On October 6, 2014, a U.S. judge decided to make information public about the horrific force-feeding of Abu Wa’el Dhiab, a Guantanamo detainee.
The news didn’t make the headlines on CNN or Fox news. The treatment was not denounced over and over by every big or small Muslim organization, as they have done when it comes to the treatment of minorities and journalists by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). In some media outlets, the news was portrayed as a victory for transparency and government accountability.
Only a handful of journalists have dared to write about the suffering of this detainee. Why was he arrested in the first place and why was he never charged with any offence? How can the U.S. justify his incarceration in the Guantanamo military prison for more than 10 years? Perhaps he is only more collateral damage to add to the War on Terror that the U.S. has been conducting, each time under a new name, but always with disastrous consequences. Perhaps he is another inevitable casualty. Soon, he will be forgotten, as have many other casualties in this infinite, despicable war.
For the U.S., Guantanamo is a prison of another era. Or, put differently: Guantanamo is a prison that was created for prisoners of the first “War on Terror.” Today, its presence bothers the Americans more than it helps them. Guantanamo became an obsolete tool in a yet another “War on Terror.”
Three successive Wars on Terror
From 2001 to 2014, the Americans waged three successive Wars on Terror.
The first War on Terror started in 2001 by George W. Bush, immediately after the events of 9/11. Then, the Americans were still testing the waters. First they used “methods” of conventional war. They sent troops on the ground. They captured prisoners of war; some were fighting with the Taliban, others with al-Qaeda and many others were innocents who turned out to be in the wrong place. Abu Wa’el Dhiab was one of them. The Americans tortured them and even invented a waterboarding technique to make prisoners speak; they force-fed prisoners who went on hunger strikes. They desecrated the Quran, they used dogs to scare some prisoners and even used female agents to sexually humiliate or “tempt” them. The U.S. and its allies considered these methods “legal” and “legitimate” as they were “cleaning” the world of Al-Qaeda terrorists. And of course, the majority of American people believed their politicians.
Between 2008 and 2012, the Americans got tired of George W. Bush. He became an embarrassment for the world and for the U.S., so they elected a new president. After all, the War on Terror conducted in Afghanistan and Iraq wasn’t as successful as the politicians and military wanted people to believe. The war was bringing home more bodies of soldiers killed overseas. The U.S. economy was suffering from an over-stretched war. This is where President Obama came into the picture. He promised to close the Guantanamo prison; he never did. He promised to get U.S. troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan; he did, but that is another story. He even stopped calling the “War on Terror” by its name.
But what the majority of people didn’t know is that Obama subtly started a second War on Terror. In his book, Jeremy Scahill calls it a “dirty war.” Instead of capturing prisoners and sending them to Guantanamo, where one day they could become a liability for the U.S. administration, Obama and his advisers came up with a new war, one that is invisible to the eyes of the common people. This lethal war was conducted behind the screens of remote controls in bunkers in the desert of Arizona, where military personnel can guide drones from the comfort of their chairs to kill “terrorists” and their supporters.
This war was conducted in Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan. U.S. officials even changed their way of counting the victims of their killing policy. Thus, “militant” became “all military-age males in a strike zone.”
So, if they kill a militant and his friends and family, the casualties are all counted as “militants” as long as they are adult and male. The reasoning here is so simple, it’s perhaps too simple: the friend of my enemy is my enemy.
For four years, the second War on Terror became almost invisible until the chaos created by the first one came to haunt the U.S. again. The “new Iraq” the U.S. wanted to create imploded in three main zones: the one controlled by the Shias, the one controlled by the Kurds, and the rest where Sunni militants, soldiers of the old Baathist regime, and marginalized groups merged together to take over what was left. Thus, ISIL was born.
At first, the actions of ISIL didn’t bother Obama much, and neither did the horrific killings conducted in Syria by dictator Bashar al-Assad on his own people. The U.S. “tolerated” them. In fact, they kept them both in balance.
Launching the third War on Terror
But when ISIL proclaimed itself a caliphate, and started beheading foreigners, the U.S. felt the need to wage its third War on Terror.
This time, it seems that there is no capturing of prisoners or killings with drones. The U.S. and its allies chose air bombings. In public opinion, this third war is described as a war against a ruthless group. Fine. But what the U.S. administration fails to tell Americans is why it doesn’t wage a war on Saudi Arabia, another barbaric state that kills and tortures with total impunity. Even stranger, Saudi Arabia is a major ally of this war against barbarism. As if there are degrees of barbarism: type 1 barbarism (a.k.a. classic barbarism) that is tolerated by the U.S., and type 2 barbarism (a.k.a. barbarism light), one that must be denounced and fought with vigour.
The third War on Terror isn’t really a war on ISIL or their barbaric methods to scare the West. It is a war to recapture of what is left from the old map of the Middle East after two disastrous Wars on Terror. This new war is a battle where the Americans are trying hard to reinforce their strategic positions in a Middle East torn between Shia and Sunni dominance.
Monia Mazigh was born and raised in Tunisia and immigrated to Canada in 1991. Mazigh was catapulted onto the public stage in 2002 when her husband, Maher Arar, was deported to Syria where he was tortured and held without charge for over a year. She campaigned tirelessly for his release. Mazigh holds a PhD in finance from McGill University. In 2008, she published a memoir, Hope and Despair, about her pursuit of justice, and recently, a novel about Muslim women, Mirrors and Mirages. You can follow her on Twitter @MoniaMazigh or on her blog www.moniamazigh.com