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BEFORE GUANTANAMO, OR ABU GHRAIB, WAS THE BLACK PANTHERS
[Col. Writ. 5/24/06] Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Long before the words Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib entered common American usage as reference points for government torture, there were several young Black men who knew something about the subject.
The year was 1973, and among 13 "Black militants" arrested in a New Orleans sweep were 3 men: Hank Jones, John Bowman, and Ray Boudreaux. The 3 were beaten, tortured and interrogated by New Orleans cops, acting on tips supplied by San Francisco police. The men were stripped, beaten with blunt objects, blindfolded, shocked on their private parts by electric cattle prods, punched, kicked, and had wool blankets soaked in boiling water thrown over them. Under such torture, the 3 gave false confessions in the shooting of a San Francisco cop in 1971. The charges were eventually thrown out after a judge in California found that the prosecution had failed to tell a grand jury that the confessions were exacted under torture. Today, over 30 years later, Jones, Bowman and Boudreaux have again been called before a grand jury, to try to resurrect what was dismissed in 1976. Imagine what these men thought when they heard about the US government torture chambers in Guantanamo, or Abu Ghraib in Iraq. The names may have been different, but the grim reality was the same.
Today, these men have formed the Committee for the Defense of Human Rights (CDHR), to try to teach folks about what happened so many years ago, and what is happening now.
Their living example teaches us that history repeats itself, but in worse, more repressive forms.
That's because their first conflicts with the State took place under the aegis of the since discredited COINTELPRO (*Co*unter*intel*ligence *Pro*gram). That program, after the famous Church Committee hearings in the Senate, was declared illegal, and a violation of the Constitution.
Today, thanks to a Congress weakened by corporate largesse and frightened by 9-11, the same things that were illegal in the '70s have been all but resurrected and legalized under the notorious Patriot Act. What we are seeing, all across the nation, is the emergence of what the late Black Panther Minister of Information, Eldridge Cleaver called 'Yankee Doodle m.' The rise of corporate and state power, to attack dissidents, and destroy even the pretension of civil rights. I say pretension because the events I discussed earlier happened in 1973, yet none of the torturers, the violators, the criminals in blue, ever were sanctioned for their violations of state, federal, and indeed, international law, to this day. Not one.
Think of this: the murderers of Fred Hampton, Sr., those malevolent minions of the State who crept into his home and shot him dead, (as he slept!) have never served a day, a minute, a second in jail for this most premeditated of murders, planned at the highest levels of government.
The roots of Guantanamo, of Abu Ghraib, of Bagram Air Force Base, of US secret torture chambers operating all around the world, are deep in American life, and its long war against Black life and liberation.
Is it mere coincidence that the most notorious guard at Abu Ghraib, worked right here, in the US; here, in Pennsylvania; here, in SCI-Greene, for over 6 years before exporting his brand of 'corrections' to the poor slobs who met him in Iraq?
Back in the '60s and '70s, Panthers and others spoke about m but it had an edge of hyperbole, of radical speech, to move people beyond their complacency. Several years ago, a political scientist who studied m on three continents came to some pretty sobering conclusions.
According to Dr. Lawrence Britt, t states have 14 characteristics in common. They are, briefly: 1) powerful nationalism; 2) disdain for human rights; 3) scapegoating to unify against 'enemies'; 4) military supremacy; 5) rampant sexism; 6) controlled mass media; 7) national security obsession; 8) government religiosity; 9) rise of corporate power; 10) suppression of labor; 11) anti-intellectualism; 12) obsession with punishment; 13) deep corruption and cronyism; and 14) fraudulent elections. How many of these features are reflected daily in the national life of the United States?*
What happens abroad is a grim reflection of what has happened here, albeit quietly. The tortures of Jones, Bowman and Boudreaux won't be featured stories on Nightline, nor on the (supposedly 'liberal') NPR. (Remember the characteristic of a 'controlled mass media?').
What happens overseas has its genesis in the monstrous history of what happened here: genocide, mass terrorism, and racist exploitation (also known as 'slavery'), land-theft and carnage; all of these horrors have been echoed abroad, shadows of hatred, xenophobia and fear, projected from the heart of the Empire, outwards.
If we really want to change the dangerous trend of global repression, we must change it here first.
For only then can the world breathe a deep sigh of relief.
Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal
[*Source*: *Britt, Lawrence, " m Anyone?" *Free Inquiry* (Spr. '03), 20. See http://www.secularhumanism.org/library/fi/britt_23_2.htm; Also, see author's discussion of Cointelpro in WE WANT FREEDOM: A Life in the Black Panther Party* (Cambridge, Ma: South End Press, 2004).]
"When a cause comes along and you know in your bones that it is
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justice." - Mumia Abu-Jamal
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