No, this post isn’t about William Shatner albums. Over at Orcinus, there’s a great post about the rendition (rendering? My torture lexicon is rusty…) of terrorist suspects to other countries. Here’s the description of the U.S. citizens who live near the airbases and facilities used to conduct these operations:
But the two most interesting places were the rural town of Smithfield and Kinston down the road, where there’s another airstrip that a company called Aero Contractors uses. Aero is the company that flies many of these missions for the CIA. We went there and talked to a pilot who had worked for Aero about exactly what they did and how the program worked. There’s nothing random about the CIA using this rural area in North Carolina. If you wanted to shut up a secret operation, this is where you would do it. It’s a god, guns, and guts area.
What you start to figure out by spending time in Smithfield is that a lot of people know about the company and have at least an inkling of what goes on at the airport. Most don’t want to talk about it and don’t take a critical view of it. Folks we met there framed the debate within this religious discourse. The activists that we talked to were god-fearing devout Christians who felt like this was not what they signed up for as religious people, that it violates the religious tenets they adhere to. Interestingly, folks on the other side of the debate seem to be coming from a similar place, but just coming to a different conclusion. The subject of whether or not torture was permitted by the Bible was discussed in church there – and many congregants believed it was.
Thompson’s partner, Paglen, puts the acquiescence into a larger context. “It’s this small town with this open secret that nobody wants to talk about. It shows what’s going on culturally. When a country starts doing things like torturing and disappearing people, it’s not just a policy question, it’s also a cultural question.”
When we kick around visions of what a coming fascist America might look like, we sometimes imagine brownshirt anti-immigration thuggery, domestic terrorism committed by anti-choice zealots, and book-burning barbecues hosted by raging fundamentalists. But Thompson and Paglen’s research seems to document the fact that we already have more than the required number of Good Germans – the staid rural burghers who quietly acknowledge the torture flights taking off from their local airports with the same combination of benign righteousness and willful denial that allowed the citizens of small towns in eastern Germany and Poland to wipe the dust of the crematoriums off their windowsills and go on about their everyday lives.
Torture isn’t solely about what it does to the victim–it does horrible things to the torturers too. This how freedom and liberty die: cut, by cut, by cut…