This 208 page graphic novel, is indeed graphic. The unbelievable horrors detailed in the stories shared are all sourced and referenced in the nonfiction anthology. The intent isn’t shock and awe like the war that created such abysmal breaches of justice to be done in our name (Americans’), but is definitely a painful reminder of how fear and mismanagement allows the US treatment of individuals to grow and continue outside of the rule of law, and all that the US claims to represent. The careful use of words such as “detainees” instead of “prisoners,” “enemy combatants” instead of “terrorists” or “criminals,” have allowed Muslim men to be held since 2002 without charges, legal representation, habeas corpus, or basic human rights. When the prison was being filled, you’d hear about it in the news, when the government released heavily redacted reports on torture, you’d catch a headline or two, but there are still people being held, and for the most part, we, the world, have perhaps forgotten. This book is a reminder, it is insight, it is so important that high school and college aged children are aware of what we are capable of, that adults are not allowed to forget what we are doing. As it says in the intro, “To indict the people who did this is to indict the country that allowed it to happen.” We are all guilty, and this book is not an easy to read as it will make you angry, and devastated, and exasperated. Don’t let the graphic novel format and simple text fool you, this is a difficult read, emotionally, and you should force yourself to sit with it- sit with the outrage and frustration, and see if it can spur you to action.
The book is broken up to provide an introduction, map, facts, and a timeline, it then starts with the author arriving for a media tour to Cuba. Some background stories about key individuals in understanding the effects of torture and better and more accurate ways to interrogate, and then the fateful day September, 11, that changed everything. From here the stories are individual accounts of prisoners, lawyers, politicians, etc., each depicted by a different illustrator, to show a very rounded view of the effects of the prison, and thoughts by different people in a variety of associations.
Some of the prisoners were swept up by neighbors responding to leaflets promising wealth for turning people in. Some were taken from their homes for no reason, a few were taken from the battle field, but every single one has never had charges against them, nor a day in court, the few that have been able to be represented have been released without being accused of anything, hence, found to be innocent. The doubling down on the concept of Guantanamo being the worst of the worst, administration after administration has made it so prisoners have to be released to countries they have never been to, with unknown rights or a way forward. Those that are still detained have been there for nearly 20 years.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT THE BOOK:
I like that the book is personal, it is harder to dismiss or forget, or be unaffected when you are looking at images and surrounding yourself with guards and lawyers that are saying over and over, that these prisoners are innocent. I like that it challenges Americans to demand more of America, it isn’t just putting the USA down nor does it read like the narrative has it out for the USA, it is very much an personal calling out, that we have made errors and continue to make errors out of arrogance.
The images and language are at times graphic and one should be aware of the potential triggers of torture, and abuse. There are curse words spoken, and violence detailed. High school and up.