Thursday, September 3, 2009

Behind the Walls of Guantanamo

The bay of Guantanamo is said to be beautiful, sheltered by hills and mountains. In my imagination I try to picture it. Kicking off my shoes and letting them rest in the sand, I walk along the shore letting the water make little splashes. A bird circles overhead and there’s one resting standing on one little leg. This scene of peace is a place where the sun rises as though nothing has happened. It sets—sometimes in glorious fire. I love sunsets and used to take pictures of them in Sarasota’s Siesta Key in Florida where my father lived.

Where is the prison? Can it be seen from the shore—perhaps if I walk around the bend? As I stand in this place of beauty hearing only the sound of the lap of the water or the call of a bird, at the same time not far are walls holding hell. A place where prisoners—-fathers, uncles, brothers, sons-- are tortured having been neither charged nor tried. And by America the Beautiful. Can it be? Not My Country Tis of Thee!

Many were sold for bounty given by my government. “The leaflets fell as snowflakes in winter in Chicago,” said Donald Rumfeld. Leaflets? Yes, leaflets promising from $5,000 to $25,000 for members of the Taliban and al-Queda—such money as you could not make in Afghanistan working your whole life. These promised bounties led to black market and abductions in Afganistan and Pakistan. And this is how many detainees found themselves behind the walls of Guantanamo’s prison

I didn’t expect to be writing so much about this subject. Having seen both Torturing Democracy http://w and Children of the Taliban by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy , (Frontline, PBS)I felt a need to write something linking them. However, as I did so in the course of writing, I felt led to do more and more research. The more I learned the more passionate I became. We must overturn this. As soon as I finished writing the previous blog, What Shall We Do With the Prisoners of Guantanamo Bay? (Please read if you have not.) I found, My Guantanamo Diary by Mahvish Rukhsana Khana. I know I was meant to find it—a diary to make you cry. It tells the stories of individual prisoners making them real with names and not just detainee numbers.

The author is an American lawyer born to Afghan immigrants. When she heard of the illegal detainment of the detainees, she felt she had to do something and applied to be a translator. She visited Guantanamo nearly 30 times, and also made trips to Afghanistan and Pakistan to substantiate the stories of the prisoners--sometimes visiting the families of some of the prisoners.

In her Author’s Note she writes:

The U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay stands as a challenge to our
nation. It challenges our readiness to do the right thing in times of
crisis, the times when it’s most difficult, to adhere to our
founding principles and to follow the rule of law. What lies at the heart
of the Gitmo debate are the beliefs upon which the United States of America was
founded and for which it has long been celebrated: the conviction that no one
should be imprisoned without charge and that everyone has a right to defend him
or herself in a fair and impartial trial. . .

While I believe that Gitmo may hold evil men as well as innocent
ones, I also believe that only a fair and full hearing can separate the good
from bad. .I can honestly say that I don’t believe any of the
Afghans I met were guilty of crimes against the United States. Certainly some of
the Guantanamo detainees were, just not the men I met. . .

She further writes:

Most of the prisoners I met spoke of harsh beatings, being stripped naked in
front of females, sleep deprivation, extremes of cold and heat, stress
positions. 80-year old Haji Nusrat, who is a paraplegic, spoke about
injuries to his arm during one particular beating. . .Some of the men I’ve
profiled in my book speak of sexual humiliation, multiple full cavity searches,
disrespect toward their holy book, restrictions on religious

(Her testimony agrees with that of ex-guards. (See my previous blog and Guantanmo Testimonials.)

One prisoner asked in his journal, “Is America really in a position to be establishing democracies?”

Colonel Stuart Couch said after visiting the prison, “God means what he says. And we were created in his image, and we owe each other a certain level of dignity—a certain level of respect. And that’s just a line we can’t cross. If we compromise our own ideals as a nation, then these guys have accomplished much more than driving airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.” (See Torturing Democracy.)

From The New York Times, August 25, 2009:
Investigation Is Ordered Into C.I.A. Abuse Charges:
By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane

Washington—Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. named a veteran federal
prosecutor on Monday to examine abuse of prisoners. . .Mr. Holder chose John H.
Durham, a prosecutor from Connecticut who has been investigating the
C.I.A.’s destruciton of interrogation videotapes. . .

He said that he agreed with President Obama's oft expressed desire not to
get mired in disputes over the policies of former President George W. Bush but
that his review of the reports of the C.I.A interrogation program left him no

“As Attorney General, my duty is to examine the facts and to follow the
law,” Mr. Holder said in a statement. “Given all the information currently
available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible course of
action for me to take.”

. . .Although large portions of the 109-page report are blacked out, it
gives new details about a variety of abuses inside the C.I.A.’s overseas prison,
including suggestions about sexually assaulting members of a detainee’s family,
staging mock executions, andintimidation with a handgun and power drill. .

Dick Cheney presents another view. As though on cue, last night as I was late writing this paper and before I turned off the computer for the night, I saw this headline:

Dick Cheney blasts CIA Interrogation Probe-- Lara Jakes.

WASHINGTON (Aug. 30) -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney says politics are
driving the Justice Department's decision to investigate whether CIA
interrogators abused terror suspects detained after the Sept. 11
"It's clearly a political move," Cheney said in an interview aired
on "Fox News Sunday." "I mean, there's no other rationale for why they're doing

(No other rationale? I mean, compassion, human rights and justice, American values, The Geneva Convention? None of these could be possible motivations?)

Cheney called the techniques "good policy," saying he was comfortable in cases
where interrogators went beyond what they were specifically authorized to do.
The CIA report found they included cases of interrogators threatening a detainee
with a handgun and an electric drill. . .
“I’m very proud of what we did in
terms of defending the nation for the past eight years successfully,” Cheney
said in a recorded interview.
"I just think it's an outrageous
precedent to set, to have this kind of, I think, intensely partisan, politicized
look back at the prior administration."
. . .Attorney General Eric Holder
said in comments last week. "In this case, given all of the information
currently available, it is clear to me that this review is the only responsible
course of action for me to take."

Having just finished reading My Guantanamo Diary on this very day, I found the views of Dick Cheney especially, yes, “outrageous”! The contrast was so extreme, I had to stop and pray very loud in tongues, to relieve my strong emotion. There must be an investigation! In AOL's poll 58% gave Dick Cheney a thumbs up! Clearly people do not know the truth!

Matthew Alexander, a soldier in Iraq, in his letter to the President through Amnesty International wrote:
. . .I witnessed with my own eyes, while supervising over a thousand interrogations, a majority of foreign fighters state that the number one reason they came to Iraq to fight was because of our policy that allowed torture and abuse to occur at
Abu Graib and Guantanamo Bay. These foreign fighters killed hundreds, if not thousands of American soldiers. Torture and abuse did not keep America safe. It cost us lives.

How could Mr. Cheney even suggest that we should be grateful for these polices—that the present administration should copy these policies—have the same policies?

No, not my government! We must stand and denounce that which is not us and purge it from us!

What seeds have been sown these past eight years? The vibrations and energy from these prison policies are even now circling the globe and hurting us as a nation. We must stop the momentum, turn it around, and show the world we are once again Americans and champions of justice and freedom. They must know we are divorced from these policies.

There is One who knows all secrets behind the walls—who is guilty and who is innocent—who did what and why they did it. He also answers prayer.

The ground is full of blood. Events done in a place affect that place until they are cleansed. I am reminded of a prophetic opening from the journal of George Fox, founder of the Quakers. He wrote:

I was commanded of the Lord to pull off my shoes of a sudden; and I stood still,
and the word of the Lord was like a fire in me; and being winter. . .as soon as
I came within the town, the word of the Lord came unto me to cry, “Woe unto the
bloody city of Litchfield!” . . ..As I went through the town, there
ran like a channel of blood down the streets and the market place was like a
pool of blood; this I saw as I went through it crying, “Woe to the bloody city
of Litchfield.’ . . .And so at last I came to a ditch and washed my feet and put
on my shoes, and when I had done, I considered why I should go and cry against
that city and call it a bloody city. . . But after, I came to
see that there were a thousand martyrs in Litchfield in the Emperor Diocletian’s
time and so I must go in my stockings through the channel of their blood in
their market place. So I might raise up the blood of those martyrs that
had been shed and lay cold in their streets, which had been shed above a
thousand years before. So the sense of this blood was upon me, for which I
obeyed the word of the Lord. And the ancient record will testify. . .

What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:9) God asked this of Cain after he murdered his brother Abel.

So God hears the cries and sees the blood of the prisoners. He sees the wives and the children, the brothers, the grandparents who agonize at home wondering if they will ever see their loved ones again.

So what must we do? We need redemption and before redemption is repentance. Thank God, there is a time from the sowing of seed to the reaping of it—thus space for repentance. And so, Dick Cheney, just because we have not yet seen the reaping of the whirlwind on our soil, it does not mean that the seeds of such violence have not been sown. Who would be so foolish as to trust in your way of safety? What you have advocated has put the people of our nation in grave danger and given us a sense of shame about our government. Now Gauntanamo Bay is an international symbol of injustice and torture.

We must be co-creators with the Creator—hands and feet and mouth through which the love of God reaches out to a suffering world. We must not linger for the cup of iniquity to be full and spill out over our land. The prophetic eye sees what is in the spirit world and will manifest in the physical if the everything remains the same. We cannot leave this situation as it is. All around is the crescendo of gathering storm waiting to erupt. Through our media, the Internet, talk shows, on our streets, people carelessly spewing out judgments demonizing people without investigation. I walked into the corner diner. The TV was on. That was when I first learned of what was happening in the town meetings. People yelling and screaming not allowing any discussion or debate. I later learned that talk shows and websites had urged, “Become a part of the mob! . . .Pack the hall. . .Yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early. . .Get him off his prepared script and agenda. . .Stand up and shout. . .” A mob no longer thinks and is certainly not what we need. Prayer is what we need. "In quietness and confidence shall be your strength." (Isaiah)

So this is our democracy? We know more about the protests than we do about the contents of the health bill. It doesn’t take much of a prophetic eye to see that this is not only the sowing of bad seed but the manifestation of it.

He that answers a matter before he hears it, to him it is folly and shame. Proverbs

If you would convince me of error, you must
first demonstrate you heard what I said.
Charles Finney

One night coming home on the subway, the car was filled with the impassioned voices of young people speaking of REVOLUTION! They had these papers (15 pages) entitled, REVOLUTION. With great fervor they were speaking of wrongs done by our government (many of them true) and the coming revolution. I got one of the papers. I told the girl, “I’m going to pray about this.” She said, “Pray to who?”.

I looked at the paper. It was chilling. As I turned the pages, I could see it is no small organization represented. Everywhere they have headquarters and branches and they intend to spread their message to every corner. Bookstores and events listed—New York, Boston/Cambridge, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Seattle, and Houston. The advertisements reviewed many books.and websites. I read:

It is a system of capitalism—imperialism. . .a system in which U.S. imperialism
is the most monstrous, most oppressive superpower. . .a system driven by a
relentless chase after profit, which brings horror upon horror, a nightmare
seemingly without end. . .torture and rape . .wars, invasions and occupations .
.assassinations and massacres. . planes, missiles, tanks and troops of the USA
bombarding people in faraway lands while they sleep, blasting their little
children to pieces. . .

I noted that many of the things they said were true, but I wanted to object, ”Think of the good things of America—not just the bad. Think of. . .” There was no time to say anything. “Come to our bookstore,” she called as she ran with the others to the next car.

Maybe I will. I will listen and maybe I will be able to give Another Plan and redirect this zeal—maybe even for one person.. They are working so hard, giving their time and their youth for a plan that will never work. It’s sad that they haven’t seen anything else that attracts them.

We cannot neglect Guantanamo Bay—we cannot forget the prisoners in our nation’s care. Even if we are selfish—we cannot forget--not just for their sakes, but also for our own and the sake of our children. Needed is the power of strong words:

Thus saith the Lord; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place. . .But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. Jeremiah 22:3-5

For if ye thoroughly amend your ways and your doings; if ye thoroughly execute judgment between a man and his neighbor; If ye oppress not the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, and shed not innocent blood in this place, . . Then will I cause you to dwell in this place, . . .behold, ye trust in lying words, that cannot profit. . .Jeremiah 7:5-8

The people of the land have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yea, they have oppressed the stranger wrongfully and I sought for a man among them that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none. Therefore have I poured out mine indignation upon them; I have consumed them with the fire of my wrath: their own way have I recompensed upon their heads, saith the Lord God. Ezekiel 29-31

And I will come near to you to judgment, and I will be a swift witness against those that oppress . . .the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. For I am the Lord, I change not. . .Return to me and I will return to you. . .Malachi 3:5-7

They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The Lord shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools, when will ye be wise? He that planted the ear, shall he not hear? He that formed the eye, shall he not see? Psalm 94:6-9

I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor; and the cause which I knew not I searched out. Job 29:15, 16

(I know this is a lot of verses, but each one has something unique that makes it hard for me to eliminate it.)

Job said that if he didn’t understand a cause, he searched it out—he investigated it to find the truth. Contrary to what Dick Cheney says, the CIA investigation. is just, proper and necessary. There is so much confusion and we must know the truth. Though important as other matters are—health care, etc—we cannot just push Gauntanamo Bay (and the other prisons involved) in a corner and expect to go forward. As God said to the prophet Jeremiah, “Then the Lord put forth his hand, and touched my mouth, And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth. See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build, and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:9,10

Before we can build and plant, sometimes we must first uproot, pull down and destroy. What needs to be uprooted and destroyed? Whatever in us that has allowed this great tragedy to be done with American hands. Lies, not listening, false accusation, greed, not caring about the poor and the one who has no helper. Truth and justice must come forth so that we can build and plant with integrity and compassion.

Just a few weeks ago while I was staying with my daughter, Rebecca, my son-in-law, Matt, came out in the morning and told us of a dream he had just had. A meteor hit the earth. A blind was pulled down between him and the meteor. But what kind of protection was the blind, he thought. Just because you can not see something, does not mean it is not there. Let’s pull up the blind and see what we face as a first step for finding wisdom to know what to do. Please, President Obama, investigate. Truth can bear examination. To get things right in the future, we must know what went wrong in the past.

My one year old grandson, Noah, looks up with such a trusting face. “Of such is the kingdom of God. . . “ All the little trusting faces. With God’s help, we must do our best redeeming the time.. “Follow me,” Jesus said..

The Prince of Peace shine upon us and our children and grandchildren—and the children and grandchildren of the world. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace . . “

Guantanmo Bay—the very words now evoke injustice and torture indicative of a shameful part of our present history. However, it is not the place, but the treatment received in this place that is at fault. The longer we wait to acknowledge the truth and do something about it, the greater will be the price we as a nation have to pay. May we uproot the wrong that was done in this place and turn it around to plant and build and multiply it as seed for good—that the suffering of those who suffered here be not in vain.. Is redemption possible? This symbol of torture be transformed—this bay be a haven of understanding, justice and hope--an example of what we really are and want to be as Americans.

A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices;
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;
Stand on your feet,
O hear the angel voices!

The bay—do you hear the sound of children playing? Let’s run down to the shore and join them!.