Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mamdouh Habib

I'm going back to Guantanamo Bay.

Mamdouh Habib.

I don't know if this guy is guilty or innocent.

I know you can't go on looks alone.  But he LOOKS very nice. He doesn't look like a terrorist. He looks like someone's really nice neighbor. He looks like someone who owns a restaurant and is always extra nice to the kids who come in.

Lord Wiki doesn't give his exact birthday. He just says that Habib was born in Egypt in 1956. He moved to Australia in 1980. He would have been 34.

In 1990, Habib had problems with the Defense Housing Authority. Habib lost a contract with them and started making threatening phone calls. Lord Wiki says they took out an apprehended violence order against him. I'm guessing this is the same as a restraining order?

The Defense Housing Authority provides housing for members of the Australia Defense Force. I wonder why Habib had a contract with them? Was he part of the defense force? Or perhaps he was an employee of the organization?

Habib ended up in court over the issue. His psychiatrist said he was depressed and on Prozac. It sounds really sad....a lot of crying. Hopelessness. But the psychiatrist believed that Habid was NOT violent or capable of violence.

In 2001, police believed Habid showed hostility towards government organizations. The Protective Services Group did an assessment of him and concluded that his bark was worse than his bite.

In October of that year he was arrested in Pakistan. Australian authorities claimed they had proof that he was involved with Al-Qaeda training camps.

Habib says he was tortured in Pakistan; and that an Australian was there witnessing the whole thing.

He was next sent to Egypt where he says he experienced more torture.

Oh! He used to be a coffee shop owner!   I knew he was a restaurant guy.

Habib confessed to many terrorism crimes. But then later retracted these, saying the confessions were forced out of him with torture.

That's the thing about torture. If torture could bring about the truth, I think it would be a necessary evil. But torture doesn't give us the truth. It just gives the torturers what they want to hear.

After Egypt, Habit went to Guantanamo Bay where he received various types of abuse. He says the interrogators told him his family was dead. That's very cruel.

The US government made several accusations against Habib, but he was never formally charged. These include training the hijackers, transferring chemical weapons, and conducting surveillance.

In January 2005, the US government decided they didn't have enough evidence; and so they let Habib go. Was he welcomed back to Australia with open arms? No. The government took his passport away, and said we'll be watching you.

I think this is interesting. Australia now has a law that says it's illegal to be involved with terrorist organizations. But when Habib was arrested that law was not in place. Therefore, he can't be charged with it. So, is this about a truly innocent man who was wrongly accused? Or is it about a guilty man getting off on a technicality?

John Howard refused to give Habib an apology. Would he have acted any differently if Habib had not been a Muslim?

It seems Habib's problems continued after returning to Australia. In August 2005, he was attacked by three men. They said this should keep you quiet. In March 2006, he witnessed a murder. When he went to the police, they weren't exactly nice to him.

Habib later turned to politics. He tried joining the Labor party via the Auburn seat in Sydney; but he didn't get enough votes.

I'm going to now leave Lord Wiki and look elsewhere.

This BBC article gives Habib's reasons for going to Pakistan. He says he was there because the family was thinking of moving to Pakistan. He was checking out the schools.

Besides the coffee shop, he also drove a taxi and ran a dry cleaning business. He's married to a woman named Maha, and they have four children. He's very religious and taught Islam at a high school.

Habib's wife says his depression came from feeling he was being targeted by Australian authorities. This happened in the early 1990's when he visited his sister in NYC. He also happened to visit a man named Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Rahman was later sent to prison for being involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

Maha says her husband did not support terrorism. He was just trying to help Rahman with his diabetes. He felt compassion for a sick man. Okay. Maybe I believe this. Maybe I don't. I'm not sure yet.

So, he has the Australian police watching him. That would probably make the average human feel targeted and defensive. Then the best friend of one of Habib's sons was fatally shot. It seems all of this is what made Habib consider abandoning Australia for Pakistan. He went there in July and was arrested in October. Why was he there for so long? That's a long time to be away from one's family just to look at schools.

This New York Times article from 2005 says that Habib still had a bruise on his back, cigarette burn scars on his chest, and a mark on forehead. He says all of these come from being abused and tortured.

He also says he was psychologically tortured. At one point, a female interrogator reached under her skirt and flung what seemed to be menstrual blood in his face. Gross. He was forced to see photographs with his wife's face superimposed on naked bodies.

Australian intelligence officials say that a few days before September 11, Habib called his wife and told him something big was going to happen in the United States. Yikes.

The article describes the torture he received in Pakistan. He was interrogated by Australians and Americans. He was defiant and refused to talk. They started torturing him. First they said he'd never see his family again. Then they gave him to some Pakistani interrogators. He was put into a room where they used a torture technique involving barrels and electric wiring. When he refused to confess to being part of a 1995 terrorist plot, they turned on the electricity. He still refused to confess, and then they gave him back to some American thugs who beat him up.

Then America had a brilliant plan. Since they didn't (at the time) support torture, they sent him to Egypt which does. Yeah. Get the Egyptians to do your dirty work.

The guy received more and more torture.

It's very scary.

He's a troubled man though. Can we believe him? Can we take the word of a man who is both Islamic and hostile towards Australian/American governments?

Are we allowed to be negative towards our government and choose a religion that's not in the mainstream?

Let's see what the World Socialist Website has to say about all of this.

They say Habib is an Australian citizen. I was wondering about that. I didn't know if he was a citizen or a legal resident.

They say he was denied a lawyer until 2004. Oh crap. He was detained for about two years without a lawyer. That's not good.

Oh good. They have an interview with him. He says, I think of the Australian people as part of my family and that this is a peaceful country. The problem is with the government.

This is how I feel about America. I love the people--well, for the most part. I don't think there's really anything wrong with us as a whole. But we do have a seriously awful government right now. And I know people blame us because we voted him in. But that's not exactly true. Close to half of us DIDN'T want Bush. I think most of the other half were brainwashed with fear.

This quote makes me very sad. I’ve tried to explain since I came home that I didn’t commit any crime but had been kidnapped and that the Australian government, which should be like parents and always look after its children, was involved. I still don't know if he was guilty or innocent of being involved with terrorists. But if he was innocent, I feel so incredibly bad for him. I think we count on our countries being there for us. And when they betray and/or deny us, it's a huge rejection. Although he shouldn't be surprised. It's not like he had a friendly relationship with the government before he left for Pakistan. In fact, he was so unhappy in Australia he had wanted to live in Pakistan.

Okay, this is interesting. Habib describes how his arrest in Pakistan happened. He was on a bus. Authorities came and removed two young German men. The German men didn't know English so Habib tried to help them. When he was helping them, he got arrested along with them. So, if he hadn't been a good Samaritan, would he have been left alone?

Is this the story of a guy who stands up for the underdog and gets in trouble for it. Yeah, I know you might be a Terrorist. But you have Diabetes. You're sick and you need a friend. I'll be there for you.

Maybe he just has a kind heart.

Habib describes a section of Guantanamo Bay called Camp 5. He says its purpose is to drive the prisoners insane. Bright lights are kept on in the cells all day. There is loud music and extreme cold temperatures.

He says Australia has a law that if you're a suspected terrorist they can detain you without telling your family members. If your family members do find out they're not allowed to go to the media.

The title of this Sydney Morning Herald article expresses my feelings quite well. What should we believe?

The article says that when Habib arrived at Guantanamo he was sent to a military psychiatrist. They diagnosed him as having post traumatic stress disorder and major depression. The American doctors treated him with psychiatric drugs.

So, does this mean the workers at the prison aren't so bad after all?


Probably not.

It's hard to believe one angry and mentally unstable man's allegations of abuse. The thing is though other victims have given matching/similar accounts.

Habib said his capture was a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Australian authorities disagree. They said they have been actively searching for him in Pakistan. So, what was the deal with the Germans then? Was that just a coincidence?

David Hicks says he saw Habib in Afghanistan. Habib refuses to say whether he was there or not. Why? Why would he refuse answer questions about that. That makes me a little suspicious. If he was not there, why not just say that?

Here's something else suspicious. Habib's claims of abuse in Egypt were ignored. Finally, in court he spoke about them. And then this is when the US decided to drop the charges and send him back to Australia.

This website has a transcript of the 60 Minutes interview with Habib.

Habib says, George Bush, he say he never touched nobody. George Bush is a liar. If I’m the worst, why he release me? If I done anything to him, why am I here now? Why he not charging me?

No. I don't think this proves innocence. I'm not an expert at law or anything, but I think there are cases where someone gets released for reasons other than innocence.

The interviewer talks about his connection to Omar Abdul Rahman. She says Habib had fax and telephone contacts with him and another militant Islamic man. Rahman supported the actions of September 11. The interviewer asked Habib if he supported this. Habib said, I didn’t support anybody for what he did. I said I supported deeply for his sickness, that’s all.

In this interview, Habib does not sound supportive of terrorism. He's asked if he believes there's any justification in killing in the name of Allah. Habib says no. He's asked what he thinks of Osama Bin Laden. He said he thought of him as normal before September 11, but he doesn't support what Bin Laden did.

I like what Habib says here in response to whether he warned his wife about something big happening in the United States. My phone at home has been traced for over two year. How come I tell the … my wife, hey, they have attacked the US. You think I’m a stupid terrorist?

Okay. Here too he refuses to answer questions about whether he was in Afghanistan. Why? It reminds me of Dumbeldore refusing to answer certain questions. What's he trying to hide? Is he trying to protect someone?

He does say he'd answer the question in front of a judge.

Why is he being so difficult about that?

Maybe he just wants an excuse to go to court. The article/interview says he wants to go to court so he can tell his side of the story and get his passport back.

The interviewer says, you would rather sit here and let people think you’re a terrorist than tell me what you were doing in Afghanistan?

He responds with.... they shouldn’t think I’m a terrorist. Because if I’m a terrorist, I would be still in Cuba.

No, not quite. I don't buy that.

He DOES say he was never in an Al Qaeda camp. Okay, so he CAN answer that part. But he won't tell what he was actually doing in Afghanistan...or if he was even IN Afghanistan. It almost sounds like he's trying to keep a surprise party secret or something.

His wife says, He’s the best. He’s crazy about his kids, his family, yes. And I don’t call this a terrorist if you cared about your family. He’s not.

So what they're saying is if you are released from an American prison and you love your family this has to mean you're not a terrorist.

I'm sorry, but I don't quite agree with that line of thinking.

Habib has a book out--his memoirs. It's called My Story: the tale of a terrorist who wasn't. I like that title. It might be an interesting book to read.

This article talks about the issue of the torture in Egypt. John Howard claimed they had no idea it happened. But a freedom of information act in Australia has forced the Australian government to admit they have 85,000 pages of documents regarding all of this. 85,000 pages? What in the hell could take up 85,000 pages? And I thought my blog posts were too long!

Here's the sticky part. The department is asking for $200,000 to go through all the documents to decide which are required to be released under the freedom of information act. Wait. Who is supposed to be paying the $200,000? I'm confused. Oh! The Australian...the newspaper. It's where the article I'm reading comes from. Yikes.

This reminds me of when I tried to get my medical charts from my doctor. I think what happened is I tried to glance at my medical chart and the nurse rudely snatched it away. That pissed me off. It's my body, right? It's my medical chart. I had a feeling that the doctor was writing rude things about me. I requested the chart, but never got it. I mean it's partly my fault. I should have worked harder to get it. I gave up too soon. I vaguely remember reading though that although you have the right to get access to your chart, the doctor has the right to have time to rewrite what's written in your chart. So if she writes something nasty about you, she has the chance to delete that part.

The sad thing is I still go to this doctor's office. But they're actually much nicer now.

Anyway, back to Habib.

I really don't know what to believe.

Is Habib an innocent man who was wrongly imprisoned because his religion and origin of birth?

I don't know.

Was Habib involved in Terrorist activities?

I don't know.

Should anyone (whether innocent or guilty) be subjected to repetitive psychological and physical abuse?

No! Definitely not.

Should innocent Americans and Australians be victims of Terrorist attacks?

No! Definitely not.

We're living in a complicated world. There's a lot of very cruel people out there.


  1. Oh this is complicated and I must admit to not reading up on this or having seen any of the interviews.

    Whatever he did or did not do....will we ever know because of the vile torture? You know torture seems okay on 24 when Jack wants to stop a bomb or a biological weapon but when he himself is tortured...we cringe.

    I do not know about the reason for him wanting his day in court....I will try to read up on this but with the situation in Palestine and Israel at present there is so much to stay up to date about.

    You know what does strikes me is that because he is a family man he may appear to not be a terrorist or supporter of such but those schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan are full of boys who have parents who support the extremist form of Islam. I wonder what sort of school he was checking out?

    Dina, what is it with the comment before mine?

  2. Another well-researched post!

    I believe that we cannot ever know what was deep in the hearts of Mamdouh Habib or David Hicks. So we can never really know whether they are "innocent or guilty". But we can know, that by associating with terrorist organisations pre 9/11, they were not guilty of any crime. Association with terrorists post 9/11 is definitely a crime (although a fuzzy one if you ask me), but before that I can imagine that many muslims, upset with world events, and completely unaware of Bin Laden's plans, were attracted to the idea of associating with like-minded individuals.

    So, was that a criminal offence in the country in which they were captured? No. Was it a criminal offence in the country of their citizenship? No.

    Our anti-terrorist laws (new and controversial) revolt me. That is a purely personal opinion. I think they are about shutting the door after the horse has bolted.

    More effort should be directed towards peace and resolution rather than war, death and fear-mongering. For every person treated in the manner of Mahmoud, lord knows HOW many more muslim men decide to become "freedom fighters" (for that is how they see themselves too).

    What a world.


  3. Magikquilter,

    I'm guessing the comment before you is an advertisement. I don't know though, so I'm giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. He did take the time to figure out this blog was about Australia and mentioned that. II figure if people are going to use my blog to advertise that they at least TRY to appear that they read it.

    I think a family man can still be a terrorist. My feeling is why not? You can love your family and hate others. Good question about the school. I guess the issue is you can be extreme in your religion without believing in murder. We know Habib was VERY religious, but does that mean he believed in the violent stuff.

    Fe: My husband and I talk about all of this. The whole idea of a war to end terror is ridiculous. You can't end terrorism. It's always going to be around...in various forms. And yeah. The Iraq war is not going to end terrorism. It just creates more angry people and more terrorists.

    It's not that I think we should just smile at terrorist acts and say "Oops. Sorry we pissed you off. I guess we got what we deserved."

    I think there should be proper investigations and REASONABLE punishments.

    But to use the death of 3000 people as an excuse to kill many more thousand people? It's ridiculous.

    It's like little children fighting in a preschool. Johnny bites Billy so then Billy hits Johnny. For revenge, Johnny knocks down Billy's block building. Billy can knock down Johnny's building or he can put an end to the stupidity by not retaliating. Maybe he can just do a better job protecting his block building in the future.

    I don't know.

    I think being attacked by terrorism is a good excuse for better border security and...well, just being more careful. It's not an excuse to start a war and torture people.

    I think we can make a good analogy between Hicks and Habid to America.

    Hicks and Habib might not have been decent people. They might have done wrong things. Whether they were innocent or guilty, it doesn't matter. They shouldn't have been illegally detained and tortured. The same thing for America. Our government might have done some bad things. But it doesn't mean we should have been attacked.

    My sister used to say "Two wrongs don't make a right."

    Very true.

    It just creates a lot of corpses.

    Who knows. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe a war CAN end Terrorism. Maybe this war will end Terrorism and we'll realize that we were wrong all along. Bush was the hero who saved the world. Then after we're rid of terrorism, how about a war to end rape? What about a war to end child abuse? Let's just keep killing people. Eventually all our problems will go away.

  4. Couldn't agree more. Except that I think that America shouldn't have said "Kill 3000 of our people?... (even though we've been killing yours for years) We'll start a war with you and will kill 300,000 of your people. So there!"

    That was the "two wrongs don't make a right" that I can't get past.

    And that Bush did the whole "You're with us, or you're against us" routine in order to get "support" from the coalition.

    Oh how I wish I was a fly on the wall at the highest level of decision making in my country at THAT moment in time.

    Did you notice that the TV show "Howard" barely touched upon it? (or was I blocking it out because of my subliminal anger?!) All he really said was "We're friends and so I will support my friend" about why Australia followed so quickly into the war on terror.

    NB... as a funny side note... the word verification on this post is "palin". Ha Ha!! I support it could be Michael Palin (British actor) but I can't help but think it's Sarah!

    Happy New Year sweetie xoxo

  5. Fe,

    Well you should TRY to agree with me more because You're either with me or against me. Don't you know that. And I don't want 100% agreement. I want 150% agreement.

    Got it?

    Fly on the wall? I didn't think Australian flies went on the wall. I though they dug into eyeballs and nostrils. I'm not sure I'd want to be going up John Howard's nose.

    That's funny about the Palin thing. I think those word verification things are trying to send us messages.

    I went to a crazy party tonight. And maybe it explains why I rarely leave my house to socialize. Remember, I live in Texas...total Bush country here.

    First these people had an editorial on their fridge talking about how they're not racist, but they want their leaders to have an American heritage. As Tim said...If someone has to say "We're not racist" you know it's going to be racist. I guess the general idea was we don't dislike Obama because he's black. We dislike him because his family hasn't been around long enough. In other words, damn you for not being on the Mayflower.

    Then this guy started asking me if I was Scottish because of my last name. I said no. We changed it when we came over. He looked quite puzzled about that. He asked why we changed it. He had quite the shocked (uncomfortable) look when I told him I was Jewish.

    Then he started talking about Gaza and how the Palestinians should just be thrown into the water.

    I was kind of speechless and should have said something biting. Instead I just kind of mumbled a "Um...well, they're human."

    I defended the Palestinians and he suggested I need to watch more Fox news.

    Oh and then there was a conversation about fishing and hunting. Some man said. "Yeah. Well I was in the army. So after that it's not much fun shooting something that can't shoot back."

    Anyway, I think at the time I had a mixture of disgust and amusement. Kind of like being in some kind of cultural immersion thing. But later I thought of it and felt more angry.

    These people are religious Christians. And here they want to send Palestinians into the sea. I don't care what your politics are. I don't care if you're on the Israeli side or the Palestinian side. The blood thirsty callousness is disgusting. How can someone say they follow the teachings of Jesus and then say something like that?