Sunday, May 21, 2006

Torture be Damned

The American myth has long been steeped in a polemic of justice and the rule of law. Despite long-known, covert practices by American governments to assist and enforce regime change by any number of nefarious means, this myth has persisted, mostly through an enforced rhetorical narrative on the part of the US political system and a media infrastructure insisting that, indeed, America is the model of international comity. Given extant governments elsewhere in world at any given time, this was not a difficult story to in which to invest. The narrative, in general, refused to recognize covert, illegal support of death squads (Iran-Contra) and various other deadly operations, even when they came to light. These operations were the result of "bad apples," Americans would be told; rogues and scoundrels out of control.

While regions of the world that suffered under the yoke of American foreign policy meddling were fully aware of such behaviour, Americans, for the most part, failed to recognize -- willfully or not -- that such poisonous policies and practices even existed. In fact, the polemic would always insist that such things were not policy at all, that they were anomolous. But until the Bush administration, the tacit agreement that the actual tools of US foreign policy go unacknowledged had never been obviously breeched -- at least not in the main square of public discourse. Today, though, even the pretense that the US government practices what it preaches has flown out the policy window. We now have a government that openly engages in torture, insists that it must do so and refuses to heed international calls to close it most notorious detention center, Guantanamo Bay.

For too long now, the essentials of Bush's policies and practices of extraordinary rendition, indefinite detention, abuse and torture, both directly and via proxy agents, have been exposed to public awareness and have been met with what can only be described as a disgraceful nonchalance. While Bush supporters have actively engaged in defending these indefensible practices, it is, in reality, a national travesty that any US government admittedly engages in such dreadful, inquisitional behaviour and one of the varied reason why this country's global image has suffered a severe blow. Recognition of that unwholesome truth comes officially from The State Department, which now advises that the US soccer team refrain from placing US flags on their vehicles during the upcoming World Cup competition. Thirty one other countries will all display their respective flags but the US will drive the only "blank" bus at the competition. One can only imagine what must be going through the minds of the US players, but this is only a small embarrassment resulting from much larger crimes.

With all the other incredible and secret programs being exposed lately, this administration's torture and detention practices have been shoved off the table. Despite recent and occasional international calls to close Guantanamo Bay, the Bush administration and congressional Republicans redirect attentions toward what the GOP thinks will be election winners like tough, militarized operations against illegal immigration. The sudden and disingenuous concern with immigration manifest itself recently in the most ridiculous of Senate maneuvers when the judiciary committee voted forth an amendment that would affirm English as the language of this Euro-centric land. While the Bush administration rebuts calls by the UN to close Guantanamo Bay, Congress busies itself with bills to let Americans know that most of them speak in English.

Suicide attempts amongst Guantanamo prisoners are now routine. On May 18, 2006, four inmates attempted to kill themselves. Potentially facing years more detention under Bush policy without hope of resolution, prisoners are also beginning to revolt.
The further shame of Gitmo lies in the now too-common stories that many, if not most, of the prisoners held there are entirely innocent of any terrorist connections, let alone actual terrorist activity. Goatherds, chicken farmers and other innocents had been rounded up by US forces, headed by the CIA, after a bounty campaign that advertised huge sums of money to any Afghans who could offer information about local al Qaeda operatives. With between $5-10K in the offing, destitute, poverty-stricken people started fingering anyone and everyone and the CIA rounded them all up, related to al Qaeda and not. It was routinely stated by Rumsfeld and others that all of those in Gitmo were "the worst of the worst" and that they had all been taken on the "battlefield," something now known to be completely false:
Of 517 case files examined, only 5% were "scooped up off the battlefield," as asserted by Bush. The rest were handed over to the US by Pakistan or the Northern Alliance, or were handed over to the US to claim the bounty of $5,000-$10,000 that was offered.
The military has now admitted that, indeed, most of those in the detention facility are not terrorists at all and have begun to release many of them after years of pointless incarceration and abuse.

None of this feels right. It shouldn't. Amnesty International shouldn't have to start programs like the anti-torture campaign to get the US to stop the abhorrent practice. Such campaigns are conducted against places like Uzbekistan. That we are used to. But not this. The very sound of it is surreal. How have we got to this point? What madness sought to rationalize and enjoin torture in the war on terror? Whatever has led this band of lunatics to ignore international norms, legal advice and run afoul of civilised conduct will never be known, but we are here now and have been for sometime. I don't denigrate the effort of the blogswarm* nor those of Amnesty International but, at this point, the lawless Bush administration is so convinced of its own mission -- however dastardly it is -- nothing is likely sway them. Lacking an international body this White House would heed, the Bush administration will continue on its virulent path of militarized imperialism and tax-payer funded corporatism. Theirs is an agenda that seeks to threaten, malign and attack any lesser foes possessed of "American interests" and will drain the domestic coffers to do so, while shortchanging its own citizens.

2009 seems like a long way away, but let us hope that it is not so long that this country cannot recover from Bush's reign of terror. This may seem grandiose, but maybe we can begin to turn the myth of America into a reality of which we can all be proud. Because more of the same is hardly an alternative.

*Please visit the other blogs on the anti-toture blogroll on this page. Excellent work is to be found just a click away.


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