Anna 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.
While 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.