“Why do they hate us?” This simple, yet loaded five word question has literally outperformed the thousands of answers that have been put forth. This is because comprehensive responses are rarely as powerful as a simple question. Aafia Siddiqui’s case suffers from the very same dynamic; it is complex, it is detailed and it raises disturbing issues that reach far and wide.
Consider the following claims against the U.S. and allied/contracted forces:
1) Abduction of a mother and her three children with the children used for extortion
2) Long term captivity in secret prisons
3) Rape, torture, mental and physical abuse
4) Use of elaborate disorientation and false flag techniques
This laundry list is definitely sensational enough for a kneejerk rejection from the average American patriot. However, what are we to think when these very same allegations are listed in a recently declassified Department of Defense’s Inspector General’s report entitled Review of DoD-Directed Investigations of Detainee Abuse[i]?
There are other serious questions surround this impending trial:
- Why is she considered such a high profile suspect when the charges against her are not related to terrorism[ii]?
- What caused the interest in Siddiqui in the first place?
- How long has she been in custody?
- Where have her children been all this time?
- Who was responsible for them?
- Did we outsource her and her children’s detention and interrogation to other nations?
Despite all these issues, there is one central theme in Siddiqui’s ordeal. It holds true regardless of ones status as a supporter or detractor. As an American, the one inescapable question is: how we, the U.S., treated and continue to treat her.
How Dr. Aafia Siddiqui was and will be treated matters
Why? The reasons are plentiful, but let us examine one of our more important relationships: Pakistan, a strategically vital U.S. ally. Pakistan is a nation that seems to continuously suffer from regime changes, political assassinations and other stability issues; these are conditions conducive to the widespread popular support that Aafia Siddiqui is receiving.
Siddiqui has been transformed from a “U.S. person of interest,” into a galvanizing symbol of the Pakistani people. Her growing status as a focal point of that nation’s pride and desire for true sovereignty is evident. The streets are regularly flooded with pro-Aafia rallies and demonstrations that on occasion number in the tens of thousands. Popular singers, poets and artists continue to release tributes to Siddiqui as their chosen symbol for all of Pakistan’s missing persons and other popular, pro-Pakistani sentiments. Siddiqui’s story serves as a common rallying point for both Pakistan’s secular and religious as well as for their conservatives and their liberals. Aafia Siddiqui’s case has even overcome bitter rivalries between Pakistan’s competing political movements.
Siddiqui’s status is growing in influence, even transcending Pakistani politics and reaching the broader Muslim world as new and persistent allegations of abuse surface against the U.S. These allegations, especially when women and children are involved, undermine our standing in the world and provoke very serious and avoidable diplomatic problems.
This report legitimizes the hard to accept claims put forth by Aafia Siddiqui’s supporters.
It can no longer be claimed that abusive ‘interrogation techniques’ and assaults on detainees have not been either approved or perpetrated by our servicemen and contractors. This is the second reason that U.S. treatment of Aafia Siddiqui is the central issue of this case; it is directly related to our values as Americans.
To illustrate the point, let us examine the claims made by Aafia Siddiqui’s supporters with the DoD report’s findings:
CLAIM 1: The abduction of a mother and her three children/ children used for extortion
- REPORT: The use of scenarios designed to convince the detainee that death or severely painful consequences are imminent for him and/or his family:… – pg 36
CLAIM 2: Long term captivity in secret prisons
- REPORT: CIA detainees in Abu Ghraib, known locally as “Ghost Detainees,” were not accounted for in the detention system. With these detainees unidentified or unaccounted for, detention operations at large were impacted because personnel at the operations level were uncertain how to report or classify detainees. – pg 59
- REPORT: …DoD temporarily held detainees for the CIA – including the detainee known as “Triple-X” – without properly registering them and providing notification to the International Committee of the Red Cross. This practice of holding “ghost detainees” for the CIA was guided by oral, ad hoc agreements… – pg 78
CLAIM 3: Rape, torture, mental and physical abuse
- REPORT: At the extremes were the death of a detainee in OGA custody, an alleged rape committed by a US translator and observed by a female Soldier, and the alleged sexual assault of a female detainee. – pg 59
CLAIM 4: Use of elaborate disorientation and false flag techniques
- REPORT: …military personnel improperly interfered with FBI interrogators in the performance of their FBI duties. – pg 86
- REPORT: False Flag: Convincing the detainee that individuals from a country other than the United States are interrogating him. – pg 97
- REPORT: …our interviews with DoD personnel assigned to various detention facilities throughout Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated that they did not have a uniform understanding of what rules governed the involvement of OGAs in the interrogation of DoD detainees. That DoD interrogators improperly impersonated FBI agents and Department of State officers during the interrogation of detainees. – pg 86
How our nation treats its detainees will continue to become more and more significant during the progression of Aafia Siddiqui’s trial. It will be a reoccurring theme in all similar trials as well. Regardless of verdicts, our treatment of detainees if not addressed properly will continue to degrade our nation’s image and standing in the world. This fact cannot be tempered by our stance on the all important and most immediate question of when did the U.S. take custody of Aafia? There are enough claims of mistreatment for either scenario of when Siddiqui came under U.S. authority.
Supporters contend that Aafia was abducted and handed over to U.S. Authorities in April 2003. This claim is supported by an NBC News clip available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xwCHha5ITM . This claim is corroborated by Siddiqui’s family’s statements expressing their belief that she was dead from 2003 until her capture in Afghanistan.
While convenient, it should be noted that the NBC and other media reports of Aafia’s abduction in 2003 have been denied/contested[iii].
What is certain is that once captured in Afghanistan, Siddiqui has been shuffled between mental and maximum security facilities, both with documented histories of abuse especially toward Muslims[iv] [v] and women[vi] inmates.
Currently, despite the fact that she is held in solitary confinement, under video surveillance, Siddiqui under goes regular, forced, strip searches, when making any outside contact – effectively denying her reasonable access to her attorneys. It is also a matter of record that after Siddiqui was officially in U.S. custody, she was shot by U.S. personal in Ghazni, Afghanistan and that the medical care she needed was at best delayed and inadequate[vii].
For most American’s, there might just be too many allegations against the U.S. for us to sallow. This type of thinking will miss the lessons that are to be learned as information comes to light. Siddiqui’s case, how she was treated and what we will do about it going forward, will define, in part, our capability for leadership in the world. Most importantly, it will serve as a window for who we are or who we have become.
PLEASE NOTE: Aafia is due in court tomorrow, Nov. 3. Those who are able are encouraged to attend! Details here.