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    Monday, June 12, 2006


    The suicide thing is telling.

    Guantánamo is a concentration camp. Twenty years from now, we're going to look back with fear at what we are capable of. Again. And, when we see injustice, someone will say, "This is like another Guantánamo," and then everyone will be up in arms about it, "How could you compare this to Guantánamo?" and they'll parade out a bunch of survivors, innocent just-so-happen-to-be-Arabs, to look aghast at any sort of comparison. And it will begin again.

    The Road to Guantánamo, Michael Winterbottom's new film, is going to be playing at New York's Angelika Film Center, and seems to have an interesting format- 1/2 doc-style interviews with the Tipton Three, 1/2 "re-enactment" with actors:

    The film, which was commissioned by Channel 4, tells the story of three British Muslims who travelled to a wedding in Pakistan and ended up as terrorist suspects at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

    The Tipton Three were released from the camp in 2004.


    The film tells the story of the three British Muslims, from Tipton in the Midlands, who went to Pakistan to arrange a wedding, travelled to Afghanistan and were transported to Guantanamo Bay.

    They were held there without trial for more than two years before charges were dropped and they were released in March 2004.

    Dramatised scenes, charting their journey, are interspersed with interviews with the men themselves, who explain what happened to them and how they felt.

    The film depicts the Tipton Three's treatment at the detention camp

    "I don't think the film is anti-American because there are plenty of Americans who are against Guantanamo Bay too," says Michael Winterbottom.

    "But the very fact that this camp exists is shocking.

    "We are telling the story of these three people so you can imagine yourself what it is like to be in a situation where your rights are taken away from you, you have no contact with your family and no idea when you will be released," he adds.

    Winterbottom first came up with the idea of making the film when he met Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Ruhal Ahmed two months after they had been released.

    He interviewed the men, and turned the resulting 600 pages of transcript into a 95-minute feature.

    "If someone had said five years ago that the US would set up a camp, in Cuba of all places, to hold people for four years without trial or charges, then you would have thought he was crazy.

    'Hard to sleep'

    "But the problem is, people have got used to it."

    There's also an interesting article in New Left Review.

    And This American Life's Habeas Schmaebeas (3/10/06 Episode 310), though it won't tell you anything you probably don't know, does have some interviews that will make you sick.

    Now, I don't know what to do about this. Collecting a bunch of people with megaphones and signs on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial isn't going to do the trick. Congress doesn't much seem to care, though we should be pressuring them to care with letters and phone calls. And this utter helplessness makes me understand how non-Jews tolerated the Holocaust and white folks continued slavery, generation after generation, and settlers watched Native Americans slaughtered. It's possible that 80% of people were appalled and pained by it, but felt so powerless.

    When Hurricane Katrina happened, I really thought that we'd reached a breaking point, maybe because it was "our people", but that we'd finally hit a point where a critical mass of discontent, make that anguish and rage, would pressure politicians into humanity. And I think we did for about two weeks. Two weeks, of course, not being long enough to do anything. Sometimes I wish there'd be a greater discomfort, that we middle-class Americans would have our feet to the fire, but then I remember that all that would do is make us complain until we got back to today's comfort zone, and it wouldn't change the injusitce seething beneath the surface of the middle-class mainstream.

    I'm not a radical; I don't want "the Revolution" to come. I've known enough radicals and self-imagined revolutionaries to know that we'd end up in an equally
    horrendous place if we went in that direction. I just want basics. Habeas Corpus, free speech, food, housing, healthcare, the opportunity for everyone to contribute to their communities, jobs, protection from poverty, exploitation, discrimination, indignity, and violence, equality, strong and just leadership, hope. And I know it's too much to ask, because it's never existed.


    Blogger Jean said...

    "I just want basics..."

    This is a little sigh of relief for me to read. Not what's happening at Guantanamo, but your statement here about 'the basics.' I think---this is just me, I could be wrong---that I see very, very little discussion about 'the basics,' and because of that, I think the average person---that 80% that's not doing anything---does not realize how simple it would be for them to make a difference, because not many people who do know how simple it is are talking to them. I don't know why that is. I also think, as you say, there is very, very little sense of history, and I don't know why that is, either. It goes back to a basic sense of justice, too. If justice just means that my phones aren't getting tapped, or my ox isn't getting gored, then Guantanamo is inevitable. I would love to have a discussion about what 'justice' means in the present day U.S. I know it's a 'basic' thing, but...we keep reinventing the wheel, so maybe it's time to get back to basics, you know?

    6:28 PM  
    Blogger EL said...

    Yeah, I think you're right that people don't really know what the "basics" are anymore. We've lost any expectation of our country or our government.

    7:38 PM  

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