Several months ago Rachel Maddow posted a link to a blog called Detainee 063 on her Twitter. It released the interrogation logs of a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay exactly 7 years (to the minute) after they occurred. After reading through several pages worth of logs, I came to the conclusion that the interrogators were more concerned with getting the detainee to say what they wanted than finding truth. In the portion of the logs I read the type of torture they used was limited to deprivation of basic human needs (sleep, food/water, and bathroom access), but even under this kind of pressure anyone could be convinced to say anything to make it stop. When being interrogated in this way by people who want you to admit to being a member of Al-Qaeda, it is no wonder so many people admit and recant over and over like Mohammed al-Qahtani did.
How did we get to the point that we were so eager for war that we were willing to subject a human to such treatment in exchange for what would most likely be a false confession? Unfortunately, I think that this question can be partially answered by saying that some people have always been there. There is a strange phenomenon in the American (or possibly general Human) psyche in which we are able to dehumanize an entire group of people if we can justify it to ourselves. It was this phenomenon that allowed for nearly 200 years of slavery in the United States which was justified by the church saying that Africans were the direct descendants of Ham and were therefore Canaanites. It was this same phenomenon that allowed nearly 100 years of segregation and rampant lynching in the Southern US by the Klu Klux Klan. It was this phenomenon that led to the murder of millions of Jews during WWII, as well as the imprisonment of Japanese-Americans in American concentration camps during the same time period. This same phenomenon is what has caused many Americans and American Politicians to turn a blind eye while we violate the Geneva convention by torturing people based upon race and religion in Guantanamo Bay.
What can we do to combat this kind of racism in the future? I guess first and foremost we can stop engaging in racism and torture now. Right now the prison at Guantanamo Bay is still open, and we are sending a clear signal to the rest of the world that we are fine with torturing (mostly) innocent people–of the nearly 600 people who have been detained at Guantanamo Bay since the start of the “War on Terror”, only 3 have been convicted of a crime. Next, we have to find common ground on which all sane humans can stand while we begin our march towards a new tomorrow. It will only be by focusing on what we have in common that we will be able to work through our differences. We also need to go out of our way to form relationships with people from different backgrounds. It is hard to dehumanize Arabs or Black People if you have Arab friends and Black friends. Finally, as with most other problems, we need to educate our children. Only when children are taught that people of different races and religions are just as valuable as we are can we move past this horrible behaviour we have shown.