I remember reading The Trial, by Kafka, and thinking (along with the other Kafka books I've read), man, this dude's bizarre. Mind you, the subject is easy enough, it's about a trial, and a suspect who is told he's suspected of a crime, but is never told what it is, never allowed to defend against it, never able to confont his accusers, and eventually, as the "trial" reaches its apex, is summarily executed.
When the story ended, I found myself thinking "huh?" That's sorta bizarre. Interesting fiction (having never grown up or lived in Eastern Europe in its heyday, and having never experienced a South American death squad firsthand, it was hard to visualize this stuff as being based at all in reality). But, the years passed, I finished law school, I became a public defender, and I began to understand a little about what Kafka was talking about. In some previous posts I've spoken about the corruptness of the system regarding law enforcement "opinion" testimony, and how absurd that notion is (it's basically, as a recap for those who haven't seen my rants on the subject, a statement that says "I believe the person is guilty, a gang member, a drug dealer, a whatever, based on my experience as a cop). But, I never could, even in my most refelctive periods, ever contend that the legal system was Kafkaesque, at least not in the sense that it was similar to "The Trial."
Well, Franz Kafka must be laughing out loud in his grave as he observes the United States, the beacon of freedom for the world, the light unto the nations, the center of liberty and justice, completely subverting all of those notions with the fight on terror. After all these years of us rejecting other nation's pleas that national security required them to crack down on their citizens, of saying that death squads were inappropriate (alright, maybe we weren't so emphatic about that if they were right wing death squads during the Reagan administration), we have been hit with one big attack on our people and thrown all that shit out the window like it just doesn't matter.
What am I talking about? Well, I've spoken about it before, the enemy combatant thing, the winking and nodding at abuses in Iraq, but it's just so much worse than we could've ever even though. Recent Freedom of Information document releases have shown that Kafka is alive, well, and enjoying a nice bottle of rum on the beaches of Guantanamo, Cuba (of course there is a reason conservatives have always opposed the FOIA). A simple reading of some of the transcripts compiled at this site shows how we are becoming much more evil in our fight against evil. It's like we're trying to pull all these nations closer to us and our ideal of freedom, and we finally decided, fuck it, let's just move closer to them, it's a lot easier than trying to make them crawl all this distance towards us. People not told what they're charged with. Being convicted of being a terrorist based on a similar name ending up in a computer of a terrorist. Being in Afghanistan without papers. Being released from the Bosnian prison after the Bosnian Supreme Court found the person innocent of terrorism, and abducted on the (Bosnian!) jailhouse steps by Americans and brought to Guantanamo (of course, when it came time for the tribunal for this person, the US had conveniently lost any evidence that these guys were acquitted, even though it's been in the International papers numerous times). This stuff is just absurd. It's not only un-American, it's Soviet, it facist, it's pure evil. And it's being done in our name, as we try to exalt our system over all others. Hello, Kafka, can you hear me?
The latest that got me going was the article in the NYTimes magazine this weekend that talks about the Iraqi anti-terrorism squad created by the US in Iraq. Apparently, they're using on of our former heros who trained the El Salvadorian military (they only massacred 70,000 out of a population of 6,000,000 in ten short years, but don't worry, these military leaders insist that there were no improprieties there, or in Iraq now). Read the article for a slightly different perspective, since this writer actually sees the Iraqi commandos beating and terrorizing (often innocent) arrestees under the watchful, and not terribly intervening, US eyes.
As I said, Kafka must be loving this, but I'm sure not. Is it too much to ask of our government that, in the pursuit of evil, we don't become that which we are trying to destroy. You know, it's not a great victory over evil if, at the end of the day, we have become more like them than we were at the start of the fight. I'm quite sure that the US wants to make the world more like us, I just wish that we weren't making it so easy for the world by becoming more like them in doing so.