It Can Happen Here

Lakhdar Boumedienne

Now that President Obama has signed the 2012 Defense Authorization Act, what happened to Lakhdar Boumediene could happen to any of us.

In a horrifying op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times Boumediene described how he was arrested in Bosnia in 2002 and held in Guantanamo for seven years without due process. At the time of his arrest Boumediene was working as a humanitarian aid worker focusing on helping children. During his imprisonment, he was never allowed to see his wife or his children, and received only a few of the many letters they sent him. The ones he did receive were cruelly censored.

Boumediene writes:

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.

Eventually he went on a hunger strike that lasted two years and was brutally force fed twice a day. Finally, in 2008, his case reached the Supreme 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.”

When he was finally freed, France took him in, and he was reunited with his family. Boumediene writes that there are 90 prisoners at Guantanamo who have also been cleared to leave the facility, but they are being held because they are from countries where they would be tortured or killed if they returned.

So there they sit, not guilty of any crime but held in indefinite detention. Just as you or I could be held if this president or the next one decides we somehow helped or supported terrorism.

20 Comments on “It Can Happen Here”

  1. dakinikat says:

    Orwell should be enshrined as the the modern oracle.

  2. HT says:

    The “West” has become the very beast that the people in the west feared and fought. Mahar Arar, this man and so many others. How can we legitimately claim that we believe in freedom and democracy when this is happening? Orwell was prescient. Unfortunately he’s long gone, Who are our prophets today?

    • bostonboomer says:

      Chris Hedges is one.

      • HT says:

        Perhaps however I’m so cynical after what happened to Hillary and the subsequent psychodramas, it’s hard to trust. I know that Hedges has been working diligently trying to get information out from under the Corporate media blanket and I wish him all the luck in the world – he’ll need it.

      • HT says:

        Actually, I was remiss in not mentioning Naomi Klein.

  3. dakinikat says:

    We truly have some deeply disturbed people in our country.

    Satan Cheers Graham, Osteen, Starr for Not Telling the Truth About Mormonism

    It’s all about “Mormon Cult Member Romney”

    unbelievable … I guess it takes one cult to recognize another

  4. northwestrain says:

    Why was he targeted?? One of the worst reasons might have to do with his job — there is sex slave trade going on and some of the largest corporations are somehow involved. I read about a mother looking for her daughter and found her close to death. The young woman thought she was going to a job in the US — but she ended up as a sex slave.

    I’m thinking that it wasn’t an accident that someone in his line of work was locked away. Whatever he knew is no longer happening — he has been shut up.

    And yes — this could happen to any of us — false “secret” witnesses. You are acting strange or say or write something that puts you on a list. Anything can be made up — and false evidence can be manufactured.

    I just googled = sex slaves – eastern Europe – reporting

    The story I read a couple of years ago is there — plus many other stories — and a few about children and the deep dark hidden world of trade in children for sex.

  5. Fannie says:

    Lakhdar needs to sue Bosnia too………….not just USA

    • bostonboomer says:

      He can’t sue the US. Bosnia set him free because there was no evidence against him. He was kidnapped by CIA after that. They didn’t have anything to do with his ending up in Gitmo.

      • Fannie says:

        Thanks BB, I was wondering about details……whether they let the US take him since he was a citizen of Bosnia. My next thoughts why France, couldn’t he go back to Bosnia?

      • bostonboomer says:

        I don’t know for sure. He was originally from Algeria, which was a French territory. But he said in the op-ed that a lot of countries won’t take the people who are in Gitmo. France decided to take him in for whatever reason.

      • Fannie says:

        I don’t know if we will ever fine the truth, and not so sure Bosnia didn’t have anything to do with him ending up in Gitmo – when Bush gave his state of union address in 2002 he stated:

        “Our soldiers, working with the Bosnian government, seized terrorist who were potting to bomb our embassy.”

        It seems to me Bosnia needed to shout down on Bush’s and condemn his statement, and as it was and is, no evidence was provided by either country, regarding the plot to bomb the embassy in Sarajevo.

        Gitmo is the worst kind of assault on our civilization. Congress ought to develop a fund to compensate Lakhdar and others at Gitmo. His way of life is forever changed, and so to are ours with Obama signing NDAA.

      • Fannie says:

        France took him in because some relatives were there, and as a favor to Obama…… it is said.

  6. peggysue22 says:

    This case is almost too horrible to contemplate, particularly with Obama’s recent affirmation and signing of the indefinite detention clause. The only good thing is this man was finally released. But 7 years just wiped out!

    That doesn’t mean I want to get on the Ron Paul cheering squad. That’s like picking a few good apples off a poisoned tree. But it is depressing. Reviewing the precedent and legal gymnastics that backstopped these decisions [John Yoo and his buddies] is enough to depress anyone.

    Good piece, BB. Something we should not forget, pretend is inconsequential or doesn’t threaten us all.

  7. Fannie says:

    Here are some further facts on Gitmo…………..

  8. Minkoff Minx says:

    Just reading this post now BB, wow…