Fiddling While It Burns

The fate of the Guantanamo cast-offs | 29/03/2009 is running a story about the possible fate of the one hundred Yemenis currently interned in Guantánamo Bay, based around interviews with repatriated Yemenis who were held in Guantánamo Bay without charge for as much as five years.

An extract:

As soon as the U.S. deposited Fawza back in his homeland, Yemeni security agents threw him in prison for another six weeks. Once again, he was never charged. Since his release, security agents have kept him under constant surveillance. Barred from leaving Yemen, he can’t travel outside his hometown without government permission. Old friends and relatives treat him like toxic waste. No one will give him a job, and as for the girl he’d like to marry, “I can’t ask her father for her hand because I don’t have bride money or a way to support her.”

The story focuses strongly on this particular Yemeni’s story (Fawza is a pseudonym), and the difficulties faced by those Yemenis who have already been repatriated. It has a strong human-rights focus, which is unsurprising for the liberal

A point I’d like to draw from this article, common to all media coverage I’ve come across of the Guantánamo Bay internment facility, is it buys into the two-sided ideological approach to Gitmo – that is, either it’s right because the internees are inhuman dogs baying for the blood of white Christians, or it’s evil because it imprisons the potentially innocent without charge for years at a time. While I lean strongly towards the latter view, I feel obliged to point out that there is a more pragmatic angle never covered by mainstream sources – real discussion of the consequences of other approaches to terror suspects, such as repatriation, release into general prison populations, or the establishment of more judicial and less military systems of internment. The lack of discussion of these substantive issues points to the real failure of the news media in the Global War on Terror – contemplation of the hard truths and practicalities ignored, the role of informing democracy left by the wayside.

The article is notable, however, for the routinely-ignored ugly reality it almost inadvertantly highlights – the depth of injustice and persecution that goes ignored by the West while we very seriously debate our own actions during the Global War on Terror.  The paragraph that really caught my attention:

“Why are you even concerned about a small detail like the Guantánamo detainees when there are huge human rights problems all across this country?” Amir persisted. Between chomps, Amir and several journalists, human rights workers and scholars lounging on low, brocade couches listed the violations — civilian deaths and injury from the civil armed conflict in the north, child marriage, zealous application of the death penalty, persecution of journalists and political opponents.

This should raise some real questions about Western attitudes towards third-world human rights and the environment which incubates terrorism, and why we don’t hear more about this while we read important articles in our Serious Broadsheets about the ephemera of party politics and business dealings.


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