Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Morphing the Gestapo

Morphing the Gestapo
By Doris Colmes


There I was -- a bratty, independent kid, with a twisted sense of
humor who enjoyed doing illegal things: Entrance into anyplace at all
displaying the "No Dogs or Jews Allowed" signs was fun, even though it
was clearly understood that -- if discovered -- neither dog nor Jew
would ever be seen again, regardless of age. The best game of all,
though, was diving into the Berlin Olympic Pool, and, hiding behind my
Teutonic looks, smiling innocently at the guards. But those men were
just ordinary cops. When it came to the Gestapo, it was best to
quickly and quietly disappear. Oh yes. The Gestapo meant business.

When Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential
liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty
nor safety," he was right on!

In 1930's Germany, "safety" meant "power." The popular sentiment was:
"Power will keep us safe. After all, we are the good people, the ones
who want to clear the planet earth of all who hinder progress, of all
who stand in the way of our good intentions -- and the more power our
Empire has, the safer we will be, the safer we will make the world."
The national slogan, shouted joyfully in the streets, was, after all,
"Heute Deutschland, Morgen Die Welt" (translation: Today Germany,
tomorrow the World).

The Germans, then, willingly gave up essential liberty to purchase
that safety of power, and the Nazis did an excellent job of
facilitating that. They invented the Gestapo, which was an acronym for
Geheime Staats Polizei (Translation: Secret State Police). And the
Gestapo was formidable, indeed.

Black, form-fitting uniform jackets, complete with epaulets; black
breeches tucked into jack-boots polished to such perfection that they
gleamed in all weather; Back hats with visors so glossy, they shone in
the dark. Oh, yes, these men were quite rightfully feared.

In 1930's Germany, it was completely proper, fitting and expected for
persons to turn in to the authorities anyone even remotely suspected
of in some way subverting the government. Neither a suspicion nor an
informant was too small: Children over the age of eight, all of whom
were members of the Hitler Jugend if they were boys and Bund Deutscher
Maedchen if they were girls, were expected to turn in family members
-- including parents -- if they were overheard speaking
disrespectfully or seditiously of Hitler or any members of his
administration. These kids were trained and propagandized to simply
put the "safety" of their great country over the "liberty" of their
families. Thus, if even one's own kids were gleeful informants, can
you imagine what the neighbors were?

When someone was turned in, the Gestapo showed up to do the honors; No
warrant was needed. Time of day or night was irrelevant. Folks simply
got hauled off, and, once taken away, never returned. Gestapo
interrogation methods were simple: Torture them till they talk. Most
of the time -- even if these prisoners had absolutely nothing of value
to report -- they eventually broke under the torture and simply
blurted out whatever they thought the inquisitors wanted to hear. Once
they had spoken, off they went to their deaths at the local
extermination camp, and if they chose not to speak, well, then the
torture continued till they died in the interrogation chamber.

Now, here we are in 2005, in the United States of America, busily
trading essential liberties for the safety of power...We, too,
understand that "safety" means "power." In today's America, the
administration has taught us carefully and clearly that: "Power will
keep us safe. After all, we are the good people, the ones who want to
clear the planet earth of all who hinder progress, of all who stand in
the way of our good intentions -- and the more power our Empire has,
the safer we will be, the safer we will make the world."

We do not have a Gestapo, of course. Intimidating black uniforms with
jack boots and shiny hat visors to match are as out-dated as 33 1/3
RPM music albums. And, after all, the Gestapo wasn't very secret. Our
current fascist government is so much smoother, sophisticated, slicker
than the Nazis ever were. We just have organizations called FBI
(acronym for Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CIA (acronym for
Central Intelligence Agency.)

And, as reported by the Associated Press (June, 2005), we also have an
expanded, broader version of the Patriot Act, which gives the
government more liberties with our liberties than ever before. The
purpose of this expansion "Has, as its significant purpose, the
collection of intelligence."

On June 29, 2005, CNN TV, along with the LA Times-Washington Post News
Service, announced that, In June, 2002, President Bush directed the
creation of a new National Security Service within the FBI. This
little gem specializes in intelligence and other "national security
matters" under the grim direction of John Negroponte, who -- given his
background of association with South American terrorists -- is pretty
savvy when it comes to such matters.

The new service combines counterterrorism, intelligence and espionage
units, and has been mandated to operate in secrecy as needed. "It will
give control of all human intelligence operations to the CIA."

This new department is enthusiastically endorsed by FBI Director
Robert Mueller, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, CIA Director Porter
Goss, and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff. What a great
new way to prevent terrorism. Now, we not only have secret agents who
can conduct all business in secret, but can also use torture.

"Torture?" You ask, "Now where did you get that from?"

Our current administration clearly understands the value of torture.
After all, when the populace found out about the torture in Abu Ghraib
and at Guantanamo -- amongst other places -- there was no public
outcry. Those inquisitors were -- and continue to -- simply keep us
all safe from terrorists. Good job. Not only that, but, now, torture
is an officially sanctioned governmental procedure.

The very purpose of the international Geneva Conventions, formulated
in 1949 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
Human rights, was created to prevent -- ever again -- the kind of
insane torture and ruthless extermination perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
When interrogated, "No physical or mental torture, nor any form of
coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from then
information of any kind whatsoever." The Geneva Conventions, as a
matter of fact, were updated in 1977 to provide greater protections
for victims of armed conflict. To wit: "The presence within the
civilian population of individuals who do not come within the
definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its
civilian character." (Article 50)

But, just this spring, Alberto Gonzales, our own Attorney General,
opened the door to torture when he stated, "The Geneva Conventions are
quaint: They are obsolete."

We all know that torture techniques such as "water boarding,"
electroshock, the use of attack dogs on naked prisoners were/are
commonplace at Guantanamo. In an article by Robert Zeller (06/24/05
"The Triangle") the USA torture system is made even clearer: The USA,
now, routinely sends persons for interrogation to nations that openly
condone torture. "Flogging, anal rape, fingernail extraction,
amputation, submersion in boiling water and mock executions are
standard procedure, often under the eye of American agents" Agents --
from the FBI and CIA -- are sent as escorts with these prisoners, in
order to note all information resulting from these techniques.
According to Robert Zeller, "In so doing, the officials who direct
these agents are in direct violation of the federal War Crimes Act, a
1996 statute that carries the death penalty."

America, on June 28, 2005, officially refused to back a United Nations
protocol against torture, because of fears that this could allow
international monitors to visit terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay.
But, is the secrecy of our "new" FBI/CIA actually new? On June 6,
2002, the Portland Oregonian reported that former University of South
Florida professor, Sami Al-Arian, had his phones bugged, microphones
planted in his office, and faxes as well as computer conversations
recorded. And, all this took place well before the official conversion
of the FBI to "Secrecy." Matter of fact, it was done for nine years,
and no evidence was ever discovered making him in any way less than a
good US Citizen.

On July 1, 2002, FBI agents searched the San Diego home of Rep. Randy
"Duke" Cunningham. No reason was given. No reason HAD to be given. No
one is exempt from these new secret agents and what they choose to do.
Ordinary citizen or legislator -- it doesn't matter. In they come, and
away we go.

And who gets hauled off in the night? France Sénécal, who hosts a
weekly interview program at Radio Station KDVS 90.3 FM at University
of California, Davis, www.kdvs.org reports the horrifying family
experience of "Sitara," a long-time member of "Critical Resistance"
who has often been interviewed on France's program.

With no advance notice, with no warning whatsoever, Sitara's aunt and
uncle were taken away by government agents during the week of June 22,
2005. They have since been locked away in a detention prison in West
Virginia. Sitara states, "They came from Afghanistan about ten years
ago, and have since been involved in a long asylum attempt."

"Aunt, uncle and 19 year-old cousin were home after cousin's
graduation from High School on June 22. Suddenly, on graduation day,
the doorbell rang, and there stood the government officials and
police, saying, "We need to take you for questioning about an
investigation we are doing at Dulles airport (where my aunt worked,
and my uncle also, until his work permit expired and wasn't renewed.).
They told my 19 year-old cousin that his folks would be back that
evening, but, instead, they simply disappeared."

In their West Virginian detention camp, the story they are told
regarding the reason for their detention keeps changing, and no one
knows what's going to happen to them. Will they be deported? And, is
the young cousin also in danger? No one knows.

So, how far are we removed from the Gestapo of Nazi Germany? As Robert
Zeller states, "It (fascism) comes through creating legal non-persons
of citizens and non-citizens alike. It comes through violating human
rights standards, sanitizing torture and condoning murder."

Hermann Goering stated at the Nuremberg trials: "Voice or no voice,
the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders; that
is easy, all you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and
denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the
country to greater danger."

On June 14, 2005, Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill compared US interrogators
at Guantanamo with Nazis and other historically infamous figures. By
June 21, 2005, he had been pressured by the administration to the
point that he issued the following: "Some may believe that my remarks
crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies." In this
regard, Durbin represents the entire nation: All of us see what sits
in front of us. All of us are aware of what is going on. All of us
understand that our endorsement of the Patriot Act, the new FBI/CIA
does away with our essential freedoms. But, none of us want to "cross
the line." Are we that close to the mentality of the German citizenry
of the Nazi era? Seems that way, doesn't it.... Heil Hitler.

Doris Colmes escaped Nazi Germany in 1938 with her parents, she was 11
at the time. Doris is the author of "The Iron Butterfly" and an
independent writer. She can be reached by email at dhcolmes@msn.com or
via her website at: www.doriscolmes.com.