Dytopia 21: Laissi’s Scars

The Human  moral keyboard is limited Adam One used to say:  there’s nothing you can  play on it that hasn’t been played before.  And, my dear Friends, I am  sorry to say this, but it has its lower notes.–Margaret Atwood, The Year of the Flood

Dystopia 21:   Laissi’s Scars

Jack’s  shoulders burned.  The rest of him was cold.  Frigid in fact.  But his  upper arms were on fire!    His arms were pinned behind him at the level of his shoulder blades.   They were chained to the ceiling so that if he did not balance on his  toes, his body weight came to rest on the balls of his shoulders;  threatening to pull his arms out of their sockets.  His toes barely touched the  floor.  Enough to support most of his weight if he did not fall asleep.   Every time he did begin to drift, he relaxed his muscles and the pain  in his arms would jolt him awake.  His hands and wrists had long since  gone numb. He was no longer wearing his shirt and blood had dried on his  chest and abdomen. The place where he was held was underground; cooler  than he was used to. For the first time in his life, Jack was actually  shivering.  Hour after hour crawled past as he groaned in agony, sure he  was forgotten in this hell.  He longed for sleep and the blissfully unconsciousness it  offered.

Finally, Larry came and undid the chain behind Jack.  Jack fell to the floor  actually unable to support his all of  his own weight.  The fire in his  shoulders became searing pain all the way down his arms and into his  hands.  Jack hissed and panted until the pain began to subside. He tried  to stagger to his feet.  Larry became impatient and grabbed Jack under  the arm to drag him from the room.  As soon as Larry pulled up on Jack’s  abused shoulder Jack jerked his head back and actually screamed.  The pain did not subside until  they were well out of the chamber and down the hall. Jack was taken to  the interrogation room again and tied into the chair.  He was too weak to fight Larry or even make it difficult for  him.

It was not long before Mr. Teeth entered the room.

“DJ, I am so disappointed in you.  Why are you hiding these others. They are killers.  They are killing us….your people.  Didn’t they kill your friends  at the refinery? All you have to do is let us defend ourselves and all this can  come to an end. Don’t you want it to end?”

Exhausted  Jack nodded.

“Good.” The man bent over to look Jack in the eyes. “It is so  simple. So  easy.  Just lead us to them. Then we can all be safe.”

“I don’t know where they are.”  Jack rasped, more out of habit then any sense of will.

The man disappeared from Jack’s  view and Jack did his best to brace himself before the inevitable blow.  This time it did not take long for Jack’s words to slur and his thoughts to become too confused to give a  coherent answer...

Jack did not wake until rough hands were on him again. He had  not even heard them enter his cell. They carried him back to the “hurt room”.  This  time there was no chair in the room.  They had erected a metal frame against one  wall of the room. There was a small string or rope that went from the  metal frame to the one light in the middle of the ceiling. They tied  Jack’s hand to the top of the frame and then stripped his pants off of  him.  He did not even protest or try to prevent such a travesty.  He no  longer felt like the owner of his body.  He felt almost disconnected  from it except for the pain. They tied his feet to the frame so that he  was now spread eagle.

Stan, his other tormentor, came  into the room with Mr. Teeth.

“DJ,” Mr. Teeth implored, “We can do this all day long. We have  enough people to do it. You don’t want any more. You know you don’t. It  is simple to stop all of this. Just tell us where they are.”

Jack’s voice came out rusty and  cracked, “Go ahead and do it all day then.” This was less bravado and  more practical from Jack’s point of view. He was sure that if they had  not given him the rest break earlier, he would have died.  At this point  he longed for his inevitable death.

“Tsk, tsk , tsk, DJ.  You don’t know what you are asking of us.  We  don’t want to hurt you anymore.” Mr Teeth did not sound particularly sad about  being forced to hurt Jack, We  don’t even want to be here with you now. We just need the one thing  from you and then we can go back to the way it was.”

Even in his reduced state, Jack realized this was a lie. He  mustered all of what was left of his former self and spit at his  tormentors.

Stan snorted at Jack’s weak effort and a quick look of disgust fluttered across Mr. Teeth’s  face. “DJ. Its  time for a science lesson.” He turned and walked over to the middle of  the room and stood under the light. Jack’s eyes followed him but there was nothing but  disinterest behind them.

“Haven’t you ever wondered about the lights here,  Jack? They are not candles.  They give off light that is brighter and  cleaner.” The tormentor paused for effect but Jack did not answer. “The  light is produced with el-ec-tri-city.” He stressed each syllable to  mock Jack and the word was indeed new to Jack. “But we can use  electricity  for so many other things, DJ. We use it to heat our homes, operate machinery…and we use  it to cook with. It works very well for cooking DJ. There is no smoke, unless of course you  burn what you are cooking.”

Stan approached Jack again. He took two small  clamps attached to the cord that came from the ceiling and clamped them  to Jack’s chest. Jack instantly recognized their shape.  Matching  triangles of metal. This is what had happened to Laissi! She had been here. She had not  given them the answers they sought either. There were dozens, no, hundreds of marks on  each of her breasts.  How many times had she laid naked on this metal frame and refused them?  Knowing this, how could he do less for her? Jack closed his eyes and set  his resolve. Whatever came, he would not shame Laissi.

“DJ, this is one lesson you could  do without. Just tell us where they are and we will show you how  electricity  works in a much more civilized fashion.  Perhaps preparing you dinner.

“Go to hell.” Jack croaked.

Mr. Teeth backed away from Jack  and nodded  to Stan who flipped a switch. The pain was instant and total.  Every  muscle contracted at once.  He had never felt this sort of pain before.  His eyes threatened to come out of his head. His facial muscles  contorted in unnatural ways. He made involuntary sounds. He could not  breath! His limbs danced against the frame.  He was being  consumed by fire.

And  then it stopped. Jack lay slack against his binding panting and gasping  for air as his whole body burned. Dear God, they had done this to  Laissi and she had not told? How?  She was covered in marks. How had she refused them so  many times? He marveled at her and longed to hold her. To tell her how  much he thought of her.  To apologize because he did not think he could  handle the same number of sessions she had.

The smell of something delicious  cooking in a kitchen somewhere came to Jack’s nostrils. Despite his  current pain his body needed sustenance and his mouth began to water. He  raised his head to get a better whiff of the smell and to see if they  were going to tempt him with food now. But when he opened his eyes he  realized with disgust that the smoke was coming from his own chest and  back. They were cooking him alive!

The Concepts Behind the Fiction:

1.  A  Taxi to the Darkside

On the day of  his death, Dilawar had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell  for much of the previous four days. A guard tried to force  the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by  guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr.  Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he  was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed  only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling. “Leave him up,” one of  the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying. Several hours passed  before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was  dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months  before Army investigators learned that most of the interrogators had in  fact believed Mr. Dilawar to be an innocent man who simply drove his  taxi past the American base at the wrong time.  Wiki

Dilawar was a 22 year old taxi driver who weighed 122 lbs.  He  was given up to American forces as the man who drove the get away car  after the bombing on an American Air Base.  His accuser was Jan Bez Khan  who was later found to have sent several innocent men to the Americans  to ingratiate himself to them and for the money they offered.

Dilawar’s “interrogation” was dutifully documented.  During his  questioning he received the following:

  • A black hood pulled over his head limiting his  ability to breathe
  • Knee strikes to  the abdomen
  • Over 100 peroneal (a nerve  behind the kneecap) strikes
  • Shoved against a wall
  • Pulled by his beard
  • His bare feet stepped on
  • Kicks to the groin
  • Chained to the ceiling for extended hours, depriving  him of sleep
  • Slammed his chest into a table front–Wiki

Pathologist Major Elizabeth Rouse signed Dilawar’s  death certificate. Her report stated that his legs had become “pulpified” by the  beatings.  She testified that if he had lived, his legs would have needed  amputation.

If I had  to narrow it to one thing that forced me to start this project, it would  be Dilawar.  It would be the fact that my people had become the  torturers.  To me, that was the most unacceptable part of the Bush  years.

2.  Torture under Obama

“To build a better, freer world, we  must first behave in ways that reflect the decency and aspirations of  the American people.   This means ending the practices of shipping away  prisoners in the dead of night to be tortured in far-off countries, of  detaining thousands without charge or trial, of maintaining a network of  secret prisons to jail people beyond the reach of the law.” Barack  Obama in an article in Foreign Affairs in the summer of 2007

Obama did do several things in his first weeks of  office to stop the torture in US detention camps.  He signed executive  orders stating that prisoners of war were to be treated in compliance  with the Army Field Manual, which does not allow harsher interrogation  techniques.  But this does not cover those who are apprehended as part  of a “counter terrorism operation”.  These men are not protected from torture.

He closed the CIA black sites and  disallowed the CIA from running long term detention sites.  But where  have the men from those sites gone?

Unfortunately, President Obama has continued a practice started  by President Clinton and expanded by President Bush.  The practice of  rendition, in which prisoners are taken to foreign countries know for  their harsh treatment of prisoners.  When pressed about why the US  needed to transport prisoners to countries like Egypt, no answer has  been forth coming from this administration.

“It is extremely disappointing that the Obama  administration is continuing the Bush administration practice of relying  on diplomatic assurances, which have been proven completely ineffective  in preventing torture,” said Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the American  Civil Liberties Union, who tracked rendition cases under President George W. Bush.–NYT

Despite his pledge to close down Gitmo, Obama still  hold 182 prisoners at Guantánamo.  Fifty of these men are held in a  Kafkaesque state of being without charges or the benefit of due process  for the last 9 years.  Making it impossible for them to seek their own  release even if entirely innocent.  Thus these men are subjected to the  worst form of torture–hopelessness.

Obama  has sought to uphold military kangaroo courts for 35 of these  prisoners.  He continues to refuse to release pictures of interrogations  and evidence of their guilt.  And he refuses to hold those who approved  the torture accountable making it mute whether it is legal or not to  torture.

The Obama  administration’s efforts to bury the crimes of its predecessor mean  that, in all probability, the same abuse is ongoing today. While the  secret CIA prison gulag has been closed down-even prior to Obama’s  executive order issued in February-there can be little doubt that at  Guantánamo, and in prisons in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in third-party  countries, torture continues.–WSWS

And  then there is Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan.  About 600 prisoners are  held there and  two thirds of them the military itself thinks are  innocent. Again these men are held without charges or due process in a  hell of legal limbo.  While torture at Gitmo has in all likelihood  stopped, the evidence points to continued and worse torture at Bagram.

There is absolutely no difference between the Bush  administration and the Obama administration’s position with respect to  Bagram detainees’ rights. They have made much ado about nothing, in the  hope that the courts and the public will not examine the issue more  closely.

Some of our clients have been at Bagram since its early days, and  they still are not being told what the charges are against them, or  given the ability to challenge those allegations in any fair legal  proceeding. Moreover, several of our clients were brought to Bagram from  outside of Afghanistan. For example, Amin Al Bakri — a Yemeni gem  trader who was kidnapped while on a business trip in Thailand, rendered  to secret prisons, tortured and finally ended up at Bagram — is still  being held incommunicado and without access to his attorneys. We believe  he was tortured in CIA secret prisons before being transferred to  Bagram, which is why I believe the government does not want to allow us  to speak with him. It’s a cover up. Amin has been at Bagram for more  than six years. It’s hard to imagine any other reason why the government  would not allow him a simple hearing in a US court.–Tina Foster is a  lawyer working exclusively with Bagram prisoners.–Spiegel

In April 2009, a US judge ordered that prisoners transported to  Bagram from other countries are not part of the military justice system  and thus are entitled to Constitutional rights of due process.  The  Obama Justice department is fighting this claim.

“To provide alien enemy combatants detained in a theater  of war the privilege of access to our civil courts is unthinkable both  legally and practically,” the government’s brief claimed. IPS

So what is it about torture that makes it  so hard to walk away from for this administration?

Torture Squads at  Guantánamo

Left 6 hours Standing  in Snow

ADDENDUM ON 5/24/10:

The above decision was overruled in appeals yesterday.


Court Rules Against Prisoners at Bagram

   A federal appeals court has ruled that prisoners held in an American-run jail in Afghanistan cannot challenge their confinement in federal court. The ruling impacts hundreds of prisoners held at Bagram Air Base, including men who were captured in other countries and then transported to Afghanistan. Tina Foster, an attorney for the detainees, criticized the decision. She said, “This is an extremely disturbing precedent that allows the US government to kidnap someone from any part of the world and never have to justify it, ever.” DN!

3.  The Real  Usefulness of Torture

During  this series I have traced the history of torture from the Inquisition,  through Nazi Germany, the USSR and Vietnam to the US.  These techniques  led to men confessing to partying with the Devil (in a literal sense)  and naming other people they knew who had been at the party.  After  these techniques were used on them, US soldiers, who were clearly just  grunts, confessed to being involved in elaborate US plots to take over  the world by conquering Vietnam first.

If we know going into it, that the information you get  from torture is unreliable, why do it?  Not to get actionable  intelligence.  That you can get with much more effective, acceptable and  humane treatment. No, the goal is to get something much more sinister.   To get control.  Torture and hold just a few people.  Make it clear  that you can “disappear” people at your will, and you undercut any  resistance against you.  You can control whole populations by just  housing a few innocent people indefinitely.  That is why Obama can not  walk completely away from torture.  Because he can not walk away from  Iraq and Afghanistan.