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Getting Used to the American Gulag

“When you gonna wake up
And strengthen the things that remain?”

–Bob Dylan

The secret policemen snatched the citizen from his house. There were no charges, no warrants, no warnings. They spirited him away to a secret location; no one knew where he had gone, why he’d disappeared. The covert agents grilled him, in secret, for three months. They told him that if he didn’t cooperate, he’d be declared an enemy of the state–then they could salt him away in a military prison or the regime’s concentration camp and hold him there, without charges, for as long they wanted.

There, they said, he could languish until he rotted–with no judicial oversight, no recourse to appeal save one: a plea for mercy from the regime’s unelected leader. This usurper, who liked to be known as “The Commander,” had given himself the arbitrary authority to strip any citizen of their liberty, and he alone–no court, no council, no legislative body–held the ultimate power of life and death over anyone he thus decreed an “enemy.”

After months in secret captivity, the prisoner–a young truck-driver with a history of mental problems–broke down. In a secret court session, he confessed to planning a series of crimes against the state. The success of this covert operation was announced by the head of the regime’s internal police forces. His declaration–that a citizen had been snatched, interrogated, threatened and broken in secret, outside every stricture of the country’s old constitution–was greeted with cries of admiration in the national press.

Yes, it was just another day in the New America–the fearful, fawning, fortress-land that Bush and bin Laden have made. The above facts–openly attested in the mainstream media–are the raw guts of truth beneath the fancy PR frocks and propaganda implants that mask the inner moral rot of the Bush Regime.

Iyman Faris, an American citizen originally from Kashmir, was nabbed, threatened and processed in the exact manner described above. Attorney General John Ashcroft said Faris was a key al Qaeda operative, prowling America’s highways in his monstrous diesel truck, looking for likely terror targets and sending back coded messages to his nefarious foreign controllers.

True, a few feds grumbled that Faris–who was reportedly fingered by top al Qaeda operatives now in American custody–might not actually be the Fu Manchu mastermind of Ashcroft’s ever-fevered imagination. For one thing, the mentally disturbed trucker’s chief threat to the Homeland seems to have been a quixotic plan to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge–with a blowtorch. In fact, some insiders suspect yet another prank by the captured Qaeda honchos, who’ve sent U.S. agents on wild goose chases all over world in pursuit of various kibitzers, hangers-on and assorted small fry.

A few days after the Faris “triumph,” the Regime took things a step further, actually removing a terror suspect from the judicial system and plunging him into the limbo-land of military custody. Illinois graduate student Ali al-Marri had been imprisoned since December 2001, after Ashcroft told his agents to round up “anyone with a Muslim-sounding name,” the Village Voice reports. Held for months on minor charges, al-Marri, a Qatari national, was finally accused of being a “sleeper agent”–again, on the say-so of the Qaeda jokesters already in irons.

But al-Marri maintained his innocence, refusing to “cooperate” with Ashcroft’s agents. So the Commander himself intervened, declaring the miscreant an “enemy combatant”–although federal agents admitted he’d neither taken up arms against America nor planned any terrorist attacks, Knight-Ridder reports. Even so, he’s now at the mercy of Bush’s khaki kangaroo court.

The charges against Faris and al-Marri might well be true. Or partly true. Or totally false. We’ll never know–because the entire process was sealed from public view. But whatever their actual degree of guilt or innocence, the prisoners have served their main purpose: advancing the Bush Regime’s assault on America’s dying constitutional republic. These cases are an important step in further habituating the American people to the idea of secret arrests, secret detentions, closed hearings and arbitrary rule by a militarized state apparatus–much as the illegal invasion of Iraq has accustomed them to the idea of aggressive war, of murder in the name of corporate loot and extremist ideology. A new kind of American state is being forged, where arbitrary authority replaces law, and obedience outweighs liberty.

Yes, things are far gone in the “Homeland” these days. No protest about secret arrests. No protest about the dictatorial powers that Bush has awarded himself, including the authority to order the assassination of anyone in the world he designates an “enemy.” Bush even boasts about these extrajudicial killings, which have included at least one American citizen; indeed, the Commander was showered with applause in Congress when he laughingly referred to them in his official State of the Union address. Again, this has all been reported openly–yet has stirred barely a flicker of public opposition.

History has shown us this sad spectacle many times before: a people sleepwalking into tyranny and disaster. A people lulled into a stupor by alternating currents of fear and frivolity, afraid to cast off their comforting ignorance–their willful ignorance–of the crimes being committed in their name. Afraid to face the truth, afraid to fight the lies, afraid indeed to wake up–and strengthen the things that remain.

CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. He can be reached at: cfloyd72@hotmail.com

 

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Chris Floyd is a columnist for CounterPunch Magazine. His blog, Empire Burlesque, can be found at www.chris-floyd.com.

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