Archive for the ‘Detention’ category

“The Question”

October 17, 2006

On June 12, 1957 the Algerian nationalist journalist Henri Alleg was seized from his friend’s house by French colonial authorities. This began a three week ordeal of electrified torture. When it became clear that he would not reveal anything to his captors, he was transferred to a prison camp. From there he somehow managed to smuggle out an essay he had written about his time in captivity. In 1958, this essay – published under the title, “The Question,” and prefaced with an introduction by Sartre, caused a sensation in Paris where it is was largely known but unacknowledged that French forces were engaged in barbarous pursuits in Algeria. (The book was only legalized in France after the Algerian War ended, in 1962.)

I bring this up because The Chronicle of Higher Education has a fascinating little item in the current issue about the University of Nebraska Press and their decision to release the first American edition of “The Question” since 1958. This new edition includes an afterword by Mr. Alleg, who is now 80, in which he draws parallels between French conduct in Algeria and the American treatment of detainees at Gitmo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

I have not read the afterword yet, though I am wary of the comparison. It is trite and inaccurate to squeeze American efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq within an anti-colonial framework. Though, of course, this never stops the soggy old leftists congregated around Tariq Ali at the New Left Review.

“I’d Like to Close Guantanamo”

June 14, 2006

But then where will Bill O'Reilly go to get his Cuban lobster tan?

Yes, it's true. President George W. Bush wants oh so badly to close Guantanamo Bay, the military prison where detainees are held indefinitely and "interrogated" without any rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the Geneva Convention. Turns out Bush is something of a tortured soul. Speaking at a press conference in the White House Rose Garden today after returning from a suprise visit to Iraq (clearly violating Jerry Seinfeld's injunction against the "pop-in," but never mind), Bush said "I’d like to close Guantanamo. But I also recognise that we’re holding some people that are darned dangerous, and that we’d better have a plan to deal with them in our courts."

Worst of all, the detention of these darned dangerous types "provides an excuse, for example, to say, 'The United States is not upholding the values that they’re trying (to) encourage other countries to adhere to.'" Gosh, I'm glad to know that my long, desperate search for an excuse to claim that the United States has betrayed its most fundamental values is over. And it's even true! What a gift.

Here's my favorite part though:

"Mr Bush said that the best way to handle Guantanamo detainees…was through military courts. His administration was waiting for the US Supreme Court to make a decision in a case in which a US federal court ruled a detainee was being held at Guantanamo in contravention of US law and the constitution, he said."

I never realized Bush and his administration were so anxious to defer to judicial oversight and constitutional norms. The constant assertions of unfettered executive authority to do whatever the hell they want must have addled my mind.