By Andy Worthington
Every now and then, someone in the mainstream media cuts through the general — and shameful — indifference about Guantánamo, publishing a powerful story that should change hearts and minds. This is the case with a feature in the latest issue of GQ by Michael Paterniti about one of the more notorious cases of cruelty at Guantánamo — that of the teenage prisoner Mohammed Jawad, released in August 2009 — although it will probably do no more than awaken a few more people to the gross injustices perpetrated at Guantánamo, and elsewhere in the “War on Terror,” by the Bush administration.
Sadly, it will probably do little to help those still held, abandoned by President Obama and unfairly vilified by opportunistic Republicans, whose continued presence in an experimental prison devoted to holding people neither as criminal suspects not as prisoners of war ought to be an unconscionable act for Americans to be engaging in, over two years after Bush left office, even though it has become, instead, a cause for amnesia, indifference or “patriotic” support that is deeply troubling for the health of the United States as a country that any longer has any comprehension of the difference between right and wrong.
Jawad’s story didn’t feature in my book The Guantánamo Files, as it was one that I felt I could skip when my publishers obliged me to trim 10,000 words from my manuscript, but the story of the boy seized in a marketplace in Kabul in December 2002 after a grenade attack on two US soldiers and an Afghan translator soon caught my attention when Jawad was put forward for a trial by Military Commission in October 2007, and it really took off in 2008, as his lawyers began to fight tenaciously for him, and his prosecutor resigned, complaining that the entire trial system was so disorganized — whether by accident or design — that it was impossible to guarantee that anyone would receive a fair trial.
The lawyers in question — Maj. David Frakt for the defense, and Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, the prosecutor who resigned — became friends of mine during this period, in part because I admired them so much, but also because they both appreciated my dedication to pursuing the Guantánamo story, when so few journalists seemed to care, and I was delighted to follow the story to its just conclusion in August 2009, when Jawad finally won his habeas corpus petition and returned home to Afghanistan.