Two hundred and forty-six days. Thirty-five weeks from tomorrow. That’s how much longer this nation must endure the reign of King George and await the term of a new President. Let’s hope that whoever swears to faithfully execute that office and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution actually honors that solemn pledge. Let’s also hope that they promptly begin to undo the rampant damage wrought by George and his minions. Part of that enormous task will involve changing the partisan and reactionary culture that has spread throughout the corridors of government like the rising waters of Lake Pontchartrain. Only until those waters are permitted to recede will the full extent of the destruction and disarray inflicted upon this nation by Hurricane George become truly evident. Only then will the abuses of power and privilege begin to abate. Or so I hope.
For now, the Bush-league policies and practices persist. Just in the last week, this nation was rudely greeted with news of abuses by immigration and customs agents, who appear to have taken the works of Kafka and Orwell a tad too literally. (Or perhaps the Department of Homeland Security has taken to borrowing a page or two from the Gestapo Field Manual.) When I read of such dehumanizing tactics, I feel overwhelmed with dismay and disappointment. Rather than feeling proud of my country, I feel embarrassed and ashamed. And rather than counting on those elected and appointed to serve the general welfare, I find myself counting the days until their reign has ceased. How sad is that? And how sad are the following news reports?
From the Washington Post:
The U.S. government has injected hundreds of foreigners it has deported with dangerous psychotropic drugs against their will to keep them sedated during the trip back to their home country, according to medical records, internal documents and interviews with people who have been drugged.
The government’s forced use of antipsychotic drugs, in people who have no history of mental illness, includes dozens of cases in which the “pre-flight cocktail,” as a document calls it, had such a potent effect that federal guards needed a wheelchair to move the slumped deportee onto an airplane.
“Unsteady gait. Fell onto tarmac,” says a medical note on the deportation of a 38-year-old woman to Costa Rica in late spring 2005. Another detainee was “dragged down the aisle in handcuffs, semi-comatose,” according to an airline crew member’s written account. Repeatedly, documents describe immigration guards “taking down” a reluctant deportee to be tranquilized before heading to an airport.
In a Chicago holding cell early one evening in February 2006, five guards piled on top of a 49-year-old man who was angry he was going back to Ecuador, according to a nurse’s account in his deportation file. As they pinned him down so the nurse could punch a needle through his coveralls into his right buttock, one officer stood over him menacingly and taunted, “Nighty-night.”
Such episodes are among more than 250 cases The Washington Post has identified in which the government has, without medical reason, given drugs meant to treat serious psychiatric disorders to people it has shipped out of the United States since 2003 — the year the Bush administration handed the job of deportation to the Department of Homeland Security’s new Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, known as ICE.
Involuntary chemical restraint of detainees, unless there is a medical justification, is a violation of some international human rights codes. The practice is banned by several countries where, confidential documents make clear, U.S. escorts have been unable to inject deportees with extra doses of drugs during layovers en route to faraway places.
Federal officials have seldom acknowledged publicly that they sedate people for deportation. The few times officials have spoken of the practice, they have understated it, portraying sedation as rare and “an act of last resort.” Neither is true, records and interviews indicate. [full text]
From the New York Times:
He was a carefree Italian with a recent law degree from a Roman university. She was â€œa totally Virginia girl,â€? as she puts it, raised across the road from George Washingtonâ€™s home. Their romance, sparked by a 2006 meeting in a supermarket in Rome, soon brought the Italian, Domenico Salerno, on frequent visits to Alexandria, Va., where he was welcomed like a favorite son by the parents and neighbors of his girlfriend, Caitlin Cooper.
But on April 29, when Mr. Salerno, 35, presented his passport at Washington Dulles International Airport, a Customs and Border Protection agent refused to let him into the United States. And after hours of questioning, agents would not let him travel back to Rome, either; over his protests in fractured English, he said, they insisted that he had expressed a fear of returning to Italy and had asked for asylum.
Ms. Cooper, 23, who had promised to show her boyfriend another side of her country on this visit â€” meaning Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon â€” eventually learned that he had been sent in shackles to a rural Virginia jail. And there he remained for more than 10 days, locked up without charges or legal recourse while Ms. Cooper, her parents and their well-connected neighbors tried everything to get him out. [full text]