Statement on the 10th Anniversary of Guantanamo (1/11/12)
Dennis Loo delivered this statement during the press conference/vigil outside the LA Federal Building on January 11, 2012:
A society’s level of humanity or inhumanity can be read by looking at how it treats those it incarcerates. By that measure, we as a people and society are in terrible trouble. The prisoners who are tortured in prisons abroad and here at home, some of whom have died under torture and some driven to end their suffering by suicide, bear the weight of our collective souls on their sullied bodies.
I am a criminologist and have studied, taught, and written about prisons and jails here and abroad for many years. There are startling parallels between how much more savage domestic prisons have become and the impact of the so-called “war on terror” (WOT) on our world.
There is a general degrading underway of public administration and political leadership that emanates from the very highest levels of the U.S. government, with the willing collusion - or at least silence - of much of the major media. In that degrading of public leadership, the most draconian policies are now becoming the standard operating procedure and rule by lies and terror and indifference to the fates of people who do not toe the official line are now the rule.
In the WOT people whom the government dislikes, both actual terrorists and those who are merely dissenters engaging in or merely contemplating dissenting speech and/or assembly and/or thought, or even innocent bystanders, are being labeled enemies of the state. Until the ACLU and I called attention to it in 2009 the Defense Department, for example, was training all of its employees that non-violent protest was a form of “low-level terrorism.” We see the repressive powers of the state being further expanded with Obama’s signing on New Year’s Eve the National Defense Authorization Act that mandates the military to arrest and indefinitely detain people, both Americans and non-Americans, merely on the basis of an accusation, without recourse ever to the right to challenge your detention. (The inclusion of American citizens in the bill was specifically requested by none other than the Obama Administration.) In our domestic prisons administrators likewise label prisoners “gang members” as a form of repression, designating people as gang members whether they are actually gang members or not.
In the WOT torture and indefinite detention has been and is being used to extract “confessions” from detainees with the net cast exceedingly widely to include mostly entirely innocent individuals. This is neither a mistake nor an accident. The purpose of torture is not intelligence. The purpose of torture is terror. That is why capricious treatment of innocents is a core component of torture: you are supposed to be terrorized by its use into complying with whatever authority tells you to do because you could be the next innocent victim. In domestic prisons torture and long-term isolation are being used to terrorize prisoners. “Debriefings” are being used in an attempt to get prisoners to “name names,” much as the House UnAmerican Activities Committee of the McCarthy period did. “Naming names” is seen by those who act as inquisitors as the ultimate act of submission to authority because you are implicating your friends and family.
The WOT is a form of collective punishment and prison administrators are using collective punishment in domestic prisons, with punishment meted out to everyone, not just the individuals who have actually violated rules.
These parallels are not a coincidence. They are a natural and inevitable consequence of rule by tyrants who are scandalously using the so-called War on Terror to carry out a War Upon the People. People who see this must find every way to resist and to support those who are resisting. A new day must come, for the darkness grows ever deeper and malignant.