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The Inhuman Stain

There is a horrible scandal eating away the heart of the American body politic. Among the many corrupted currents loosed upon the nation by the Bush Regime, this scandal is perhaps the worst, for it abets all the others and breeds new pestilence, new perversions at every turn.

Last month, Maher Arar of Canada detailed his ordeal at the hands of Attorney General John Ashcroft’s shadowy security “organs.” On his way back home from a family holiday in Tunis, the Syrian-born Arar–16 years a Canadian citizen–was seized at a New York airport. Jailed and interrogated without charges, on unspecified allegations of unspecified connections to unspecified terrorist groups, he was then summarily deported, without a hearing, to Syria. When he told the Homeland Chekists he would be tortured there–his family was marked down as dissidents by Syria’s Baathist regime–the Chekists replied that their organ “was not the body that deals with the Geneva Conventions regarding torture.” They shackled him and flew him to the American-friendly regime in Jordan; from there he was bundled across the border to Damascus.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

For 10 months and 10 days, Arar was held in a dank cell in Syria: a “grave,” he called it, a three-by-six unlighted hole filled with cat and rat piss falling down from the grating overhead. He was beaten over and over, often with electrical cable, for weeks on end, kept awake for days, made to witness and hear even more exquisite tortures applied to other prisoners. He was forced to sign false confessions. Ashcroft’s Baathist comrades had a pre-set storyline they wanted filled in: that Arar had gone to Afghanistan, attended terrorist training camps, was plotting mayhem–the usual template. Arar, who had spent years working as a computer consultant for a Boston-based high-tech firm, had done none of those things. Yet he was whipped, broken and tortured into submission.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Arar’s case is not extraordinary. In the past two years, the Bushist organs have “rendered” thousands of detainees, without charges, hearings or the need to produce any evidence whatsoever, into the hands of regimes which the U.S. government itself denounces for the widespread use of torture. Apparatchiks of the organs make no secret of the practice–or of their knowledge that the “rendered” will indeed be beaten, burned, drugged, raped, even killed. “I do it with my eyes open,” one renderer told the Washington Post. Detainees–including lifelong American residents–have been snatched from the homes, businesses, schools, from streets and airports, and sent to torture pits like Syria, Morocco, Egypt, Jordan–even the stateless chaos of Somalia, where Ashcroft simply dumped more than 30 Somali-Americans last year, without charges, without evidence, without counsel, and with no visible means of support, as the London Times reports.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Of course, the American organs needn’t rely exclusively on foreigners for torture anymore. Under the enlightened leadership of Ashcroft, Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and other upstanding Christian statesmen, America has now established its own centers for what the organs call “operational flexibility.” These include bases in Bagram, Afghanistan and Diego Garcia, the Indian Ocean island that was forcibly depopulated in the 1960s to make way for a U.S. military installation. Here, the CIA runs secret interrogation units that are even more restricted than the American concentration camp on Guantanamo Bay. Detainees–again, held without charges or evidentiary requirements–are “softened up” by beatings at the hands of military police and Special Forces troops before being subjected to “stress and duress” techniques: sleep deprivation (officially condemned as a torture method by the U.S. government), physical and psychological disorientation, withholding of medical treatment, etc. When beatings and “duress” don’t work, detainees are then “packaged”–hooded, gagged, bound to stretchers with duct tape–and “rendered” into less dainty hands elsewhere.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

Not content with capture and torture, the organs have been given presidential authority to carry out raids and kill “suspected terrorists” (including Americans) on their own volition–without oversight, without charges, without evidence–anywhere in the world, including on American soil. In addition to this general license to kill, Bush has claimed the power to designate anyone he pleases “an enemy combatant” and have them “rendered” into the hands of the organs or simply killed at his express order–without charges, without evidence, with no judicial or legislative oversight whatsoever. The life of every American citizen–indeed, every person on earth–is now at the disposal of his arbitrary whim. Never in history has an individual claimed such universal power–and had the force to back it up.

But this is not the scandal we were speaking of.

All of the above facts–each of them manifest violations of international law and/or the U.S. Constitution — have been cheerfully attested to, for years now, by the organs’ own appartchiks, in the Post, the NY Times, Newsweek, the Guardian, the Economist and other high-profile, mainstream publications. The stories appear–then they disappear. There is no reaction. No outcry in Congress or the courts–the supposed guardians of the people’s rights–beyond a few wan calls for more formality in the concentration camp processing or judicial “warrants” for torture. And among the great mass of “the people” itself, there is–nothing. Silence. Inattention. Acquiescence. State terrorism–lawless seizure, filthy torture, official murder–is simply accepted, a part of “normal life,” as in Nazi Germany or Stalin’s empire, where “decent people” with “nothing to hide” approved and applauded the work of the “organs” in “defending national security.”

This is the scandal, this is the nation’s festering shame. This acquiescence to state terror will breed–and attract–a thousand evils for every one it supposedly prevents.

CHRIS FLOYD is a columnist for the Moscow Times and a regular contributor to CounterPunch. His CounterPunch piece on Rumsfeld’s plan to provoke terrorist attacks came in at Number 4 on Project Censored’s final tally of the Most Censored stories of 2002. 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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