In Sudan, where he was hospitalized following his release, Sami al-Hajj has made numerous statements about his imprisonment:“Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values. In Guantánamo...rats are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than 50 countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges, and they will not give them the rights that they give to animals….For more than seven years, I did not get a chance to be brought before a civil court. To defend their just case and to get the freedom that we’re deprived of, they ignored every kind of law, every kind of religion….He concluded by saying: “My last message to the US administration is that torture will not stop terrorism—torture is terrorism.”
The U.S. response to al-Hajj’s claims of mistreatment follows a familiar pattern. ABC News featured three unnamed Pentagon “officials” who said that there was nothing to “substantiate his allegations that he was mistreated at Guantanamo.” These same officials tried to dismiss al-Hajj as “a manipulator and a propagandist.” (see Naomi Spencer, “Journalist released from Guantanamo details abuse,” May 5 2008, www.wsws.org
The truth, however, is that this age-old justification for torture crumbles under even the slightest scrutiny. And that is not only because torture violates all the treaties and laws we have signed over the years, including our Constitution outlawing cruel and inhuman treatment. It is also because we now know that this type of torture did not begin with Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, and has not been limited to the Arabs or Muslims we have been at such pains to dehumanize. As Alfred McCoy makes very clear in his A Question of Torture, there is a long history of this new kind of torture that began shortly after World War II, one that has been constantly perfected since then by the CIA among others. These methods were ready and waiting when the so-called “war on terror” was announced after 9/11, and were quickly and eagerly updated and implemented. My next post will go into that aspect of the story in detail. Suffice it to say here that even a cursory look at the methods McCoy lays out proves—even if we doubt the words of Arab/Muslims like Sami al-Hajj—that these torture techniques have been part of the American interrogator’s playbook for nearly a half century now, and have been used not only by American “interrogators” themselves, but spread like a new gospel to our “allies” around the world.
The only question for us who have now become revoltingly aware of such things is how do we, a complacent public, justify standing idly by and letting this happen, letting the perpetrators of this little shop of horrors operating in our name ride off not just unaccountable and unpunished, but richly rewarded for their crimes?