Omar Khadr – a Canadian citizen abducted by US forces at the age of fifteen, has now spent over a quarter of his life beyond the reach of even the most basic humanitarian organizations – at Guantanamo Bay.
A video of formerly classified interrogation tapes from Guantanamo Bay has been released. The sound is poor, but at various points Omar can be heard asking for help, and perhaps even asking to be killed. Arabic translators at CBC translate the repetitious cry toward the end as ya’ummi – “Mom!”. I’m reminded of something told to me by a relative who used to work in a nursing home: People always call for their mother just before they die.
He – along with all the other inmates there – has been reduced to what Agamben calls the state of zoe – bare life, he who has been excluded from the social life, he who can be killed as one would kill an animal. (It is unclear to me whether he also constitutes the homo sacer, precisely since he can be murdered, either officially after a show trial, or in his cell under cover of night).
In the eyes of the US government, and in their inaction, apparently in the eyes of the Canadian government as well, he is nothing more than an animal.
When will the Allied Troops of the present day invade and liberate these prisoners, who – barring anything resembling a legal process for their detention, torture, and murder (see also the rash of suicides) – must at the least be considered inmates of a concentration camp?
He complains that he can’t move his arms and hasn’t received proper medical attention.”I’m not a doctor, but I think you’re getting good medical care,” the interrogator responds. As with all the agents in the video, his face is blacked out to protect his identity.
Khadr cries, “I lost my eyes. I lost my feet. Everything!” in reference to how the firefight in Afghanistan affected his vision.
“No, you still have your eyes and your feet are still at the end of your legs, you know,” a man says.
When the agent accuses Khadr of crying to avoid interrogation, Khadr tells the agent between gasping sobs, “You don’t care about me.”
As Khadr continues crying, the agent calls for a break.
“Look, I want to take a few minutes. I want you to get yourself together. Relax a bit. Have a bite to eat and we’ll start again,” the interrogator says.
Khadr chants in haunting voice
Then Khadr begins sobbing with his head in both his hands, chanting over and over again in a haunting voice. His words are difficult to hear, and at first could be taken for “Kill me” or “Help me.”
However, Arabic speakers working at CBCNews.ca say the teenager appears to be keening “Ya ummi,” which is Arabic for “My mother.”
In the next interview excerpt, Khadr sits on a blue couch looking down as he is questioned. He mumbles short answers and declines an offer of food.
This video is difficult to watch. It’s not optional for those of us whose inability to stop our government, and who share in that responsibility.