Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer — the two American hikers who were freed last week after more than two years of imprisonment in Iran — held a revealing press conference this morning that shined a light on the United States’ hypocritical national security policies.
Fattal and Bauer began by describing their horrible treatment while imprisoned in Iran, saying that “we have been held in almost total isolation from the world and everything we love, stripped of our rights and freedom. … Solitary confinement was the worst experience of our lives.” Fattal went on to say that “[m]any times, too many times, we heard the screams of other prisoners being beaten and there was nothing we could do to help them.”
If their ordeal sounds familiar, perhaps it’s because it is so similar to the way that the United States treats its prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and other military prisons across the globe. The United States holds detainees for years at a time without any hope of due process, and has been unapologetic about using torture to interrogate prisoners.
Indeed, that irony was not lost on Fattal and Bauer. As Bauer explained:
“In prison, every time we complained about our conditions, the guards would remind us of comparable conditions at Guantanamo Bay; they’d remind us of CIA prisons in other parts of the world; and conditions that Iranians and others experience in prisons in the U.S.
We do not believe that such human rights violation on the part of our government justify what has been done to us: not for a moment. However, we do believe that these actions on the part of the U.S. provide an excuse for other governments — including the government of Iran — to act in kind.”
Bauer is exactly right. The United States’ deplorable treatment of its detainees does not justify Iran’s, but it should not go unnoticed in this story. How can the United States criticize Iran’s treatment of American prisoners, when it would treat suspected Iranian spies captured in the United States in almost the exact same manner?
The mere fact that the United States’ human rights record can now be reasonably compared to Iran’s is an embarrassment. When Senator Obama was running for president, he promised to close Guantanamo Bay and end the use of torture on detainees. As Joshua Fattal and Shane Bauer have reminded us, we’re still waiting for him to follow through.