John Grisham on Guantanamo: "US was dead wrong, but no one can admit it"

by Toby Manhire / 15 August, 2013
In a powerful op-ed, the novelist-lawyer describes tracking down a fan of his in the camp where his books were banned.
John Grisham and one of the "banned" books.


Books by John Grisham, we recently learned, have been banned from the library at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, along with works by Noam Chomsky and a handful of others.

Having been advised by a reporter that two of his novels had been deemed “impermissible content”, the lawyer and novelist “became curious and tracked down a detainee who enjoys my books”, he writes in a simmeringly angry New York Times.

The prisoner is Nabil Hadjarab, an Algerian who grew up in France. “For reasons that had nothing to do with terror, war or criminal behaviour, Nabil was living peacefully in an Algerian guesthouse in Kabul, Afghanistan, on September 11, 2001,” he writes

Nabil, along with thousands of other Arabs, left for Pakistan to avoid the inevitable conflict.

Wounded in a bombing raid and hospitalised, he was then “sold to the United States for a bounty of $5,000 and taken to an underground prison in Kabul”.

The next stop, and his home for the next 11 years: Gitmo, the “detention camp” built by President George Bush and maintained, despite promises to close it, by Barack Obama.

Throughout his incarceration in Afghanistan, Nabil strenuously denied any connection to Al Qaeda, the Taliban or anyone or any organization remotely linked to the 9/11 attacks. And the Americans had no proof of his involvement, save for bogus claims implicating him from other prisoners extracted in a Kabul torture chamber.


Since then, Nabil has been subjected to all the horrors of the Gitmo handbook: sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, temperature extremes, prolonged isolation, lack of access to sunlight, almost no recreation and limited medical care. In 11 years, he has never been permitted a visit from a family member.


The case against him is hollow, writes Grisham.

In documents, military prosecutors say that Nabil was staying at a guesthouse run by people with ties to Al Qaeda and that he was named by others as someone affiliated with terrorists. But Nabil has never been charged with a crime.


Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.


The likelihood, says Grisham, is that Nabil will before long be deposited back in Algeria.

If that happens another tragic mistake will be made. His nightmare will only continue. He will be homeless. He will have no support to reintegrate him into a society where many will be hostile to a former Gitmo detainee, either on the assumption that he is an extremist or because he refuses to join the extremist opposition to the Algerian government. Instead of showing some guts and admitting they were wrong, the American authorities will whisk him away, dump him on the streets of Algiers and wash their hands.


Grisham has questioned America’s belligerence before. In a 2008 interview with Bill Moyers, he said of the war in Iraq:

We attacked a sovereign nation that ... was not threatening us. What was our justification? I don’t know. We were lied to by our leaders. It wasn’t what they said it was. We have killed, I’m not saying “we” have killed, but estimates are half a million Iraqis have died since the war started ...


They wouldn’t be dead, I don’t think, had we not gone there. How do you get out? We lost 4,000 very brave soldiers who would love their country, and would go fighting where they were told because they’re soldiers. Tens of thousands of shattered lives. We’re not taking care of the veterans when they come home. The social cost of this ... is enormous.


Postscript: According to the Wall Street Journal, the ban on two of Grisham’s books no longer applies. Apparently it was all just a misunderstanding.

 

 

 
MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage

Latest

Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bulldogs
86110 2018-01-20 10:49:32Z Business

Trade Me bans sale of pugs, British and French bul…

by Sally Blundell

As a result of growing concern over the welfare of pugs, British and French bulldogs, Trade Me has announced they're banning the sale of these breeds.

Read more
Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding shame
86056 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Currently

Puppy farming: New Zealand's secret dog-breeding s…

by Sally Blundell

NZ has an unregulated puppy-breeding industry where unscrupulous operators can flourish, so why aren’t we following the lead of overseas governments?

Read more
The Crown has lost its way in season two
85715 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Television

The Crown has lost its way in season two

by Greg Dixon

To read the gushing media reports, you’d have thought The Crown was a winning combination of the Second Coming, unicorns and sliced bread.

Read more
How your name influences who you become
85737 2018-01-20 00:00:00Z Psychology

How your name influences who you become

by Marc Wilson

Researchers say that 'Daisy' is more likely to dress and act in a feminine manner because the name has a stereotype of femininity.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and present lend their support
86105 2018-01-19 15:45:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern pregnant: Politicians past and pres…

by RNZ

Politicians from at home and abroad are reaching out to offer congratulations to the Prime Minister mum-to-be.

Read more
Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND a mum
86091 2018-01-19 12:36:44Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern is going to be a Prime Minister AND…

by Katie Parker

New Zealand’s newly minted PM and bizarrely cool and normal lady Jacinda Ardern has announced that she and partner Clarke Gayford are expecting a baby

Read more
Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy
86074 2018-01-19 11:11:36Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern announces pregnancy

by RNZ

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced that she is pregnant, with the baby due in June.

Read more
What the media silly season taught us
85933 2018-01-19 00:00:00Z Politics

What the media silly season taught us

by Graham Adams

To the eternal gratitude of media chiefs, each holiday period seems to throw up at least one minor scandal that runs in the absence of anything newsy.

Read more