Wednesday, June 28, 2006

What happened to the U.S. Constitution?

I live in a society that tortures people. I do not mean only that people in secret prisons are tortured -- and it is becoming increasingly clear that this secret torture must be a matter of policy at some level -- but also that ordinary persons in the United States (or at least in New Jersey) are routinely subjected to horrible physical and psychological tortures in prisons and jails, even in their own homes. (See "Psychological Torture in the American Legal System" and "An Open Letter to My Torturers, Terry Tuchin and Diana Lisa Riccioli.")

Worse, persons are secretly subjected to questioning under hypnosis and in a drugged condition -- something which is clearly illegal under existing U.S. law -- and the information obtained in this manner is then used against them by state governments, even in civil proceedings, provided that government officials can later claim to have obtained the information from some "other" source. This activity may be accompanied by daily destruction and defacements of written or dreative work of victims, interference with any prospective advantage for victims, "anonymous" slanders and other behind-the-back attacks against victims. (See my essay on the jailing of Chomsky's Turkish publisher and also .)

Many victims of psychological torture will not be told the truth concerning what has been done to them or by whom. Eventually, they can be made to "do" something (the legal equivalent of not wearing a seatbelt perhaps) that can then be used against them to justify the torture's producing the sanctioned conduct. The reality of the harm done to victims and their loved-ones -- for life -- will be ignored, so long as "plausible denial" (a believable lie) can be maintained by the very authorities, who then judge the ethics and legality of their victims. All requests for information will be ignored. "Let's pretend that nothing happened." I don't think so. "Maybe it was for your own good." I doubt it. What is for my own good is not for some state bureaucrat to decide.

A person experiencing such surrealistic torments and crimes -- even falling apart as a result of torture or the after-effects of trauma -- is expected to find some way to reconcile long held political and legal ideals with the reality of daily and cynical betrayals of those ideals by politicians and judges, who will criticize him for failing to live up to those ideals.

It will be necessary for victims to find a way to keep from throwing up when contemplating the overfed types sporting judicial robes along with shaky and insincere smiles for newspaper cameras in the ultimate example of cognitive dissonance that is now, much too often, the truth concerning America's judges, even as they comment (with a satisfied belch) on the need for ethics on the part of others in government and law. (See "Senator Bob, the Babe, and the Big Bucks.")

Are these the best people we can find to put on the judicial bench? They can't be.

If you become an attorney hoping to find Brennan, Brandeis, Holmes, Cardozo, Douglas, Bazelon, Marshall or any of the other great jurists associated with U.S. legal decisions that you studied in school, then you are in for a major surprise and disappointment when you finally get into a law practice. Most of the time, you will encounter political hacks and former "C" students in law school, who are now wearing judicial robes and pompous smiles in county courthouses. It is your job to pretend that each of them is Oliver Wendell Holmes, something which they secretly (or not-so-secretly) believe anyway. Most of them are provided with a small office for themselves and another, much larger, office for their egos.

These disgusting realities are KNOWN to state appellate tribunals producing legal opinions that are ostensibly concerned to protect Constitutional rights of citizens -- rights which those same tribunals ignore every day. Much of American law has become an elaborate FRAUD, seemingly designed to deceive or persuade a population, in Orwellian terms, that "slavery is freedom." This is accomplished with the assistance of persons calling themselves "therapists," who are all-too often sadistic torturers. Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are events that have a history in the shadow-world of "control" of domestic dissent in the United States. You may be the next victim.

For those of us who continue to believe that the U.S. Constitution is the best document of its kind in the world and that much of the case law interpreting that text is magnificent, the only possible conclusion is that we live in a dual reality: a pretense at compliance with Constitutional provisions is often given lip service publicly; even as a private and well-known reality of torture and secrecy, denials of access to information and exploitation, is winked at by powerful officials growing rich on the people's money, while wielding disproportionate power.

Why do we put up with this situation?

Much of this cruelty and exploitation is only made possible by a stupefied and apathetic population which feels no need to keep faith with the men and women who have died to preserve our Constitutional guarantees. So long as the Constitution exists as a hope, if nothing else, this is not a situation which should be tolerated. It is time to hit the streets again with a little protest, sixties-style. It must be possible for Americans to recognize the horror and obscenity of this grim reality.

As July 4th approaches, the idea that torture is O.K., if it is done secretly (which I call the "Tuchin/Riccioli" doctrine, at least in New Jersey), must not be allowed to succeed, not even in that unfortunate state:

... Should we create a professional cadre of torturers, of interrogators who have been trained in the techniques and who have learned to overcome their instinctive revulsion against causing pain? Medical executioners were [traditionally] schooled in the arts of agony. ...

Should there be a medical sub-specialty of torture doctors, [they're called "behaviorist psychologists"] who ensure that gasping captives don't die before they talk? Recall the chilling words of Sgt Ivan Fredericks, one of the abusers at Abu Ghraib, who saw the body of a detainee after the interrogation went awry: "They stressed the man out so much he passed away." He was referring to Manadel Jamadi, whose ice-packed body was photographed at Abu Ghraib before the CIA spirited it away. ... Who should teach torture doctoring in medical school? [How about Terry and Diana?]

Professor David Luban asks:

Do we really want to create a torture culture and the kind of people who inhabit it? The ticking bomb distracts us from the real issue, which is not about emergencies, but about the normalization of torture. Some might argue that keeping the practice of torture secret avoids the moral corruption that might arise from creating a public culture of torture. But concealment does not reject the normalization of torture. It accepts it, but layers on top of it the normalization of state secrecy. The result [is] a shadow culture of torturers and those who train and support them, operating outside the public eye and accountable only to other insiders of the torture culture.

Remind politicians and judges that they work for you. (I use the word "work" to refer to most politicians' and judges' lucrative activities with some irony intended.) Tell them, as fans of the movie Network will recall, that after a disastrous war and occupation in Iraq, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, Katrina, widespread corruption in state governments, rising oil prices and diminished expectations: "We're mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more!"

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