Monday, December 20, 2010

Do Ask, Do Tell -- About Torture

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

Don't Ask, Don't Tell is finally over and done with, so get out the champagne, point it away from your lover's face, and pop the plastic cork. Eventually, the Defense of Marriage Act will be overturned. A couple more laws will be passed against homodiscrimination. And with full legal equality, we can dissolve into our country like the other lazy liberal slobs America plays host to, with mediocre marriages and crappy jobs and crappy health care, and not the faintest idea of what it means to be a citizen saddled with responsibilities along with rights in this behemoth of a nation that tramples its own ideals as thoughtlessly as peanut shells on the floor of a bar.

Better open two bottles. Or go straight for the scotch.

I'm thinking of how this military we are now so thrilled to be a part of aids and abets torture, and how much more easily it goes down under Obama, than under Bush. Surely you remember the demos after Abu Ghraib? They weren't particularly well attended, but they were there. There was certainly a hue and cry when the first orange jumpsuited prisoners were installed in cages in Guant√°namo.

Nevertheless, despite all promises to the contrary, the latter remains open, and new victims tortured so frequently in military jails and black op sites that foreigners can now persuasively fight extradition into American hands.

All they have to do is point to Bradley Manning. For the last seven months, the 22-year-old soldier has been held in military jails under conditions of long-term isolation that most countries agree constitute torture. A model prisoner, and convicted of nothing whatsoever, he's nevertheless been kept in solitary confinement for 23 out of 24 hours every day, forbidden even to exercise in his cell, and deprived of basic amenities like sheets for his bed.

Salon's Glenn Greenwald recently reported that, "as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation." That's us. That's America, still torturing kids, even if we've refined our methods since José Padilla who totally cracked while awaiting trial.

The question is why. Manning's no dangerous criminal that's killed 27 men with his bare hands, or a terrorist greybeard encouraging young things to blow themselves up in public places. He's a young soldier that either heroically or foolishly may have leaked materials related to what seemed like war crimes, including an Apache helicopter attacking and killing unarmed civilians.

As he wrote in an online chat with hacker Adrian Lamo prior to his arrest, he only wanted to give people an opportunity "to see the truth... regardless of who they are... because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public." He went on to write that if there was no outcry, and it didn't change anything, "we're doomed - as a species - i will officially give up on the society we have if nothing happens."

An investigation is probably appropriate. Not torture. Never torture. Especially when it's so clearly designed not to punish, but destroy him, both to deter other whistle-blowers, and to persuade a desperate Manning to implicate our new favorite enemy, Julian bin Assange.

For Americans these days, anything can justify torture. First it was the "War on Terror and the Folks that Should Really Give Us Our Oil For Free." Now it's our "War on Sources of Annoyance, Embarrassment, and Defective Condoms."

While queers were celebrating their new inclusion in the military, our Vice President Joseph Biden was telling NBC that WikiLeaks publisher, Julian Assange, was a "high-tech terrorist." Before that, that Democratic asswipe Senator Dianne Feinstein called for the U.S. government to prosecute Assange under the 1917 Espionage Act, a precedent that would pretty much destroy American journalism, even entities like the New York Times.

Feinstein also wants to criminalize people like me if we dare re-post these leaks in our newspapers or blogs. And the U.S. government has apparently been warning federal employees that even reading classified State Department documents published anywhere via WikiLeaks shall be considered a crime.

Let me take this opportunity to formally announce that in future national elections I will no longer vote for Democrats. You had your chance to stand for liberty and justice, and you flushed it down the toilet along with a constitution that guarantees free speech, fair trials, and equal treatment under the law. And for me, those are the only "gay" issues that count. Every right we have, or hope to win, all the methods we have to gain them, stem from those basic ideals.

If queers forget that, we are lost.

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