From the Irony File: Mount Misery

(“Quit laughing, Donald. You haven’t gotten away with it yet.” – promoted by pfiore8)

Master Thomas at length said he would stand it no longer. I had lived with him nine months, during which time he had given me a number of severe whippings, all to no good purpose. He resolved to put me out, as he said, to be broken; and, for this purpose, he let me for one year to a man named Edward Covey. Mr. Covey was a poor man, a farm-renter. He rented the place upon which he lived, as also the hands with which he tilled it. Mr. Covey had acquired a very high reputation for breaking young slaves, and this reputation was of immense value to him … Added to the natural good qualities of Mr. Covey, he was a professor of religion–a pious soul–a member and a class-leader in the Methodist church. All of this added weight to his reputation as a “nigger-breaker.” I was aware of all the facts, having been made acquainted with them by a young man who had lived there. I nevertheless made the change gladly; for I was sure of getting enough to eat, which is not the smallest consideration to a hungry man.

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Thus Frederick Douglass was sent to Edward Covey’s plantation, Mount Misery, to be broken.

The current owner of Mount Misery is none other than war criminal Donald Rumsfeld.

Amy Goodman captured the irony perfectly:

Frederick Douglass, the renowned abolitionist, began life as a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. When his owner had trouble with the young, unruly slave, Douglass was sent to Edward Covey, a notorious “slave breaker.” Covey’s plantation, where physical and psychological torture were standard, was called Mount Misery. Douglass eventually fought back, escaped to the North and went on to change the world. Today Mount Misery is owned by Donald Rumsfeld, the outgoing secretary of defense.

It is ironic that this notorious plantation run by a practiced torturer would now be owned by Rumsfeld, himself accused as the man principally responsible for the U.S. military’s program of torture and detention.

Well, did you think you were going to have a nice retirement there at Mount Misery, Donald? We haven’t forgotten you’re a war criminal, that you authorized and ordered and administered a program of torture. In the current issue of Vanity Fair, Phillip Sands reports on how you helped give The Green Light for torture:

On September 25, as the process of elaborating new interrogation techniques reached a critical point, a delegation of the administration’s most senior lawyers arrived at Guantánamo. The group included the president’s lawyer, Alberto Gonzales, who had by then received the Yoo-Bybee Memo; Vice President Cheney’s lawyer, David Addington, who had contributed to the writing of that memo; the C.I.A.’s John Rizzo, who had asked for a Justice Department sign-off on individual techniques, including waterboarding, and received the second (and still secret) Yoo-Bybee Memo; and Jim Haynes, Rumsfeld’s counsel. They were all well aware of [Mohammed al-Qahtani, allegedly a member of the 9/11 conspiracy and the so-called 20th hijacker who was already at Gitmo]. “They wanted to know what we were doing to get to this guy,” Dunlavey told me, “and Addington was interested in how we were managing it.” I asked what they had to say. “They brought ideas with them which had been given from sources in D.C.,” Dunlavey said. “They came down to observe and talk.” Throughout this whole period, Dunlavey went on, Rumsfeld was “directly and regularly involved.”

Mount Misery, Mount Misery. Donald, how do you like your beautiful estate, former home of “slave-breaker” Edward Covey?

Oh, and did Covey succeed in breaking Douglass with his brutal tortures? At first he did:

Mr. Covey succeeded in breaking me. I was broken in body, soul, and spirit. My natural elasticity was crushed, my intellect languished, the disposition to read departed, the cheerful spark that lingered about my eye died; the dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!

But Douglass then determines never to be whipped again, and when Covey tries to beat him, he himself beats and breaks the slave-breaker:  

This battle with Mr. Covey was the turning point in my career as a slave. It rekindled the few expiring embers of freedom, and revived within me a sense of my own manhood. It recalled the departed self-confidence, and inspired me again with a determination to be free.

Mount Misery was the turning point in Douglass’ quest for freedom and justice.

Covey’s torture policy failed.

And yours will too, Donald.

Sands concludes The Green Light suggesting that war crimes charges are possible if any of those involved find themselves in the wrong country at the wrong time:

There can be no doubt that [Mohammed al-Qahtani] was treated cruelly and degraded, that the standards of Common Article 3 were violated, and that his treatment amounts to a war crime. If he suffered the degree of severe mental distress prohibited by the torture convention, then his treatment crosses the line into outright torture. These acts resulted from a policy decision made right at the top, not simply from ground-level requests in Guantánamo, and they were supported by legal advice from the president’s own circle.

Those responsible for the interrogation of Detainee 063 face a real risk of investigation if they set foot outside the United States.

< snip >

For some of those involved in the Guantánamo decisions, prudence may well dictate a more cautious approach to international travel. And for some the future may hold a tap on the shoulder.

“It’s a matter of time,” the judge observed. “These things take time.” As I gathered my papers, he looked up and said, “And then something unexpected happens, when one of these lawyers travels to the wrong place.”

May you be indicted along with the other war criminals who made torture a U.S. policy.

Quit laughing, Donald. You haven’t gotten away with it yet.

We haven’t forgotten. And while we await indictments, we will Take Action and shut Guantanamo down.  


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    • srkp23 on April 5, 2008 at 05:53

    Also at the big orange nut house.

  1. great essay srkpy.

    and enjoyed seeing some of my favorite posters in your essay… LC, kath25, and Compound F (you know i love him)…

    • Robyn on April 5, 2008 at 14:08

    People named Covey should not all be tarnished by the memory of that individual.  frosti and I had a mother who was a Covey.

    Just wanted to add a note.


    • kj on April 5, 2008 at 16:22

    sick.  creepy.  ugh.

    this is what happens when we don’t know our own myths, we live them out.  donald, donald, donald.  

  2. Thanks srkp23.  

  3. but not surprised this did not get more play at GOS but the level of sophistication presented in this piece is so deep and pervasive.

    These are the connections we should be making when we look at America at the way our past sins still reverberate in the present at the way our current sins get perpetuated because we insist on being so ahistorical.

    Thanks skrp for putting it together. A work of political art.

  4. Mount also reminds me of Mount Winter, the now compromised “secure” underground bunker location planned to be a safe haven for elite scumbags in control of our current misery.

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