26 January 2011

Voices and Soul

25 January 2011

by Justice Putnam
Black Kos Poetry Editor

When the first photos of torture at Abu Ghraib were distributed online; photos of dogs barking at naked, hooded prisoners, while guards smiled at the camera with thumbs-up gestures of a grand accomplishment; many of my more law and order acquaintances argued it wasn't torture; that the allegations of such abuse, the use of dogs, of fire hoses, of solitary confinement wasn't torture because it was common in our own prisons here in the states; that in fact, guards like Charles Graner, had been prison guards stateside, that their tactics and procedures would never muster a legal challenge, let alone rise to the level of a crime. They maintained that Graner was a hero doing a tough job overseas, a job he had done stateside in the same fashion for years without incident; he was perfectly trained for Abu Ghraib and they saw no problem.

I spoke to a few of those acquaintances after reading Deoliver's essay Sunday on Bradley Manning and the prison industrial complex. They continue to see nothing wrong with solitary confinement; our supermax prisons, they reminded me, even have weekend long cable shows devoted to the practice.

"So I guess that makes it ok," I replied sarcastically.

"The United States incarcerates more people than any other nation," they continued to remind me, "it is a big business and not going away any time soon. But even so, we don't torture; and we certainly don't abuse prisoners. All practices and procedures have been approved by medical professionals."

Plus, it's all on TV.

Charles Graner Is Not America

Let’s get this straight: Charles Graner
is not America. America would never
hold a knife to his wife’s throat, then say
when she woke that he was considering
killing her. And America’s wife in turn
would never call her husband “my own
Hannibal Lecter.” Am I right, or what?
Charles Graner may be Hannibal Lecter,
but he is not America. America is not that
kind of husband. Nor would America email
his adolescent children photos of himself
torturing naked Iraqi prisoners and say
“look what Daddy gets to do!” Am I right?
America is not that kind of father. America
would never torture naked Iraqi prisoners.
Let’s be absolutely clear about all of this.
And America’s ex-lover and co-defendant
would never whisper to the sketch artist
at America’s trial: “You forgot the horns.”
Charles Graner may or may not have horns,
but America is horn-free. America does not
torture prisoners. America may render them,
fully clothed, to Egypt or Syria, for further
interrogation, or to men like Charles Graner,
but America is not, ipso facto, Egypt or Syria,
and Charles Graner is not now nor has he ever
been America. And don’t talk to me about
Guantanamo. Please! Let’s get this straight.
You and I know who America is. We know
what America does and doesn’t do, because we
(not Charles Graner!) are America. Am I right?
Is this all clear? Tell me—am I right, or what?

-- Geoffrey Brock

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