Wednesday, January 05, 2011

has the u.s. become devil's island?


Video - Steve McQueen welcomed to Devil's Island in Papillon.

Countercurrents | And through it all, the good, hard-working, righteous people of America have believed mightily that their country always means well; some even believe to this day that we never started a war, certainly nothing deserving of the appellation "war of aggression".

On that same snowy day last month Julian Assange of Wikileaks was freed from prison in London and told reporters that he was more concerned that the United States might try to extradite him than he was about being extradited to Sweden, where he presumably faces "sexual" charges. 1

That's a fear many political and drug prisoners in various countries have expressed in recent years. The United States is the new Devil's Island of the Western world. From the mid-19th century to the mid-20th, political prisoners were shipped to that god-forsaken strip of French land off the eastern coast of South America. One of the current residents of the new Devil's Island is Bradley Manning, the former US intelligence analyst suspected of leaking diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. Manning has been imprisoned for seven months, first in Kuwait, then at a military base in Virginia, and faces virtual life in prison if found guilty, of something. Without being tried or convicted of anything, he is allowed only very minimal contact with the outside world; or with people, daylight, or news; among the things he is denied are a pillow, sheets, and exercise; his sleep is restricted and frequently interrupted. See Glenn Greenwald's discussion of how Manning's treatment constitutes torture. 2

A friend of the young soldier says that many people are reluctant to talk about Manning's deteriorating physical and mental condition because of government harassment, including surveillance, seizure of their computer without a warrant, and even attempted bribes. "This has had such an intimidating effect that many are afraid to speak out on his behalf." 3 A developer of the transparency software used by Wikileaks was detained for several hours last summer by federal agents at a Newark, New Jersey airport, where he was questioned about his connection to Wikileaks and Assange as well as his opinions about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. 4

This is but a tiny incident from the near-century buildup of the American police state, from the Red Scare of the 1920s to the McCarthyism of the 1950s to the crackdown against Central American protesters in the 1980s ... elevated by the War on Drugs ... now multiplied by the War on Terror. It's not the worst police state in history; not even the worst police state in the world today; but nonetheless a police state, and certainly the most pervasive police state ever — a Washington Post study has just revealed that there are 4,058 separate federal, state and local "counterterrorism" organizations spread across the United States, each with its own responsibilities and jurisdictions. 5 The police of America, of many types, generally get what and who they want. If the United States gets its hands on Julian Assange, under any legal pretext, fear for him; it might be the end of his life as a free person; the actual facts of what he's done or the actual wording of US laws will not matter; hell hath no fury like an empire scorned.

John Burns, chief foreign correspondent for The New York Times, after interviewing Assange, stated: "He is profoundly of the conviction that the United States is a force for evil in the world, that it's destructive of democracy." 6 Can anyone who believes that be entitled to a full measure of human rights on Devil's Island?

The Wikileaks documents may not produce any world-changing revelations, but every day they are adding to the steady, gradual erosion of people's belief in the US government's good intentions, which is necessary to overcome a lifetime of indoctrination. Many more individuals over the years would have been standing in front of the White House if they had had access to the plethora of information that floods people today; which is not to say that we would have succeeded in stopping any of the wars; that's a question of to what extent the United States is a democracy.

2 comments:

nana kwame said...

One of my favorite movies, Steve should have gotten his Oscar; Americans are left ignorant of the workings of prison life, and in the last 30 years, apathetic. Interesting note, the French wouldn’t view the latest movies made about the vicious genocide on civilian in Algeria in their fall. Go to see it, Indie movie.
We are at heart so profoundly anarchistic that the only form of state we can imagine living in is Utopian; and so cynical that the only Utopia we can believe in is authoritarian.
Lionel Trilling
The founders of a new colony, whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness they might originally project, have invariably recognized it among their earliest practical necessities to allot a portion of the virgin soil as a cemetery, and another portion as the site of a prison.
NATHANIEL HAWTHORNE, The Scarlet Letter

nanakwame said...

Related topic:

Dupree is the longest-serving inmate cleared by DNA evidence in Texas, which has freed 41 wrongly convicted inmates through DNA since 2001 — more than any other state.
Nationally, only two others who have been exonerated by DNA evidence spent more time in prison, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center representing Dupree that specializes in wrongful conviction cases. James Bain was wrongly imprisoned for 35 years in Florida, and Lawrence McKinney spent more than 31 years in a Tennessee prison.
Texan declared innocent after 30 years in prison

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