Invisible Men

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by Dr. Paul J. Balles

“I am an invisible man," said Ralph Ellison in the prologue to his novel The Invisible Man, "When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination--indeed, everything and anything except me."

The main character is anonymous and unseen. The whites in society refuse to see him except as a black. Much has changed in America since the 50's appearance of The Invisible Man, at least for those who have been able to distinguish themselves, primarily in the media.

At the same time, others lack any recognizable individual identity. Blacks seen as African refugees merge back into masses without identities. To most Americans, Orientals from China or Japan or Korea are indistinguishable as members of their countries much less as individuals.

Americans generally lack both the ability and desire to distinguish Arabs from Persians, and even less capable of seeing distinct and recognizable features. Thus, Arabs and Persians number among Ellison's invisible men.

The mistaken identities of which Americans have been guilty have been widespread with some horrific results. The internment camps during WWII with Japanese Americans are now matched by Arab holding pens at Guantanamo.

Moazzam Begg, an Englishman of Pakistani descent was arrested and held in Kandahar for about six weeks. "That was the most brutal processing experience I had," he says. "When I was held by the Pakistanis, they didn't shackle me; they just put a towel over my head when I was moving around so I couldn't see things."


Torture king George W. Bush says that he doesn't condone torture, but his goon squads have been practicing it every day since 9/11.

Begg adds, "But with the Americans, it was the legs shackled, hands behind your back, clothes torn off with a knife, dogs barking, being beaten, punched, shaved, having trophy photographs taken by soldiers, and being naked and interrogated."

According to the chorus of Evangelist and Zionist brotherhood, that isn't torture. It's probing for the truth about terrorists. That's Texas Deranger talk coming from sociopathic warlords.

In his book, Enemy Combatant, Begg echoes the invisible man theme, though he may have been unaware of Ellison's book:

Not every interrogation was a classic interrogation. A lot of them were just curious soldiers and interrogators who wanted to speak to the British guy. But certainly, I tried in vain to explain there are all sorts of Muslim groups, all sorts of places in the world where Muslims are challenging their occupations. So, to accuse them all of being synonymous with terrorism is the height of unintelligence. What you're doing is painting us all with the same brush and saying we're all responsible, and by doing this you're making yourselves many more enemies than you ever had after 9/11.


The Road to Guantanamo (Part I)

Part II

Part III

The arrest last year of Canadian Maher Arar followed by his detention and deportation to Syria where American authorities knew he would be tortured exemplifies the disdain that both US and Canadian authorities have for personal identities.


Chris Floyd wrote in “Fatal Vision: The Deeper Evil behind the Detainee Bill”:


German national Khalid El-Masri, UK native Mozzam Begg and many others. They had been subjected to imprisonment and torture despite their innocence, because of intelligence 'mistakes.' How many have fallen victim to Bush's hit squads on similar shaky grounds?

The same inability to recognize Arabs will have even more tragic results with the Military Commissions Act, just passed by the US Congress. That law allows the US to arrest and detain anyone that enforcers label enemy combatants: you, me, anyone.

This means that anybody, including American citizens, may be locked up without any right to challenge their arrests and detention. Not only are warrants unnecessary and Habeas Corpus protections eliminated by the new law, but methods of torture have been legalized.

Moazzam Begg concluded that "the hardest thing for me wasn't my own humiliation; it was watching other people's. It was watching and being impotent, not being able to do anything to stop somebody else's humiliation, to stop somebody else from being beaten.

Governments allow their cadres of sadists to torture those who don't subscribe to and follow the “with-us” part of the dictate "You're either with us or you're against us." Conventions that were once an essential part of humanitarian justice are ignored, decimated and violated.

What can we do? We can go about our business as if the sadistic crimes of swaggering madmen in authority didn't exist until they catch you or me. Or we can resist the mad, inhuman abuse under the cloak of invisibility. Create a choir for the righteous.

Chant these words: Every Arab is as important as every American. Every Palestinian and every Lebanese is as important as every Israeli. Every Iraqi is as important as every Englishman. No race, color or creed is more important than any other. Allow no one to be invisible. Allow no one to be violated.


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