Image from DemocracyNow 4/29/13
Victoria Brittain: … And those 86 people [held as prisoners in Guantanamo] included this British resident, Shaker Aamer, who—having been cleared as innocent, everybody expected him to be released. The British government has also asked for him. But President Obama has not managed to release him.
why don’t they want Shaker back? I mean, why don’t you people want to send Shaker back? One theory is that because he has been a leading figure in all the hunger strikes and a leading negotiator between the American authorities and the prisoners, he’s a person with tremendous personality and power. He was educated in the United States. He comes from Saudi Arabia. He lives in Britain and has a British family. So he covers all the bases.
He had been living in Afghanistan with his young family, like Moazzam Begg—in fact, in the same house. And they had been building girls’ schools and digging wells. And it was as charity workers that they were there. And that’s completely uncontested by anybody. So, after being sold, he was then tortured…. At that moment after the American bombing, there was a proliferation of different armed groups who picked up these different people as a money-making enterprise.
, I find it very hard to see how he [presidential spokesman Michael Williams] can say, “We don’t hold people indefinitely,” when these people, like—I’ll take the example of Shaker and perhaps of another man, Fouzi Al Awda, a Kuwaiti man. These are people who have been held for 11 years. These are people who, everybody knows, pose no threat whatsoever. The Kuwaiti government has been asking for Fouzi for—since the very, very beginning. The very first court case against President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, Fouzi Al Awda was the correspondent. They cannot possibly say that the British government is not able to assure them that Shaker does not pose any threat of any sort. The British government—William Hague, himself, the foreign secretary, has said it over and over again. So, I think there’s a bit of economical with the truth going on there.
But last year on this day, she [wife Zinnira Aamer] wrote this amazing long poem called “Heart of Gold.” And—
AMY GOODMAN: Can you read it?
VICTORIA BRITTAIN: I can read a little bit of it. And I think it gives you an idea of the sweetness of the personality.
You are the roof over my head,
You are the shadow that can’t be lead,
You are my voice when the silence breaks,
Your hand I seek, your hand I hold,
Cause you have a heart of gold.
You show me light in the dark,
And you guide me when I am lost,
Your happiness is all I ask,
But your story remains untold,
Cause you have a heart of gold.
You know, it’s a very hard—sorry. But, you know, Zinnira, when she wrote that, she was in one of her up phases, and she was so pleased with the crafting of it, and she worked so hard on it to make it perfect to send to him. And she sends him photographs of the children and little stories and letters that the children write. But over these years, she has had some very serious breakdowns. And sometimes I’ve been with her when she’s been talking about wanting to go to paradise, because she has these bad dreams. Sometimes she dreams that Shaker’s dead. Sometimes she dreams that Shaker is divorcing her. And you have to reassure her over and over again, “The voices—don’t listen to the voices. You have to push the voices away.” And sometimes she can, and sometimes she can’t. And she’s had some sad periods in mental hospitals, and she has periods when she simply packs the kids into the car and goes off to stay with her aged parents, and they look after her until she recovers.
And some of the time, you know, she’s a great mom. She runs her little house. She takes the kids to school. She does extra teaching after school. And she’s a wonderful, warm, outgoing mom, only concerned about her children.
your officials say they’re not held indefinitely. But, you know, if it’s not indefinite, it’s definite. So, aren’t they going to say 11 years is enough?
A British charity worker who poses no threat to anyone, picked up because some thugs wanted to make a few dollars, sold and tortured, held for 11 years, on hunger strike and being tortured by forced feedings, his wife and children suffering daily along with him.
The best guess is that Aamer is being held punitively because he has been an inspiration to other prisoners; presumably if they break him, they imagine other prisoners will be cowed… though what advantage this would be to the United States is unclear.
President Obama has the legal authority to release Aamer.
What is wrong with the United States of America, that we hold and torture innocent people?