An outrage unworthy of good Americans

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 January, 2012, 12:00am


Worldly and knowledgeable Americans are among the finest and most generous people you will ever meet. But there are other Americans who simply haven't a clue why so many people around the world view their country with suspicion, distrust, even hate.

To help them understand, it might help to read an account by Lakhdar Boumediene of his 71/2 years' detention in Guantanamo Bay. Translated from the Arabic and published in The New York Times, it will make your head boil with rage and your heart ache for the Boumediene family.

Boumediene, a former Red Crescent Society director of humanitarian aid for children in Sarajevo, was arrested about a month after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, along with five other men, on suspicion of plotting to blow up the American embassy in Sarajevo.

Bosnia's highest court investigated the claim and quickly released the men. Just as quickly, US agents kidnapped - 'arrest' is too dignified a word for their nefarious action - and shipped them to Guantanamo. No formal accusation or charge was ever brought against him. He was brutally interrogated, kept awake for days and forced to remain in painful positions for hours on end. He went on hunger strike for two years, so twice a day they force-fed him. The whole time, Boumediene was kept in isolation while his wife and daughters slipped into poverty.

It took a US Supreme Court decision to free him. The US government abandoned its claim about the embassy plot as soon as a federal court in Washington was ready to hear it. France took in Boumediene and his family as a humanitarian gesture.

He was lucky. There are 90 - possibly more - innocent men, mistakenly captured and indefinitely detained in Guantanamo because no other country will accept them. If America is as decent as it says it is, it should offer these men shelter on American soil as the least it can do to rectify this outrage.