Monday, May 05, 2008

The strange case of Mister Bah

By Capt. Fogg

We've come a long way from the founding principle that all people have certain inalienable rights, even if they're aliens. Of course that enlightened idea has so often been honored in the breach that it may be hard to make the case that the US is in decline, but it's still disturbing to hear about imprisonment so devoid of oversight and so absolute that dying people can be thrown into solitary confinement, incommunicado and with no effort to inform anyone in their families or their respective embassies simply because they missed a plane or their status was changed without notification.

There have been too many examples of late where tourists from such terrorist hotbeds as Iceland, for instance, have been abused physically and mentally for overstaying a tourist visa by a few hours. 66 people have died while in custody, some in privately owned and operated prisons. Nobody seems to give a damn about what happens to foreigners; after all we were attacked by foreigners, weren't we?

Take Mr. Bah, one of 66 prisoners to die in custody from January 2004 to November 2007. A tailor from Guinea, he fell and hit his head (or so they say) while in custody. He was in custody because they revoked his green card without telling him. Because he sustained brain injuries and was incoherent, he was shackled and left in solitary, vomiting and foaming at the mouth. No one outside was informed and it took five days for his family to locate him. It took another 4 months for him to die without ever regaining consciousness. Such things seem to be typical and considering that privately owned prisons for profit are the fastest growing form of incarceration, giving our swashbuckling government agencies like ICE an opportunity to make people disappear without a trace. The more people we toss in the clink, the more money the private jailers make and can contribute to Republican campaigns.

But of course we don't care. We were attacked by foreigners and although Bah, a 52 year old tailor whose family has been here since 1943, who lived and worked legally in New York for ten years, his elaborate gowns displayed in Manhattan boutiques, must therefore be a threat to our ethnic purity and our safety because his green card was suddenly revoked while he was abroad and he was automatically jailed upon his return for 9 months -- until he died. Did I mention that we were attacked by foreigners?

So why bother about them; why investigate when there is really no law requiring ICE to do so? ICE can, like so many agencies public and private under the Bush autocracy and is all but immune from oversight. Bah had family in the US who were able to get a few details, albeit too late; many detainees don't and some have been held for decades without anyone outside knowing what happened and doubtless many have died and been disposed of as quietly as were the countless victims of Stalin's godless system. We trust in God and we're Christians and foreigners can stay the hell out of our country -- and what's this about Samaritans -- they're foreigners, aren't they? We were attacked by foreigners, weren't we?

(Cross-posted from Human Voices.)

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