The “Supposed Foot Soldiers” in Guantanamo

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My bright orange No Torture button, rather like Bonnie’s black arm band, elicits little comment, to my surprise; but one conversation some years ago in the grocery store in my neighborhood was revealing.  It went something like, “They cut the heads off of our people.  Why do you wear that?”  My response was that no matter what “they” do, I want to live in a civilized country that runs by the rule of law and that it is against the Geneva Conventions, which are also US law, to torture anyone. Also, I find torture abhorrent.
Nothing, ever justifies torture.

Many of the people in Guantanamo really have nothing to do with aggression on the US or anyone: aid workers, missionaries, scholars, tourists, just people were sold by bounty hunters and corrupt officials to the US which sent them among the more than 800 men and boys to the torture camp on Guantanamo.

There ia another group of prisoners, according to Andy Worthington, that were probably “foot soldiers” in the conflicts among Afghan war lords, among whom were the Taliban.  These conflicts had gone on for years before the attacks of September 11,  2001, and had nothing at all to do with the US.

When the US began offering large sums of money for prisoners, the parties to these regional conflicts were glad to turn over people from opposing groups and get paid for them, as were Pakistani officials who could capture such people.   Worthington says:

“‘Recruited in their home countries to help the Taliban establish a ‘pure Islamic state’ by defeating their Muslim rivals in the Northern Alliance, these foot soldiers had little, if any knowledge of al-Qaeda, and no involvement whatsoever in the 9/11 attacks or any other terrorist activities.”

I want to report on a number of these supposed foot soldiers from Yemen who languish still among the 173 prisoners still in the US torture camp.

Although cleared for release, Ali Yahya al-Raimi is still in Guantanamo.  Andy Worthington reports as follows:

“Ali Yahya al-Raimi, who was just 18 years old at the time of his capture, told one of the strangest recruitment stories of all. He explained that he didn’t want to go to Afghanistan, because he had a job in a restaurant in Yemen, but said that his parents, who were living in Afghanistan, forced him to travel to visit them. He added that, once he was there, his father and brother told him that he could only return to Yemen if he agreed to attend al-Farouq for two months’ training.

“Al-Raimi said that he got sick at the camp, went to a clinic in Kabul, and then returned to resume training, but he added that this was four days before 9/11, after which “the training stopped and the camp was closed down.” After the US-led invasion began, he said that he was unable to contact his family, who had his passport, so he crossed the mountains with some friends, and was in Pakistan for a few days before he was arrested in a car by Pakistani soldiers. ‘My friends had no problems because they had their passports, visas and money,’ he explained. ‘But, because I didn’t have any of these, I was told my best bet was to go to the embassy and surrender myself. This is what I was planning to do when I was captured. They captured me before I got to the embassy.'”

Many of the prisoners resort to hunger strikes and al-Raimi was among them, weighting only 100 pounds after a strike.  Worthington quotes his lawyer Douglas Cox as saying, “medical staff at Guantánamo are violating state, federal and international ethics rules by participating in interrogations and abuse of detainees and by sharing detainees’ medical records with interrogators, allowing interrogators to use this knowledge to coerce or threaten detainees.”   Worthington continues, “In an interview with his lawyers, al-Raimi said, ‘Over here the medical treatment is tied to the cooperation with the interrogators. I asked the doctor several times to give me medical assistance but the doctors told me unless I talk to the interrogators, they will not give me help.'”

I want to continue to state my strongest opposition to the use of US taxpayers’ money to engage in illegal and immoral treatment of prisoners.

Though this young man did apparently undergo military training offered by participants in the local conflicts, he was not captured on the field of battle, as the US alleged about the prisoners at Guantanamo, and he does not appear to have even actually engaged in any military actions with anyone, not that that should have made him subject to capture by the US. Even the US authorities appear to recognize that, as they have cleared Ali Yahya al-Raim for release.

We need to close Guantanamo, let the prisoners free, and stop torture there and everywhere.

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