Guest Column: Rep. Manzullo, we need to hear more than ‘I’m sorry’

By Dan Kenney

U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo (R-16) described terror suspects that may be brought to Thomson, Ill., prison as “really, really mean people whose job it is to kill people, driven by some savage religion.”

The next day, a spokesperson from his office said Mr. Manzullo was not referring to Islam itself, but to the suspects’ particular beliefs, which he said had perverted the peaceful nature of the religion. Also, Mr. Manzullo has made an apology emphasizing that he really meant terrorists practice a “violent, anti-modernity version of Wahhabism.”

Regardless of his afterthoughts and after-words, the fear and hate hangs in the air, and the hurt continues to burn. And, isn’t it a sad irony that Mr. Manzullo can refer to the detainees as being driven by a “savage religion,” when those very same individuals have suffered the most savage of interrogation techniques by the hands of our own government while he stood by complicit with his silence?

His web site carries the statement, “The terrorists at Guantanamo Bay are dangerous and brutal killers, many of whom were involved in the attacks on our nation.” And he also signed a letter from Rep. Kirk to President Obama saying it would make Illinois the next ground zero. Mr. Manzullo and his fellow republicans seem to find their strength only by spreading terror. Rep. Manzullo, the line between fear and hatred is too thin to be risking such reckless behavior unbecoming of a representative of the United States. One must ask how many were turned against our country with such a statement about a religion practiced by more than 1.5 billion people.

Also, the statement that all of the detainees are “brutal killers” is more fear-mongering. The reality stated by those who have worked with the U.S. government and with the detainees to ascertain the facts all agree that the majority of those being held are innocent. Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to former secretary of state Colin Powell, told the associated press this March most of those being held were innocent men swept up by U.S. forces unable to distinguish enemies from noncombatants. He said many of those being held in Guantanamo “clearly had no connection to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Pakistanis turned many over for $5,000 a head.”

When one lives in a dark world of fear, you can begin to see figures in the darkness that aren’t really there. your eyes begin to play tricks on you. Spreading fear can also cause you to become blind to the facts. When one loses the ability to remain open to the human dignity for all people, one slips off the cliff of reason and one can then utter words that lump all individuals of a certain group, religion or race into one large category such as “savage.” When that happens, we need to hear more than “I’m sorry.”  We need to hear a man of character stand up for the rights of all human beings, regardless of their religion. We need to hear, Mr. Manzullo,  that you believe in the system of justice in our country. We need to hear you have faith that our system of justice is capable of separating the guilty from the innocent.

And maybe you need to hear this poem from one of the “brutal killers” held at Guantanamo:

Death Poem by Jumah al Dossari

Take my blood.

Take my death shroud and

The remnants of my body.

Take photographs of my corpse

at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,

To the judges and

To the people of conscience,

Send them to the principled men

and the fair-minded.

From the November 25-December 1, 2009 issue

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