Under God, Indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for Some

Not too long ago, the Senate released their report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program unfortunately confirming America’s worst nightmare.

The original 6,200 page report concludes that not only were the enhanced interrogation techniques beyond legal and humane boundaries, but they also proved to be an ineffective means of acquiring intelligence or gaining cooperation from detainees.  The report further reveals that the CIA did not brief the leadership of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on its interrogation methods and further deceived both the American public and its policymakers on the extent and true brutality of the program.

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Despite the fact that the released portions of the report are only an executive summary, they unravel the cruel truth beyond the years of floating rumors and fears of activists, politicians, journalists and human rights defenders worldwide.  Among the more disturbing techniques include the CIA’s religious use of rectal feeding “as a means of behavior control” CIA medical officers stated in the report.

In addition, various other torture techniques such as waterboarding resulted in “a series of near drownings” and have led to cases of vomiting and convulsions.  Detainees were also continuously deprived of sleep for as long as a week, and were threatened to be killed while in American custody.  Some interrogators went as far as threatening to harm their children and even sexually abusing their mothers. However these practices have long been denied by U.S. officials from former President Bush, to former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. But as one interrogator told his detainee, “we can never let the world know what we did to you.”  And those in power did just that.

The events of Ferguson and the death of Eric Garner question the justice system, asking “Is America truly colorblind?”  With the report’s new information, U.S. leaders and policymakers across the nation will inevitably have to face extremely difficult questions in light of the events of the past few months. Instead of solely asking “do black lives matter?”,  we are forced to ponder, “do the lives of any minorities matter?” Have we been reduced to mere statistics fighting for not just recognition but for the sanctity of our lives?  Have we reached a point where the color of our skin dictates our likelihood for unjust imprisonment or worse extreme torture?

We live in an era where African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites and Muslims suffer from more hate crimes than ever before.  In fact, according to a study by ProPublica, young black men were 21 more times to be killed by police enforcement than young white men during the years 2010 and 2012.  That is a figure of 185 more dead black men a week. However this is not the first time there was a growing mistrust between law enforcement and its community.  In 2012, the New York City Police Departments’ Intelligence Division was absurdly caught spying on Muslims across the East Coast. The surveillance had single handily conducted an in-depth investigation of the lives of the Muslim community.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union,  the NYPD’s report titled “Radicalization in the West: The Homegrown Threat,”  detailed a variety of spying methods which included  stationing NYPD officers outside of mosques, taking  pictures and videos of those leaving and entering places of worship and recording the license plate numbers of worshippers attending services.  The NYPD also recruited and threatened the freedom of imprisoned Muslims in exchange for them to spy on their own communities.  Despite the outcry of Americans everywhere, in 2014 a federal judge ruled that the New York City Police did not violate the rights of Muslims. Once again, the American Justice system had failed its American community, all because they continued to be perceived as ‘the other.’

Joseph N. Welch (left) and Senator McCarthy, June 9, 1954
Joseph N. Welch (left) and Senator McCarthy, June 9, 1954

In a revelation that seems to be a dangerous repetition of the McCarthy era, citizens are finding themselves more concerned for their safety in the modern day society than ever before. The deep mistrust between American minorities and the justice system calls for a much needed revisit of the concepts of racism, equality and justice.  The question of equality in the American justice system itself is no longer a problematic issue regarding race, rather it leads towards a larger concern with our entire judicial system.  The concern lies within the very idea of even debating the efficacy of torturing Muslims and imprisoning blacks. How long will citizens continue to allow its supreme leaders to test and mold the extent of the law in exchange for national decadence?  The justification of torturing alleged terrorists or demanding body cameras for officers are simply overseeing the deeper concern of our democratic morality.  In the case of Eric Garner, there was indeed a video that could have equated for a body camera but that did not lead to his justice. Similarly with the torture report, CIA officers have destroyed countless tapes of interrogators water boarding Muslim prisoners.  Therefore these solutions failed because they only addressed the consequences of the problem, not the core problem of the American justice system itself.  For as former president Dick Cheney proclaimed in his interview with NBC, “I would do it again,” finding no remorse or fault in how detainees were treated at Guantanamo Bay.

For years now, this constant pattern of concealment, secrecy and impunity has carried on from the Bush administration and into the Obama administration with little to no accountability or acknowledgement of its faults.  Unfortunately, no one was surprised with the release of the torture report; news reports already confirmed the suspicions that various degrees of torture was occurring at Guantanamo Bay.  However people became furious because of the apathy that stemmed from it. “The example set by the United States on the use of torture has been a big draw-back in the fight against such practice in many other countries throughout the world,” said Juan Mendez, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on torture in a statement,  reinforcing for those involved to be prosecuted.  However no attempts were made by the U.S. justice system to address those demands.  The U.S. seems to have lost all sense of moral accountability towards its citizens of color. Our justice system that has been in place for centuries is expected to be a role model for countries everywhere to serve and protect their diverse communities. Nevertheless, although our justice system continues to obsess over the injustices of minorities across the globe, it remains the cause of the deaths and casualties of our own minorities right at home.

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As the judicial system continues to abuse its power by disregarding any need for transparency, emotions of disdain, fear and anger are rising within the colored community.  The reality remains that our communities of color are not only having their rights disintegrate before their eyes but they are also losing family members, losing their jobs, their reputations, their livelihoods and more importantly, losing faith in the democratic process of a country that they themselves contributed to building with their own bare hands.  When the justice system takes away their right to a fair trial, the right to defend themselves, the right to live free from racism and fear, and begins to imprison blacks more than their white counterparts and torture brown men for alleged terrorism charges when white men are terrorizing schools year after year, then our justice system has truly failed to serve and protect. But rather the judicial system has transgressed into a political game of favorability where whites are set up to win with lighter sentences and second chances and minorities are set up for maximum charges and ruined lives.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, approximately 36.3 percent of the population currently belongs to a racial or ethnic minority and yet most of us have the audacity to sit in our white picket-fenced houses and fuel our astonishments with oversimplified hashtags and likes.  Our selective attention to which mainstream media decides what is considered a human rights tragedy and what constitutes as American justice has boiled down to an atrocious hypocrisy.  We continue to express outrage over injustices in foreign countries and yet cannot accept the ones we have right at home. What our justice system is utterly forgetting is the role and vitality minorities played in instilling the values of freedom, liberty and justice into this country.  It has always been the minorities that constantly challenged laws that have contradicted these very values. Blacks, Muslims and other races alike have tirelessly been unlawfully imprisoned, mistreated and undervalued from the civil rights era, to World War II and into post 9/11 America. The United States will continue to carry a historical burden of racism and until our justice system cleanses itself from the hatred that stems from our past, we cannot consider ourselves living in a post-racial America, not when we our courts and trials have betrayed our ethnic citizens.

The fact of the matter is the CIA report and the continuous unwarranted and excessive deaths of young black and brown men bring into question the notion of race and our justice system’s ostensible impartiality.  While black men are dying from banned chokeholds and brown men are being waterboarded and force fed rectally, our designated protectors in the eyes of the law are becoming the perpetrators. It seems that all men are not created equal, not at least when it comes to American justice.

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  • About the autor
    Rowaida Abdelaziz

    Rowaida Abdelaziz is a freelance journalist based in New York City. Previously she worked for the Committee to Protect Journalists, Al Jazeera Arabic and Elan Magazine. She graduated with a B.A. from Rutgers University with a double major in Journalism and Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies.

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