hundreds of men who have been and the 200 plus men who still are being
held and the many who have, now the record is clear, been tortured at
Guantanamo Bay. But until this weak I had never actually heard a single
such man's voice -- speaking to me live and in person.
When I went to the prison in June of this year, we journalists
were brought to view the prisoners from afar -- exactly as if they were
dangerous animals in a cage. They called to us, anguishedly, in a voice
that still haunts me. `Can I talk to them?" I asked. Many of them speak
English. No; no, no, was the answer. No one is permitted to talk to
them. Prisoners in the US have many rights to speak; but silencing the
Guantanamo detainees has been -- as all oppressors know -- key to
maintaining opprssion; and key to manipulating US popular opinion. Bill
Kristol, may God forgive him, and Dick Cheney's daughter have
started a new organization to spin the torture at Guantanamo and
elsewhere: `Keep America Safe.' (Or: `Keep Daddy Out of Prison.') But
if the perpetrators are to continue to spin America, the prisoners'
voices have to continue to be silenced.
Even those who empathize with the detainees tend to speak `for'
them -- casting them as faceless victims, who are the sum of their
victimization, just as the opposite `side' casts them as faceless,
The biggest thing that has happened to me for a long time is
that, for the first time since I have begin this journey -- I spoke -- have
been speaking to, listening to -- a former detainee. I have been in
touch with Binyam Mohamed, who is the UK resident who was released from
Guantanamo in February -- after seven years' captivity -- and who last
Friday won a major victory when a British court ruled that the US and
the UK could not continue to conceal from the public the seven
paragraphs that describe horrific torture of Mr Mohamed, in documents
from Guantanamo. He is also suing Boeing for its part in rendering him
to `black sites' where he was also tortured.
Of course, the UK government is appealing the ruling, so we still
can't know what happened to him; but officials have told reporters that
one action that the paragraphs describe is the cutting of genitals with
a razor; waterboarding, this official said drily, is well dowon on the list of atrocities Mr Mohamed suffered.
Why are President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Lieberman trying so desperately to cover up what the record will show? Because it will be still more horrific evidence of yet more unbelievably violent sexual assault among many cases now on the record -- perpetrated by the US against those men held without charges in their direct custody or in blacksites. To the many confirmed cases of anal rape with objects that prisoners have suffered under the aegis of the US, we will now add attempted genital mutilation.
As Mr Mohamed told the Uk Daily Mail, 'they cut off my clothes with some kind of doctor's scalpel. I was totally naked. I was afraid to ask Marwan [the interrogator] what would happen because it would show fear.
'I tried to put on a brave face. But maybe I was going to be raped. Maybe they'd electrocute me. Maybe castrate me.
'They took the scalpel to my right chest. It was only a small cut. Maybe an inch. Then they cut my left chest.
'One of them took my penis in his hand and began to make cuts. He did it once, and they stood still for maybe a minute, watching my reaction.
'I was in agony, crying, trying desperately to suppress myself, but I was screaming.
'I remember Marwan seemed to smoke half a cigarette, throw it down, and start another. They must have done this 20 to 30 times in maybe two hours.
'There was blood all over. They cut all over my private parts.
'One of them said it would be better just to cut it off, as I would only breed terrorists.'
This, Mohamed says, was repeated many times over the next 15 months.' [http://www.dailymail.co.uk
Indeed, Mr Mohamed explained that when he was later
taken into direct US custody, a female
official was sent in daily to photograph his bloodied penis,
saying that the photos were `for Washington' to make sure
his wounds were healing. These photos are almost certainly among the images
that President Obama, Lieberman and Mrs Clinton are seeking to suppress -- and
one more example of the wholesale sexual sadism and violent perversity
-- one more example of detainees being used to generate, essentially,
real-life snuff videos and photographs - that characterized the highly perverse orders
from the White House during this era.
In a Kafkaesque situation that applies to many detainees and
lawyers, Mr Mohamed can get into legal trouble if he tells the story of
his own abuse -- and his lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith of the heroic UK
organization Reprieve, was threatened with six months in prison by the
US -- Obama's team -- for writing a letter to President Obama
describing what had happened to his client.
(Right now, thinking about how the truth got out in Soviet
societies before 1989, I am desperately asking lawyers
if I can legally tell these stories through allegory, like Animal Farm.
`Once there as an island...')
In a masterpiece of perversity, the US classified the torture
used against the prisoners -- so that IF THEY TELL THEIR OWN STORIES
they are illegally releasing `classified information.' It is like
someone saying to a woman: I raped you, and now I will classify how I
raped you, so if you tell anyone you were raped -- I can send you to
You will recall that the Obama administration shocked those of us
working on human rights issues by threatening the UK's intelligence
service with refusing to cooperate in intelligence-sharing about
terrorist threats if the UK did not continue to conceal those seven
paragraphs. President Obama was willing to put the thirty million
innocent UK citizens at grave risk in order to keep secret the slashing
of men's genitals, and other nightmares, at Gitmo. Hillary Clinton, to
her eternal shame, sought to do so again as the trial unfolded. Luckily
the judge was not intimidated by these Mafia-like tactics -- though
Clinton supporters should think about what it means for American
womanhood's self-styled premiere role model to lend her efforts to
concealing and thus colluding in a crime of violent sexual torture.
I tried to find a way to talk to Mr Mohamed because he had known
Mohamed al-Hanashi, the thirty-one-year-old Yemenite detainee, the
prisoners' representative -- the man who knew all the crimes committed
against his fellows -- who was declared an `apparent suicide' in Guantanamo in June, when I was there;
turns out his death is now a criminal investigation. Someone killed
him, and the Obama administration is stonewalling; refusing, despite this secret investigation being a violation of Geneva Conventions, to give out any more
In the course of seeking Mr Mohamed out, I received his email --
and had that odd sense of unreality to see this little piece of
normality; not monster, not `victim' alone; a guy with an email address.
We corresponded; and I had the privilege of reading an op ed
he is writing, which eloquently makes the case that America's actions
in torturing people, and denying them due process, did more to inflate
al Qaida's numbers than any other factor; and that America can regain
hearts and minds around the world by prosecuting rather than concealing
war crimes. He also points out -- fascinatingly to me -- that the US
lumped all kinds of groups that were critical of the US but not
terrorist organizations under the `logo' of Al Qaida -- and terrified
the Muslim world by saying `you are either with us or against us' -
meaning, you could not be anywhere in the middle. This idea bears a
great deal more elucidation.
In the course of setting up the interview, I briefly spoke to Mr
Mohamed by phone; it was a brief, unremarkable conversation about
logistics; but in speaking directly, human to human, for the first
time, I had an existential shock. It is one thing when these names are
abstract; another when you hear a voice, just like the voices of one of
your friends, but with layers and layers of unspeakable sorrow
resonating underneath somehow -- and you realize, like a German
speaking directly to a Jew in 1950: this is one man here on the other
end of the line who was tortured in my name and in the name of my
fellow citizens. I carry this.
I asked if I could interview him about his own story and I felt
the closing-down: he explained that he is unable to tell me what was
done to him, since his case is ongoing, and, I presumed, because of the
issues of classification. This silencing still seemed to me as painful -
painful on both sides -- as other kinds of pain.
Since then I have learned something even more remarkable about Mr
Mohamed: the US offered to release him from Guantanamo years ago --
in exchange for his silence
about what happened to him -- and HE REFUSED the deal. He chose to stay in
rather than leave with his tongue -- and truth -- severed, in the hands
of his captors.
Hearing his voice in the op ed is also remarkable. He describes
his captors as `our kidnappers', for instance, which is, again,
shocking to an American sensibility -- but indeed, that is the literal
truth. He explains that while the torture was devastating, the
experience in many ways made him and his fellow prisoners stronger and
gave them a deeper understanding of the nature of oppression; it's
clear that for him, as for those held in tyrannical situations around
the world, torture gets at the body but nothing an oppressor does can
overtake the soul.
President Obama wants to try some remaining prisoners in real
trials; to release some; and he wants a third category, the devil's own
category -- of people who will be held forever because of `problems
with evidence.' What are the problems with evidence? The problem is
that what was done to them will emerge into light and be so horrific --
slashing of genitals, for instance, which any man would assume is a
prelude to castration -- that a continued coverup and impunity would be
impossible to sustain.
I was honored when Mr Mohamed let me know he had `friended' me on
facebook. I hope his voice, and that of other former prisoners, is
heard again and again, louder and louder, and gets through the media
bubble in the US; ironically, many more interviews with them are
offered in media throughout Europe and around the world. It is we
Americans who are being kept, intellectually, in a soundproof, padded room.
Only our hearing these voices can begin our long arduous path to
redemption. Hearing, listening, facing, grieving -- and owning, as the
Germans had to do, and as others have had to do at other times of
satanic mass hypnosis -- that this, this, is what we have done.