Torture – Made in the USA!
Leave aside the challenges to civil liberties. Leave aside the collection by the NSA of every email or phone call you’ve made to the States since 2002. Leave aside the mendacity of launching a war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives while driving millions into exile. Leave aside the newly forged accord in the United States, that when it comes to public protest, there can be militarily designated “free speech zones.” Leave aside the unconscionable changes to tax, finance, credit and labor laws that have driven economic power away from the vast majority of the people and led us to the brink of the capital abyss. Leave all that aside and concentrate attention on a subject that has found its way into a few of the Surly Bartender’s columns over the past two years: torture.
The Surly Bartender was recently reading the story of a British resident, Binyam Mohamed, a janitor in London, who was arrested in Pakistan in 2002. Mr. Mohamed was subject to extraordinary rendition, first to Afghanistan and Egypt, then to several other “black sites” before ultimately being relocated to Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. While in the custody of the United States, or countries to which he had been rend, Binyam Mohamed was badly beaten, hung up by his wrists for weeks on end and, according to a British intelligence official who requested anonymity from a reporter at the London Telegraph, his testicles were sliced open with a scalpel. The same intelligence official said that water-boarding would have been “very far down on the list of things they did to him.” Only the Good Lord and the Bad Cops know the totality of horrors to which he was subjected, but it is clear to the gut that Binyam Mohamed experienced what can only be called torture. And during his torture, he broke, admitting that he had once visited a website which gave instructions on how to make a Hydrogen Bomb.
Whoa! I can hear your brain screaming. “If that Muslim fucker was trying to build an H-Bomb then we gotta let him have it!”
First, no. We don’t. We don’t ever have to torture anyone.
Second, the website was a bad joke. I’ve been to it myself. The “instructions” were written about 20 years ago for The Progressive Magazine by a food critic and a music reporter. Since then it’s floated about the internet and it contains, amongst other state secrets, the following:
“First transform the gas into a liquid by subjecting it to pressure. You can use a bicycle pump for this. Then make a simple home centrifuge. Fill a standard-size bucket one-quarter full of liquid uranium hexafluoride. Attach a six-foot rope to the bucket handle. Now swing the rope (and attached bucket) around your head as fast as possible. Keep this up for about 45 minutes. Slow down gradually and very gently put the bucket on the floor. The U-235, which is lighter, will have risen to the top, where it can be skimmed off like cream. Repeat this step until you have the required 10 pounds of uranium. (Safety note: Don’t put all your enriched uranium hexafluoride in one bucket. Use at least two or three buckets and keep them in separate corners of the room. This will prevent the premature build-up of a critical mass.”
If you want to check it out yourself, just Google a phrase from the preceding paragraph. Of course, if you’re Muslim you might want to give it a few months to see how this all shakes out with the new Prez.
Eventually, the idiots in charge realized that Binyam Mohamed was a dead lead and all charges against him were dropped last year. After more than half a decade since his original detention, he and his mutilated testes are once again limping about the world. He is currently living in Pakistan likely trying to figure out a way to get back at the bastards who sliced open his balls. At least that’s what I’d be doing.
What about you? Think about everything you have done in the past six years. The romances and the heartbreaks. The boozing and the hangovers. The funerals of friends and the baptism of nephews. Think of the books you’ve read. Think of the conversations you’ve had. And think about what life alone in an eight by eight jail cell, with mutilated genitals and an utter sense of despair must have been like for Mr. Mohamed all those years. Somebody should pay for that. He was, after all, an innocent man. Just like you.
When an innocent man is ripped from his life and tortured in a Kafkaesque nightmare, the perpetrators should be punished. Full stop. How can you possibly argue against that without being complicit in the crime? Even if you doubt the allegations, how could anyone suggest that it not be investigated? Someone ordered that this human being be bodily, mentally and spiritually mutilated. Such crimes can never be countenanced by civilized men and “looking forward” does just that. “Looking forward” gives implicit consent to the action. Obama’s consent. And if you agree, then you have given your consent as well.
Moreover, the argument that we need to “look forward” misses the obvious point that all human justice is inherently retrospective. All human justice looks backwards. A crime is committed. An investigation is initiated. A sentence is rendered, and if guilt can be ascribed – punishment is meted out. That’s the way it’s supposed to work – and justice should be even more forcefully applied when the crime includes breaking with that root tradition of chronology and causation. President Obama, if he wants the Surly Bartender to keep his hope alive, needs to show the fuckers who would mash the root of our legal structure into a meatball that they cannot do so with his consent. And the clock is ticking. All those who argue that we should give this a few years and take it up again after the midterm elections in 2010 should be aware that torture has a statute of limitations of eight years, meaning that by November of 2010 it will be too late for justice to come in Binyam Mohamed’s quite legitimate case.
There has also been talk about not wanting to criminalize policy differences. But the policy, for years and for far more human beings than poor Mr. Mohamed, was to torture. Torture is not a policy choice; it is a crime by the laws of the United States, international conventions ratified by the U.S. Senate, and basic human decency.
Someone in the Bush administration ordered torture. Real and horrible torture. Cheney’s admitted as much, and he did so with the audacity and arrogance of a powerful man who believes he is safe from being called to the dock to answer for his crimes.
You know, like in Guatemala.
For eight years, he and his subordinates got away with it. If we don’t assertively check that power now, then they will – as sure as sin and mourning – apply the same principles when they take the helm of state once more. Which is why, as I tossed a few beers to the boys at the bar, I was so disheartened to hear that most of them felt that it was best to just let all this slide away. Worse than that, one of them used the reasoning that we don’t need “a witch hunt” in Washington right now.
To which the Surly Bartender responded, “But what if there really are witches?”