Terrorist for Sale
- The Guantánamo Effect: Exposing the Consequences of US Detention and Interrogation Practices by Laurel Fletcher and Eric Stover
California, 210 pp, £10.95, October 2009, ISBN 978 0 520 26177 8
"There were 245 detainees at Camp Delta in Guantánamo when President Obama was sworn in this year and there are now about 220. When Guantánamo is mothballed, as he wants, some 80 of those will get asylum in a third country or find themselves repatriated. The US administration aims to prosecute around 60 others and hold the rest indefinitely, because they can’t be brought to trial – the evidence against them is flawed, often by harsh interrogation methods – or because it’s thought too dangerous to release them. Most of the remaining detainees are Yemenis, and al-Qaida followers are mustering in Yemen. The idea therefore is to transfer prisoners for trial or indefinite detention to maximum security jails on the mainland, one in Michigan, another in Kansas, but this has run into trouble in the House of Representatives. Guantánamo was always a disgrace; now it’s a logistical headache.
What will become of those distant, shimmering figures in orange jumpsuits living in customised containers at Camp Delta, once Obama has his way? A study by Laurel Fletcher and Eric Stover, human rights theorists and professors of law at Berkeley, sketches a few of the answers. From January 2002, when the first detainees were flown into the base, until October 2008, when the authors’ research ended, nearly 800 individuals from 46 different countries were detained in Guantánamo. The number of inmates spiked at about 660 in the summer of 2003 and fell, over the next two years, to about 250. Fletcher and Stover have put together ‘in-depth’ interviews with 62 of the roughly 550 former inmates to build ‘a comprehensive picture of life inside Guantánamo and the effect of incarceration on the lives of detainees and their families’. They have also collected testimony about the US bases in Afghanistan, at Bagram and Kandahar, and heard the views of ‘key informants’: lawyers and NGO staff, US government officials, personnel stationed in Guantánamo, and a US army officer in Afghanistan. Most of this succinct and worrying book is about detention itself, but an intriguing section goes on to look at ex-detainees trying to piece together the semblance of lives after their ordeal. . . ."
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LRB � Jeremy Harding � Terrorist for Sale