The Greyhound Station Gulag. New Orleans resident Abdulrahman Zeitoun was with three friends in the living room when the looters came. Like most of the armed criminal gangs afflicting the city in Katrina’s wake, the marauders who confronted Mr. Zeitoun wore government-issued costumes.
Before the day’s end, the Syrian-born U.S. citizen — who had spent days paddling through the flooded streets in a canoe, rendering what aid he could to people trapped in their ruined homes — would be confined in a makeshift detention camp modeled after the notorious facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
No formal criminal charges were filed against Zeitoun. When he protested the denial of his due process rights and rudimentary decencies of living, he was told by the guards that he was under the jurisdiction of FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) — which meant that he was somebody else’s problem.
“Always the procedure was the same,” narrates Eggers, “a prisoner would be removed from his cage and dragged to the ground nearby, in full view of the rest of the prisoners. His hands and feet would be tied, and then, sometimes with a guard’s knee on his back, he would be sprayed directly in the face” with pepper spray. “If the prisoner protested,” continues Eggers, “the knee would dig deeper into his back. The spraying would continue until his spirit was broken. Then he would be doused with [a] bucket and returned to his cage.”
These ritual acts of sadism, Eggers observes, were “born of a combination of opportunity, cruelty, ambivalence, and sport.” They were intended to torment the other prisoners, most of whom — like Zeitoun — were made nauseous with suppressed rage by the spectacle of helpless men being tortured.
The victims included one disturbed man with the intellectual and emotional capacity of a child who was “punished” because he displayed the irrepressible symptoms of mental illness.
“Under any normal circumstances [Zeitoun] would have leapt to the defense of a man victimized as that man had been,” observes Eggers. “But that he had to watch, helpless, knowing how depraved it was — this was punishment for the others, too. It diminished the humanity of them all.”
At the slightest excuse those who presume to rule us will treat us exactly as Abdulrahman Zeitoun was treated. Before being kidnapped and imprisoned by the government, Zeitoun never suspected that a potential gulag was lurking inside the local Greyhound station. He sees the world much differently now, as should we all. [Pro Libertate]