Friday, June 12, 2009

Released To What?

It's becoming clear that President Obama is going to bow to the pressure from the Brave Sir Robins in Congress and will not release any of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners to the US. After up to eight years of detention thousands of miles from their homes for no good reason, eight years often filled with torture and abuse, these men are now deemed too dangerous for our fragile democracy to handle. Instead, the White House is busily trying to find other more resilient countries, such as Palau, to take them in.

To complete the whole bungling, error-filled, and foul process, the US is releasing these men with nothing more than a "OK, you're free now. Have a nice life." Is it any wonder that a few of these prisoners might harbor enough ill-will towards the US to head to the first terrorist recruiting station they can find?

Laurel Fletcher and Eric Stover, authors of an upcoming book on the issue, wrote an op-ed piece published in the Los Angeles Times yesterday detailing the problems those released from Gitmo have faced upon release.

Last year, we interviewed 62 released Guantanamo detainees from nine countries in Europe, the Middle East and Southern Asia. We found that although many harbored negative feelings toward the U.S. government, most simply wanted to reintegrate into their families and communities. But they found it difficult to do so.

Nearly all suffered from what we call the "Guantanamo stigma," a presumption in their communities that they were dangerous men, even though the U.S. had never convicted them of a crime. Only six of the 62 had been able to find permanent jobs. Many had lost property, and their families had been driven into debt during their absence. ...

Two-thirds of the former detainees we interviewed reported psychological problems stemming from their confinement. Memories of being short-shackled in stress positions, subjected to extreme temperatures and exposed to violence by guards remained vivid for many. Others complained of memory loss, depression and nightmares. "I think I'm still back there, with chains and guards swearing at me," said one man. ...

Released detainees told us what they wanted most was the opportunity to put Guantanamo behind them and get on with their lives. Yet 45 of the 62 former detainees said they received no significant support from their governments or private charities to help them start anew. "I lost everything as a result of being detained in Guantanamo. I've lost my property. I've lost my job. I've lost my will," said one Afghan detainee, a former medical professional who claims he was sent to Guantanamo because a rival tribe falsely denounced him to the Americans.

Apparently the US feels its responsibility for these men ends with a plane ticket. The problem lies with the fact that once you've taken a man's boots away, you can't very well expect him to pull himself up by his bootstraps, yet that's the very approach the US is taking. We can find trillions of dollars for saving the banksters from the errors of their ways, and hundreds of billions of dollars for new toys for the Pentagon, but we can't find a few million dollars that it would take to ease these prisoners of war (most of whom had no connection whatsoever with the Global War on Terror) back into some kind of life beyond Gitmo.

But, hey! We're the US: we don't have to take responsibility for our mistakes. That's for the little countries.


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Blogger Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

It is interesting to me that there seems little to which Obama won't bow if it is heralded by enough Rightwing whinging...

8:49 AM  

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