Guantánamo Bay is a terrible place where until just a few years ago prisoners were routinely tortured, where prisoners are violently force-fed, and where innocent people have been and continue to be locked up for years. The justification given by most of its apologists is “Well, but it’s all necessary for our security, and the force-feeding is necessary because of the prisoners’ stubborn and dangerous hunger strikes.”
That’s where stories like this one (behind a paywall) come in. Jess Bravin is a veteran legal reporter for the Wall Street Journal and author of “The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay,” which I have not read but imagine is very good. His article is very powerful, not because he exposes any heretofore hidden violent mistreatment, but because he illustrates the impossible unfairness and uselessness of the entire system: Sufiyan Barhoumi, the man whose story he tells, is quite possibly not guilty and there is no evidence to suggest he is out to get the US, and yet he has been detained for 11 years without even being charged (because the US can’t really find anything to charge him with). If I were him, I’d be more likely now than ever before to be furious at the US. Barhoumi, deprived of all other options, recently joined the hunger strike.
“I want to tell my story, but they put up obstacles,” said Mr. Barhoumi, 39 years old, responding through his attorneys to questions posed by The Wall Street Journal. “I don’t have a black heart against America.”
It turns out that Barhoumi, an Algerian, went to Chechnya in order to fight against Russian rule. Later he went to Afghanistan to attend jihadist training camps for that fight. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan he was captured and detained. Since then, prosecutors have been unable to convincingly prove a case against him, so they have repeatedly dropped charges, yet kept him locked up. He’s learned English in prison and has been described by guards as “highly compliant.” At this point he’s so desperate to get out of the system that he’s agreed to plead guilty to ANY charges prosecutors bring against him. There’s no sign they’re going to bring any: they’re demanding he first also agrees to testify against other inmates. Rough justice indeed.