As the airwaves are set ablaze about the Evil Iranian Menace sentencing to death a former U.S. Marine, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, suspected of spying for the CIA, let us remind ourselves of our own government’s trampling of individual rights.
Over the weekend, the New York Times (to their credit) published two Op-Eds by former Guantanamo detainees. Both were perfectly innocent, both exposed to torture, both were held for years without charge or trial.
Murat Kurnaz is a German national of Turkish descent and was kidnapped off of a tourist bus in Pakistan in 2001 after the U.S. promised bounties for every person either Afghan warlords or Pakistani police picked up. He was held in Kandahar, then in Guantanamo.
During their interrogations, they dunked my head under water and punched me in the stomach; they don’t call this waterboarding but it amounts to the same thing. I was sure I would drown.
At one point, I was chained to the ceiling of a building and hung by my hands for days. A doctor sometimes checked if I was O.K.; then I would be strung up again. The pain was unbearable.
Kurnaz notes in his piece the strange experience of seeing the German officials who eventually secured his release “teach the Americans a basic lesson about the rule of law” after “the Americans insisted on a trial for war criminals at Nuremberg.”
Lakhdar Boumediene, a Bosnian, was arrested on unsubstantiated charges in Sarajevo in 2001 and held without charge or trial for seven years in an American prison shrouded in secrecy, Guantanamo Bay.
Bosnia’s highest court investigated the American claim, found that there was no evidence against me and ordered my release. But instead, the moment I was released American agents seized me and the five others. We were tied up like animals and flown to Guantánamo, the American naval base in Cuba. I arrived on Jan. 20, 2002.
…I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget…I went on a hunger strike for two years because no one would tell me why I was being imprisoned. Twice each day my captors would shove a tube up my nose, down my throat and into my stomach so they could pour food into me. It was excruciating, but I was innocent and so I kept up my protest.
And let’s not forget that the regime which has codified a system of indefinite detention without charge or trial even for its own citizens is the Benevolent Obama Administration, not the Evil Iranian Menace. And the regime that is garrisoning Iran’s surroundings with provocative militarism, heaping punitive sanctions on core economic sectors, arming enemies with nuclear weapons, engaging cyber-terrorism, commercial sabotage, targeted assassinations, and proxy wars is the Benevolent Obama Administration, not the Evil Iranian Menace.
Pretty much nobody knows the truth about the Hekmati case, which was according to the defendant’s mother, “the result of a process that was neither transparent nor fair.” But at least the Iranians are letting him appeal the verdict.