Monday, February 23, 2009

PTSD Anyone?

PTSD or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a well recognized affliction common in soldiers returning from tours of combat abroad. Our militaries look for signs of it and try to treat PTSD victims. The Vietnam aftermath showed what happens when PTSD is left untreated.

Switch now to Guantanamo where the US government faces the difficult challenge of releasing detainees swept up years ago but against whom the American military authorities have no case. You have people who were swept off the streets and flown halfway around the world to undergo years of psychological and physical manipulation, even torture.

America is manufacturing its own, "made in Gitmo" terrorists. The Washington Post has a story of one of these, a Kuwaiti named Abdallah Al-Ajmi, who spent four years at Guantanamo before being sent home.

...U.S. government officials were deeply disappointed -- they had hoped that Kuwait, an American ally, would find a way to detain Ajmi for years -- but they refrained from any public criticism. At the very least, the officials figured, Kuwaiti authorities would keep a close watch on him. And they expected Ajmi to move on, to put his Guantanamo experience behind him, to get a job and settle down after his time in one of the toughest prisons on the planet.

Ajmi chose a different path. Last March, he drove a truck packed with explosives onto an Iraqi army base outside Mosul, killing 13 Iraqi soldiers and himself. It was the denouement of a nihilistic descent that his lawyers and family believe commenced at Guantanamo.

When Ajmi returned to Kuwait, "he was a ticking time bomb," said Mansur Saleh al-Ajmi, one of his younger brothers.

"Before he went to Afghanistan, he was a normal teenager. He spun the car around in circles. He smoked. People liked him," Mansur said. "After he came back from Guantanamo, he seemed like a completely different person. He stared all the time. You could not have a normal conversation with him. . . . It seemed as if his brain had been washed."

...When Thomas Wilner [Ajmi's Gitmo lawyer] learned that his client had become a suicide bomber, he said he felt physically ill. He thought of the victims, and he thought of Ajmi. "Here was this poor, dumb kid -- I really don't think he was a bad kid -- who was thrown into a hellhole of a prison and who went mad," he said. "Should we really be surprised that somebody we treated this way would become radicalized, would become crazy?"

Curiously absent from the American commentary is any suggestion that the US should give inmates psychological screening and, where necessary, treatment before they're returned to their homelands. It's a horrible Catch-22. Hold them to treat them for PSTD or other mental maladies and you're essentially admitting that you've tortured them out of their minds. Ignore reality and release them and you're unleashing several that you've conditioned to retaliate violently. This is a "lose-lose" situation for America, and for the detainees.


Beijing York said...

What a horrific mess. It's the younger detainees who will be most broken.

Sometimes I think some of the architects of this post-911 world (Cheney, Rove, Wolfewitz, Perle) don't give a damn about the onslaught of bloodshed because by and large it is young Asian men who are dying in the largest numbers. That PNAC gang spent lots of time studying the demographics of their target region, dwelling on such terms as "population explosion". Reading their work is truly haunting.

The Mound of Sound said...

The Project for the New American Century seems to have evaporated. When I first stumbled upon it, years before the Bush Doctrine, I could hardly believe my eyes. It was the stuff of conspiracy novels.. but it was there for all to read. PNAC envisioned a form of global hegemony that was utterly monstrous.

It's too bad that those released detainees against whom the government had or could establish no case cannot seek legal redress against Washington. They deserve to be generously compensated and fully rehabilitated, not simply dumped on their homeland's doorstep.