Thursday, March 15, 2007

Goings on in Gitmo

Tom's Dispatch has reprinted an article by Karen Greenberg, where she describes the conditions in America's prison in Cuba, Guantanamo Bay.

8. Guantanamo's deep respect for Islam is unappreciated. All the food served in the prison is halal, prepared in a separate kitchen, constructed solely for the detainees. All cells, outdoor areas, and even the detainee waiting room in the courthouse where the Military Commissions will be held, have arrows pointing to Mecca. All compliant detainees have prayer rugs and prayer beads. All detainees, no matter how they behave, have Korans. The library includes books on Islamic history, Islamic philosophy, and on Mohammed and his followers. Our escorts are armored against our protests about the denial of legal rights to prisoners. The right to challenge their detention in court, actually being charged with a crime, or adhering to the basic rules of procedure and evidence that undergird American law -- none of this is important. They do not see that what's at stake is not building a mosque at Gitmo, any more than it is about serving gourmet food, or about the cushy, leather interrogation chairs we are shown. It is about extending the most basic of legal rights, including the presumption of innocence, to those detained here.

A few(?) isolated(?) cases of guards flushing copies of the Koran down the toilet aside, I think this is quite significant. I've argued for years now that the battle isn't really between the Christian West and the Muslim Middle East. Bush versus bin Laden is just a side-show. That's a minor spat between two leaders' whose world-view is remarkably similar. Hitler and Stalin went to war too, but minus Hitler's insane racial obsessions, the two were natural allies.

(Except, of course, people like Hitler and Stalin can't bear to be anything but top dog.)

Both Bush and bin Laden agree that God rules the world, and his appointed proxy should have ultimate and total power. They only differ on whether God's right-hand-man is called Osama or George. Whether you read the Bible or the Koran, that's not really important right here and right now, not compared to such things as over-turning the post-Enlightenment secular world, and replacing such humanist things as the rule of law and the presumption of innocence with the divine infallibility of presidents.

The real war, I believe, is between fundamentalists like bin Laden and Bush, who believe that they and they alone decide what's right and what's wrong, and those who keep the values of the Enlightenment. It is, I believe, no accident that the first target of Bush and his Fundamentalist neo-con friends, was not an Arab theocracy, nor the country which financed the 9/11 hijackers (Saudi Arabia), but the one seriously secular Arab state, Iraq. Saddam might not have been big on freedom and justice, but nor did he say he tortured people because God told him too.

I had a few other things to say about Gitmo, in particular about the case of Sean Baker, one of the military police on duty there, who was mistakenly beaten by his fellow guards and given permanent brain damage. I was feeling rather, shall we say short tempered and uncharitable when I wrote it, and my language might not be suitable for maiden aunts and pre-school children, so I put it on my Uncensored blog.

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