Tuesday, March 07, 2006

THE UNITED STATES UNDER GEORGE W. BUSH has become synonymous with imperialism, tyranny, and torture. Mind-numbing, unimaginably brutal, heartless, soul-destroying torture.

Since I started this blog almost two years ago, I have read more and written more about torture, both physical and psychological, than I could have dreamed would be possible, given that it is my government that is committing the torture.

Jeanne at Body and Soul describes some of what was done to Mohammed al-Qahtani, the suspected twentieth 9/11 hijacker. These events were reported at length in Time magazine, last year and just a few days ago. Both articles are based on secret logs obtained by Time; and now, in addition, Time has made the complete log available online.

For some reason, the psychological torment, designed to destroy the prisoner emotionally, is even more painful to read about than physical torture:

Detainee began to cry during pride and ego down. Detainee was reminded that no one loved, cared or remembered him. He was reminded that he was less than human and that animals had more freedom and love than he does. He was taken outside to see a family of banana rats. The banana rats were moving around freely, playing, eating, showing concern for one another. Detainee was compared to the family of banana rats and reinforced that they had more love, freedom, and concern than he had. Detainee began to cry during this comparison.

What legitimate or useful purpose is being served here? Clearly, there is no way any person can provide accurate, reliable, truthful information when he is in a state of emotional and mental breakdown. A third-grader could tell you that you can't get accurate information this way. The only purpose of this kind of treatment is to gratify a sadistic need to inflict pain.

Here is another episode:

Interrogator began by reminding the detainee about the lessons in respect and how the detainee had disrespected the interrogators. Told detainee that a dog is held in higher esteem because dogs know right from wrong and know to protect innocent people from bad people. Began teaching the detainee lessons such as stay, come, and bark to elevate his social status up to that of a dog. Detainee became very agitated. ... Detainee offered food and water -- refused. Dog tricks continued and detainee stated he should be treated like a man.

We are a "lawless, barbarian nation," Arthur says. He suggests that, if we have the stomach for it, we should read the article by Dahr Jamail on the "trail of torture" from Guantanamo to Iraq, which is posted at TomDispatch.com; and also Tom's introduction to Jamail's piece.

Here are the last few paragraphs of "Tracing the Trail of Torture," which Arthur quotes as well:

Testifying at the same commission of inquiry as Karpinski, Michael Ratner, once head of the National Lawyers' Guild, now president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and an expert on international human rights law, caught the essence of our present situation:

"Let there be no doubt this administration is engaged in massive violations of the law. Torture is an international crime. What [George Bush] has done is basically lay the plan for what has to be called a coup-d'etat in America. [His Presidential Signing Statement attached to the McCain anti-torture amendment] makes three points ... First, speaking as the President, my authority as commander in chief allows me to do whatever I think is necessary in the war on terror including use torture. Second, the Commander in Chief cannot be checked by Congress. Third, the Commander in Chief cannot be checked by the courts. In other words ... George Bush is the law."

Torture is usually defined as "infliction of severe physical pain as a means of punishment or coercion," or as "excruciating physical or mental pain, agony." No civilized society can accept laws which justify the use of torture. So it's not surprising that Ali Abbas was astonished to discover Americans willing to inflict such humiliating and inhumane treatment on him while he was in their custody in Abu Ghraib. "They cannot be human beings and do these things," was the way he put it. He concluded: "This, what happened to me, could happen to anybody in Iraq."

Unfortunately, what happened to him can now conceivably happen to anyone, anywhere in the world, according to George Bush.

One of the last things Abbas said as our interview ended was: "Saddam Hussein was a cruel enemy to us. Once I made it to Abu Ghraib though, I wished I had been killed by him rather than being alive with the Americans. Even now, after this journey of torture and suffering, what else can I think?"

1 comment:

The Heretik said...

Good job.