On illegal, private, and hidden prisons

British hostage Kenneth Bigley, appealing for help from a cage in a hidden prison:

Notice anything familiar about the cage and the outfit?

The picture to the left, for those who don't know, is from America's own illegal private prison at Guantanamo, Cuba. Some news accounts of the newest videotaped appeal from Bigley have timidly pointed out the similarity of his orange suit to the outfits given to inmates at Guantanamo. Naturally, though, they fail to draw any kind of bigger picture, preferring instead to present it as some kind of odd coincidence in a world where nothing fits together.

It seems like this is a clear statement on the part of the militants holding Bigley. If the US can operate private prisons, locking away people in cages for months and years at a time and arbitrarily deciding whether they live or die, unrestrained by any and all laws, including ones that it helped make, then they can too.

There's a reason why people do not take the US's supposed morality seriously, why they do not have the fanatic belief in America's goodness that many Americans do. While the US condemns the kind of prisons that people like the militants run, it turns a deaf ear to people who complain about the US's own hidden, private prisons. While the Bush administration continues to talk about Iraqi democracy, freedom and "progress" (also a favorite slogan of the old Soviet rulers), Iraqis wondering what this freedom will look like need only look over to Palestine, where the US's good buddy Israel runs amok in a refugee camp for people whom it previously ethnically cleansed. Hell, they don't even need to look that far: just to Sadr City in Baghdad, where the US is launching airstrikes against "positively identified" militant locations (which would be... what? Restaurants? Cafes? Maybe a big building with a big flag that says "militant hideout"?), killing and injuring women and children.

Yes, the Bigley video was an intentional statement on the actions and behavior of the US: we learned it from you. But, not having the feel-good appeal of "progress" and "bustle" (do pro-war apologists still use that term?), I'm not sure so many people will make the effort to expend the mental energy required to ponder it.

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