Now for the ‘Real’ Apology

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Zeenat Moosa asks why ‘Sorry’ seems to be the hardest word for George Bush

SINCE being opened and actively used by US authorities in early 2002, Guantanamo Bay has never ceased to be at the forefront in this so called “war on terror”.

Over the years, a great deal has been said and debated regarding the legality of the detention camp and questions still arise concerning the somewhat inhumane, grotesque and often torturous conditions of detainees. Guantanamo Bay has become a perpetual sore point for most Americans, who breathed a welcome sigh of relief and hesitant optimism when President Obama promised, as part of his election campaign, to have the camp closed.

And so he did. On the second day of his Administration, the President signed an executive order to shut down the US military prison and ordered a review of the use of military trials for terror suspects and banned harsh interrogation techniques, such as waterboarding.

Yet despite the closure, Guantanamo still remains, and no doubt will remain for years to come, a stinging reminder of America’s unforgiving and often vindictive attitude.

A potent symbol of George Bush’s “war on terror”, the effects of Guantanamo still subsist today. Just this week the BBC broadcast Guantanamo Reunited, an enthralling documentary capturing the moment two ex Guantanamo suspects were reunited with a former prison guard.   

British born Ruhal Ahmed, 28, and Shafiq Rasul, 32, from Tipton, alongside a third man, infamously dubbed ‘The Tipton Three’ by the media, were imprisoned in Cuba for two years after being detained by the Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan in November 2001. Later sold to US forces before being sent to Guantanamo Bay as suspected terrorists, the trio were released in 2004 without charge.

Across the pond, in Huntsville, Texas, Brandon Neely, now 29, had met the pair when he was a prisoner guard at the Camp. He later left the US military in 2005 to become a police officer. Yet, still struggling to come to terms with his time as a guard at Guantanamo he used social networking internet portal, Facebook to track Shafiq and to his astonishment he received a reply to his message and the pair began an exchange of e-mails.

It was at this point that the BBC asked if both sides would be prepared to meet in person. They agreed and the reunion was filmed and aired on Newsnight and on BBC Radio 5 Live.

Undoubtedly emotional, the reunion was the first time in eight years that the three men had come came face-to-face with each other after Neely flew into the UK to personally apologise to the men. For Neely, his journey of reconciliation had certainly begun. Yet for Ruhal and Shafiq, it thrust them both head first into a world full of mistreatment and injustice. Something they had hoped to leave behind in Cuba.

Personally apologising for his role in their imprisonment, Neely admitted that he often doubted the guilt of some of the prison inmates and the treatment they received and that the six months he spent working as a guard in Cuba made him complicit in a great injustice. He said: “If you read the definition of torture it’s a very vague definition. Physical, mental, it can be anything. “Well, to me, torture is taking an innocent man and locking him up in a cage for two-and-a-half years. So if that’s how they do it, then everyone who has ever set foot in Guantanamo should be held responsible for torture, including myself.”

His words bring shame to a hard-hearted Bush Administration. Certainly, despite obtaining a sense of closure for the three men, the documentary was more effective in highlighting the total insensible disregard that the Former President George Bush and his platoon of callous followers has taken in its dealings with detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

It has no doubt taken a lot of courage and a brave audacity for a prison guard to warrant and apologise for his irresponsible actions.  

Yet where is the apology from Mr. Bush, the man who licensed this barbaric procedure? Shafiq Rasul and Ruhal Ahmed wasted two years of their life, being tortured and detained for no apparent reason so it seems, for they were released without charge. To date, they have received no apology, no sense of regret or human empathy from the man who put them there.

The arrival of President Obama has given America, alongside the detainees of Guantanamo Bay a new hope and a new future. Yet old wounds heal slowly, and it will be long and arduous time before the pungent anger, guilty horrors and upsetting injustices of Guantanamo that clouds America finally lifts. Yet, Brandon Neely’s somewhat heroic efforts will not be forgotten. By apologising he has done more than the once most powerful President has failed to. He has shown his valour, guilt, courageous zeal and compassion.

But amongst all else, he has shown that he has human. It is often said that an Apology is a good way to have the last word. Take note Mr. George W Bush. Take note.

 

Zeenat Moosa is a freelance writer based in Birmingham

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