Torture: “These Weren’t the Kind of Men You Send to Jail”

(Crossposted from Orange)

Today is Torture Accountabilty Day.  There will be events across the country, American citizens making the case that those who committed the moral crime against humanity of torture be held accountable for their actions.

Holding those in the highest positions of power to the law, what a notion.  We know the politics that prevents this, the powers who want these crimes once again swept under the rug.

We heard on Monday from the Supreme Court that Valerie Plame’s suit against Cheney, et al., will not be allowed to go forward.  Scooter Libby was found guilty of obstruction of justice.  Mister Bush commuted his sentence.  And surprise, surprise, there now is no case, even as we all know what happened.  There is no accountability.

From Kai over at Zuky:


On this day in 1982, Chinese American immigrant Vincent Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat, at his own bachelor party, by racist white auto workers in Detroit who blamed Japan for layoffs in the US auto industry. The murderers, Ronald Ebens and Michael Nitz, were convicted of manslaughter. They served no jail time, were given three years probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs. Wayne County Circuit Judge Charles Kaufman said, “These weren’t the kind of men you send to jail.”

On July 14, 2008, Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez was beaten to death by racist white teens shouting anti-Mexican epithets, in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The murderers, Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, were convicted of simple assault. Two days ago, they were respectively sentenced to 6 and 7 months in county jail. Piekarsky’s lawyer Frederick Fanelli said, “You would be proud to have any of these kids in your classroom, and any of them as your children.”

And what does all this have to do with holding those in power accountable for torture?  What are these connections I am making?

I could cite so many examples of the two-tiered supposed “justice” we see in America.  I could write about Postville, Iowa, where justice was utterly subverted because those who were harmed had no power and did not have white skin.  I could write about our prison system, and how the disproportionate number of people of color incarcerated begins before they even finish school.

And I could write about the people of color who have been tortured in the name of a War on Terror and how the architects of that torture are walking free today, living well, still given crediblity in our media and our national discourse.

“These weren’t the kind of men you send to jail.”  Socially desirable white boys or highly powerful and mostly white men.  But these are the kind of people, the powerless, the targets of our fears, who because we fear them, we can do anything we wish to them with no consequences.  No consequences.

From The Editors over at The Sanctuary, “The Luis Ramirez Murder: A Logical Step in the Process of Establishing a Subhuman Class (emphasis mine):

The process of defining a subhuman class and institutionalizing discrimination and violence against that group is not new. How quickly and conveniently some of us allow our collective memory to cover its own tracks. Parasite, diseased, leeching, dangerous, over-breeding, vermin. These terms and this imagery have been deployed for ages, on various groups of people, on various pieces of land, in the service of various endeavors; and always to bring about the same ends. To demonize and dehumanize a group of people so that other people come to understand that the social compact with the demonized group is broken; that discrimination and violence against the dehumanized class now carries no moral consequence. That is the meaning of this latest ruling by an all-white jury in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Racial murder of a Mexican carries the same consequence as walking up to a white person and punching them in the belly: simple assault.

The notion of a categorically subhuman class of persons who exists below the rules and obligations the rest of humanity warrants is as simple as it is ugly. Ugly like the prison at Guantánamo, where unfortunate bodies from the Middle East are deprived of anything resembling the law, ideals, or morality most Americans feel they deserve by mere existence. Ugly like Abu Ghraib. Ugly like the prisons in Baghdad and Bagram, where atrocities appear to be the norm. Even as our government promised that it was “fighting Them There” in order to prevent “Them” from coming “Here”, an ideology of dehumanizing terror was propagating and swelling in our own ranks and within our own borders; an ideology which devalues “Hajis” in the same way that it foists hatred upon Mexicans and all others who sound or appear somehow Latin American.

Can we see the connections here?  Can we see how whether it be torturing at Gitmo and Bagram, hate crime murders and disproportionate and unfair imprisonment here in the USA, we are slowly losing our humanity when we don’t hold the criminals of hatred accountable for their actions?  How many are now above the law and how many are victims of the law, and what does it take before the law itself becomes irrevocably destroyed?

We cheer the young men and women in Iran as our own country has tortured their neighbors in Iraq and Afghanistan and no one has been held to account.  No one, that is, other than a few powerless lower level soldiers who have been blamed for the orders of their superiors.

And those who have committed this crime walk free and prosper and remain influential in our culture.

George W. Bush.  Richard Cheney.  Jay Bybee.  Condoleeza Rice.  Scooter Libby. Karl Rove.  Douglas Feith.  Donald Rumsfeld.  David Addington.  Alberto Gonzalez.  William Haynes.  John Yoo.  Stephen Bradbury.  A partial list.  They belong in jail.

And how would this change our system of justice, how would this help those folks now in prison or who are victims of hate crimes?

I believe it would change our system of justice.  I believe it would let all the citizens of this country know that no matter how powerful or well connected, dehumanizing another human being whether by torture, bad judicial or law enforcement decisions made for expediency or fueled by cultural prejudice, will be discovered, and those who now feel above the law in making those decisions and committing those acts will be held accountable.  And it would let those people who have suffered for so long under this unequal system of justice know that we are not a nation who is indifferent to their humanity, that we are all equal under the law.


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    • Inky99 on June 25, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    for this day?

    Maybe one that talks!  You know, you open up the card and hear hideous screaming of someone tortured.

    That would be so cool.

    Such a poignant reminder of what we’re twittering for.

    And Hallmark could make money at the same time.  A win-win situation!

  1. … justice, human rights.  No one is above the law.

    • Joy B. on June 25, 2009 at 7:53 pm

    …with different meanings for different scenarios. And yes, there is a caste system in Amerika.

    I’ve always found it odd and interesting that humans are capable of imagining something like “Perfect Justice,” and that we’ve even tried to establish something as-close-as-possible in our own system. Sure it’s mere rhetoric that insists “no one is above the law” (a joke, but not a funny one), but there is an ideal most all of us can grok. Which itself is very odd, considering such a thing does not and never has actually existed in reality.

  2. Very good expose.

    These are also not the people who should be jailed beaten or tortured.


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