Ghosts of Bagram


I’ve written about ‘haunting’ before, but Asim Rafiqui has an elegaic photo-essay over at Warscapes on The Ghosts of Bagram that adds other dimensions and deserves the widest audience.  Over the last several months I’ve been compiling what has turned into a fat dossier to help me revise my essay on Guantanamo, “The Black Flag” (DOWNLOADS tab), for The everywhere war; in particular, I’m determined to  incorporate other sites in the global war prison – notably Bagram in Afghanistan – because the (in)constant attention focused on Guantanamo artfully distracts the public gaze from these other sites.

No doubt Obama will say he is as ‘haunted‘ by his failure to close Guantanamo as he is by the killing of civilians by US drones in Waziristan.  But here is Rafiqui on the other ghosts from Pakistan:

‘They are ghosts, and I have spent nearly two months trying to find any evidence of them. They are the 40 Pakistani men who remain imprisoned, without charge or evidence, by the Americans at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. They have not been see or heard by anyone other than their immediate families who are granted carefully monitored and heavily censored telephone and internet video call access. Some of the men have been in Bagram, often called one of America’s most notorious prisons, for over 11 years. Denied access to the press, human rights organizations, and legal representation, these men have been silenced and erased, the evidence and rationale for their incarceration beyond the eyes, ears and focus of the public and the media. This is intentional and part of a process of systemic dehumanization that enables the unjust detention and cruel prison conditions the men face. Until 2012, their own government refused to recognize them as citizens of Pakistan. I have spent two months traveling across Pakistan trying to discover something, anything, about them.’

In 2008 the US Supreme Court in Boumedienne vs. Bush extended the right of habeas corpus protections to non-citizens detained at Guantanamo.  But those incarcerated at Bagram, many of them not only from Afghanistan and Pakistan but also from Iraq, central Africa and south east Asia, are beyond the reach of the writ: see Andrew Tutt on ‘Boumedienne’s wake’ here and, for a more comprehensive analysis,  Janet Cooper Alexander on ‘The law free zone and back again’ here.   If you need background on Bagram, try Lisa Hajjar on Bagram as ‘Obama’s GITMO’ here, and for the global war prison more generally Laleh Khalili‘s Time in the Shadows.

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