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The Terror of Guantanamo

My nephew, Adam Arias, was killed in the World Trade Center where he worked. I have no children, and he was the closet to me of the children my siblings had. I was the only family member living in Manhattan, so it fell to me to report his -at first – unknown disposition to the coroner and begin the search. Later two of his brothers joined me to search the local hospitals and put up his missing poster, which I had hurriedly made, wherever possible.

It was a time of wrenching grief that too many others have experienced in tragedies around the world. For Americans then it was unique, as it had been many decades and more since such a huge traumatic event had happened on US soil.

One had to wonder why it happened and by whom was it executed? My questions are still viable 22 years later despite the formation of a 911 Commission, whose report was less than satisfying. This has been augmented by a cobbled-together Military Commission, based partially on US federal law and partially on the military law manual.

At the time, confusion reigned, and unacceptably biased people, such as Henry Kissinger, were appointed to unravel the quest for answers. Thanks to four 911 widows from New Jersey, nicknamed “The Jersey Girls” who pressed the administration, Kissinger was removed.

Unfortunately confusion won, and – as I said, my questions and the questions of many others who lost their loved ones in the event are still unanswered. More about this later.

In early 2002 I was fortunate to meet a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows at an anti-Iraq war rally. I was holding a picture of my nephew with the inscription, “NOT IN HIS NAME”. As we spoke, she inducted me into the only 911 families’ group, just then newly formed, that is anti-war and anti-violence. The name is borrowed from Martin Luther King, who said, “Wars are poor chisels for carving out Peaceful Tomorrows”. The dubious honor of membership is restricted to those who lost a person close to them in the 9/11 events.

The US media interviewed family members who were grief-stricken and angry at the perpetrators and concentrated on those who wanted revenge. Revenge became their by-word, and few interviews were made with our members in the American press. So it is reasonable to believe that Americans are looking for revenge – if you don’t look too closely.

Revenge is at best useless, but also instigates a mad cycle of more revenge seeking, known as the Cycle of Violence. Our hundreds of members are not the only ones who feel this way, there are many many more Americans who support the rational view – that of seeking transparent answers and justice. ..and for those found guilty to be brought to justice and reveal what they did. Justice, not violent punishment is what we want, to bring some semblance of closure to the losses of our loved ones.

Personally and collectively, we were outraged on hearing of the atrocities our government committed on prisoners captured because of 911. The pain we suffered because of the deaths of our loved ones can never be erased by inflicting pain on others. It has actually caused many of us more profound pain to know that our government, our own representatives, have been torturing men in our names. The effect on compassionate people can be very drastic.

Adele Welty, a member, lost her firefighter son Timmy in the World Trade Center on 911. She has been very active for many years in our group, but is now confined to her home because of physical issues. She remains deeply involved with the news and keeps abreast of what’s happening regarding Guantanamo.

This is an email from her on September 12

“Last night I had a nightmare. I was being interrogated at GTMO and they were putting me in a box full of bugs. I was screaming and unable to breathe. I would have confessed to shooting Lincoln at that point.

“Yet there are folks who did this to men held at GTMO. It is no wonder they are not fit to stand trial. And it was done in Timmy’s name and the names of those who were killed that day.

“I am wide awake and cannot shake the terror of that nightmare.

“Thank you all who have been a public voice for plea bargains.”

The terror of Guantanamo and those who have been held there for years although cleared for release… this prolongs the suffering of all of us. How can we, feeling the pain for who we have lost, prolong the suffering of so many men who have illegally been summarily swept up and dumped into a faraway place for decades, many tortured and abused in various ways…how can we look for justice for ourselves unless we correct this abominable situation?

For this reason I am asking you to speak with your government representatives. There are 16 men now in Guantanamo who have been cleared for release with no place to settle. Please, talk to your delegations to speak to the appropriate officials in the United States and to tell them you are willing to take one – or perhaps two cleared prisoners into your country where they will have a proper place to live, a way to make a living,and a way to bring their families with them.

Valerie Lucznikowska delivered this speech on September 28, 2023 at the European Parliament and as part of their event "Close Guantanamo!"

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