Sunday, June 8, 2008

Was Sami al-Haj Held on the Canetti Principle?

For example, let's pick an Iraqi-Canadian to single out for public torture. On Canetti's principle, that should induce a lot of shock for the buck.

It is the first death which infects everyone with the feeling of being threatened. It is impossible to over assess the role played by the first dead man in the kindling of wars. Rulers who want to unleash war know very well that they must procure or invent a first victim. It need not be anyone of particular importance, and can even be someone unknown. Nothing matters except his death; and it must be believed that the enemy is responsible for this. Every possible cause of his death is suppressed except one: his membership in the group to which one belongs oneself.

Elias Canetti, Masse und Macht vol. 1, p. 152 (1960)(S.H. transl.)

(Emphasis added.)

The only statement from the United States came from the embassy in Khartoum confirming the “detainee transfer.” A senior Defense official in Washington, D.C. told Reuters on the condition of anonymity that al-Haj was “not being released” but “being transferred to the Sudanese government.” But the Sudanese Justice Minister told Al Jazeera al-Haj would not face arrest or any charges.

Al-Haj, who’s been on a hunger strike since January of 2007, was taken to a hospital immediately after landing in Khartoum. After a tearful reunion with his family, he spoke out against the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo in an interview broadcast on Al Jazeera.

SAMI AL-HAJ: [translated] I’m very happy to be in Sudan, but I’m very sad because of the situation of our brothers who remain in Guantanamo. Conditions in Guantanamo are very, very bad, and they get worse by the day. Our human condition, our human dignity was violated, and the American administration went beyond all human values, all moral values, all religious values. In Guantanamo, you have animals that are called iguanas, rats that are treated with more humanity. But we have people from more than fifty countries that are completely deprived of all rights and privileges, and they will not give them the rights that they give to animals.

For more than seven years, I did not get a chance to be brought before a civil court. To defend their just case and to get the freedom that we’re deprived of, they ignored every kind of law, every kind of religion. But thank God. I was lucky, because God allowed that I be released. Although I’m happy, there is part of me that is not, because my brothers remain behind, and they are in the hands of people that claim to be champions of peace and protectors of rights and freedoms.

But the true just peace does not come through military force or threats to use smart or stupid bombs or to threaten with economic sanctions. Justice comes from lifting oppression and guaranteeing rights and freedoms and respecting the will of the people and not to interfere with a country’s internal politics.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Sami al-Haj, speaking from his hospital bed in Khartoum. He was held in military custody as a prisoner for more than six-and-a-half years. He has never been charged, a cameraman for Al Jazeera.

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