News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Torture in the USA; Alive and Well (Dead Sometimes Too)

Friday, December 16, 2005

Torture in the USA; Alive and Well (Dead Sometimes Too)

When the torture scandal of Abu Ghraib in Iraq first broke, the comedian Bill Maher made an impassioned speech at the end of his show about torture. In the speech, Maher sarcastically and somewhat ironically noted that torture in Iraq should be no big news--it happens in US prisons every day.

Now, he was just kidding, right? He was being funny... funny guy. As a report from Britian shows, he was not...

Of course, anyone who works in a prison knows the real story about violence. It's not just prisoners raping and bashing each other's teeth out so they can force blowjobs. I mean, anyway, they're prisoners. They deserve what they get. That's the logic most people have about scum that get themselves convicted.

In his comments on Abu Ghraib, Maher sarcastically said that the soldiers there really weren't doing anything they hadn't already learned while working as guards in US prisons. Again, just some stupid comic trying to milk a joke.

Recent stories and videos have surfaced, however, that prove the truth behind Maher's humor. Based on eye-witness accounts by soldiers, as well as videotapes, these reports show that prison brutality is not simply prisoner on prisoner.

According to one report:

The tape shows a prisoner lying on an examination table in the prison hospital. The guards are instructing him to climb down into a wheelchair. ‘I can’t, I can’t!’ he shouts with increasing desperation. ‘It hurts!’

One guard then jabs him on both hips with a Taser. The man jerks as the electricity hits him and shrieks, but still won’t get into the wheelchair.

The guards grab him and drop him into the chair. As they try to bend his legs up on to the footrest, he screams in pain. The man’s lawyer told me he has a very limited mental capacity. He says he has a back injury and can’t walk or bend his legs without intense pain.

The tape becomes even more harrowing. The guards try to make the prisoner stand up and hold a walking frame. He falls on the floor, crying in agony. They Taser him again. He runs out of the energy and breath to cry and just lies there moaning.
This is wretched stuff to watch and read about. The report says that prisoners have died at the hands of guards.

Again, all I hear in my head is the mumbling of decent folk saying, "well, they probably deserved it" or "they musta done something wrong." Prisoners are in an unenviable position and violence is just something they deserve because most of them wouldn't be there otherwise. That's the thinking a lot of people have.

Prison conditions in the US have been described as paradise compared to other prisons around the world. For a civilized country that is currently hoping to export its brand of freedom and liberty to the rest of the world, these stories go some way in causing us to pause about how virtuous and perfect we really are.

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