FREE SPEECH ZONE | The Valentine-Torture Connection: From Cairo to Gitmo


A positive byproduct of the WikiLeaks disclosures is that we’ve learned why other countries have been reluctant to absorb the duly-releasable prisoners of Guantanamo.  Apparently we ourselves haven’t modeled such humane behavior (“U.S. refusal of detainees helped keep Gitmo open” Jan. 23, 2011.)

Free Speech Zone
The Free Speech Zone offers a space for contributions from readers, without editing by the TC Daily Planet. This is an open forum for articles that otherwise might not find a place for publication, including news articles, opinion columns, announcements and even a few press releases.

It’s important for us to resolve this sorry chapter in our national history. Witness how the newly-named de facto President of Egypt, Mr. Suleiman, is not being accepted by the people there, in large part because of his connection with the US “rendition-torture” program.

It’s long been recognized that many of the men held for years at Guantanamo were swept up in the “bounty-hunter” mentality that held sway in the early phases of the war in Afghanistan.  Many Gitmo detainees are now believed to have been totally innocent while little evidence exists as to others.  One Kuwaiti citizen, for example, was captured by Pakistani forces and sold into US custody in 2002.  Despite over 400 interrogations, suffering through many hours of torture, including but not limited to beatings, sleep deprivation, threats and forced stress positions, the US government has failed to gather any evidence against Mr .al-Kandari aside from hearsay accusations of other Guantanamo prisoners and unidentified Afghanis, evidence which, under any other circumstances, would not be allowed in US courts.  Kuwait has made various requests for his repatriation, which the US has thus far refused, questioning Kuwait’s ability to monitor and rehabilitate previously returned citizens.

Even if some detainees are found guilty of low-level offenses, they’ve already endured a decade of detention and abuse and therefore “served their time” so could/should be released and rehabilitated.  As a charter member of the Center for Victims of Torture (CVT), I felt it incumbent upon myself to inquire about the possibility of arranging such rehabilitative treatment for this segment of releasable Gitmo detainees.  In conversation with Center Director Douglas Johnson, he said that’s exactly what the Center’s treatment facility is designed to do, but that a sponsor would need to be found.

The CVT Director suggested a church, possibly a mega-church for sponsorship. Minnesota has a proud tradition of refugee resettlement, even from controversial, war-torn areas like Somalia, or Central America during the Contra wars.  Let’s step up to the plate!

This month we celebrate St. Valentine’s Day, the name being an amalgam of two Catholic clerics in the 3rd Century who were jailed for defying the emperor.  When these religious men were themselves detained, they sent messages to helpful jailers or other Christians, from whence stems our Valentine card tradition.  (Their sainthood was achieved, however, when they ended up martyred outside Rome.)  How appropriate for us of goodwill in Minnesota (and other places in the U.S.) to consider doing a good deed starting this month for those we’ve imprisoned for so long but who are now releasable.  The patron saints Valentine would smile on any effort to grant the temporary or long-term shelter and rehabilitative assistance that CVT is expert at.

February 7 also marked the day that the previous Administration erroneously declared that its detainees were not covered by the Geneva Conventions.  Our committee and others distributed these Valentine cards that day, in and around our county and federal buildings in downtown Minneapolis, to remind ourselves of these wrongs, ask our public officials for investigations, and encourage all of us to make things right.  

U.S. Thanks and Encourages Spain to Prosecute Bush Officials
If you’ve wanted to be part of a powerful effort to bring Bush-era officials to justice for their crimes, now is your chance.  Our “Tackling Torture at the Top” Committee has joined a national effort to reach out to the people of Spain, whose courts are considering prosecuting six of Bush’s lawyers under international law. Our campaign includes an open letter and ads in prominent Spanish newspapers and billboards.

Here’s what you do: Read and sign the letter to the Spanish people at

The letter in part reads:

We are writing to thank you and to ask for your support as your courts consider cases to bring American officials to justice for the crime of torture.  A Spanish judge, acting under international law, will soon decide whether to investigate US officials’ roles in authorizing torture. We hope you agree that such cases must go forward, despite pressure from the Obama administration to drop them.
Veterans for Peace, WAMM, Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Amnesty International-USA and many other sincere peace and human rights groups have signed onto this initiative.  The letter will be delivered to the Spanish embassy and consulates across the country on Monday – Valentine’s Day! 
From Gitmo to Cairo, I’m reminded of lines from the spiritual I’ve taught my children’s choirs:  ‘Way down in Egypt land, tell old Pharaoh – Let the people go!