John Grisham: Life After Guantanamo

In an op-ed in the New York Times, author John Grisham writes he was puzzled by reports that his books were banned at Guantanamo. Lawyers for some of the detainees said their clients had requested them, so they brought copies with them when visiting, but the books weren't allowed through, due to "impermissible content."

Grisham says he tracked down one detainee, Nabil Hadjarab, a 34-year-old Algerian who grew up in France, who speaks perfect English. Grisham got to know Nabil's history, and it is similar to many of the detainees: they were sold to the U.S for a bounty of $5,000.

Nabil has been at Gitmo for 11 years. Grisham thinks he will be one of those released. But, he asks, what then? [More...]

Nabil has not been the only “mistake” in our war on terror. Hundreds of other Arabs have been sent to Gitmo, chewed up by the system there, never charged and eventually transferred back to their home countries. (These transfers are carried out as secretly and as quietly as possible.) There have been no apologies, no official statements of regret, no compensation, nothing of the sort. The United States was dead wrong, but no one can admit it.

Much like the plight of the wrongly convicted in this country who are suddenly released after a decade or more of confinement, they are left high and dry, with no money, resources, or re-entry tools. What will befall Nabil if he's released?

[Nabil's] nightmare will only continue. He will be homeless. He will have no support to reintegrate him into a society where many will be hostile to a former Gitmo detainee, either on the assumption that he is an extremist or because he refuses to join the extremist opposition to the Algerian government. Instead of showing some guts and admitting they were wrong, the American authorities will whisk him away, dump him on the streets of Algiers and wash their hands.

Grisham tries to come up with a solution:

First, admit the mistake and make the apology. Second, provide compensation. United States taxpayers have spent $2 million a year for 11 years to keep Nabil at Gitmo; give the guy a few thousand bucks to get on his feet. Third, pressure the French to allow his re-entry.

I'd go a bit further:

  • First off, they ought to get a few thousand for every month they spent at Gitmo.
  • Second, they should be be allowed to return to the country of their choice. If it's not their home country, the U.S. should also pay for their families to relocate to the chosen country, so they can be together. The third country must agree in writing it will not interfere with the detainee's liberty. If the detainee's preferred country won't take him and his family under these conditions, the U.S. should start withholding aid dollars for each month it refuses.
  • Third, each detainee who is not charged with a crime and allowed to leave should be given a certificate, signed by President Obama, which contains a formal apology and confirmation that the allegations of misconduct against the detainees were not substantiated.

Of course, none of this will happen, except perhaps in John Grisham's next novel.

< Saturday Morning Open Thread | New Yorker Feature on Forfeiture Abuse >
  • The Online Magazine with Liberal coverage of crime-related political and injustice news

  • Contribute To TalkLeft

  • Display: Sort:
    Good to Hear from Grisham (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by koshembos on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 01:30:15 PM EST
    Protestations of the travesty of Gitmo aren't wide or deep. A person such as Grisham may propel a wave of voices who will not stop until Gitmo is no more.

    Total agreement on full compensation, public and sincere apology, thorough investigation of causes and reason and, meanwhile, relaxing the current conditions in Gitmo.

    Its UnAmerican To Apologize (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by john horse on Sat Aug 17, 2013 at 09:50:16 AM EST

    Third, each detainee who is not charged with a crime and allowed to leave should be given a certificate, signed by President Obama, which contains a formal apology and confirmation that the allegations of misconduct against the detainees were not substantiated.

    Apology?  Apologizing means our government taking responsibility for its actions.  Not going to happen anytime soon.  Maybe, after time has passed we can come to terms with what our government has done.  We will have to wait until those that are responsibility have passed away and can no longer be held accountable (sarcasm aler).  It takes time to sweep things under the rug.  Then one day, we will be able to say that we were wrong and this won't happen again.  That is until it happens again.

    Why ban Grisham? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Mr Natural on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 10:42:43 AM EST
    Because we wouldn't want the detainees to get the idea that there was anything like a functioning legal system anywhere in America.

    It's really laughable (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Dadler on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 11:13:33 AM EST
    Grisham is an exalted pulp novelist, a plot jockey, and he's no real student of the ugly breadth of human character, so I find it hilarious they'd ban him. Now, if they banned Chomsky, I could almost understand it. He's a genuine radical thinker..

    If? (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by squeaky on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 02:48:32 PM EST
    Though the library has 16,000 books, according to the Miami Herald, and though some of them deal with politics and current events, a book of Chomsky's essays post 9/11 was expressly denied to a Guantánamo prisoner...

    A spokesperson for the prison said "force protection reasons" precluded him from discussing the matter, but he confirmed that not a single copy of any Chomsky book was in the library.

    Chomsky was his usual matter-of-fact self. "This happens sometimes in totalitarian regimes," he told the Miami Herald.

    the progressive


    as a matter of fact, JG is more than that (none / 0) (#7)
    by DFLer on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 06:38:25 PM EST
    regardless of how you rate his writing, and an activist for political causes in VA. Also the Innocence Project

    It must be a national hubris (none / 0) (#4)
    by Magnumto on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 02:11:00 PM EST
    that makes the U.S. overreact so often.  Imprisoning people with no accountability or significant justification, simply because they can, and without any adverse consequences to themselves, flies in the face of where any hubris ought to be.  This smacks of the "internment" of Japanese Americans during WWII, and we've already apologized and paid reparations for that travesty.

    I'm beginning to think it is (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by ruffian on Sun Aug 11, 2013 at 03:08:53 PM EST
    analogous to a joke George Carlin made about how we name subdivisions after the thing we tore down to build the houses...like Rolling Meadows, Young Pine, etc....the more we belt out 'the land of the free and the home of the brave' at every sporting event, the more an indication it is that we are way too afraid to be truly free.