Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My Latest Recommendation

This week I read this book: Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo, by Murat Kurnaz.

It blew my mind. I experienced a range of emotions as I read: anger, outrage, empathy, confusion, admiration, and a constant sickening in my stomach.

Kurnaz is a Turkish citizen, born and raised in Germany, who was arrested in Pakistan a month after 9/11 and held prisoner for five years. He was born in 1982, as was I.

I think every American should read this book. This is the epitome of why I'm against the use of torture. Besides the fact that this man was innocent (and that American officials knew after six months that he was, yet left him in the camp for five years), the part that got me upset the most was the inhumane, savage way that he, and many like him, were treated, by American soldiers no less.

I couldn't help but wonder about our military. I have many family members and friends who have been, and still are, a part of the military. I absolutely respect them for their dedication to what they feel as a life calling. However, the idea that we systematically brain wash these men and woman to see our enemies as trash, that we train them to treat our enemies as less than human, worse than dogs, causes me to question the entire process.

Fine, some people believe in the use of torture for protection. Regarding this, I must come back to my previous post in which I say, "What would Jesus say about this?" And I don't think ANYONE can tell me that Jesus would say, yes, you can torture for the safety and benefit of others. That goes against everything Jesus represents. Regardless, the torture that happened to this man should cause even those who believe in the use of torture to pause and think.

This innocent man was tortured in every way imaginable. The American soldiers were unbelievably cruel. Were they trained to be like this? How can they consciously deprive other human beings of basic needs? Kurnaz was often subject to solitary confinement which included days and weeks, sometimes months in tiny cells. Sometimes the cell was air conditioned to the point of refrigeration, sometimes it was a cell with no oxygen flow. He experienced water boarding, being hung for weeks by his shoulder blades (the man next to him died this way), sleep deprivation for more than three weeks straight, being assaulted by women soldiers. A common practice was when the prisoners were allowed to shower, they would soap up, and then the Americans would turn the water off and say, "sorry, time's up." If a prisoner went to the "doctor" for an ailment, they often came back without body parts. The disrespect that Americans showed for the Muslim prisoners included blaring the national anthem while they did their daily prayers, throwing the Koran on the ground and stomping on it, forcing men to look at women and be touched by them inappropriately (Muslim men are not to even look at women in the eye, let alone touch them in any way). The list goes on and on.

There's so much more to this book, like the fact that Americans were paying Pakistan officials to bring them suspected terrorists. Did anyone stop to think that maybe they'd be motivated by the monetary compensation and bring innocent men to the Americans? This happened repeatedly, as in this case.

I'll stop here. But I do recommend the book. Here's a summary of the book and more about Kurnaz's experience, if you want more information. It's a quick read, and it's more than enlightening.

I'm pretty worked up about all this, especially knowing that there are innocent men still in Guantanamo at this very moment being treated in this horrific fashion. All in the name of protection for American citizens. My question is, who is protecting these innocent men? And why are American lives worth more than any others? That seems to be racist and elitist on so many levels.

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