You really can’t beat P.R. like this:
The most famous journalist you may never have heard of is Sami al-Hajj, an Al Jazeera cameraman who is on a hunger strike to protest abuse during more than six years in a Kafkaesque prison system.
Mr. Hajj’s fortitude has turned him into a household name in the Arab world, and his story is sowing anger at the authorities holding him without trial.
That’s us. Mr. Hajj is one of our forgotten prisoners in Guantánamo Bay.
Here we are in America, where our we have three 24 hour news networks, hundreds of newspapers, periodicals, etc. and, of course, a series of information delivering tubes, and I’ve never heard of this guy, specifically, until today.
Suppose the Iranian government arrested and beat Katie Couric, held her virtually incommunicado for six years and promised to release her only if she would spy for Iran. In such circumstances, Iranian investments in public diplomacy toward the United States wouldn’t get very far, either.
After Mr. Hajj was arrested in Afghanistan in December 2001, he was beaten, starved, frozen and subjected to anal searches in public to humiliate him, his lawyers say. The U.S. government initially seems to have confused him with another cameraman, and then offered vague accusations that he had been a financial courier and otherwise assisted extremist groups.
So he is being held to cover their ass — and make sure he doesn’t tell his story in detail to the Arab world?
Nino Scalia would approve.
Most Americans, including myself, originally gave President Bush the benefit of the doubt and assumed that the inmates truly were “the worst of the worst.” But evidence has grown that many are simply the unluckiest of the unluckiest.
Some were aid workers who were kidnapped by armed Afghan groups and sold to the C.I.A. as extremists. One longtime Sudanese aid worker employed by an international charity, Adel Hamad, was just released by the U.S. in December after five years in captivity. A U.S. Army major reviewing his case called it “unconscionable.”
Mr. Hajj began his hunger strike more than a year ago, so twice daily he is strapped down and a tube is wound up his nose and down his throat to his stomach. Sometimes a lubricant is used, and sometimes it isn’t, so his throat and nose have been rubbed raw. Sometimes a tube still bloody from another hunger striker is used, his lawyers say.
“It’s really a regime to make it as painful and difficult as possible,” said one of his lawyers, Zachary Katznelson.
Mr. Hajj cannot bend his knees because of abuse he received soon after his arrest, yet the toilet chair he was prescribed was removed — making it excruciating for him to use the remaining squat toilet. He is allowed a Koran, but his glasses were confiscated so he cannot read it.
All this is inhumane, but also boneheaded. Guantánamo itself does far more damage to American interests than Mr. Hajj could ever do.
To stand against torture and arbitrary detention is not to be squeamish. It is to be civilized.
The Legacy of Bush.
Stupidity, abuse, injustice.
Now perceived world wide as the American brand.
Thank goodness, John McCain can’t be bothered with altering it.