“Maybe this world is another planet's hell.”
- Aldous Huxley
What if the government of a free democratic nation arrested one of its citizens without any formal charges and no criminal trial? What if the government refused to let the citizen contact a lawyer? What if they whisked the citizen to a military prison and systematically began to torture him for three long years?
What if they kept him penned in a cell that was nine feet by seven feet? What if his only window looked into a concrete hall and they even blocked that? What if he only had a steel bunk and no mattress? What if they kept waking him up when he fell asleep?
What if they told him they were going to kill him? What if they took him outside only every few months and then only at night? What if he had no clocks and his cell was always brightly lit (except for the times they plunged it into utter darkness for as long as 24 hours at a time)?
What if they turned off the heat for days at a time? What if they didn’t let him bathed for several weeks? What if they put hoods over his head and forced him to stand in stress positions for long periods of time? What if they pumped him full of LSD and PCP?
What if it was you?
Welcome to world of Jose Padilla – an American citizen arrested as an “enemy combatant” by the Bush administration on May 8, 2002. Padilla spent three-and-a-half years in prison being tortured and interrogated as an alleged terrorist without any formal charges or a trial. The Bush administration accused Padilla of plotting to detonate a “dirty bomb” in Chicago after he met with Al Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.
However, when the Bush administration finally decided to present formal criminal charges against Padilla in 2005 – there was no mention of a “dirty bomb” threat. Instead, Padilla was charged with the vague crime of being a terrorist and plotting against the United States. There has yet to be a trial.
The latest development in the case is that Padilla’s lawyer, Michael Caruso, acting federal public defender, has filed a motion in the U.S. District Court Southern District of Florida to dismiss the case on the grounds of “outrageous government conduct.”
The 20-page motion, which has received surprisingly little attention from the mainstream press, is a fascinating, frightening read. If half of what Caruso alleges is true – then the United States has turned a dangerous corner under the Bush administration (which is building a powerful case as the worst administration in history).
Some of the motion’s claims:
The government kept Padilla in complete isolation for two years – his only human contact guards who delivered his food and military interrogators.
He would be placed in “stress positions” shackled and manacled for hours at a time.
Noxious fumes would be pumped into his cell strong enough to cause his eyes and nose to run.
The interrogators threatened him with imminent execution.
His captors injected him with LSD and PCP.
It’s like a bad TV show – culled from a drug store paperback thriller.
The real crime is the lack of outrage from Americans. Jose Padilla was a punk – a gang member and criminal with a violent history. One wonders if it’s because he’s Hispanic and Muslim that few people care. How forgotten is Padilla? There's a web site dedicated to his cause that hasn't been updated since November, 2005. The bulletin board on the site has only 32 registered participants and there's been no activity on it for more than seven days.
No one in the United States should have to endure what Padilla has experienced. This isn’t Stalin’s Russia or Pol Pot’s Cambodia. This is supposed to be the greatest democracy in history – the United States of America.
Jailing citizens without charges and torturing them shouldn’t even be possible in the U.S.
How have we gotten to this point? A deeper question, however, is when is the Bush administration going to held accountable for these types of actions? Too many Americans agree with this president's actions and wrap themselves in the flag with justifications that torture saves innocent lives.
How unAmerican is that?
Labels: Essay, Politics, Torture