August 07, 2008
The Home of the Craven

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The U.S. military is segregating violent Iraqi prisoners in wooden crates that in some cases are not much bigger than the prisoners.

As a boy I was a great reader of the English adventure writer Percival Christopher Wren. He is remembered today only as the author of the book on which the movie Beau Geste was based, but he wrote many more books about the French Foreign Legion.

Life was hard in Wren’s Foreign Legion. Mess up and you spent the day with a rock-filled pack on your back, double-timing around the parade ground in the North African sun.

Really mess up and the sergeants put you in a stress position called the crapaudine, or locked you inside a box no bigger than a refrigerator where you would stay until you went mad.

I was terrified and yet fascinated. Could people be so cruel to one another? Did such evil really exist outside of books? Later I learned that it once had — in the chain gangs of our own South, where it was called the “hot box.” Imagine a citizenry so primitive, so low, so depraved, so ignorant, so devoid of humanity, as to permit such things!

The chain gangs were history by then, although fairly recent history. But before long, as fear of various Others made us not brave and strong but small and mean, the chain gangs came back. The cancer of prisons spread and metastasized. The land of the scared was becoming the home of a vast corporate gulag.

All the while we sat by and cheered, fat and ignorant and frightened, until now now we have at last what Jimmy Carter in his innocence once promised us — a government as good as the American people themselves.

Now we have our very own hot boxes in our very own colonies and most of us must be just fine with that. After all, none of this is the fault of Dick Cheney and George W. Bush, those nasty amoral morons who rule in our name. If our vote could be won by compassion, humility, the rule of law and a preference for peace, they would hide their disgust and try to deliver. No, the draft-dodging duo is the effect, not the cause.

The cause is those nasty amoral morons who put our two warhogs in the White House, and who then, after taking a good, long, four-year look at the results, chose to leave them there.

We built those boxes, and if there were a God in heaven we would be in them ourselves.


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Posted by Jerome Doolittle at August 07, 2008 04:19 PM
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Victor Hugo describes tortures inflicted by Christians on nuns who were insufficiently submissive or whatever that are exactly like the hot box. They'd be put in a box small enough that they had to sit with folded legs, with a stone top too heavy to lift, and be left there. Kings, of course, were masters of torture. but that's expectable.

But I wonder if we can fairly blame Americans in general. The war machine documented by Chalmers Johnson has controlled politics in this country since WWII, just as Eisenhower said it would (and given that he could see it coming, why didn't he do something about it?). So we're consistently given choices between two warmongers.

Thus people are left to argue, as Chris V has at Sirota's blog, that

You have your choice of McCain or Obama. Criticizing Obama at this point merely helps McCain. In effect, you are doing the dirty work of the Republican party.

This is what Nader correctly terms slavery.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on August 8, 2008 1:54 AM

Didn't there used to be a French Foreign Legion TV series?

Posted by: on August 8, 2008 3:15 AM

Today's Third Circuit case of Hubbard v. Taylor legitimated some lovely in-country conditions. Start with Pages 10-12, not over dinner.

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/3rd/064627p.pdf

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on August 8, 2008 11:37 PM

Oh, and per another case, also today, we've been doing similar things to small children in Albuquerque. Not dessication, maybe, but isolation in a darkened room. See Page 6:

http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/10th/072133p.pdf

Posted by: Martha Bridegam on August 8, 2008 11:46 PM
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