Americans who have suffered harm during the current financial crisis should be counting their lucky stars. At least U.S. officials haven’t taken them into custody as enemy combatants and tortured them, as U.S. officials have done to two American citizens, Yaser Hamdi and Jose Padilla. They, along with a foreigner named Ali al Marri, were held in isolation for years in a Pentagon military dungeon in South Carolina, where they were mentally tortured by U.S. military officials.
While Pentagon officials have long maintained that the two Americans were treated humanely in military custody, it turns out that that just one more big lie on top of all the others that have emanated from the Pentagon for the last several years (e.g., Jessica Lynch, Abu Ghraib, Pat Tillman, etc.).
According to the Associated Press previously secret documents now reveal that U.S. military officials knowingly, intentionally, and deliberately employed many of the interrogation techniques at Guantanamo on Hamdi and Padilla. These included sleep and sensory deprivation, prolonged isolation, and threats of death. According to the documents, the U.S. military was ordered to treat the Americans the same way that Gitmo prisoners were being treated.
The documents have come to light as a result of a Freedom of Information request filed by two attorneys for Padilla.
Let’s not forget the famous photo of Padilla wearing military-installed goggles, obviously to ensure that the psychological torture would not be disturbed on his way to receive dental treatment.
As Alfred McCoy, a history professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has pointed out, U.S. officials love to use sensory deprivation and isolation as a torture technique because such techniques are able to cause mental damage to the victim without leaving any physical torture marks. In that way, the torturers can say, “What? Us? We didn’t do anything. We never laid a hand on him. He’s just a crazy person. Aren’t all terrorists crazy? We’ve treated him fine.”
For a good account of how U.S. officials employ this form of mental torture, see “The CIA’s Favorite Form of Torture” by Mark Benjamin, which appeared in the June 7, 2007, issue of Salon.
One unidentified naval brig officer warned about the mental damage that was being inflicted on Hamdi: “I will continue to do what I can to help this individual maintain his sanity, but in my opinion we’re working with borrowed time.”
What that brig officer might not have realized — or maybe he did and was trying to cover his back — was that mental damage was exactly what the Pentagon’s treatment of Hamdi and Padilla was intended to produce.
Now, I know what the fear-crowd will say: “But they’re terrorists! They’re coming to take us away! What’s wrong with treating them like we treat the terrorists at Gitmo?”
Well, for one because they hadn’t been convicted of terrorism when they were tortured. Second, even if they had been convicted, cruel and unusual punishments are legally prohibited, thanks to the Framers and the Constitution. Third, terrorism is a federal crime and, therefore, these people should never have been turned over to military officials in the first place. Forth, the U.S. government shouldn’t have been torturing foreigners at Gitmo either.
What’s important to note in all this, however, is that owing to the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism,” military officials now wield the power to do to every American what they have done to Hamdi and Padilla and the prisoners at Gitmo — arrest them, throw them into a military dungeon, and intentionally cause them mental damage with psychological torture.
But hey, what American wants to think about that? After all, the federal government is our financial savior, right? It’s now saving us from financial catastrophe, right? Surely our federal savior would never arbitrarily arrest, confine, and torture even more Americans, especially in the midst of another big terrorist crisis, right? And surely our federal savior would never cause the very crises that enable it to do bad things to us and good things for us, right?