GUANTANAMO A DIFFICULT IMPORT
There’s a good feature up at The Guardian by David Rose, the British journalist who was the first person to interview the “Tipton Three” following the release of these British Muslims from Guantanamo Bay. Now he’s writing about the film by Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitcross, The Road to Guantanmo and discussing its chances of being released in the U.S:
To date, says producer Andrew Eaton, the film is set to be shown in 18 countries. But as yet, although there have been expressions of interest, there is no distribution deal for the one nation where it most urgently needs to be screened – the United States. One line, barked by guards and interrogators, runs through the film repetitively – ‘Shut the fuck up!’ At present, it serves as an unintentional metaphor. Faced with international criticism not only for Guantanamo but other outrages, such as the ‘extraordinary rendition’ of terrorist suspects for torture by friendly Third World dictatorships, much of America has resolutely closed its ears. In the big East Coast papers, and in publications such as the New York Review of Books, the use of torture in the war on terror has been exposed, debated and condemned. Elsewhere, it barely seems to register: in the 2004 election, John Kerry failed to mention Guantanamo even once. Just possibly, the vivid imagery and warm characterisation of The Road to Guantanamo might begin to pierce the carapace.
At the same time, as I watched this familiar story being given such shocking and authentic new life, I could only shudder at the thought of its effect in the Muslim world. Since it opened in 2002, Guantanamo has become a rallying point, cited time and again on Islamist websites and in the Arab press as a justification for creating more suicide ‘martyrs’. For two-and-a-half years, the Tipton Three’s families lived in a state of anguish, unaware what their boys were supposed to have done, or whether they would ever be free. Replicated across the Muslim world, such experiences have tapped new veins of anti-American rage.
‘The guy with the crewcut, the club and the crucifix, standing over the detainee in goggles and chains symbolises not only American oppression of the Third World, but also the oppression by governments friendly to America inside Muslim countries,’ Dr Tim Winter, lecturer in Islamic studies at Cambridge told me after the Tipton men were freed. A senior US Defense Intelligence Agency official added: ‘It’s an international PR disaster. Maybe the guy who goes into Guantanamo was a farmer who got swept along and did very little. He’s going to come out a fully fledged jihadist. And for every detainee, I’d guess you create another 10 terrorists or supporters of terrorism.’
Tessa Ross, head of film and drama at Channel 4, which provided the entire £1.3 million budget, admits she is ‘concerned’ about the possible effect on some Muslim audiences. Then neither she nor the filmmakers created Guantanamo, and arguably, until this story has been fully and widely told, its injustices will never be redressed. (Pressed by the Commons Foreign Affairs committee two weeks ago, Tony Blair refused to go further than his previous comment that the camp is merely an ‘anomaly’.)