From the Rude PunditLet us say, and why not, that you were Hani Abdul Muslih al Shulan, late of Yemen. And let us say, and, indeed, why not, that in late 2001, the Pakistani military, to which you claim you turned yourself in back in August when you realized shit was going down on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, gave you to the United States, who then sent you down to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility because you were carrying an AK-47 and you were wearing a kind of watch that al-Qaeda has used in bombs and you stayed at some Taliban safehouses along your travels from Yemen to a town just north of Kabul. You say you were looking for a job and were offered one. You say you were a chef's assistant and, no shit, you had a gun. Everyone in the barbaric mountains around you had one.
Maybe this is too specific. Let's make this a bit more abstract. Instead, let's say that you were held without charge or ability to contact your family for six years in, oh, hell, Belgium. There, you were beaten and placed in solitary confinement and forced to endure interrogations that involved blaring music and extreme temperatures and fear-up techniques, and you knew about jackshit about anything your captors wanted to know. Six years of your life, man, and you didn't do a goddamn thing. And the only chance you had to challenge your detention was in a hearing where you couldn't see all the evidence against you. Then, after that six years, you're returned back to your home country, and the people who do want to blow up some Belgians (because their delicious waffles are too tempting) get in touch with you and say, "Hey, man, those Belgians fucked up your world. You wanna fight 'em? We'll call it a job and pay you." Well, what the hell else are you gonna do?
Shit, in our movies, we get off on the protagonist going back and killing the people who tortured them. It's pretty much the plot of every other American action flick. More poignantly, the visceral rush of the South Korean film Oldboy, where a man is kept confined for 15 years and never told why, is subverted by its last act, when the price of vengeance is revealed to be so much higher than simply going on. But when Oh Dae-Su is beating his former captors with a hammer? That's catharsis.
Hani al-Shulan seems like the classic case of a loser being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Repeatedly, it seems, since he was killed last month in an airstrike. There's others, like Ibrahim Sulayman Muhammad Arbaysh, who was sent to Saudi Arabia for anti-jihad re-education after five years at Gitmo. One imagines that it involved book work and electrodes on the balls. He escaped and went to Yemen to get his jihad on. This is not to pronounce guilt or innocence on any of the men. It is to say that guilt or innocence should have been pronounced.
The idea that some released Gitmo detainees might actually be pissed off at the United States, no matter how radical they were before their imprisonment without charge, has provoked huffy, self-righteous outrage from conservative commentators and politicians, especially in the wake of the Christmas taint bomber. David Limbaugh, Rush's vestigial tail, calls for Obama to stop sending detainees back to their homes. With its dying breaths, the Washington Times says the same thing, offering that "Obama sends reinforcements to al Qaeda."
We are incapable of dealing with the notion that whether you're the good guy or the bad guy is a matter of perception. And that sometimes the United States is the bad guy. Unless we're willing to confront that and do something about it (like, at minimum, apologize and offer compensation), then we shouldn't be surprised that Yemeni Mel Gibsons will seek to go all Lethal Weapon on us.