Torturers 'R' us

Mumia Abu Jamal

"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 writes:

"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), pp. 64-65].

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, fuelled 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 a democracy.'

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.





Some links

Mr. Jamal's new work, WE WANT FREEDOM: A Life in the Black Panther Party, is now available from South End Press, Cambridge, MA.
( ).

Check out Mumia's NEW book: "Faith of Our Fathers: An Examination of the Spiritual Life of African and African-American People": 

ALERTS!! at  and 

To download Mp3's of Mumia's commentaries visit 


May 2006

> > home page > >