blogcritics.orgSecret Prisons, Torture, No Habeas Corpus:Fri Sep 29, 2006 14:56
Secret Prisons, Torture, No Habeas Corpus: Are We Living In Cheney's Butt Instead Of In America?
September 29, 2006
Blow me with vacuum cleaner, it’s weird being alive in America today. I don’t know if I’m living in the most technologically advanced, richest country on earth (with 5% of world population, we have 30% of its wealth), or inside the stinky Darth Vader sphincter musculature of Dickhead Cheney.
First, the good news. iPods. Google. eBay. All manner of free expression on the net, like porn (mothers who love to ..., anyone?). Videogames. Noam Chomsky, the world’s most popular intellectual. And the juicy prospect of having a woman as the main man of the world in 2008.
Now for the bad news.
I won’t go into the Iraq War — over 100,000 dead, including countless women and children, a whole country in an orgy of killing, and for what? Nor will I discuss our humiliating status as the world’s #1 debtor nation, or the fact that we have to suck up to Saudi Arabia for their oil, even though their citizens screwed us big-time on 9/11.
What’s more fundamentally bad is the state of the soul of our nation. We’ve moved into some dubious moral waters. We’re beginning to look like a poor cousin of Stalinist Russia. Fascism Lite, complete with our own mini-Gulag, is a pretty good description.
A bill is moving through Congress at this moment that will not only excuse the torture we’ve done, but legalize its continuation. Senator McCain registered some protest, but it has now become totally symbolic. You can be sure that somewhere in a secret CIA prison, some suspected terrorist, who may not be one at all, is being water-boarded, or made to stand for 48 hours, or put into a stress position, or frozen naked with water making icicles on him, or getting rubber-truncheoned, or being snarled at by a vicious dog.
You can be sure the CIA, in what they call extraordinary rendition, has kidnapped some guy with the wrong name and sent him to another torture-happy nation to have his gonads hitched to a generator, as has now happened to a German and a Canadian, both totally innocent. And now it’s all going to become legal — in the US at least. Maybe one day the International Court at the Hague will decide to do something about Cheney and Co. so that they, like Henry Kissinger, have to be careful which countries they visit, in case they get hauled off to jail to appear in front of a War Crimes tribunal.
Worst of all is our suspension of habeas corpus. This is an absolute foundation of Western jurisprudence. It means this: when you lock me up, you’ve got to charge me or release me. If you don't, I have the right to challenge your detention of me in court. You can’t keep me in jail indefinitely without putting me in front of a court of law for trial.
Today we’ve got 14,000 people in jail in Guantanamo, Iraq, Afghanistan and secret CIA prisons (probably in one of those Eastern Europe Dictatorstans), whom we keep there without bringing them to justice. Some of them have been in jail for five years without seeing a lawyer, and have no idea what the ... they’re guilty of.
Cheney/Bush have created a special legal status of human, the so-called “enemy combatant,” who is outside the reach of legal jurisprudence. These guys can be tortured, isolated, and locked up for life without seeing the inside of a court, or even talking to their families.
Let’s be clear what “enemy combatant” means. It means a legal non-person. The Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben likens them to the first humans to be so designated, under Roman law a few millennia ago. They didn’t call them “enemy combatants” then, they called them “homo sacer”. This was a human being who could be killed by anyone, without the killer ever being guilty of homicide.
In our time, another example of being a non-person was being a Jew in Nazi Germany. They were unter-menschen, sub-humans, who could be locked up and exterminated without anyone being guilty of homicide.
Now I don’t know whether we mean to exterminate “enemy combatants,” although keeping them locked up forever is tantamount to some kind of death.
But I do know we’ve suspended a basic law of our Western human tradition, one of the foundations of what makes us a democracy.
Since not many Americans have been declared “enemy combatants,” most of us don’t give a .... But we should. As far as I know, the only time habeas corpus was ever suspended in America before this was when Abraham Lincoln did it during the Civil War, and when Roosevelt locked up Japanese Americans in concentration camps during World War II. But when those wars were over, we went back to democracy as usual. And afterwards, these actions were mightily criticized.
But Dickhead Cheney and Frat... Bush have said we’re in a long war, a war without end, the so-called Global War on Terror. That’s their excuse for keeping the special category of non-human “enemy combatant” in jail forever.
Let's also be clear who these "enemy combatants" are. A great many of them were produced by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, because we were offering $5,000 a pop for suspected terrorists. Heck, it was a good way for a warlord to make some quick dough. That brother-in-law I never liked, I'll sell the mother...er to the clueless Americans as a terrorist. An "enemy combatant" can be anybody. The best guess is that maybe a hundred dudes out of the 14,000 we've got in jail actually belong there, and maybe 20 of them are real terrorists. The other guys are just twiddling their thumbs in jail and reading the Koran in between being waterboarded or rubber-truncheoned. The luckiest "enemy combatants" have been those who were British citizens; they've been released after some obligatory torture because Blair is Bush's poodle and Bush is nice enough to stop short of shitting on Blair's head by keeping innocent UK citizens in jail. Some of their hair-raising stories have been told. Four of them were in a documentary. Other guys, like the poor German and the Canadian, spent a year being tortured before they were released.
Who knows when this loose category of "enemy combatant" gets extended to, say, illegal immigrants, or some other demonized human form? We voted for Bush — who says we can’t vote for someone worse than him, who’d lock up protesters, dissidents, activists, pot smokers, abortion doctors, feminists, gays, lesbians, libertarians, pinkos, Republicans or Democrats, without benefit of a trial?
The famous words of Pastor Martin Niemöller, about creeping Nazi persecution, springs to mind:
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
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