Our Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror

Our Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror

Our Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror

Our Nation Unhinged: The Human Consequences of the War on Terror


Jose Padilla short-shackled and wearing blackened goggles and earmuffs to block out all light and sound on his way to the dentist. Fifteen-year-old Omar Khadr crying out to an American soldier, "Kill me!" Hunger strikers at Guantánamo being restrained and force-fed through tubes up their nostrils. John Walker Lindh lying naked and blindfolded in a metal container, bound by his hands and feet, in the freezing Afghan winter night. This is the story of the Bush administration's response to the attacks of September 11, 2001--and of how we have been led down a path of executive abuses, human tragedies, abandonment of the Constitution, and the erosion of due process and liberty. In this vitally important book, Peter Jan Honigsberg chronicles the black hole of the American judicial system from 2001 to the present, providing an incisive analysis of exactly what we have lost over the past seven years and where we are now headed.


As I write this in August 2008, some men have been kept prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for six and a half years. They are essentially held in solitary confinement. They have been prisoners longer than World War II, longer than World War I, longer than the Civil War. Only one has received a trial.

A particularly shameful aspect of a truly shameful episode of American history is that no one except the lawyers representing these men—not the United States, not its courts—seems to feel the slightest urgency in determining whether these men should continue to be held as prisoners. No court has granted expedited review for any of the proceedings concerning these men and their legal claims. the Bush administration has won in its claim of power to detain individuals without due process simply by endlessly protracting the proceedings. Each day, the men who are held captive at Guantanamo are denied the chance to see their children and their loved ones; each day, they are denied freedom even though they have never been tried or convicted of any crime.

I have been representing one of these men, Salim Gherebi, for over six years now. He grew up in Libya and is married and a father of three. He has never met his youngest child, because his wife was pregnant at the time he was apprehended. Gherebi is in his late forties but looks older. He is under six feet and slight in build. I can say in all honesty, without revealing any classified information, that I have no idea why he is there. He may be a very dangerous man and deserve to be incarcerated, or he may be there by mistake. That is what a trial is supposed to determine.

Professor Peter Jan Honigsberg has written a magnificent book telling the story of what has occurred since September 11, 2001, and how the Bush administration has betrayed the most basic principles of constitutional law and international human rights protections. He tells the story of Guantanamo in moving, human terms, and he also shows how it relates to the other abuses that have occurred over the last seven years.

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