Guantanamo Madness

Guantanamo Madness

by Susan Rosenthal

On September 18, Associated Press reported that a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay had gone insane. According to lawyers, 37-year-old Shaker Aamer has been tortured and kept in solitary confinement for so long that “he considers insects his friends.”

Aamer was working for a charity organization when he was captured in Afghanistan in 2001. After he organized a prisoners’ council to bargain for better conditions, he was placed in solitary confinement and kept there for over a year.

Aamer lives in a 6-by-8-foot steel cell. He is beaten regularly, deprived of sleep and exposed to extreme temperatures. The day before three prisoners hung themselves, guards choked Aamer, gouged his eyes, bent his fingers until he screamed and then covered his face so that he could not cry out.

According to Aamer’s lawyer Zachary Katznelson,

“His only consistent contact with living beings beside his captors is with the ants in his cell. He feeds them and considers them his friends.”

Who is crazy here?

Human beings are social beings. When other people turn against us, we have only two choices: to abandon our humanity or to seek connection with other creatures. In the hell of Guantanamo, Shaker Aamer struggles to preserve his sense of belonging. True, the objects of his attention are insects, but what other choice does he have?

Treating Aamer’s torture as normal and branding his reaction as abnormal is a form of social insanity. His efforts to remain human, despite the insanity around him, make him the only sane person in this story.

When millions of people’s lives are sacrificed to protect the wealth and power of a few – that is crazy. When people protest the injustice of this arrangement, in any way they can – that is sane.

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