Guantanamo Boy and Man’s Inhumanity

guantanamo boyAnna Perera’s Guantanamo Boy is fiction, but is based on real accounts of the Guantanamo concentration camp the USA established off-shore during the “War on Terror”.  It tells the story of an average English boy, Khalid,   kidnapped from Pakistan while on a family holiday and handed over to American forces on suspicion of being involved with a terrorist plot. He is later flown to the Guantanamo facility after “confessing” (under torture by waterboarding) to involvement with Al Qaida. From that point on he is subjected to even more inhumane treatment including sleep deprivation, beatings, lack of basic sanitation or exercise, regular interrogation, poor diet…

Maybe if I saw this book in isolation I’d be more sceptical of the situations it portrays, but it is NOT isolated.  A year or so ago I read David Hick’s Guantanamo: My Journey about an Australian captured, imprisoned and tortured by US forces over several years.

9519353While Hicks perhaps wasn’t entirely forthcoming regarding the reason he was in Afghanistan when  he was taken prisoner, there can be NO excuse for the treatment he endured at the hands of the US government from that point until his eventual release,

No matter what Hicks’ “crimes” may have been – they were nowhere near as serious as those of the governments (US and, by complicity, Australian) that subjected him to the inhumanity of Guantanamo. If this had been done by other governments, those responsible would probably be facing war crimes charges, but the “victors” write the rules.

The premise of Guantanamo Boy should be hard to accept – it seems so outrageous. Who can believe that the US government would do such things? But the evidence is there to those who open their eyes. And scarily the book was entirely believable because of those like Hicks who have given very similar testimonies of their own experiences in the camp.

Many years ago I read a book about the Communist treatment of Christians imprisoned because of their faith, who were regularly tortured and abused over the years of their imprisonment. I think it was Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand. Some of the treatment described in Guantanamo Boy and the Hicks book is identical to the Communist treatment of their Christian victims.

Reading about Guantanamo made me realise how the German people were able to turn a blind eye to Hitler’s atrocities and even, in the case of camp personnel, put Hitler’s orders into practice. People just don’t want to know what their beloved nations are doing. Or if they know they like to justify it.

And with that example I’ve made links between the behaviour of Communists, Nazis and recent Western Governments. I think the comparisons I’ve made are entirely valid – and they show how close ALL of us can get to justifying inhumanity when we think it might suit our own interests.

Sick Irony

Sick Irony

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Spoiled Again!!!

When is a spoiler not a spoiler?

Maybe when it’s in the title of a book?

Moving on from The Satanic Verses I’ve started reading Guantanamo Boy by Anna Perera. Now THERE’S a title that gives us a very good idea of what the book is about, and I’m tempted to say it gives enough away to TECHNICALLY be a spoiler, but I have to admit it was the title that drew my attention. It suggested the book dealt with a topic that interested me.

The blurb confirms and expands upon the title – that the story is about an average teenage boy who ends up in Guantanamo Bay – prisoner of the Bush administration, after being snatched away from the other side of the world. More “spoilers”!

I have to wonder, if I’d been able to start the book with absolutely NO preconceptions, how different would the reading experience be? I suspect the whole shocking effect of the story would be increased if the boy’s kidnapping and transportation was unexpected.

But that’s the nature of the publishing beast today – and also the nature of the reader. There are so many books competing for our attention that we want to have some idea of what a book is about before we commit to it.

Where is the delicate balance between giving the consumer enough information to make them want to “invest” money and time, and literally spoiling their enjoyment by giving too much away.

Several years ago I found the the film The Sixth Sense was a big disppointment. A friend had told me how good the film was – especially the twist at the end. However, before I saw the film several things came together to spoil that ending. Firstly there was the knowledge that there WAS a twist. Secondly I read a review that described the opeining scenes of the film, but the final piece of the spoiler jigsaw was in the movie trailer’s famous line, “I see dead people”.

So even before I entered the cinema I had worked out the probable ending and everything I saw throughout the film confirmed my expectations.

But I seem to be in the minority these days.  Promoters now think nothing of giving away important plot points in their advertising and it’s becoming more and more difficult to enjoy a story (in book or film) without already knowing what to expect. See a movie trailer and you’ve more or less seen the movie. Read the blurb and you’ve read half of the book.