"The law hath not been dead, thought it hath slept." --
William Shakespeare, "Measure for Measure," (Act II; Scene 2.)
There have been news reports of a number of secret US prisons in Eastern European
countries. These reports, coming as they do after reports about torture at Guantanamo
Naval Gulag, at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the Diego Garcia base situated
in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and, of course, Abu Ghraib in Iraq, should
show us that torture lies at the very heart of the U.S.-declared 'War on Terror'.
What makes this even more remarkable is the robotic response of U.S president
George W. Bush, when asked about torture at a press conference recently: "We
do not torture."
One wonders, who is this 'we' of whom he speaks?
Certainly, that 'we' doesn’t include those people in American uniforms
(and plainclothes), who beat, kicked, stripped, set dogs on, and killed people
in Abu Ghraib.
Perhaps the president refers to the "rendering" of people to other
countries, where torture is rampant, such as Saudi Arabia, Syria, or Egypt.
In these cases of rendition, the U.S. sublets torture to foreign governments
that rush to the job to gain favor with the rulers of the U.S. Empire.
The case of Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, is illustrative.
Originally from Syria, Arar was seized and interrogated at an American airport,
and despite a promise by a Canadian consul, flown to Washington, Portland, Rome,
and finally Amman, Jordan.
There he was blindfolded and beaten, and driven across the border to Syria.
There, he was thrown into a cell that more closely resembled a 'grave'. Arar
"We went into the basement, and they opened a door, and I looked in.
I could not believe what I saw. I asked how long I would be kept in this place.
He did not answer, but put me in and closed the door. It was like a grave.
It had no light. It was three feet wide. It was six feet deep. It was seven
feet high. It had a metal door, with a small opening in the door, which did
not let in light because there was a piece of metal on the outside for sliding
things into the cell.
There was a small opening in the ceiling, about one foot by two feet with
iron bars. Over that was another ceiling, so only a little light came through
this. There were cats and rats up there, and from time to time the cats peed
through the opening into the cell. There were two blankets, two dishes, and
two bottles. One bottle was for water and the other one was for urinating
during the night. Nothing else. No light.
I spent 10 months and 10 days inside that grave." [Fr.: Rachel Meeropol,
ed., *America’s Disappeared: Detainees, Secret Imprisonment, and the
"War on Terror"* (New York: Open Media/Seven Stories Press, 2005),
And now, secret prisons, used by the United States, in countries that were
part of the former Soviet Bloc, in Eastern Europe.
Yes, "We do not torture."
Those prisons don’t [officially] exist.
This is a democracy....
Increasingly, American politics seems to be reading from George Orwell’s
classic, *Nineteen Eighty-Four*, where it is written:
"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."
Orwell was a political novelist, writing about the nature of dictatorships;
of those present and those to come.
We live in no novel, however. We live in a state of madness, fueled by fear,
greed, and paranoia.
There is another pregnant quote from Orwell’s *1984*, which rightly describes
the nature of US politics:
"Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in
one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both as true.”
Remember: 'We do not torture. Those secret prisons don’t exist. This is
Don’t worry; be happy.... Just keep repeating those words to yourself.
Over and over and over.
Perhaps, if you say it enough, this empire will just fade away.
Mumia Abu-Jamal is an award-winning journalist who chronicles the human
condition. He has been a resident of Pennsylvania’s death row for twenty-three
years. Writing from his solitary confinement cell his essays have reached a
worldwide audience. His books "Live From Death Row", "Death Blossoms",
"All Things Censored", “Faith of Our Fathers” and the
recently released “We Want Freedom” have sold over 150,000 copies
and been translated into nine languages. His 1982-murder trial and subsequent
conviction have been the subject of great debate.