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A Guantánamo Prisoner Writes to President Biden

Updated: Feb 9



By Thomas Neuburger


I'll be bold but accurate. In international affairs, America acts like a criminal nation, the biggest bully on the block, a nation that soaks in fear and revels in power. Its hubris and insecurity are so great that it will spend near-infinite dollars to avoid a world in which any other nation stands its equal, or even half its equal.


America is also run by a deeply corrupted Establishment, one so devoted to enriching its swollen defense and security industries — the other reason it's constantly at war — that the thought of spending to relieve the pain of its people comes tenth on a list of two.


There is no more poignant reminder of our criminal selves than the prisoners remaining at Guantánamo.



As late as January 2021, more than 18 years since most of them were captured, 40 of the original 780 prisoners remain incarcerated. Stories of torture at Guantánamo are rampant.


The Marine general who oversaw the building of the prison said in 2013, "Even in the earliest days of Guantánamo, I became more and more convinced that many of the detainees should never have been sent in the first place. They had little intelligence value, and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes."


That's being generous. Most of these prisoners were bought from Afghan warlords, who received a "bounty" (that's the correct word) for every "terrorist" they delivered to the American army during the initial years of the Afghan War. Afghan warlords are no less corrupt than our Congress men and women ­— like the latter, most will do anything for money (search the article for "Marianas" and look for Ralph Reed's name).


Thus their enemies and often complete strangers were rounded up and sold to American soldiers eager for "terrorists" to punish. (If you remember the infamous TV program 24, you'll appreciate just how eager Americans were and are to mete out punishment.)


The prisoners, of course, are humans, just like the rest of us, with parents, wives, children, friends, careers and former jobs. Picture yourself in Guantánamo for 18 years, legally no where, with no evidence against you, no recourse to appeal, no way to confront your accusers, nothing behind you but memories of what you lost, nothing in front but detainment, torture, and death. You live looking forward to your death.


According to the Miami Herald:


Administration officials have through the years described a variety of reasons why the men could not face trial: Evidence against some of the indefinite detainees was too tainted by CIA or other interrogation torture or abuse to be admissible in a court; insufficient evidence to prove an individual detainee had committed a crime; or military intelligence opinions that certain captives had undertaken suicide or other type of terrorist training, and had vowed to engage in an attack on release.

Do you dream of revenge? It would be human to do so. If you were scooped up by, say, the Chinese and held in a torture camp for decades on no evidence, would you not consider an attack if let loose? It's a perfect circle; we created these men's hatred, then cannot let them go because of it.


If there is a hell, the managers of the American Establishment State deserve a place — perhaps, as suits their wish, the center seat — in its deepest, hottest pit.


I offer the following into evidence. This was a statement given just this year by a Guantánamo prisoner named Ahmed Rabbani, Guantánamo ISN 1461, to the human rights organization Reprieve. It's a message and request to President Joe Biden.


He peacefully asks for mercy. Along the way he tells a horrid tale. One part: here's what Rabbani endured after his sale to the Americans and before being taken to Guatánamo:

I was tortured for 540 days in the ‘Dark Prison’ in Afghanistan “without authorization” — whether that makes it better or worse, I am still undecided. I can confirm that the torture did take place, although I couldn’t have counted the days myself: the days and nights blended into one while I was hung from a bar in a black pit, in agony as my shoulders dislocated.
I doubt that President Biden can understand what this torture is like; to hear a woman screaming in the next room and to be told it is your wife, and that if you do not do as they insist, they will rape her or kill her.

Today, he's seven years into a hunger strike. The way the hunger strikers are "fed" is itself torture.


Note that at the beginning of his piece, Rabbani has to swear off revenge even to be heard. I'm not a fan of revenge myself — to quote the Bard, it is twice cursed, it curseth him that gives and him that takes — but affirming the U.S. state's monopoly on violence is a requirement for entry into any of these negotiations. (BLM, take note. You too, student debt protestors.)


Now, Rabbani.

I’m a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay and I have a message for President Biden


I have no interest in revenge, but I would like people to know what happened to me and how it has been swept under the carpet


By Ahmed Rabbani


February 04, 2021 "Information Clearing House" - President Biden is someone who has suffered his own personal tragedies: first losing his wife and daughter in 1972 to an accident, and then his son Beau from a brain tumor. He has felt so much pain; I hope that means he will understand mine. The last two decades of my life have been a nightmare without end — and the worst of it is that my family are also trapped inside it.


I sit here writing this in Guantánamo Bay, and I can only hope the president finds some empathy for my situation, and that of the other detainees who languish here in this terrible prison.


When I was kidnapped from Karachi in 2002 and sold to the CIA for a bounty with a false story that I was a terrorist called Hassan Ghul, my wife and I had just had the happy news that she was pregnant. She gave birth to my son Jawad a few months later. I have never been allowed to meet my own child. President Biden is a man who speaks of the importance of family. I wonder if he can imagine what it would be like to have never touched his own son. Mine will soon be 18 years old, and I have not been there to help him or to guide him.


I have been locked up for his entire childhood, without charges or a trial. In that time, the president has served a full term as a Senator, eight years as vice president of the US, and challenged Donald Trump for the presidency and won, fulfilling his life’s ambition. I doubt I would have done anything like that, but I can’t help but question what I might have done with those years, had they not been stolen.


When Biden took the oath of office to become vice president in January 2009, at Barack Obama’s side, he joined an administration that had sworn to close Guantánamo. An executive order, issued that week, promised to "restore the standards of due process and the core constitutional values that have made this country great even in the midst of war”. Obama promised on his second day in office to close “Gitmo” for good.


I am not here to judge him for the failure to carry out those plans in the face of obstruction in Congress, or to suggest that it will be easy to close Guantánamo now. But it gives me heart that the US is again led by a president who believes in justice and the rule of law.


The Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture was completed “on his watch,” as they say, in 2014. It’s a report that I feature in. It says that I was tortured for 540 days in the ‘Dark Prison’ in Afghanistan “without authorization” — whether that makes it better or worse, I am still undecided. I can confirm that the torture did take place, although I couldn’t have counted the days myself: the days and nights blended into one while I was hung from a bar in a black pit, in agony as my shoulders dislocated.


I doubt that President Biden can understand what this torture is like; to hear a woman screaming in the next room and to be told it is your wife, and that if you do not do as they insist, they will rape her or kill her.


I have no interest in revenge, but I would like people to know what happened to me and how it has been swept under the carpet – so that we are protected from presidents like Biden’s predecessor who might make someone face it again. The stain of torture can be excised from American history. Biden and his administration can’t just put their heads in the sand and pretend it did not happen.


The US is currently paying $13.8 million a year just to keep me here, so he could save a lot of money by just letting me go home. I am just taxi driver from Karachi, a victim of mistaken identity. The CIA even captured the real Hassan Ghul, but after interrogating him they let him go and kept me imprisoned. Perhaps they are embarrassed by their mistake?


As Biden settles in the White House, he will be living in splendor. I don’t want to compare the Oval Office to my cell here in Guantánamo. However, it strikes agony into my heart to think about how my family — without a father or husband — live in such miserable conditions.


The new president will attend fancy banquets, while I am in year seven of a hunger strike, protesting the fact that I am held without trial. I am under half of the weight I was when I was first seized in Karachi, and the way it has been going, even while they force-feed me, I will die here in my cell.


President Biden has the power to do something. I would like justice, obviously, for all the abuse I have suffered, but most importantly, I do not want to go home in a coffin or a body bag. I just want to go home to my family, and to finally – for the first time — hold my son.

(I've launched a Substack site to greet the post-Trump era. You can get more information here and here. If you decide to sign up — it's free — my thanks to you!)




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