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Parboiled People

by Michael I. Niman, ArtVoice 2-9-06
 http://mediastudy.com/articles/av2-09-06.html
We're living in a lawless nation. So I guess I
shouldn't be shocked
every time I return from a trip and catch up on
the news to see how much
further the ruling junta and its international
posse have sunk into the
depths of moral depravity. This time around the
shocker was a revelation
that the Bush-connected dictator in the former
Soviet republic of
Uzbekistan, with the seeming acquiescence of the
C.I.A., had taken to
ordering his political prisoners boiled to death.

Dastardly

According to Craig Murry, the former British
Ambassador to Uzbekistan,
forensics experts at Scotland Yard and the
University of Glasgow
determined that one Uzbek political prisoner
whose case they examined
died from being boiled alive. He wasn't
"splashed" with water but
immersed, the experts determined, since there was
a clear "tide mark" on
the corpse. And he was immersed after being
severely beaten and having
his fingernails plucked out.

I first heard this on the Democracy Now radio
news program while taking
a shower. It was one of those surreal moments
that seem to be occurring
with troubling frequency these days. My mind
could only respond as if I
myself had been plucked from the shower and
deposited into a cartoon
world. "How dastardly," I thought, imagining
superheroes battling
villains while innocents dangled over steamy
caldrons. Dastardly?

But this ain't a cartoon. Evidence emerges weekly
that our own
government condones and practices torture, using
euphemisms such as
"aggressive interrogation." The unthinkable is
suddenly our reality and
our national policy. All the Uzbeks were doing
was taking it to the next
level. This wasn't just another uniformed sadist
going psycho. Prisons
don't normally have 200-gallon vats of boiling
water around into which
interrogators might, in the heat of the moment,
decide to chuck a
prisoner. Someone had to design and build a jig
to lower people into a
boiling cauldron.

And there's evidence that this practice is
routine in Uzbekistan. Murry
estimates that the Uzbeks currently hold as many
as 10,000 political
prisoners, many of whom are in jail for
advocating democracy. This is
the same nation where government troops gunned
down and killed as many
as 700 unarmed, peaceful, pro-democracy
demonstrators last May. But
unlike the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in
Beijing, this one went
almost unnoticed by the American corporate media.

Another One of Ours

So who are these barbarians running Uzbekistan?
And why is the U.S.
government and its corporate media giving them a
free ride? Many
critics, including Murry, point to the close
relationship between Islam
Karimov, the Uzbek dictator, and the Bush White
House—a relationship
that began back when Enron was negotiating a
natural gas deal with the
Uzbeks. In 2004 the U.S. State Department
reported that Uzbekistan had
failed to "make progress on its Human Rights
commitments." The
Department of Defense quickly followed up that
announcement by
increasing direct military aid to the Uzbek army
by $21 million. Today
Karimov is an important ally in the "War on
Terror." And Uzbek prisons?
According to Karimov's government, they're filled
with "terrorists."

Uzbek prisons may also play host to a few U.S.
captives dumped there for
interrogation as part of the Bush
administration's extraordinary
rendition program. Murry reported to Democracy
Now that C.I.A. planes
regularly landed in Uzbekistan while he was
ambassador, ferrying in
Uzbeks captured in neighboring Afghanistan.

There's a disturbing moral issue concerning
Bush's efforts to coddle
madmen, mass murderers and other bona fide
terrorists in the name of his
"War on Terror." And there's a frightening
domestic aspect, too. At the
same time he's trotting the globe embracing
despotic regimes, he's
moving full bore ahead to nullify our core
democratic freedoms.
For example, there's Attorney General Alberto
Gonzales. Officially, he's
the nation's top cop, the one responsible for
upholding our constitution
and prosecuting those who violate our laws. His
previous position was as
Bush's personal attorney. Last year, when he was
grilled by the Senate
during his confirmation hearings, he was asked
about warrantless,
illegal wiretapping of American citizens.
Gonzales, according to the
Washington Post, refused to answer, saying the
question was
hypothetical. He did, however, say that it "was
not the policy of this
president" to authorize actions that conflict
with existing laws in the
area of surveillance. We now know that Bush in
fact did both authorize
and order military agencies to secretly spy,
Soviet style, on thousands
of innocent Americans—a clear violation of the
existing law. And he has
been doing it since 2001, according to
theWashington Post, under the
guidance of his personal attorney, Alberto
Gonzales.

Crooked Cop

In short, the nation's top cop—whose job includes
prosecuting Bush
administration officials for spying on Americans
and violating other
law—is both Bush's co-conspirator and a liar, who
lied under oath to the
U.S. Senate. This week he was back in the news,
not prosecuting but
defending Bush's domestic spying program.

There's nothing new about the government snooping
on its citizens, but
in the past there was at least the veneer of some
crooked judge signing
off on a baseless warrant. With the Bush crew,
there's not even that.
Officials argue that they couldn't go to a judge
for a warrant because
they had no evidence. Likewise, they argue that
they should have the
right to detain citizens without charges when—get
this—they have no
evidence to charge them with a crime.
So, in the perfect Bush world, the president,
without consulting a
court, can order surveillance on anyone at any
time, and can order
anyone arrested and held indefinitely without
charges. They can even be
held in secret detention, as the administration
has demonstrated, thus
violating one of the basic tenets of American
law, habeas corpus. This
is all necessary, the White House explains,
since, like Karimov's dirty
little domestic war, it's all part of the fight
against terror.

This push toward an imperial presidency is
relentless. Last week
conservatives joined liberals in sounding alarms
over language in the
new proposed Patriot Act that gives the president
power to declare legal
demonstrations illegal, branding peaceful
expression as a felony. It
works like this: The president can declare a
"security perimeter" at any
"special event of national significance,"
suspending freedom of
expression within that zone. Anyone expressing
themselves within that
area is guilty of a felony—as in five years or so
in jail.

Six Years Toward Dictatorship

Remember the 2000 election when Bush lost but
became president after a
miscount and a Supreme Court decision? On
inauguration day his parade
route was lined with indignant demonstrators.
Today such free expression
is all but impossible, snuffed by an emerging
culture of abusive
policing and unlawful stifling of dissent. Under
the new Patriot Act,
such outbursts of democracy would be
criminalized.

Such an attack on free speech would be
unconstitutional. But
historically the Constitution has only been as
strong as the Supreme
Court allows it to be. Slavery, for example, was
always
unconstitutional, but was permitted by a racist
Supreme Court.

This brings us to last week's most disturbing
event: the confirmation of
Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court. By now
most folks are aware of
his history opposing reproductive rights, womens'
rights and
desegregation. Most folks know that his
confirmation is the beginning of
the end of legal abortion in this country. But
most people are unaware
of his basic disdain for democratic principles
such as the separation of
powers.

In an unusually candid editorial, the New York
Times reported that, in
signing a bill reaffirming the illegality of
torture—a bill that his
administration unsuccessfully lobbied
against—Bush noted that the bill
might not be binding, since, "whatever Congress
intended the law to say,
he intended to ignore it on the pretext the
commander in chief is above
the law. That twisted reasoning," the Times went
on to say, "is what led
to the legalized torture policies, not to mention
the domestic spying
program." The Times cited another brazen stab at
the Constitution last
week when the White House alleged that the
Supreme Court no longer had
jurisdiction concerning the cases of prisoners
held indefinitely at
Guantanamo Bay. The problem, according to the
Times, is that both of the
Bush administration's radical theories—that "a
president's will in
signing a law trumps Congress' will in writing
it" and that the
president can "claim power without restriction or
supervision by the
courts or Congress"—are shared by our new Supreme
Court Justice, Samuel
Alito.
Yes, now there's a Bush court. In all likelihood
it will role back our
civil rights, our voting rights, women's rights,
abortion rights,
environmental protections and so on. But what few
people are talking
about is that this court may very well roll back
our right to talk about
our rights being rolled back. These are all steps
that can eventually
lead to a boiling caldron. But then again, who
cares? Brad Pitt and
Angelina Jolie are expecting a baby. And the
Steelers won the Super Bowl.



Dr. Michael I. Niman's previous columns are
archived at mediastudy.com.

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