Wednesday, November 10, 2010

From Tanzania to the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

c. David Grim (taken 10/17/10)

Sometimes it's odd what sticks in my head. Listening to the news on the radio while driving can be a very passive enterprise for me. I have to admit that a lot of the stories go by with as little lasting impression as the traffic surrounding me. But occasionally there will be something that strikes me in a particularly poignant way, and I'll be thinking about it on an off for the rest of the day. That happened a couple of days ago when I heard about a man who had been imprisoned in Guantanamo that is having his trial in civilian court, here in the United States. Apparently this is the first such case that will not be decided by a military tribunal.

It's not the controversy surrounding how the fates of suspected terrorists are decided that interests me. Certainly I prefer that the accused receive fair trials (regardless of their point of origin), but I'm not going to lose any sleep worrying about that if it doesn't happen. I'd reserve that kind of concern for US citizens. I'm not at all confident that our justice system works the way it is intended to in a democracy. Still, that's not what I was pondering the other day.

Instead I was imagining what it must be like to be incarcerated in a foreign nation and awaiting a trial. It's one thing to be kept with a group of your comrades in a military stockade, and quite another to be in 'gen pop' with another country's ne'er-do-wells. I don't know whether the man in question is kept in solitary, or whether they've got him with everyone else at Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. If it is the latter, it must be extremely weird to be among a group of hardened criminals who speak a different language and have been saturated by a radically different culture. Personally I'd be disconsolate, and (probably) soiling my pants regularly- especially if I had been accused of trying to attack the nation that had me in custody.

Yikes. What a sense of isolation that man must be feeling. And what a future he faces if he is found guilty. The chances of him returning to his home are likely slim, given the way those who have had association with al-Qaeda are viewed here in the US. What makes it even more tense is that there is no precedent for this. Any sentence short of death will meet heavy resistance from the extremists in this country. No matter what stress I might feel in my own life right now, I'm glad I'm not Ahmed Ghailani from Tanzania.

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