Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A sad chapter in our history

I have been utterly ashamed of my country’s use of the Guantanamo Bay Prison for the last decade to hold men’s lives in limbo with no due process to bring their cases to closure.

On Monday yet another story surfaced in the Washington Post that pulled at my heartstrings. It involved two Uighur brothers who simply had ended up in Afghanistan at the wrong time and have as a result spent the last 8 years languishing in Guantanamo.

The Uighurs are an ethnic sect living mainly in Western China. They are relegated to menial jobs and have difficulty surviving economically.

In 2001 one such Uighur Bahtiyar went off to seek his fortune in Afghanistan. He managed to call home to tell his mother he had exhausted the small amount of money he had taken. Upon hearing this, she sent his older brother Arkin, 45, to look for him.

It was about that time that we were dropping leaflets like snow over Afghanistan, offering rewards for turning in terrorists. Both Bahtiyar and Arkin were offered up by Afghan bounty hunters and soon found themselves in Cuba. What a way to be reunited!

The Uighurs held in Guantanamo cannot return to China because they are classified as terrorists by the Beijing government. However, I can’t for the life of me figure out why we have waited so long to determine the fate of the Uighur prisoners, who are hardly enemy combattants of the US.

At this point, some have been sent to Albania and some to Bermuda, as the US and other prominent world countries refuse to take them so as not to anger China. Of the remaining 13 Uighurs, Palau offered to take all but Arkin, who has mental problems due to two years in solitary confinement.

His brother Bahtiyar has given up his chance for resettlement in Palau so as to remain with his older brother.

I find this all so incredibly sad. I’m sad because our country has behaved so incredibly badly throughout this whole ordeal. I’m sad because we can’t offer these people a home, now that we have wasted almost a decade of their lives. I’m sad that we brought such mental illness to an innocent man, probably one of many. I’m sad that these brothers, although they may be able to stay together, may never again see the rest of their family.

This is indeed a chapter of US history from which we should learn a great number of lessons. But instead I’ll bet we will repeat these mistakes again and again and again in the name of keeping America safe.


Blogger e said...

How sad too is the fact that no media outlet that I know of here has exposed this problem as you have on this blog. It seems we are so obsessed with terrorism that we have become to some what we fear from others.

5:16 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

E -- Whatever happened to "give me your tired, your poor..."? We seem to have forgotten that welcome message that used to invite the suffering of the world to take refuge here. Instead we put them behind barbed wire and try to make them either go away or go crazy.

5:59 PM  
Blogger Kristin said...

Arnold Toynbee once said, "America is a large, friendly dog in a very small room. Every time it wags its tail, it knocks over a chair."

I'm not exactly sure how friendly we are, but I do think we knock over a lot of chairs.

9:13 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

How about when proponents of Guantanamo say that, if we put the detainees in our supermaximum security prisons, we'll be "releasing them on U.S. soil?" Right, like they'll all be able to just break out of one of those places. You know, like all the serial murderers who do so each year.

12:33 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

What have we come to when we're sending our prisoners to Albania?? Sheesh.

All these people should be brought to trial, promptly, in federal courts on the mainland. If the evidence isn't there, they should be freed. Period. I'm not sure what to do about the repatriation problem, but it seems to me that if they can't go home, the only fair thing to do is allow them to stay here.

3:00 PM  

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