Lakhdar Boumediene’s Guantanamo Nightmare

lakhdarSomeone forward this to Obama? In the New York Times, a Bosnian citizen and former humanitarian aid worker discusses being tortured and imprisoned at Guantanamo for seven years as an innocent man without facing charges, before the Supreme Court ordered him freed:

Wednesday, America’s detention camp at Guantánamo Bay will have been open for 10 years. For seven of them, I was held there without explanation or charge. During that time my daughters grew up without me. They were toddlers when I was imprisoned, and were never allowed to visit or speak to me by phone.

Some American politicians say that people at Guantánamo are terrorists, but I have never been a terrorist. Had I been brought before a court when I was seized, my children’s lives would not have been torn apart, and my family would not have been thrown into poverty. It was only after the United States Supreme Court ordered the government to defend its actions before a federal judge that I was finally able to clear my name and be with them again.

I left Algeria in 1990 to work abroad. In 1997 my family and I moved to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the request of my employer, the Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates. I served in the Sarajevo office as director of humanitarian aid for children who had lost relatives to violence during the Balkan conflicts. In 1998, I became a Bosnian citizen. We had a good life, but all of that changed after 9/11.

When I arrived at work on the morning of Oct. 19, 2001, an intelligence officer was waiting for me. He asked me to accompany him to answer questions. I did so, voluntarily — but afterward I was told that I could not go home. The United States had demanded that local authorities arrest me and five other men. News reports at the time said the United States believed that I was plotting to blow up its embassy in Sarajevo. I had never — for a second — considered this.

The fact that the United States had made a mistake was clear from the beginning. Bosnia’s highest court investigated the American claim, found that there was no evidence against me and ordered my release. But instead, the moment I was released American agents seized me and the five others. We were tied up like animals and flown to Guantánamo, the American naval base in Cuba. I arrived on Jan. 20, 2002.

I still had faith in American justice. I believed my captors would quickly realize their mistake and let me go. But when I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted — how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want to write about; I want only to forget.

I went on a hunger strike for two years because no one would tell me why I was being imprisoned. Twice each day my captors would shove a tube up my nose, down my throat and into my stomach so they could pour food into me. It was excruciating, but I was innocent and so I kept up my protest.

In 2008, my demand for a fair legal process went all the way to America’s highest court. In a decision that bears my name, the Supreme Court declared that “the laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times.” It ruled that prisoners like me, no matter how serious the accusations, have a right to a day in court. The Supreme Court recognized a basic truth: the government makes mistakes. And the court said that because “the consequence of error may be detention of persons for the duration of hostilities that may last a generation or more, this is a risk too significant to ignore.”

Five months later, Judge Richard J. Leon, of the Federal District Court in Washington, reviewed all of the reasons offered to justify my imprisonment, including secret information I never saw or heard. The government abandoned its claim of an embassy bomb plot just before the judge could hear it. After the hearing, he ordered the government to free me and four other men who had been arrested in Bosnia.

I will never forget sitting with the four other men in a squalid room at Guantánamo, listening over a fuzzy speaker as Judge Leon read his decision in a Washington courtroom. He implored the government not to appeal his ruling, because “seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to a question so important is, in my judgment, more than plenty.” I was freed, at last, on May 15, 2009.

Today, I live in Provence with my wife and children. France has given us a home, and a new start. I have experienced the pleasure of reacquainting myself with my daughters and, in August 2010, the joy of welcoming a new son, Yousef. I am learning to drive, attending vocational training and rebuilding my life. I hope to work again serving others, but so far the fact that I spent seven and a half years as a Guantánamo prisoner has meant that only a few human rights organizations have seriously considered hiring me. I do not like to think of Guantánamo. The memories are filled with pain. But I share my story because 171 men remain there. Among them is Belkacem Bensayah, who was seized in Bosnia and sent to Guantánamo with me.

About 90 prisoners have been cleared for transfer out of Guantánamo. Some of them are from countries like Syria or China — where they would face torture if sent home — or Yemen, which the United States considers unstable. And so they sit as captives, with no end in sight — not because they are dangerous, not because they attacked America, but because the stigma of Guantánamo means they have no place to go, and America will not give a home to even one of them.

I’m told that my Supreme Court case is now read in law schools. Perhaps one day that will give me satisfaction, but so long as Guantánamo stays open and innocent men remain there, my thoughts will be with those left behind in that place of suffering and injustice.

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  • I_abide

    More reasons to hate your own country. 

  • Anonymous

    More reasons to hate your own country. 

  • ToLegit_ToLegit2Claim

    Boo fuckin hoo.  It’s just one guy, and his family is in poverty anyways, so they are not important to the economy.  Shrug.  America did what was right in this case.

    • Jin The Ninja

      is that statement ironic? or just rightie conscious-less nonsense? i can’t tell.

      • Calypso_1

        hmmm… perhaps a clarification or interpretive clue should have been included.  : )

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GAQQDSJC6PCWS6GGGBRXFQTOCU steve

      Let’s hope you get yours.

    • Guest

      Too obvious, lacks subtlety. 1/10.

    • Andrew

      “In this case?”  What’s right is determined by America doing it!

    • Anarchy Pony

      Let’s play spot the troll, Oh! There he is!

  • ToLegit_ToLegit2Claim

    Boo fuckin hoo.  It’s just one guy, and his family is in poverty anyways, so they are not important to the economy.  Shrug.  America did what was right in this case.

  • Jin (仁)

    is that statement ironic? or just rightie conscious-less nonsense? i can’t tell.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GAQQDSJC6PCWS6GGGBRXFQTOCU steve

    Let’s hope you get yours.

  • Guest

    Too obvious, lacks subtlety. 1/10.

  • Andrew

    “In this case?”  What’s right is determined by America doing it!

  • Anarchy Pony

    Let’s play spot the troll, Oh! There he is!

  • Anonymous

    hmmm… perhaps a clarification or interpretive clue should have been included.  : )

  • Anonymous

    hmmm… perhaps a clarification or interpretive clue should have been included.  : )

  • anarcho

    Guantanamo is a symbol of what a country will do to get their war on.  People were there from accusations by others who were tortured that would say anything to stop the pain,  they were whisked off the streets in countries like Afghanistan by impoverished people who were rewarded monetarily by the US government,  the ways are endless.  All of this,  so the US could build up a case of some massive terrorist conspiracy that did not exist – as if there were armies of terrorists waiting in the wings throughout the world. So they filled this prison with mostly innocent people to make it look good,  the reason for the war,  and that they were doing some sort of a “job” – old men,  children,  people with families all innocent were destroyed and a stigma attached to them now as not desirable.

    “But when I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted —
    how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more
    brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain
    in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want
    to write about; I want only to forget.”  Excerpt from article.

    Let me tell you what torture is all about,  it is not about a “ticking time bomb” scenario and it is not done to get a truthful answer,  wipe that out of your mind.  The elite use of torture by governments or those in power is to get the confession that the perpetrators of torture want! You read what I wrote correctly – they want them to confess what ever they want them to confess to get their way,  because after a while people being tortured will confess to anything,  even that they are a little teapot.  So,  the US government thought they were going to get an avalanche of untruthful tortured confessions to put a thin veneer of legitimacy to what they were doing – and to keep the lucrative war machine going so that money could go into the pockets of its elite beneficiaries. Incarcerating innocent men to make it look like there was some big bad conspiracy taking place,  so they could keep their war machine functioning and do whatever else they wanted in foreign countries,  stealing both the natural and human resources. That is the short version of the perverted story,  and it is not over yet – not until the people collectively stop this profitable madness for the few. They will sacrifice you sons and daughters on the alter of their delusions,  and to fill their pockets with ill gotten gain. Stop them now!

    • jigglyboobs

      It is well known in the psychological and military community that torture has nothing to do with getting information. Even McCain admitted this.
      Torture will only make innocent people say anything to make the pain stop, and make the guilty more resentful and determined not to give the torturers what they want.
      When interrogators actually want information, they befriend; that’s why you occasionally see released prisoners tell stories of americans who showed them extraordinary kindness during their incarceration.
      GITMO and Abu Ghraib, et.al., are really just mind control experimentation facilities. The psychologist/sadist who oversees our interrogation programs got famous for torturing dogs until their will was so broken that they wouldn’t run away, even with the cage left open. Republicans, you can imagine, think this guy is a real fukn genius; now he’s in charge of Military Family Welfare.
      It really does seem like america is nothing but the Fourth Reich, doesn’t it?
      –oh, except for how we’re “the good guys”, of course!

      • Andrew

        Who’s the guy you’re talking about?  Submit a story about him.

  • http://twitter.com/anarcho anarcho

    Guantanamo is a symbol of what a country will do to get their war on.  People were there from accusations by others who were tortured that would say anything to stop the pain,  they were whisked off the streets in countries like Afghanistan by impoverished people who were rewarded monetarily by the US government,  the ways are endless.  All of this,  so the US could build up a case of some massive terrorist conspiracy that did not exist – as if there were armies of terrorists waiting in the wings throughout the world. So they filled this prison with mostly innocent people to make it look good,  the reason for the war,  and that they were doing some sort of a “job” – old men,  children,  people with families all innocent were destroyed and a stigma attached to them now as not desirable.

    “But when I would not give the interrogators the answers they wanted —
    how could I, when I had done nothing wrong? — they became more and more
    brutal. I was kept awake for many days straight. I was forced to remain
    in painful positions for hours at a time. These are things I do not want
    to write about; I want only to forget.”  Excerpt from article.

    Let me tell you what torture is all about,  it is not about a “ticking time bomb” scenario and it is not done to get a truthful answer,  wipe that out of your mind.  The elite use of torture by governments or those in power is to get the confession that the perpetrators of torture want! You read what I wrote correctly – they want them to confess what ever they want them to confess to get their way,  because after a while people being tortured will confess to anything,  even that they are a little teapot.  So,  the US government thought they were going to get an avalanche of untruthful tortured confessions to put a thin veneer of legitimacy to what they were doing – and to keep the lucrative war machine going so that money could go into the pockets of its elite beneficiaries. Incarcerating innocent men to make it look like there was some big bad conspiracy taking place,  so they could keep their war machine functioning and do whatever else they wanted in foreign countries,  stealing both the natural and human resources. That is the short version of the perverted story,  and it is not over yet – not until the people collectively stop this profitable madness for the few. They will sacrifice you sons and daughters on the alter of their delusions,  and to fill their pockets with ill gotten gain. Stop them now!

  • http://twitter.com/MauMau1067 Mau67

    This is typical of the insanity and hubris of the so-called ‘intelligence’ agencies: they are so inept, lacking in imagination and criminally insane they have to CREATE crime so that they can then go in and pretend to solve what they have themselves created–to then paint their sociopathic arses as the proverbial superhero. All to keep themselves and their criminal co-horts employed.  Too bad they aren’t as concerned about the employment rate for honest, hard-working, law-abiding average citizens. A lot of money and toil goes into this type of depravity. All at the US taxpayers expense. Or maybe they use their black ops $ provided with the proceeds of the CIA’s very profitable drug dealing. I dunno. Either way, the US govt is being run by the Pinkie & the Brains of the world. Always on the hunt for world domination. Hitler’s wet dream. Humanity’s nightmare.

  • http://twitter.com/MauMau1067 Mau67

    This is typical of the insanity and hubris of the so-called ‘intelligence’ agencies: they are so inept, lacking in imagination and criminally insane they have to CREATE crime so that they can then go in and pretend to solve what they have themselves created–to then paint their sociopathic arses as the proverbial superhero. All to keep themselves and their criminal co-horts employed.  Too bad they aren’t as concerned about the employment rate for honest, hard-working, law-abiding average citizens. A lot of money and toil goes into this type of depravity. All at the US taxpayers expense. Or maybe they use their black ops $ provided with the proceeds of the CIA’s very profitable drug dealing. I dunno. Either way, the US govt is being run by the Pinkie & the Brains of the world. Always on the hunt for world domination. Hitler’s wet dream. Humanity’s nightmare.

  • jigglyboobs

    It is well known in the psychological and military community that torture has nothing to do with getting information. Even McCain admitted this.
    Torture will only make innocent people say anything to make the pain stop, and make the guilty more resentful and determined not to give the torturers what they want.
    When interrogators actually want information, they befriend; that’s why you occasionally see released prisoners tell stories of americans who showed them extraordinary kindness during their incarceration.
    GITMO and Abu Ghraib, et.al., are really just mind control experimentation facilities. The psychologist/sadist who oversees our interrogation programs got famous for torturing dogs until their will was so broken that they wouldn’t run away, even with the cage left open. Republicans, you can imagine, think this guy is a real fukn genius; now he’s in charge of Military Family Welfare.
    It really does seem like america is nothing but the Fourth Reich, doesn’t it?
    –oh, except for how we’re “the good guys”, of course!

  • Andrew

    Who’s the guy you’re talking about?  Submit a story about him.

  • Pamelazoesharp

    Lakhdar deserves an apology and compensation for 7 years of false imprisonment.  Shame on Obama and his administration for failing to close Guantanamo, as promised.

  • Pamelazoesharp

    Lakhdar deserves an apology and compensation for 7 years of false imprisonment.  Shame on Obama and his administration for failing to close Guantanamo, as promised.

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