Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

License to Torture

YEARS OF solitary confinement, sensory deprivation and overload, denial of contact with lawyers or family, forcible injections with unknown drugs. Most people would call this “torture.” The Bush administration calls it standard operating procedure in the “war on terror.”

Some details of the abuses suffered by detainees at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have slowly emerged over the past several years as more and more former prisoners tell their stories. Less known, however, is the kind of torture that has taken place on U.S. soil–in the case of alleged al-Qaeda “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla.

Padilla was arrested at O’Hare Airport in Chicago in May 2002 and later labeled an “enemy combatant” who was planning to detonate a radioactive bomb in the U.S. On this basis, Padilla has been imprisoned by the government for almost five years–much of it in solitary confinement in a Navy brig in South Carolina.

According to his lawyers, he may have been driven insane by the treatment he’s been subjected to.

In a recent article in the Nation magazine, author and activist Naomi Klein described the cruel conditions Padilla has suffered. “He was kept in a 9-by-7-foot cell with no natural light, no clock and no calendar,” Klein wrote. “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.”

The result: “Padilla has been so shattered that he lacks the ability to assist in his own defense,” says Klein.

One doctor who examined Padilla told a federal court that he rocks back and forth in his chair, has involuntary facial tics, breaks out in a sweat and verbally shuts down when asked to discuss this three and a half years in the naval brig. Another expert, Dr. Patricia Zapf, said that Padilla now shows a 98 percent probability of “brain injury” from his time in government custody.

Government officials, on the other hand, claim that Padilla is faking illness to escape trial.

* * *

FOR SOME critics of George Bush’s war on Iraq–especially those within the political establishment–the treatment of prisoners of the “war on terror” is last on their list of concerns.

But make no mistake: the abuse suffered by Padilla is no less a war crime than the massacres committed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And it is happening not just to one man or a handful of men, but to hundreds if not thousands of detainees around the globe. Similar prolonged isolation and abuse has been used against prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. And this does not include the unknown numbers of people the U.S. has “rendered” to foreign governments like Saudi Arabia or Syria–to be subjected to torturous interrogations.

If the Bush administration gets its way, even more detainees will be subjected to such dehumanizing treatment.

A recent ruling by a federal appeals court declared that Guantánamo prisoners have no constitutional right to habeas corpus–the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts. Though the ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, if it is allowed to stand, hundreds of detainees held around the globe would be left without any legal recourse to fight their imprisonment–leaving them at the mercy of their U.S. captors indefinitely.

Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Democrats helped pave the way for such abuses–by helping to pass the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which stripped detainees of their right to trial.

Padilla’s prosecution is critical for the Bush administration–a “slam-dunk” case it hopes will offset the series of failures documented in a recent audit by the Justice Department’s inspector general, which concluded that the White House routinely overstated its successes.

As Klein points out, it’s not as if the government is unaware that the interrogation “techniques” it subjects Padilla and others to constitute torture. Even a revised Army field manual issued last year warns of the extreme psychological damage that prolonged sensory deprivation and other documented U.S. interrogation tactics can cause.

“If these techniques drove Padilla insane,” Klein concludes, “that means the U.S. government has been deliberately driving hundreds, possibly thousands, of prisoners insane around the world. What is on trial in Florida is not one man’s mental state. It is the whole system of U.S. psychological torture.”

NICOLE COLSON writes for the Socialist Worker.

 

More articles by:

NICOLE COLSON writes for the Socialist Worker.

October 18, 2018
Erik Molvar
The Ten Big Lies of Traditional Western Politics
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lockheed and Loaded: How the Maker of Junk Fighters Like the F-22 and F-35 Came to Have Full-Spectrum Dominance Over the Defense Industry
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s “Psychological Obstacles to Peace”
Brian Platt – Brynn Roth
Black-Eyed Kids and Other Nightmares From the Suburbs
John W. Whitehead
You Want to Make America Great Again? Start by Making America Free Again
Zhivko Illeieff
Why Can’t the Democrats Reach the Millennials?
Steve Kelly
Quiet, Please! The Latest Threat to the Big Wild
Manuel García, Jr.
The Inner Dimensions of Socialist Revolution
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ Over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Adam Parsons
A Global People’s Bailout for the Coming Crash
Binoy Kampmark
The Tyranny of Fashion: Shredding Banksy
Dean Baker
How Big is Big? Trump, the NYT and Foreign Aid
Vern Loomis
The Boofing of America
October 17, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
When Saudi Arabia’s Credibility is Damaged, So is America’s
John Steppling
Before the Law
Frank Stricker
Wages Rising? 
James McEnteer
Larry Summers Trips Out
Muhammad Othman
What You Can Do About the Saudi Atrocities in Yemen
Binoy Kampmark
Agents of Chaos: Trump, the Federal Reserve and Andrew Jackson
David N. Smith
George Orwell’s Message in a Bottle
Karen J. Greenberg
Justice Derailed: From Gitmo to Kavanaugh
John Feffer
Why is the Radical Right Still Winning?
Dan Corjescu
Green Tsunami in Bavaria?
Rohullah Naderi
Why Afghan Girls Are Out of School?
George Ochenski
You Have to Give Respect to Get Any, Mr. Trump
Cesar Chelala
Is China Winning the War for Africa?
Mel Gurtov
Getting Away with Murder
W. T. Whitney
Colombian Lawyer Diego Martinez Needs Solidarity Now
Dean Baker
Nothing to Brag About: Scott Walker’s Economic Record in Wisconsin:
October 16, 2018
Gregory Elich
Diplomatic Deadlock: Can U.S.-North Korea Diplomacy Survive Maximum Pressure?
Rob Seimetz
Talking About Death While In Decadence
Kent Paterson
Fifty Years of Mexican October
Robert Fantina
Trump, Iran and Sanctions
Greg Macdougall
Indigenous Suicide in Canada
Kenneth Surin
On Reading the Diaries of Tony Benn, Britain’s Greatest Labour Politician
Andrew Bacevich
Unsolicited Advice for an Undeclared Presidential Candidate: a Letter to Elizabeth Warren
Thomas Knapp
Facebook Meddles in the 2018 Midterm Elections
Muhammad Othman
Khashoggi and Demetracopoulos
Gerry Brown
Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics: How the US Weaponizes Them to Accuse  China of Debt Trap Diplomacy
Christian Ingo Lenz Dunker – Peter Lehman
The Brazilian Presidential Elections and “The Rules of The Game”
Robert Fisk
What a Forgotten Shipwreck in the Irish Sea Can Tell Us About Brexit
Martin Billheimer
Here Cochise Everywhere
David Swanson
Humanitarian Bombs
Dean Baker
The Federal Reserve is Not a Church
October 15, 2018
Rob Urie
Climate Crisis is Upon Us
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail