The United States is a country that will torture you to keep itself safe.
It is high time we abandoned all the nice-sounding rhetoric and just recognized our country for what it is: a savage, barbarous nation that has no regard for human rights or international law.
The Geneva Conventions, which have historically prevented the torture of anyone by member nations, were described as outdated and "quaint" by our new Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales. He heads our Justice Department. If you are tortured at the hands of U.S. agents, on this country’s soil or another’s, he is ultimately the one who will decide whether or not you have a right to challenge your detention and torture.
Clearly, he favors torture.
Let’s take a look at the list of torture sites we have available, and which we are currently using to "extract" from Arabs information of questionable intelligence value. There’s Abu Ghraib, the prison that was notorious during Saddam Hussein’s rule for torturing its prisoners. It’s a shame to let such good racks and wheels go to waste.
After those unflattering pictures of our brave men and women in uniform proudly giving thumbs-ups on piles of helpless Arab bodies, digital cameras were banned. Problem solved.
Then there is Guantanamo Bay, the crowning achievement of torture camps. Housed in Cuba, it is fully equipped with chain-link cages impossible to stand or lie down in. Within these cages, we keep "terrorists" and "Taliban members," code words used to describe Arab men whom we happened to think might be of some military intelligence value. Despite the surprise that most of these men knew nothing of any value to us, we still keep them there, and on them we still employ harsh interrogation techniques that are illegal in this country. These include, but are not limited to: physical kicks and punches, injection of needles under fingernails, forced water submersion, sleep deprivation, rubbing of menstrual blood over faces, spitting on the Koran, leaving men hanging by handcuffs with their arms behind and above them, psychological torture and all sorts of other methods that are illegal on U.S. soil.
Since some of the really painful torture tricks are illegal even at Guantanamo, we have chartered a "torture jet" which picks up the Arabs we want to torture and flies them to an Arab country – such as Egypt, Syria or Saudi Arabia – which does not have "quaint" provisions against torture. The process, named "rendition," allows us to get down and dirty.
Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was kidnapped at JFK Airport by U.S. agents ("arrested" is not an appropriate word, since he is under no charge) and flown to Syria to be tortured. When this illegal detention was challenged, a "state secrets privilege" was invoked, effectively killing the challenge.
Ahmed Abu Ali, a U.S. citizen and valedictorian of his Virginia high school, was tortured for twenty months in Saudi Arabia for talking with someone else – while in another country – about the possibility of assassinating President Bush. The person he allegedly had this conversation with is conveniently dead. His civil rights case against the government is being stalled by the same "secrecy privilege."
Our practice of torture is not a secret. Every man freed from Guantanamo has described his torture. Innocent Iraqis herded into Abu Ghraib for fear they might be insurgents have shown their bruises and scars from U.S. torture. We now have not one, but two "torture jets." This is now our policy, and it is high time we recognized this fact.
We should unashamedly resign from the U.N. Human Rights Commission. We should declare our new position to the world: We are the United States, we are stronger than you, and if you are of Arab descent and may possibly grow up to be a terrorist we will lock you up forever and torture you every day.
This will frighten Arabs away from the lure of revenge and terrorism. We can win the War on Terror by scaring all Arab men with the prospect of daily torture if they should pursue terrorism, or if they even look like anybody who might. To be safe, we really should just torture them all. That’s what this is all about, isn’t it? Safety?
Chaelan MacTavish can be reached at [email protected].