Friday, April 28, 2006

The Gitmo Gulag

Yesterday's WaPo had a well-written piece on a Guantanamo detainee who has been cleared of being an "enemy combatant", yet remains imprisoned in that ungodly hellhole, denied even the means to cultivate a little garden.

It was written by Saddiq's lawyer, so it qualifies more as editorial than news. Still, there's no denying that Saddiq's story is a powerful illustration of what's wrong there.

One day the sordid history of Guantanamo will be written. There will be chapters on torture, chapters on the how the courts turned a blind eye, chapters on cruelties large and petty, on the massive stupidity and uselessness of the place. Many pages will illustrate the great lie of Guantanamo -- that it is a "terrorist detention facility" -- with accounts of goatherds and chicken farmers and stray foreigners sold by Pakistani grifters to the United States for bounties. Saddiq may have one of the oddest chapters of all: jailed first by the Taliban as an enemy of its regime, then by us.

For all that, as the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things." Maybe the History of Guantanamo will have a few uplifting footnotes. America denied them seeds and trowels and they created life anyway. We tried to withhold beauty, but from the grim earth of Guantanamo they scratched a few square meters of garden -- with spoons. Guantanamo is ugly, but man's instinct for beauty lives deep down things.

(Incidentally, I just discovered a great site - perhaps you guys all know about it already. provides logins and passwords for all sorts of registration-required sites like WaPo. Check it out if you are unable to read the linked article.)


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