by Joe Scarry
It is clearly the time for an annual dose of stealth maneuvering by our government’s “national security” apparatus, led by the President.
History shows that a good time to take actions that you don’t want examined too closely is the time between Thanksgiving and New Years.
Consider, for example, Obama’s midnight signing of the NDAA renewal — the National Defense Authorization Act, the one that includes “Guantanamo for everyone!” provisions — on December 31, 2011. People looked up from their eggnog just long enough to notice that Washington was doing . . . something or other? . . . and then . . . back to snooze-ola.
How else to explain the most recent head fake in the direction of releasing the detainees who have been literally wasting away in Guantanamo. The Administration tried to send two people — Djamel Ameziane and Belkacem Bensayah — to Algeria, when the fact is that Algeria will not be a welcoming home for those men.
Here’s what — according to the Administration’s script — is supposed to happen now: Americans are supposed to say, “Well, we tried . . . .” and “Gee, I guess those guys are troublemakers . . . .” and “But isn’t that their home . . . ?”
Instead, we need to be saying: how do we take responsibility for the injury we have caused?
Despite the amount of Congressional energy has been spent trying to assure that no ex-detainee from Guantanamo ever, ever, EVER sets foot in the United States, the fact is that numerous U.S. communities have recognized an opportunity and a responsibility to extend hospitality to these people who have been detained without any justification:
Tallahassee, FL: An interfaith coalition prepared a plan “to accept three Uyghur detainees from Guantánamo Bay in their community”
(I’m grateful to Nancy Talanian at No More Guantanamos for keeping me constantly updated with this and other information on the movement for justice for Guantanamo detainees.)
Now . . . when are we going to add Chicago to that list?
It is vitally important that people who have been subjected to torture receive care. Some of the dimensions of the trauma caused by torture — in its many forms, including sustained sensory deprivation or “solitary confinement” — and the need for care for survivors was powerfully shown in the film by local Chicago filmmakers, Beneath the Blindfold. And the critical importance of care for torture survivors was one of the factors that was stressed when the city council of Chicago unanimously passed a resolution declaring Chicago a torture-free city: “WHEREAS, torture survivors require comprehensive care and assistance, such as that provided by the Heartland Alliance Marjorie Kovler Center; and . . . . ”
The Marjorie Kovler Center “transforms the lives of individuals recovering from the complex consequences of torture. Kovler Center provides medical, mental health, and social services; trains and educates locally and globally; and advocates for the end of torture worldwide.” Read more about the Marjorie Kovler Center in Chicago.
Chicago can derive pride from the fact that it provides care to hundreds of people from all over the world who are survivors of torture. Now . . . it’s time to step up on behalf of survivors of the torture that has been conducted by the U.S. government in the name of its “global war on [of] terror.”
Facing our responsibility
Many of us have been working for a long time to close Guantanamo. It is a worthy aspiration. But perhaps the time has come to say that we will not be “done with” Guantanamo until we begin to do right by the people who have suffered there.
We can never expect to fully do justice to those who have been unjustly imprisoned at Guantanamo. But we can start by taking full responsibility for giving them a place to live safely, and providing world-class care.
That much we can do.
That would provide for healing on both sides.
For the next three months, people will be talking about the film 12 Years a Slave and its Oscar prospects. And well they should. The film is about the experiences of the free man, Solomon Northrup, who was seized and enslaved for twelve years, and it may be the best thing ever to come along for enabling us to confront the true meaning of our history of oppression and racism in America. But it’s not just about history.
(See 12 Years a Detainee)
It is perhaps the signal achievement of the film “Beneath the Blindfold” that it portrays four different survivors, each of whose experience of torture was distinct from that of any of the others, and each of whom has an otherwise unique personality, and yet each makes clear that they share a long-lasting trauma. One leaves the film with a deeply-felt sense of the lasting trauma caused by torture of any kind.
The detainees in Guantanamo are just one example of how the leaders of the United States demagogue issues of law, security, and justice in order to keep themselves in power and the rest of us in a state of fear.