Sabin Willett, who represents some of the detainees at Guantanamo, has written an editorial about one of his clients, Saddiq:
"Saddiq is one of the many mistakes at Guantanamo Bay. In 2005 our military admitted that he was not an enemy combatant, but the government hasn't been able to repatriate him. (By a curious irony, Saddiq's opposition to Osama bin Laden makes him too hot to handle in his native Saudi Arabia.) So he lives behind razor wire in Camp Iguana, with eight other men whom the military cleared long ago but who are nevertheless forbidden newspapers, visits from loved ones, English-language dictionaries -- and flowers."
The detainees at Camp Iguana -- all of whom have been found not to be enemy combatants -- wanted to plant a garden, and their lawyers asked the military to allow them to do so, but the military refused. Still:
"I was trying to explain this to Saddiq, along with other inexplicable things (such as how it is that innocent men can be held for years in an American prison), when he said, "We planted a garden. We have some small plants -- watermelon, peppers, garlic, cantaloupe. No fruit yet. There's a lemon tree about two inches tall, though it's not doing well."
"The guards gave you tools?"
He shook his head.
"Then -- how do you dig?" I was struggling to grasp this.
"Spoons," he said. "And a mop handle."
The soil in Camp Iguana is dry and brittle as flint. And I've seen the spoons they give our clients.
"But the spoons are plastic -- aren't they?"
Saddiq nodded. "At night we poured water on the ground. In the morning, we pounded it with the mop handle and scratched it with the spoons. You can loosen about this much." He held his thumb and forefinger about a half-inch apart. "The next day, we did it again. And so on until we had a bed for planting." He shrugged. "We have lots of time, here."
"But the seeds?" I asked. "Did they give you seeds?"
After four years at Guantanamo, Saddiq rarely smiles, but his face seemed to brighten then. "Sometimes, with the meal, they give us a bit of watermelon or cantaloupe to eat. We save the seeds.""
"When our meeting was over, the flowers had wilted. Saddiq picked up the little nosegay. "May I take these back to Camp Iguana?"
But flowers are contraband. He wasn't allowed to keep them."
So everything is stood on its head. In the land of liberty, the innocent are in prison while those who imprisoned them receive the Medal of (of all things) Freedom. In a country which is supposed to be governed by laws, not men, judges determine that their detention is illegal but have "no relief to offer". And to top it all off, we post mortal men with flaming swords at Guantanamo's gates to keep gardens away from the innocent.
Sabin Willett quotes Gerard Manley Hopkins:
"And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings."
I will add two more. Emerson:
" A garden has this advantage, that it makes it indifferent where you live. A well-laid garden makes the face of the country of no account; let that be low or high, grand or mean, you have made a beautiful abode worthy of man."
And the Book of Isaiah:
"None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity.
They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he that eateth of their eggs dieth, and that which is crushed breaketh out into a viper.
Their webs shall not become garments, neither shall they cover themselves with their works: their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands.
Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.
The way of peace they know not; and there is no judgment in their goings: they have made them crooked paths: whosoever goeth therein shall not know peace.
Therefore is judgment far from us, neither doth justice overtake us: we wait for light, but behold obscurity; for brightness, but we walk in darkness.
We grope for the wall like the blind, and we grope as if we had no eyes: we stumble at noon day as in the night; we are in desolate places as dead men.
We roar all like bears, and mourn sore like doves: we look for judgment, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far off from us.
For our transgressions are multiplied before thee, and our sins testify against us: for our transgressions are with us; and as for our iniquities, we know them;
In transgressing and lying against the LORD, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood.
And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.
And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him."