Give The Man His Poetry

My attention was first drawn to the plight of Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost by an article posted yesterday by Aine Macdermot here. In brief, this Afghani man was held in Guantanamo for three years as an “enemy combatant” before being sent before a military tribunal, whereupon he was released and sent home without so much as an “Oops! Sorry about that.” In the various articles online about his case, he actually seems pretty mellow about the whole thing…except that our military promised him he would be given back all the poetry he had written while being detained, and he never has. What follows is my letter to the Department of Defense and contacts at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Be assured that if I ever hear anything back, I will let you know. It has been said in the comment thread that follows the original article that this is a small thing, less important than securing the release of the rest of the prisoners held in Guantanamo. I certainly will not suggest that this is not true. However, sometimes small things are exemplary of the larger issues. In this case, the callous indifference of the military to this man’s work is indicative of our general disregard for the humanity of people we regard as “enemies”

If you are inclined to follow suit and send a letter of your own, they can be sent to:

[email protected] — Guantanamo — DOD

If you have any ideas for other folks to contact, please fee free to post them here.

To Whom It May Concern:

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Security or Liberty?

As the should-have-been scandal of the administrations illegal wiretapping policy wanes, as our government proceeds to contract out the construction of new, large-scale detention centers (apparently in preparation for a large influx of immigrants…?), as the right of whistle-blowers or dissenters in the administration (and elsewhere) to criticize our government is called into perilous legal question…I find myself more and more concerned with questions of where national (and personal) security ends and personal liberty begins. It seems that this is a question which should be uppermost in the minds of all Americans, as we tread into an age where the potential for extreme government monitoring and control is more technically possible, and apparently more desired, than ever before. And yet I find in casual conversation that very few citizens are concerning themselves with this vital issue. The attitude that the government will make the decisions which will best care for us is pervasive, and the notion that it is every citizen’s obligation to monitor and influence the government is outdated, perhaps treasonous. From it’s inception, however, our nation has been founded on the assumption that informed and active involvement in our government is every citizen’s obligation. The founding documents of our government worked hard to indicate that this was a government designed to be created and maintained by the people. It was not to become a monster controlling and directing the lives of its citizens for its own benefit. Hence the electoral process. Hence the “checks and balances” that we heard so much about in school. Hence the Bill of Rights. We hear much these days about the possibility of things being “unconstitutional”, but does anyone even remember the Constitution?

In the name of trying to revive interest in a crumbling concept, I would like to explain very simply what our government was meant to be and discuss the arguments which the current administration uses to justify its departure from those original ideals. I would like to bring to the notice of the public that this is, as Abraham Lincoln so famously said in 1863, a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, and that such a system depends upon the involvement of those who allow themselves to be governed, if it is not to perish from the earth.

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