The founders of our nation well understood what Alexander Hamilton called the "fatal evil" of arbitrary confinement. They enshrined the "Great Writ" of habeas corpus — an individual right that preceded even the Bill of Rights — into Article 1, Section 9, of the Constitution. In Federalist No. 84, Hamilton expressed the founders' view that "arbitrary imprisonments" were "the favorite and most formidable instrument of tyranny" and that "confinement of the person, by secretly hurrying him to jail, where his sufferings are unknown or forgotten, is a less public, a less striking, and therefore a more dangerous engine of arbitrary government."
The National Law Journal / 10-02-2012
Yesterday Sam Rushforth sent me a link to an article just published in The National Law Journal, a strong but despairing essay written by his brother Brent and three other lawyers who represent clients currently held at The Guantanamo Base in Cuba.
It is an ongoing and despicable chapter in the history of the United States.
Last night, not able to sleep, I finished reading Brian Evenson's second science fiction novel in the Dead Space series, Catalyst, following the earlier Martyr (he also has a science fiction novel titled Aliens: No Exit).
I read lots of books, mysteries mostly, just for the pleasure of following a good plot. Brian's novel fit that bill perfectly, down to the inevitable but unsuspected horrific ending. But three aspects of this novel grabbed my attention in a more serious way.
1. The brothers. The obligations and connections of brotherhood. The pains of loss, separation, worry, and fear. My own relationship and non-relationship with my brother John were evoked repeatedly, often painfully.
2. The horror. Brian knows the human mind. The best parts of the book, at least for me, involve the troubled mind of Istevan, the brother who hears voices and has difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is real inside his head. He sees patterns others don't and becomes the perfect vessel for The Marker, which organizes and reorganizes his brain in its quest for convergence. There were moments when this book simply frightened the shit out of me, and they were all psychological scenes rather than the scenes of fighting or physical danger.
3. The extrajudicial torture (that's redundant, isn't it) and rendition of Istevan to a secret prison colony where he is held with other political prisoners without any recourse left me shivering and cursing. It was, of course, our own recent American experience under W. Bush and the dick Cheney. And it continues for 169 prisoners in Cuba.
Brent Rushforth et al end their article with this statement:
A curtain of utter darkness now threatens to fall over most of the 169 Guantánamo detainees, interned indefinitely without charge and without recourse, including our clients. Having reviled the Soviet Union for its gulags, we have, it seems, permanently institutionalized our own at Guantánamo. It is ironic but somehow fitting that we've managed to do this on the southeast coast of Cuba — adjacent to, indeed within, the territory of a despotic regime that we have opposed for several generations but now, sadly, choose to emulate in this disgraceful way.
Finally, in the dark of the early morning, light from the half-moon competing with my reading light, I laughed suddenly and loudly, a good and yet grotesque laugh, a ghastly laugh occasioned by this little poem of a sentence: "The walls were smeared with blood and gobbets of gore scattered the floor."