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Live from New Orleans: Abu Ghraib!

by LILA RAJIVA

Less than two weeks ago, on September 29, US District Judge, Judge Alvin Hellerstein ordered the government to release fresh evidence 87 photos and 4 video tapes of detainee torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib, which the ACLU had sought in a lawsuit brought against General Myers in 2003.

But for anyone looking for confirmation that brutality and abuse is not a war-time aberration but a home-grown reality in American law enforcement., no need to wait. An Associated Press Television News tape from New Orleans provides a sneak preview.

64 year old Robert Davis was hit at least 4 times in the head last Saturday night as he stood outside a New Orleans bar near Bourbon Street. As he seemed to resist, flailing at his attackers, 4 officers 3 white and 1 light skinned dragged him to the ground and then kneed and punched him twice, leaving him with blood flowing from his arm into the gutter. Another white officer, Stuart Smith, an 8 yr veteran of the department, then ordered the APTN producer, Rich Matthews, and the cameraman to stop shooting. When Matthews held up his press credentials, the officer grabbed him, pushed him backward over the car, and punched him in the stomach while letting loose a stream of profane invective. A mug shot shows Davis, who was booked for public intoxication and resisting arrest, with his right eye swollen shut, an abrasion on the left side of the neck, and a cut on his right temple.

None of the officers were newbies and though it was claimed that they were severely stressed by conditions in New Orleans, the truth is the department has had more than ten years of repeated charges of racism, brutality and corruption. During the hurricane, police were apparently involved in looting as well apparently making off with nearly 200 cars from a dealership. Davis is the latest proof that drinking while black or even just watching others drink – is an offense punishable by severe beating and even death in America.

Remember the dreadful torture in August 1997 of Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant? Louima was simply unlucky enough to be standing outside the Rendez Vous Club in Flatbrush, Brooklyn, NY, when the police came to break up a fight. He was repeatedly beaten and tortured in the anus with a plunger. Six officers were involved and many others witnessed the barbarity but not one of them or the many witnesses intervened or decried it. Louima was delivered to emergency care at Coney Island Hospital where the officers fabricated a flimsy cover story that blamed his intestinal injuries on consensual homosexual sex. When Magali Laurent, a nurse at the hospital, blew the whistle, there was an uproar of outrage. This was supposed to be business as usual. That,s the same business that showed up on our newspapers last year when the imperial military and the court press proclaimed itself shocked, shocked at the sexual torture of Iraq civilians in prison.

Only two years ago, in November 2003, another black man, 41 year old Nathaniel West who had passed out drunk outside a fast food restaurant in Cincinnati, was beaten to death by 5 white and 1 black policemen wielding metal night-sticks. Tapes showed that the unarmed West resisted. But who wouldn,t if they were being clubbed in the head by six men? Jones was beaten at least a dozen times for several minutes even after he had fallen to the ground and been subdued. Only when he ceased breathing did the assault stop. He died minutes after he was taken to emergency care.

The routine assault and looting of Iraqi civilians caught up in searches and random detentions in Iraq are not anomalous as we are told solemnly by imperial apologists but the export of racist home-grown brutality endemic in our law enforcement. Abu Ghraib is the return of this repressed, this violent underbelly of America’s “liberal” state.

LILA RAJIVA is a free-lance journalist and author of “The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American media,” (Monthly Review Press). She can be reached at: lrajiva@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CLARIFICATION

ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH

We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005

 

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