As part of my ongoing project to record the stories of all the prisoners held at Guantánamo, I’ve just posted the ninth of 12 additional online chapters supplementing my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, and available from Amazon here and here). This additional chapter complements Chapter 12 of The Guantánamo Files, looking at the stories of 21 prisoners not mentioned in the book.
With just a few more online chapters to complete, I’m close to accomplishing the mission I set myself three years ago: to record the stories of all the prisoners. Once these last chapters are complete, in just a few weeks’ time, I’ll be able to create the first definitive prisoner list identifying who is still held, who has been released and the dates they were released. The list will also contain links to 350 prisoner stories on my website and references to the rest in The Guantánamo Files, providing what I hope will be a useful research tool for those concerned with closing Guantánamo, and for others who are interested in knowing who has been held, how and where they were captured, and what their stories reveal about the Bush administration’s conduct in the “War on Terror.”
In the meantime, this ninth chapter recounts more stories that are largely unknown, even though Guantánamo has now been open for seven years and it ought to be a shock to the conscience to realize that men are still being held in US custody who have never had a chance to challenge the basis of their detention, or to utter a word to the outside world.
Now that President Obama has declared that Guantánamo will close, and a variety of shallow and pessimistic critics have started to rise up to warn that the prison is still full of dangerous men, it is my hope that this project to record the prisoners’ stories will also provide further useful material for those who wish to refute these sweeping generalizations with something closer to the truth: that even now, after 528 prisoners have been released, the majority of those who remain do not constitute a threat to the United States, and would never have been imprisoned at all if the Bush administration’s “War on Terror” detention policies had not been such a catastrophic failure of justice, and of common human decency.
As I explain in the introduction to this latest online chapter, “Taken from cars and buses, seized in the street, or kidnapped in house raids, their capture seems largely to have been based on dubious intelligence on the part of both the US and Pakistani intelligence agents, a desire by the Pakistani authorities to be willing associates in the ‘War on Terror,’ or the naked appeal of money, as the Americans were offering bounty payments averaging $5000 a head for “al-Qaeda and Taliban suspects,” and any stray foreigner was therefore an attractive proposition.”
Note: See the column on the left for the first eight online chapters, and the last three.
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Phenomenal work and discipline on your part to create what will certainly be an enduring historical record. And you made it look so effortless as it unfolded. A remarkable accomplishment, though I imagine a bittersweet one, in that it should never have been required.
I’m really stuck thinking about the use of bounties as a tool in the War on Terror, especially as economic conditions deteriorate worldwide. $5,000 is a whole lot of money and an obvious temptation. And as the use of bounties is concomitant with torture and other abuses in the Guantanamo story, I’m wondering if we shouldn’t re-examine the morality and tactical legitimacy of their continued use. On the evidence, they seem to have created more terror than they thwarted.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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