This past Monday, February 23, the man whose case has extensively been written about the last few weeks was freed from Guantanamo. He was returned to Britain after almost seven long years of the most harrowing experience that neither you nor I could ever dream of, or make up for that matter. And according to this man, in a statement made through his lawyers upon his return to Britain, he himself could have never dreamt this until he was taken out of the blue in Pakistan.
This man, Binyam Mohammed, is known as one of the detainees behind the infamous lawsuitclaimed the same thing.
But I do not want to talk long about the details of lawsuits or rulings around rendition, detention, and torture. I want to talk about you, me, and people like Binyam. As I readBinyam's statement this last Monday I let myself feel that feeling that I have felt at times during my last two years of activism and organizing.
It's that feeling of no matter what you do that you cannot ever make right the wrongs or harms done that your government did in your name to people who didn't do anything to deserve such horror. I felt a deep sadness at this but I also had a feeling of resolve. Binyam, like me and you, is a real person. An ordinary person.Living his life one day and then thrust into the black the next.
Having survived those moments of utter darkness during his detention all he wants to do is speak out and stand up for those still being detained. Think of this for a minute. Here is a man whose life has all been but destroyed and upon his release he thinks not of himself but of those who are suffering at the hands of our government. He could disappear into obscurity and try to reassemble his past life the best one is able after such trauma. No thinking and feeling human being would blame him if he did just that. But he is not doing that. Even as he knows and acknowledges that he is never going to fully come back from this he is clear about one thing. He is going to fight for the rights of others who have suffered and are still suffering in the way he has. But what are you doing about this issue of torture and detention? Are you going to leave it to someone else who you think is better qualified or better equipped?
This brings to mind a conversation I had over a year ago with a co-worker of mine. I was wondering aloud why so many in this country were hanging back, silent, invisible in the face of these crimes by our government. She told me that it takes certain kinds of people to stand up and speak out about these things. She said, "You're an anomaly." I had to think about this for a while and I've thought about it quite a bit since. And I've concluded that I'm not an anomaly. There is nothing all that different from me than you in that I'm living daily life in pretty much the same way you are.
So I don't hesitate to say that like Binyam, me and you have been thrust into the black by the crimes of our government since this whole business of the "war on terror" started. It's hard to ignore it as you are stumbling around in the dark, but some of us try and hope someone else will shine a light and take care of it. I've decided to face it and I concluded a while ago that stopping these crimes against humanity cannot be left to the leadership of this country no matter who the leadership of the country happens to be. The program of detention and torture put into place by the Bush Regime under the guise of the so-called "war on terror" cannot be undone by who ever walks into the oval office.
Because as long as the leaders keep up this charade of this thing called the "war on terror" which is nothing but a war for empire, there will be torture and crimes against humanity. The two are inextricably linked. There has been a lot out there lately to prove this. When one hears about the escalation of the Afghanistan war and at the same time hears that Obama has decided that the detainees at Bagram detention centerhave no rights, what other conclusion is there? This is why we must understand that these are occupations and torture for empire and we must end them.
You had your hopes though and put them where you thought best. I decided that I will keep putting my hopes in you even though people like to tell me that mainstream America just does not care about these things. I've run into similar phenomena in anti-war coalition meetings where the message gets watered down by simply demanding that the troops be brought home or to emphasize that the economy is in the tank because of these wars. They think the American people are not going to demand an end to these occupations and torture on a moral basis so they soften the message to draw you in.
I think this is cowardice and it's not true. Like Binyam, in these times, there is more to you than meets the eye. You do care about these things like torture and you care about these things like torture because you know that it is morally wrong. Otherwise you would have not voted in the man who you believed would change all this. I decided a while ago that it's worth continuing to struggle with you, real people, about why it's on us and us alone to stop the crimes of our government. We cannot keep looking to our leaders to act in the interest of humanity. If we continue to go there we may one day never come back to who we really are and could be - people who care about all of humanity. We need to come back to ourselves and take on this responsibility. We have for too long been missing from this picture of the resistance that is needed to stop these crimes. We must also hold those responsible for crimes against humanity accountable. We cannot undo what has been done in our name but we can stop it from continuing and ever happening again. People like Binyam, me, and you need us, the people.
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