In These Times of High Treason and Crimes Against Humanity

America, where are your patriots? You’ve allowed your children again to be sent far away to another senseless war. Those great leaders of your revolution have been betrayed. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.” I remember those stirring words as a child reading in your schools. Like those revolutionary patriots, I dreamt of freedom, democracy, and the vast blue skies and endless beautiful Plaines just as my grandparents had when they crossed the Atlantic into the unknown—fleeing the aggression of yet another European despot. Seeking freedom of speech; freedom of religion. Freedoms so rare and so unobtainable and so precious on our planet so without. The American Dream. Your flag once filled my young eyes with tears.

As the years went on, “the fields of grain” started to tarnish and rust as one truth after another started to unfold: first, the tragic fate of the Native Americans—and my heart sunk. Then, African slaves carried away to America’s lost shores in broken boats. Japanese-Americans deterred in World War II camps. The Atomic bomb exploding over Hiroshima. Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts. My generation’s youth sent to an unthinkable hell in Vietnam. Death by lethal injection administered to innocents waiting on death rows in 50 states. These were never images of an American greatness. “In God We Trust?” Has it all been a lie?

And today, yet another darkness covers America in a new front page of current events. An incomprehensible darkness. In a coup d’état, a group of lawless despots have seized power over the America of our dreams. They’ve trampled the Constitution that thousands have died to protect in two World Wars. They’ve perverted and twisted true Democratic ideals. They’ve committed voting fraud to make it appear they have won elections with honesty and integrity. Their Supreme Court has sanctified their actions twisting even more lies and more deception. They’ve lied to an entire nation about the threat of Iraq. They’ve declared a “War on Terror,” when it’s their terror we really fear. They’ve committed unthinkable atrocities in prison camps. They’ve secretly transported innocent people to other countries for more torture. They’ve spied inside our lives, inside our libraries. They’ve corrupted a media to suit their own propaganda. They’ve created immunity for themselves and for the telecommunication companies that broke real laws. They’ve likened a “god” to suit their lies and distortion. And we sit in our homes paralyzed—unable to speak or think. An avalanche of distortion. A blight in the orchard.

And no one can speak. A whole nation of brilliant, inventive minds. Silent. A silence not heard since Germany in the 1930s. A kind of silence defined in that fictional time zone 1984.

They even speak Orwellian doublethink. “The Patriot’s Act”—a classic George Orwell twist in terminology. George Bush’s “weapons of mass destruction” or Condeleezza Rice’s continued denial of extraordinary rendition and “black sites” in meetings in capitals throughout Europe. It’s like memorizing a new code. The lies are so immense. To find truth one needs to read between the lines. The newspaper says “this.” You know it’s “that.” They say “black.” You know for sure its “white.” They say “liberate” and you know they really mean “invade.” Newspeak has even reinvented the image of Americans as “Joe-Six Packs” and “Hockey Moms.” By “six-pack” are they referring to a six-pack of beer or a six-pack stomach? None of my friends who are moms like hockey. A world that is so Kafkesque it’s like reading Ubu Roi inverted; upside-down.

Orwell’s thought police extends to today’s endless fear mongering. In Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, on at least 30 separate occasions this year, I’ve heard over and over again on the loudspeaker that the airport is on a heightened “Orange Security Alert.” One looks around and sees only happy passengers waiting to take their vacations. The fear mongering has become subliminal. It’s everywhere in America—in the newspapers, on the radio, in the television news, in American politician’s jargon, slogans, and “newspeak.”
One wonders why Americans are reluctant to come to grips with real word definitions: “tyrant” or “dictatorship” or “totalitarian” or even “gulags”—even the most intellectual American—when describing current events. Is it a fear that the definition would find its way to real truth? Webster defines tyranny as an “unjust and cruel exercise of power of any sort.” Dictatorship as a form of “government without effective constitutional checks.” Treason as the “overthrow of a government by illegal means to which a person owed allegiance.” Despotism “a form of government by a single authority or tightly knit group.” Webster has it right.

After World War II, the French newspaper Le Figero sent a young journalist to America to write a series of articles on the New America that had emerged triumphant from the War. Jean-Paul Sartre traveled from New York through the American heartland to Los Angeles writing his observations. His most pointed summary of the United States: “A heavy boredom weighs over America.” That same boredom today, however, has become even more complicated. A truncated complacency turned into paralysis. A distortion turned inside out. Just as it was in the former days of the Soviet Union.

That paralysis is so deep-rooted in American society and has now effected not only the truth, but anyone’s ability to think logically or make coherent judgment. The recent $700 billion dollar bank bailout, approved by the American Congress and Senate, passed by the entire American public without the slightest protest. A bailout to their friends and colleagues in the corrupt banking industry that has sunk the world to near economic collapse while 37 million Americans (their official count) wither away in poverty and 56 million Americans live in fear without healthcare insurance. It’s plain unconscionable. To think just a mere fraction of that $700 billion could wipe out child poverty worldwide.
I ask my decent, wholesome Iowa neighbors: “why?” A good neighbor farmer down the street has not seen any of the photographs of an evaporated Fallujah or the sex deviate scenes of Abu Ghraib prison. He’s never heard of Fallujah. He knows, however, something about Abu Ghraib. He explains it away as the light-hearted initiation rites in high schools everywhere known as “hazing.” Clean all-American fun. I wonder how he’d feel if that Iraqi prisoner was his son. “Our God-blessed America would NEVER use spent-nuclear fuel tipped weapons.” Then again, the photographs are no where for him to see. How would he know the truth? They’ve been cleverly tucked away inside the lie of “what you can’t see, doesn’t exist.” And now that the Abu Ghraib photographs have been forced into the public realm by U.S. human rights groups, the shock value is old news. A mistake committed in our distant past; regulated to the back pages of ancient history much like slavery or Native American genocide. Or as Sartre wrote in Le Figero: “American cities are born and die the same day.” So is the news in America—born and dies the same day—saturated in daily, mindless sensationalism. One sensationalism replacing another into the oblivion of daily sensationalism.

My neighbors in Iowa don’t know that the civilian death toll in Iraq has reached well over 100,000 men, women, and children by moderate estimates. They don’t know that one out of every ten American is in prison—one of America’s fastest growing commercial industries. A factory of gulags. They don’t know that the deficit clock has run out of digits. My Iowa neighbors also don’t know anything about free public healthcare and free university education in Europe or the legal rights of European workers to four weeks paid vacations or the fact that a European worker cannot be unjustly fired from their job. I always speculate that if Americans ever finally came to their senses, there would be barricades in the streets à la the Spring of Nations 1848, if not just for simple greed.

So what happened to the real Joe-Six Packs (Charles A. Graner Jr., Lewis E. Welshofer, and Ivan Frederick) and Hockey Moms (Lynndie England and Sabrina Harman)—the torture squad at Abu Ghraib? While Graner received a 10-year prison sentence for sexual, psychological, and physical abuse of Iraqi prisoners, Hockey Mom Lynndie England’s three-year sentence for conspiracy, four counts of maltreatment of prisoners, and one count of an indecent act was paroled to 521 days of kitchen duty; and as of last September, she is now a free woman.

Meanwhile, falsely-accused Troy Davis sits in Death Row in a Georgia prison to a Supreme Court that will not re-open his case—despite the efforts and letters from the Pope, Archbishop Bishop Desmond Tutu, and other world leaders hoping to intervene when the world discovered that seven of the nine witnesses recanted on their testimony and several said they were forced to make a false statement against Davis. Justice in America has become inverted; another lie. No one knows the truth anymore. And not one of the superiors from the Pentagon or the CIA or from Abu Ghraib prison, including the chief in command and Republican fundraiser, Major General George R. Fay, have been indicted or tried. In fact, some of the torture leaders have been given promotions and cushy new jobs at the Pentagon.

Only Sen. Richard Durbin, the senior Democrat from Illinois who co-wrote the McCain amendment against torture, had the courage to stand up and compare the abuses at the U.S. military prison in Guantánamo Bay with Nazism and the Soviet gulags. Looking back, Durbin maintains he could have chosen his words more carefully—but more importantly, he says, Cheney’s battle against the McCain amendment represents a betrayal of America’s men and women fighting on the front lines, and an “incredible contradiction” from the White House on torture.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who applied such sadistic “interrogation” techniques as water-boarding, rape, simulated electrocutions, suffocations, sodomizations, naked body pyramids, attack dogs, and death to Iraqi men and women and children at Abu Ghraib and to Guantánamo Bay prisons (and to still yet other undisclosed prisons in Iraq and Afghanastan and God knows where else) per his December 2, 2002 classified memo has not been brought to trial as a War Criminal. Josef Mengele Rumsfeld simply resigned and disappeared into thin air.

“We do not torture,” said George Bush in Orwellian newspeak. By the end of 2005, the American government’s own admission disclosed that 108 detainees were known to have died in U.S. military and CIA custody. Of those, 22 died when insurgents attacked Abu Ghraib prison, while others reportedly died of natural causes. At least 26 deaths have been deemed criminal homicides. These numbers do not consider the countless others murdered by Rice’s employed paramilitary contractors from Halliburton. Pentagon and the Bush administration have taken no responsibility for any of this long trail of illegal abuses.

As a civilization will we ever learn the full facts—a full disclosure—of what really happened during these gruesome years of the War in Iraq?

Like Rumsfeld, George Bush will also disappear into obscurity—just as insignificant dictators do. Another in a long line of petty despots as the likes of the Panama dictator General Manuel Antonio Noriega. Obscure. History will be the rightful judge of George Bush in the end, just as history has accurately depicted Adolph Hitler and Josef Stalin. “The Banality of Evil” wrote Hannah Ahrent at the Nuremburg Trials. Ahrent could be concurrently writing about Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay or about the War in Iraq or these dark days of High Treason.

In fact, the total Bush administration can be labeled with Ahrent’s same epitaph. It’s not been just mediocre, it’s been sheer banality at best. Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Gonzales, Ashcroft—hardly worth the ink to print their names. No, these are not empire, monument-building Mussolinis—just ordinary lawless thugs. More like Charlie Chaplain’s depiction of the clumsy buffoon dictator playing kick-ball with an air-filled planet earth balloon.

Even the signers of the Geneva Convention or the U.N. Convention Against Torture have turned their backs to the Great War Crimes of this decade. A “coalition” of shameless nations still participates in this “War on Terror.” In 2004, a courageous group of Irish lawyers assembled and indicted George Bush as a War Criminal as he was about to step foot on Irish soil for a meeting. The indictment was upheld by Ireland’s Supreme Court. And just as George Bush was about to land at Shanon Airport, former Toaiseach Bertie Ahern gave Bush immunity from prosecution. Days later, 300,000 angry Irish took to the streets in massive demonstrations. Three hundred thousand in a country of three million. Five years later, the world is voiceless. Good people everywhere on the planet suffer the same paralysis as Americans—lost in the day-to-day survival of keeping their homes, feeding their families, and sending their children to school. And worse, the same heavy boredom as described by Sartre—now looming over the entire planet.

Our collective, international loss of nerve only dooms our world to repeat history—over and over. More Auschwitzs, more Buchnenwalds, more Dachaus, more Abu Ghraibs.

Introduction from American Poets Against the War
In These Times of High Treason and Crimes Against Humanity
Copyright ©2009 Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd.