Letter to the White House

I cannot sleep, I cannot eat. I’m scared to walk to the bathroom because I’m afraid they will hunt me down.… I’m not the same. — An American citizen trapped in Kuwait

Here is my letter:

Sir, please intervene to ensure that Gulet Mohamed, age 19, of Alexandria, Virginia, is returned home from prison in Kuwait. According to the New York Times, the Kuwaiti government is prepared to release him from prison, but the United States will neither cooperate with Kuwait nor allow him to fly home once he is released.

I am alarmed to read that Mohamed was likely arrested at the behest of U.S. authorities; that he incurred our government’s suspicion because he is an observant, non-white Muslim; and that while in detention he was beaten, accused of terrorism, and told that his family would suffer if he did not confess.

This incident and others like it lead me to believe that our government’s efforts against terrorism are too influenced by fear and prejudice, rather than by coherent strategy. Episodes like this are a gift to Salafi extremists who wish to portray the United States as an enemy of all the world’s Muslims.

If this is still a land of liberty and justice, Gulet Mohamed must be returned home as soon as possible, with a formal apology for the terror we have caused our ally to inflict on him.

I am deeply saddened and alarmed for the future of my country.

Citizens of the United States should be free to travel the world at their own risk. That rule does not change because the citizen is named “Mohamed.”

Traveling to Yemen is not a crime. I considered doing it myself in 2001, to study Arabic, until 9/11 changed my mind.

Recently I had begun to think it might be OK to go there now. I should not have to hesitate out of fear of my own government.

Beating a prisoner on the soles of the feet is incredibly painful, yet it leaves no marks that could prove mistreatment. And this has become an acceptable way to treat U.S. citizens.

We’re not talking about the fantasy life of Jack Bauer. In real life, torture is used to terrorize the innocent and make them say they’re guilty.

This must stop. We are no longer talking about a few rogue officials, or over-zealous reactions to 9/11.

We are getting to the point where torture is a routine instrument of U.S. policy. That is a line we never have crossed, and we must not cross it now.

I hate to be a drag. But if we once cross that line, you can kiss all that liberty-and-justice stuff good-bye.

And make sure you don’t get caught doing it.

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