Thursday, February 26, 2009
Perhaps, I shouldn't quibble, as Ehrenreich expresses her righteous outrage in such a compelling manner, but it would have been nice if she had acknowledged that the prospect of such horrors remain as the Obama administration has not undertaken measures to prevent them.
But post-9/11 America was an irony-free zone, and it's still illegal to banter about bombs in the presence of airport security staff. It's not clear how the news of Mohamed's H-bomb knowledge was conveyed to Washington--many documents remain classified or have not been released--but Smith speculates that the part about the H-bomb got through, although not the part about the joke. The result, anyhow, was that Mohamed was thrust into a world of unending pain--tortured at the US prison in Baghram, rendered to Morocco for eighteen months of further torture, including repeated cutting of his penis with a scalpel, and finally landing in Guantánamo for almost five years of more mundane abuse. He was just released and returned to Britain today.
As if that were not enough for a satirist to have on her conscience, the United States seems to have attributed Mohamed's presumed nuclear ambitions to a second man, an American citizen named Jose Padilla, a k a the "dirty bomber." The apparent evidence? Padilla had been scheduled to fly on the same flight out of Karachi that Mohamed had a ticket for, so obviously they must have been confederates. Commenting on Padilla's apprehension in 2002, the Chicago Sun-Times editorialized: "We castigate ourselves for failing to grasp the reality of what they're [the alleged terrorists are] trying to do, but perhaps that is a good thing. We should have difficulty staring evil in the face."
I am not histrionic enough to imagine myself in any way responsible for the torments suffered by Mohamed and Padilla--at least no more responsible than any other American who failed to rise up in revolutionary anger against the Bush terror regime. No, I'm too busy seething over another irony: whenever I've complained about my country's torturings, renderings, detentions, etc., there's always been some smug bastard ready to respond that these measures are what guarantee smart-alecky writers like myself our freedom of speech. Well, we had a government so vicious and impenetrably stupid that it managed to take my freedom of speech and turn it into someone else's living hell.