Here's Your Room
Posted by Ogged on 12.21.03
I've tried to say it before a dozen ways, but it's really not very complicated: all that has to happen for a society to start on its way to totalitarianism is for most of the people to decide that they value their lives more than their freedom. Put that way, it's not even difficult to imagine it happening.
A man detained in Britain without charge or trial for two years on the basis of secret evidence he can neither know about nor challenge has told of his despair at his treatment under anti-terrorist legislation.
Exactly two years after he was arrested at his family home in the early hours and taken to Belmarsh high-security prison, Mahmoud Abu Rideh is the first of 14 detainees held on suspicion of terrorism to speak out publicly, through a letter sent to the Guardian.
Secret' detainee tells of jail despair
Saturday December 20, 2003
A man detained in Britain without charge or trial for two years on the basis of secret evidence he can neither know about nor challenge has told of his despair at his treatment under anti-terrorist legislation
Part of the letter:"The British security services arrested me at 5.30 in the morning. They broke the door while I am sleeping and scared my children - I have five children between the ages of three years and nine years." He was taken straight to Belmarsh prison in south-east London, with no access to a lawyer.
"At 7 o'clock in the morning they told me that you are going to stay all your life in Belmarsh. There is a unit inside it, it is like a prison in the prison. They put me alone in a small room where you face bad treatment and racism and humiliation and biting and swearing.
"They prevented us from going to Friday prayers and every 24 hours there is only one hour walk in front of the cells and half an hour walking inside a cage. You do not see sun. You cannot tell whether it is night or day. Every thing is dark."
It's dark alright. The total failure by George Bush and Tony Blair to even attempt to make a case for not restricting liberty--which action would have been actual leadership--has been thoroughly craven and myopic. I think both men believe that, as executives charged with safeguarding their lands and peoples, they're taking minimally restrictive but necessary steps. But in a society of laws, in which precedent is honored (and those amount to the same thing), there is no "just for now." Given how much of the US administration's legal strategy has hung on ex parte Quirin (based on a very strange case of German saboteurs in 1942), it should be clear and bright that "pendulum" explanations of diminishing rights in "wartime" are tranquilizing fictions: keep pushing the pendulum and at some point, it won't swing back.
The bizarre sanguinity of so many people on this point seems explainable only as a matter of faith: this is America, we won't lose our rights. To this I can only say, think for a minute about how you would act if the outcome didn't seem so certain and ask just why you're so sure that it is certain.