Guantanamo Bay and the whole putrid salmagundi of the post-September 11th U.S. torture-fest have once again wafted into our nostrils as a federal judge places a report by the CIA inspector general in the public domain. We’re amnesic beasts, we humans, and allied with our capacity to absorb and deflect shock, the sheer inhumanity of what went on in the name of fighting terrorism has begun to drift from many a memory.
Similarly, the crimes of our self-styled political leaders in the rear view mirror begin to appear like specks of dust on the great highway of history; there is no justice, no truth and reconciliation committee, no tribunals. Those party to decisions that breached international law, moral law, public trust, still parade on CNN and the BBC in an unrepentant disport of lies .
The most egregious of falsehoods and bloody of war crimes are swept under the rug with a forgiving broom of “looking forward” and “moving on.” So when Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. , after much testing of the water and hint-dropping, announced a few days ago he would appoint a veteran prosecutor to determine whether a full criminal investigation of the conduct of CIA agency employees or contractors was warranted, it seemed anomalous.
Holder has to be applauded, despite the narrowest of remits (the investigation is clearly not going to go up the food chain), but that the decision came as news was released that the administration for which he works will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terrorism suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, seemed the cruelest of ironies.
So this is what happens when we “move on”. We spectators sitting slack-jawed at this sick circus shuffle off at the firmly voiced injunction that there’s “nothing to see here” and head to the pub for a few beers only for the spectacle to continue without us. Perhaps we are powerless to stop this, the subcontracted kidnapping and torture that goes by the neutered name “extraordinary rendition”; the extra-legal detention of “enemy combatants”; the whole smorgasboard of repressive techniques needed to keep domestic dissent at pathetic levels and citizens pliant.
And whilst we have to face the smashing of alternatives to a consumer-driven, increasingly violently-policed state, what we can do is remember: Never never forget what happened in the name of freedom and democracy; that our elected representatives lied through their teeth to us; that a complicit media channelled their twisted logic with as much critical acuity as a doormat; that innocent men were detained without trial of any kind; that detainees were systematically broken until their mental state was beyond repair and they became shuffling vegetables; that doctors and pychiatrists spat on and trampled the Hippocratic Oath and that we sighed in a deep, fangless apathy and turned away to our drinks and families and nine-to-fives.
It took years for the truth to emerge: that there had been no screening process for the “worst of the worst,” and that, although perhaps 40 of the 779 prisoners who have been held at Guantánamo were involved with al-Qaeda, the other 95 percent were either completely innocent men — humanitarian aid workers, missionaries, economic migrants, drifters or others fleeing religious persecution — or foot soldiers for the Taliban, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before 9/11.
By Andy Worthington (The Future of Freedom Foundation, 2009)
A number of critics, including human-rights officials, detainees’ lawyers, and others with knowledge of the inner workings of the detention center, believe that the problems at Guantánamo are the result of a more systematic effort. The strange accounts of torment that have steadily emerged, these critics say, are connected to decades of research by American scientists into the psychological nature of warfare and captivity.
By Jane Mayer (The New Yorker, 2005)
(Jose Padilla) was classified as an “enemy combatant” and taken to a Navy prison in Charleston, South Carolina. He was kept in a 9-by-7-foot cell with no natural light, no clock and no calendar. Whenever Padilla left the cell, he was shackled and suited in heavy goggles and headphones. Padilla was kept under these conditions for 1,307 days. He was forbidden contact with anyone but his interrogators, who punctured the extreme sensory deprivation with sensory overload, blasting him with harsh lights and pounding sounds. Padilla also says he was injected with a “truth serum,” a substance his lawyers believe was LSD or PCP.
By Naomi Klein (The Nation, 2007)
Let’s be clear: it is good that Holder has decided to take a more serious look at the use of torture during the Bush-Cheney years. But he has done so in a disturbingly cautious manner that is described by the American Civil Liberties Union as “anemic.” That runs the risk of encouraging the campaign by Missouri Senator Kit Bond and a handful of senators to narrow the scope of any inquiry to such an extent that it will yield little in the way of accountability. Republican partisans in Congress are going to fight hard to block any inquiry that might expose and hold to account members of the Bush-Cheney administration. Bond, in particular, has made it his mission to thwart anything akin to a real investigation. Taking the lead in the campaign to block an investigation of officials who initiated, authorized and encouraged the use of torture, Bond has shown no qualms about using his position as the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee to protect partisan allies and prevent checking and balancing of executive excess.
By John Nicols