Adventus

"The central doctrine of Christianity, then, is not that God is a bastard. It is, in the words of the late Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe, that if you don’t love you’re dead, and if you do, they’ll kill you."--Terry Eagleton

"...doesn't philosophy amount to the sum of all thinkable and unthinkable errors, ceaselessly repeated?"--Jean-Luc Marion

“The opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice."--Bryan Stevenson

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Where we are now

One of the justifications for continuting the war in Vietnam was the infamous "Hanoi Hilton," where our soldiers were tortured by the "evil" Vietcong. When the war finally ended with the iconic helicopter fleeing Saigaon, more than a few movies were made with the "tiger cages" as a central image prompting the need, and the satisfaction, of American vengeance. We've always said we were better than that, and that only "they" do such things.

We can't say that anymore:

DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: Yes. In the darkness or in the light -- in the cells, the light would be all dark for a long time or all light for a long time. And for a very long part of his detention he had no mattress at all. And sometimes he would try to sleep on the pallet, if you will, the hard steel pallet, or other times he would be in essentially stress positions where he's got shackles and a belt and is in an awkward and uncomfortable position for long periods at a time.
....
AMY GOODMAN: Did you conclude he had been tortured?

DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: Well, “torture,” of course, is a legal term. However, as a clinician, I have worked with torture victims and, of course, abuse victims for a few decades now, actually. I think, from a clinical point of view, he was tortured.
Dr. Hegarty is a psychiatrist who examined Jose Padilla for his criminal trial.

If you want to put this in a context that's recognizable, there is no Harry Potter in this story, but there is clearly a He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named:

AMY GOODMAN: How afraid was Jose Padilla?

DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: How to capture that in an apt metaphor? He was terrified. For him, the government was all-powerful. The government knew everything. The government knew everything that he was doing. His interrogators would find out every little detail that he revealed. And he would be punished for it.
That's the power of Voldemort, in the Harry Potter stories: that he will know what you have done, and failed to do, and you will be punished for it. Voldemort is an abuser; that's no surprise. Simply by the first chapter of HP7, you can classify Voldemort as the worst boss you could ever fear to work for. Like Voldemort, abusers maintain their power through fear, and secrecy:

He was convinced that -- I mean, I think in words he endorsed -- even if he won his case, he lost, because he was going back to the brig if he managed to prevail at trial. And essentially, if hypothetically one were to offer him a really long prison sentence versus -- with a guarantee that he wouldn't go back to the brig -- versus risking going back to the brig, the chance that he might go back to the brig, he would take the prison sentence for a very long period of time. I think he would take almost anything rather than go back to that brig.

AMY GOODMAN: What happened in the brig?

DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: What happened at the brig was essentially the destruction of a human being's mind. That’s what happened at the brig. His personality was deconstructed and reformed. And essentially, like many abuse victims, whether it’s torture survivors or battered women or even children who are abused by parents, as long as the parents or the abuser is in control in their minds, essentially they identify with the primary aims of the abuser. And all abusers, whoever they are, have one absolute requirement, and that is that you keep their secret. I mean, it’s common knowledge that people who abuse children or women will say, “Look at what you made me do,” putting the blame on the victim, trying to instill guilt. “People will judge you. People will think you’re crazy if you tell them about this. You will be an enemy. You will be seen as an enemy. You will be seen as a bad person if this comes out. There will be dire and terrible consequences, not only for you.” Jose was very, very concerned that if torture allegations were made on his behalf, that somehow it would it interfere with the government's ability to detain people at Guantanamo, and this was something he couldn't sign onto. He was very identified with the goals of the government.
You may say this is an "apt metaphor," but not an intended result of the government's "treatment" of Jose Padilla. You would be wrong:

Pursuant to 28 V.S.C. § 1746, I, Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, hereby declare that, to the best of my knowledge, information, and belief, and under penalty of perjury, the following is true and conect:

I submit this Declaration for the Court's consideration in the matter of Jose Padilla v. George W. Bush et al., Case No. 02 Civ. 4445, pending in the United StatesDistrict Court for the Southern District of New York.
....

I assess Padilla's potential intelligence value as very high. I also finnly believe that providing Padilla access to counsel ris~ loss of a critical intelligence resource, resulting in a grave and direct threat to national security.
....
Permitting Padilla any access to counsel may substantially harm our national security interests. As with most detainees, Padilla is unlikely to cooperate if he believes that an attorney will intercede in his detention: DlA' s assessmenits that Padilla is even more inclined to resist interrogation than most detainees. DIA is aware that Padilla has had extensive experience in the United States criminal justice system and had access to counsel when he was being held as a material witness. These experiences have likely heightened his expectations that counsel will assist him in the interrogation process. Only after such time as Padilla has perceived that help is not on the way can the United States reasonably expect to obtain all possible intelligence information from Padilla.

Because Padilla is likely more attuned to the possibility of counsel intervention than most detainees, I believe that any potential sign of counsel involvement would disrupt our ability to gather intelligence from Padilla. Padilla has been detained without access to counsel for seven months-since the DoD took control of him on 9 June 2002. Providing him access to counsel now would create expectations by Padilla that his ultimate release may be obtained through an adversarial civil litigation process. This would break-probably irreparably-the sense of dependency and trust that the interrogators are attempting to create.
As Dr. Hegarty says:

DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: Well, there was a quote in the Jacoby declaration that caught my attention as a forensic psychiatrist. And that -- essentially it says that the purpose of keeping Mr. Padilla isolated was to foster a sense of dependence on his interrogators and to essentially foreclose in his mind utterly any hope of rescue. And it makes reference to the fact that, given that people who have had contact with the criminal justice system will expect to see an attorney and be rescued by an attorney, they want to essentially disabuse him of the notion that he will ever be rescued. They want him to believe that he is in their power forever. And I believe, in a sense, they succeeded.
Padilla was held in extreme isolation (Dr. Hegarty describes it in her interview) for 43 months.

According to defense motions on file in the case, Padilla's cell measured nine feet by seven feet. The windows were covered over. There was a toilet and sink. The steel bunk was missing its mattress.

He had no pillow. No sheet. No clock. No calendar. No radio. No television. No telephone calls. No visitors. Even Padilla's lawyer was prevented from seeing him for nearly two years.

For significant periods of time the Muslim convert was denied any reading material, including the Koran. The mirror on the wall was confiscated. Meals were slid through a slot in the door. The light in his cell was always on.

Those who haven't experienced solitary confinement can imagine that life locked in a small space would be inconvenient and boring. But according to a broad range of experts who have studied the issue, isolation can be psychologically devastating. Extreme isolation, in concert with other coercive techniques, can literally drive a person insane, these experts say. And that makes it a potential instrument of torture, they add.
I started this post this morning. According to CNN, a verdict has already been reached in the case. He was not, however, finally tried for being a major intelligence source on Al Qaeda, but, according to CNN:

Prosecutors wanted jurors to convict Padilla largely on a five-page "mujahedeen data form" he supposedly filled out in 2000 to attend an al Qaeda terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. Padilla is a U.S. citizen.
CNN notes the defense put on no evidence on Padilla's behalf. There may be more than one reason for that:

And in the course of the interview, he revealed to me that he essentially had been told that if he relayed any of what had happened to him, his experiences, people would quote/unquote “know he was crazy.” And he was very upset by this and very disturbed by it, and it’s just that his level of being so disturbed suggested to me that there was something more, but, you know, asking further questions, he wouldn't reveal it to me.

DR. ANGELA HEGARTY: He was resentful of his lawyers. He had left the brig thinking he was about to be released. He told me that he had been given regular clothing and was actually surprised to find himself incarcerated. He was very angry at his lawyers that they hadn’t gotten him out and that, in fact, his conditions in the Miami detention center under the special conditions in which he was held were actually somewhat more restrictive and more isolating than they had been in the later stages of his detention at the brig. So he was angry with them. He also felt that everything had been established, you know, that the government knew everything and that essentially they would -- there was no need for him to be revealing things to his lawyers. And he was very uncomfortable.
....
He had developed really a tremendous identification with the goals and interests of the government. I really considered a diagnosis of Stockholm syndrome. For example, at one point in the proceedings, his attorneys had, you know, done well at cross-examining an FBI agent, and instead of feeling happy about it like all the other defendants I’ve seen over the years, he was actually very angry with them. He was very angry that the civil proceedings were “unfair to the commander-in-chief,” quote/unquote. And in fact, one of the things that happened that disturbed me particularly was when he saw his mother. He wanted her to contact President Bush to help him, help him out of his dilemma. He expected that the government might help him, if he was “good,” quote/unquote.
I must say, I love the bland way the New York Times is reporting this just now:

The charges brought in civilian court in Miami, however, were a pale shadow of those initial claims in part because Padilla, 36, was interrogated about the plot when he was held as an enemy combatant for 3 1/2 years in military custody with no lawyer present and was not read his Miranda rights.
You'd think it was all just a matter of some legal mumbo-jumbo. Damn those lawyers and their "technicalities!" But it's all good: he's guilty. And based on Hegarty's comments, I don't think Padilla is too upset by that verdict. The rest of us can rest assured the government is protecting us from people who fill out forms. And as for his incarceration for 43 months, it never happened:

Neither were jurors told that Padilla was held in a Navy brig for 3½ years without charges before his indictment in the Miami case.

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