by Paul Balles
Saddam’s torture chambers reopened under new management, U.S. management.–Edward Kennedy
I grew up in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, an American steel town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. The steelworkers in our town came from all over the world, but mostly from Eastern Europe.
Though I grew up among dozens of accents, there was never a thought that those differences made anyone better or worse.
We wouldn’t have dreamed of treating a school mate whose parents came from Czechoslovakia or Hungary or Poland any differently because of where they came from.
When I visited my Polish friend in his home, I didn’t understand his parents and they didn’t speak English; but when there was a wedding in the family, we all danced the Polka together.
If a Hungarian boy got into trouble for a minor theft, he wasn’t treated any worse because his parents had been immigrants.
We knew about people who treated others inhumanely from the stories about hundreds of Japanese in internment camps and the way blacks were treated in the south.
The miniseries Roots was edifying especially to northerners, revealing how slaves were treated.
To mistreat others in ways you wouldn’t treat members of your own family or tribe reflects how superior you look in your own eyes.
Only in the past decade have I heard about Americans mistreating others in ways that we wouldn’t have dreamed of in my youth. These incidents have been much worse than the way Americans treated Japanese in internment camps.
The horrendous treatment meted out by Americans has been toward Arabs–many more Arabs than could have been involved in planning and supporting 9/11.
If 9/11 provided the motivation for punishing Arabs, the punishment has far exceeded any reasonable reckoning for what happened on 9/11.
Seeing the photos of the torture of Arabs by young American jailers in Abu Ghraib was enough to cause a nauseous feeling, not only for what was happening to the prisoners but for the sick delight that the Americans were enjoying.
As they stripped bare the Arabs and forced them into horrific positions, frightening them with dogs and torturing them with electric current, I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to these Americans that would allow such treatment.
Then to hear about similar torture and worse at Guantanamo, I found it even more repugnant, more stomach-turning as I heard about even worse kinds of torture that these poor Muslims were being subjected to by their American masters.
To hear people like Rumsfeld and Cheney defending water-boarding was so loathsome that I wanted to see them arrested and tried for their horrific crimes against humanity.
More and more truths came out of Guantanamo, and the U.S. government had to release many of their victims who spent years in prison enduring torture.
The figures for Guantanamo are telling: 779 detainees were held since the start; 600 were released with no charges. However, they had to endure torture by their terrorist jailers, and none of them received compensation for false imprisonment.
Among 166 detainees remaining, 86 have been approved for transfer but remain imprisoned. Those who remain imprisoned have never been charged with an offense nor tried by a court.
In a Washington Post article, Thomas Wilner wrote, “President Obama … said that Guantanamo has probably created more terrorists around the world than it ever detained;” and …”that Guantanamo has undermined America’s moral authority.”
“It is time to get serious about closing Guantanamo,” he concluded.
It’s also time to stop inculcating a belief in American youth that torturing fellow human beings is acceptable behaviour.