Friday, November 25, 2005

Terry Waite: Were my captors worse than the Guantánamo jailers?

Guardian Unlimited :
"As I left the classroom I thought it remarkable that more young people did not join 'terrorist' groups. The point I want to make is this: war, as well as being a blunt instrument, fails totally to deal with the root issues underlying terrorism. In the political realm it requires statesmen and women; individuals who can think beyond the next election and who have the wisdom that comes from making an attempt to understand cultures other than those of the west.

Western democracy has many attractive features and has brought manifold benefits. It takes no intelligence to recognise that it also has its dark side and that it cannot, nor necessarily ought it to be, exported to all parts of the world. If the optimistic statements made by some British and US politicians before the Iraqi war - when it was stated that the conflict would be concluded in weeks - were truly believed then one can only despair at the level of understanding demonstrated.

The destructive eruption following 9/11 has struck at the roots of democratic freedom. The arguments will continue for a long time about which particular category terrorist suspects belong to. The fact is that on the basis of suspicion alone people have been detained, and in some cases subjected to processes that should not be part of a civilised nation.

Let me give a personal example. I was detained by a group of hostage takers in Beirut because they suspected me of engaging in dubious political activity. They blindfolded me and kept me in poor conditions without any contact with the outside world. They subjected me to physical and mental abuse during a lengthy period of interrogation. Had I not been able to convince them of my innocence I would not be walking free today. What is the essential difference between the methods deployed by my captors, who were labelled terrorists, and those of the authorities that detain suspects in Guantánamo Bay and elsewhere? They have been detained on suspicion and treated in a way that no civilised nation ought to condone."

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