Last weekend, the Attica to AbuGhraib Conference was held in Berkeley, California. It brought a wide range of testimony from former and present political prisoners, and opponents of the continuing imperialist globalization of incarceration and torture. The opening assembly was addressed by a recorded message from Mumia Abu-Jamal, the best known political prisoner in the U.S. today.
WHEN THE PRISON NATION GOES INT'L
[Speech Written 4/2/05] Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Thanks for your kind invitation to join the 'Attica to Abu Ghraib' Conference: *Ona Move!*
When we think about the atrocities of Attica, and the abominations at Abu Ghraib, we are sometimes caught searching for a common denominator. What could it be, we wonder, as we look at the brutal state assault on both prisoners and staff at Attica, and the human rights violations, and yes - torture, that marked American behavior at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq?
The commonalities, however, are more than first meets the eye. Of course, they are both prisons (but that's obvious). They both came to public consciousness through the actions of people who were prison guards. And they both were, initially, defended by the State by a flood of lies.
What matters really least, is that they occurred in different countries. They both happened in the same empire.
What marked the differences between them is the critical element of time, and even this quality does not speak well of things to come. For, as time is the difference, yet it tells us how far things have fallen; how the 30 years between Attica and Abu Ghraib have marked a coarsening of American character, and a brutishness of imperial defenders.
Attica opened up an era of prison reform across much of the nation, and fueled the movement to attempt to eradicate the most depraved elements of the nation's repressive prison systems.
Abu Ghraib was met by quasi-official justifications, government obfuscation, and the incredible spectacle of right-wing pundits likening the torture and human rights abuses there to 'college pranks.' The humiliation of naked Arab men was compared to the field displays of cheerleading squads!
There is, of course, another monstrous difference: the architects of Abu Ghraib, and high-level defenders of torture, have been rewarded by higher, and more prestigious posts in government!
In a nutshell, torture pays!
We have not spoken of the pivotal American issue of race.
Without prisoners actively advocating Black liberation, there would have been no Attica.
The tortured, maimed, and humiliated prisoners at Abu Ghraib were targeted by the U.S. Army because they were seeking to intimidate and eliminate people who were trying to fight to free their country from foreign occupiers. In other words, they were fighting for their own national liberation. In an empire, which picks puppets for other nations, this is not acceptable. It wasn't acceptable under the Roman Empire, the British Empire, nor its North American successor empire, the American Empire.
To this latest global incarnation of the White Nation, Arabs are but sand niggers, to be beaten into submission and obedience. It is the refusal to accept this status that is fueling what the U.S. media calls 'the insurgency.'
There is another element that arises from the evidence: American cruelty. Big Black, the late veteran of Attica, told stories of the torture and beatings that he endured, as he was naked, and held under gunpoint. It is an eerie precursor of the treatment of Arab prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
Nor is it mere coincidence that some of the most brutal, most vicious actors at Abu Ghraib were U.S. Reserves, who, in their civilian lives, were prison guards. How else could they learn it?
One of the most infamous was from SCI-Greene, in Southwestern Pennsylvania, named Charles Graner. Recently his ex-wife came forward to tell of the terrors to which she was exposed daily. She said Graner promised to cut her into little pieces, and that no one would ever find her body.
Welcome to U.S. 'corrections' as the Prison Nation goes Global.
Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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Informant: Dave Pugh