It’s all out of the bag now, as they say and say: America tortures. Of course, this news has been evident for quite some time. Who was in doubt of the implications lurking in Dick Cheney’s 2001 mumble-snark, “Time to take the gloves off”? In any case, in 2011, OR Books released The Torture Report, which details the deranged doings at Guantanamo, where hundreds of humans have been detained without trial for many years now.
And a couple of years ago, ex-CIA interrogator John Kiriakou belatedly blew the whistle on the Agency, at one point relating how one terrorist suspect was waterboarded so thoroughly that he ended up writing poems to the wife of his tormentor. “They hate us more than they love life,” quoth Kiriakou, and there can be no doubt why – our freedoms – or, at least, our license. (Oops, shouldn’t have said that.)
But the capper on the whole torture chamber music industry failings has to be the more recent acknowledgement that the torturers were aided and abetted in their Dark Knighthood doings by members of the APA – psychiatrists and psychologists who’d given their oaths, like Hippocrates, to ‘do no harm’. And apparently, if a recent report by an ex-APA executive is any indicator, these psychological architects of torture often did so gleefully, and not so much out of a sense of patriotism and justice but with career ambitions. In short, the ka-ching factor.
That’s depressing enough, but, then, who would you turn to for treatment? Who could you trust, when the profession which, next to Catholic confessionals, is built around honoring confidences turns around and sells those secrets to the Authorities for a song called, “The Bass Suddenly Sings Falsetto.”
You could argue that the first clear signs of the impending collapse of a civilization is when it throws its own most cherished ideals under the bus (or the chariot, if you require classical stim), and in America’s case the most important ideals, from a purely republican position, would be adherence to the Rule of Law and the application of due process. In America, the world’s once-premiere democratic republic, the law and the process were sacred symbols of trust, the manifest density of its transparent idealistic gas. The law and the process were a glad shackle of trust: Everyone here gets a fair shake. That’s what made gazing on the Statue of Liberty in the harbor so poignant, rather than just another accosting by the underarm deodorant industry. It was the value that made America exceptional.
But the law and the process were the first things to go under the Bush administration, and, by God, not even reluctantly. And when, a couple of years later, after the post-9/11 security lock-down was in place and well on its way to normalization, Bush said that he no longer much cared or thought much about the atrocity’s presumed mastermind, Osama bin Laden, he revealed that the real mission he’d accomplished was the destruction of that sacred trust. The limited Congressional authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) to wage war strictly against the perpetrators of the 9/11 terrorist attack was morphed by corrupt lawyers into a justification for endless war, battlefields du jour, the militarization of all human communications, and, essentially, the martial outlawing of privacy – and not just in public communications, like texts and emails, but even, if they so choose, and using thermal imaging technologies, the hand you wipe your ass with. No doubt, terrorists use their left.
Borrowing, with heavy irony, from the post-modern relativists, the neo-cons and their kissing cousin neo-libs, have turned the Constitution into a feeble anachronism no longer to be taken any more literally than the Gospel of St. Paul. Never mind that the Constitution was the most literal document ever written, that it was intentionally written to be literal, and that that was what made it sacred.
But declaring war on an abstract noun –terrorism—and deleting due process as a syntactical inconvenience have messaged to the world that we’re pretty much right back in the world conjured up in living color by Voltaire in Candide, full of unspeakable horrors, Pangloss apologists and scaredy-cat gardeners. Ultimately, since the post-modernists demonstrated the relativism of controlling language and thereby weakened its hold, the controllers did one better and declared war on language itself. Because, in the end, that’s what the War on Terror is – a war on language.
It would be a mistake – and one I’m sure we’ll make—to think that now that we’ve fessed up and outed our torturing ways that that’s the end to it; that long looks in the mirror will come next, followed by the rejuvenation and redemption of reform. Instead, it seems, we have merely finished Phase One.
Consider that the criteria used by psychologists to construct the psychical torture ways and means for the government are the same ones that help determine who gets put in the US government’s Disposition Matrix database – the one used to help determine who will be droned to death (‘and they will never see it coming’, haw-haw). The torture chamber was remedial; the Disposition Matrix is predictive. Like an astrology chart machine it algorithmically considers alignments of data stars and makes an analysis of how actors with certain star signs will respond in that alignment, and ices them ahead of time. (Man, I know some Aries punks who could use a good Hellfire in the belly, but I drift.)
The language of Terror (and the terror of language) being what it is, you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the future blows. ‘Terror’ is a moveable feast. First, you wipe out the ones not willing to put up with any more crap (they’re easy to identify), and then you move on to their ‘material supporters’ and ‘sympathizers’, and then devolve to associates of sympathizers, until you reach that point where you are throwing Neanderthal Ned under the first wheel. Terror is the .gif that keeps on .giffing; a loopity-loop of fun and anticipation.
With the planet under siege and critical resources running low and dirty (think water), one imagines a future disposition matrix that includes most of the world’s people, all future billions of them, who, after all, add nothing to the future of the race but dirty genes and have only been useful as economic growth machines consuming what they’re told to (or else). Liberty and Democracy are fun words to say, especially with a few drinks in you, but they’ll soon come a time when government itself is anachronistic. Indeed, we may already be post-political and beyond the holy communion of self-governance.
Imagine gamers, armed with their Clint Eastwood joysticks and hacking acumen, hired by the government’s new morality enforcers, people like the likeable Duane Clarridge, to snuff out ‘nonsense’ like over-population and other undesirables, culling down until there’s nobody left but elites, military leaders and family, rock stars and the like, the joystickers themselves (temporarily, wink) – in short, a Pol Potage of carnivalesque carnage, until there’s no one left but the ones Mick Jagger sings about in “Sympathy for the Devil.” In this world there’ll be no law or due process, no day in court. In fact, already, there are some places where not even the kangaroos get a day in court.
Is there no hope then? Hard to say. Voltaire, who thought we needed god to set us right, had Candide, in that cataclysmic best of all possible worlds filled with beheadings, failed states, and general pestilence, minding his own garden. One notes it was not a collectivist’s garden, Candide was no kibbutz-nik; he was alone with his private thoughts, blocking out the white noise of civilization collapsing all around him. Who knows, but maybe Candide was Voltaire’s hemlock and that lone constant gardener was his rude finger to the world? In the end, everyone picks his or her own poison, whether they know it or not.