Previously, I wrote about how I want to be among those who are a bridge between America and the Muslim world, a “Muslim Pocahontas.” I meant what I said. Part of fulfilling this role is to show the Muslim world that America is truly a wonderful place. Its people are a wonderful people with warm and generous hearts. I should know, because I am one of them. America is not the monster she’s made out to be in many parts of the Muslim world. She stand for peace, justice, and the rule of law. I truly believe these things, from the bottom of my heart.
So what am I supposed to say about the recent news reports detailing torture at Guantanamo Bay? Day by day, more gets revealed about what is happening at the Naval Base in Cuba. Stories detail how female interrogators touch detainees in sexually provocative ways; smear fake (or real) menstrual blood on detainees; wear thongs and miniskirts.
“During the whole time we were at Guantanamo, we were at a high level of
fear. When we first got there the level was sky-high. At the beginning we were
terrified that we might be killed at any minute. The guards would say to us, ‘We
could kill you at any time.’ They would say, ‘The world doesn’t know you’re
here. Nobody knows your here. All they know is that you’re missing, and we could
kill you and no one would know.'”
That is according to Shafiq Rasul, a Briton released from Guantanamo Bay about a year ago.
What’s more, New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote, “We know that people were kept in cells that in some cases were the equivalent of animal cages, and that some detainees, disoriented and despairing, have been shackled like slaves and left to soil themselves with their own urine and feces.” When faced with these reports, what am I supposed to say?
In the February 14 issue of the New Yorker, Jane Mayer reports on the history of America’s “extraordinary rendition” program where terror suspects are picked up by the Americans and sent to other countries, such as Egypt, for further “questioning.” It is almost certain that they will be tortured. In fact, Canadian Maher Arar is suing the U.S. government because he alleges the U.S. government arrested him, as he was changing planes in New York’s Kennedy Airport, and sent him Syria. He was released a year later without any charges, and Mr. Arar claims he was repeatedly tortured by the Syrians. If someone from the Muslim world points this out, what am I supposed to say?
The Senate recently confirmed Judge Alberto Gonzales as the first Hispanic-American Attorney General. An inspiring story typical of what can be accomplished in America. Yet, this is the very same Alberto Gonzales who wrote to the President,
“In my judgment, this new paradigm [of the war on terror] renders
obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy
prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions
requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges,
scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific
instruments” (emphasis added).
This is the very same Alberto Gonzales, whose Office of Legal Counsel issued a memo to the President saying,
“Where the pain is physical, [torture] must be of an intensity akin to that
which accompanies serious physical injury such as death or organ failure.”
To an incredulous Muslim world, what am I supposed to say?
Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said on February 9, after a meeting with NATO foreign ministers and European Union officials, that Iran must live up to its international obligations or “the next steps are in the offing. And I think everybody understands what the ‘next steps’ mean.” Former U.S. chief weapons inspector David Kay said,
“It’s deja vu all over again. You have the secretary of defense talking about
the problems of a nuclear-armed Iran. You have the vice president warning about
a nuclear-armed Iran and terrorism; you have Condoleeza Rice saying, ‘Force is
not on the agenda–yet.’“
Moreoever, in a column in the Feb 7 Washington Post, Mr. Kay wrote, “There is an eerie similarity to the events preceding the Iraq war.” With all this saber-rattling coming from the Secretary of State, of all people, what am I supposed to say?
I say again, I truly believe America to be a bastion of freedom, justice, and the rule of law. I know America to be a fundamentally good place with fundamentally good people, and I am eager to point this out to the Muslim world. Yet, when the Muslim world retorts with the things that are being reported in America about Guantanamo Bay and other things, I do not know what to do but remain silent. You tell me, what am I supposed to say?