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    August 18, 2007

     Padilla loves Big Brother

    The conviction of José Padilla on terrorism charges in Miami in an ordinary criminal court is only good news by the standards of Rumsfeld's drumhead tribunals. It's an obvious miscarriage of justice; the guy is a broken wreck of a defendant, unfit to plead.

    Read Democracy Now!'s interview with Dr. Angela Hegarty, director of forensic psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center in Queens, N.Y. and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University. (full transcript here, hat tip Lewis Koch at Firedoglake).

    She examined Padilla in prison for a total of 22 hours.

    He [Padilla] had developed really a tremendous identification with the goals and interests of the government. I really considered a diagnosis of Stockholm syndrome. For example, at one point in the proceedings, his attorneys had, you know, done well at cross-examining an FBI agent, and instead of feeling happy about it like all the other defendants I’ve seen over the years, he was actually very angry with them. He was very angry that the civil proceedings were “unfair to the commander-in-chief,” quote/unquote. ... He expected that the government might help him, if he was “good,” quote/unquote.
    I won't violate the Godwin convention by invoking a false comparison with the Nazis, for the simple reason that SFIK they never did such things. Fascists of all descriptions - German, Italian, Spanish, Chilean - did not try to convince enemies of the wrongness of their ways, they just killed them, with or without degradations designed as moral theatre for themselves. They used torture purely to extract information, not to convert. There were of course propaganda efforts made to seduce into the Nazi fold the occupied western European peoples who counted as Aryan - Norwegians, Dutch, French, even Czechs - but not individual brainwashing.

    In modern times this was, I think, specifically a Communist crime, reflecting the the Marxist belief in the malleability of human nature, contrasting with the biological determinism of the Fascists. It emerged at the Moscow show trials of the 1930s, and was made famous in literature in Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon and George Orwell's 1984. Though pioneered by Stalin's NKVD, it was also used by Mao, Ho Chi Minh and Kim Il-Sung - and I think Tito. The Spanish Inquisition had similar objectives: the ideal auto-da-fé was the ceremonial execution by garrote of repentant heretics, burning alive being an officially regrettable, and fairly rare, exception for the relapsed.

    The current ideology of the authoritarian American right is not closet Stalinism. Nor are the Trotskyist early days of some neoconservative sectaries more than a historical footnote. But the techniques applied to Padilla were learnt by the CIA from its Communist foes; and over the long Cold War of containment the USA perhaps absorbed too much of its adversary's cynicism and overweening sense of destiny. Though the extreme impatience of the neocons is characteristically Trotskyite, and runs against the long horizons of both Stalin and Kennan.

    Mark Kleiman's jibe about "Bush, the Beloved Leader" looks better by the day. For where else now would you find other José Padillas, brought by years of sensory deprivation to adoration of an incompetent playboy ruler, but in the jails of Pyongyang?

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