leaders have constructed at Guantánamo Bay a legal monster," the French daily, Le Monde, said in a January editorial.…

"People already expect the U.S. to deny it, because it already has no credibility in the region," said Mustafa al-Ani, director of the Security and Terrorism Studies Program at the Gulf Research Center in Dubai. "So the initial story will have an impact, and the response simply will not."

Or as a Jordanian pharmacist, Farouk Shoubaki, said of the original report, "It is something the Americans would do."

As Mr. Shoubaki's remark reflects, Guantánamo offers disconcerting testimony that for many Muslims, the America they used to admire has sunk to the level of their own repressive governments.…

Doesn't one definition of insanity require repeating the same experiment over and over again, always expecting a different result?

We need to stop worrying about the whether or not Newsweek was right.

We need to worry about the desecration of the American soul.…
Al Ingram

con·cept: Do We Expect to Reap What We've Sown?