Indefinite Detention: A Hallmark of Tyranny
by Jacob G. Hornberger
Khaled al-Qazzaz wants to know why U.S. officials were silent during the time he was incarcerated by the military dictatorship that rules Egypt. An engineer and educator, he had joined the government of democratically elected Mohamed Morsi as foreign relations secretary. According to an article in the New York Times, he was one of nine Morsi advisers who remained with the president on July 3, 2013, notwithstanding the fact that military henchmen were closing in to arrest them.
The Egyptian military brutes held al-Qazzaz in jail for 588 days.
No charges at all. They just kept him in jail him with no charges against him. That’s what “indefinite detention” is all about. It’s when a government jails a person it doesn’t like for as long as it likes.
Throughout his incarceration, al-Qazzaz was puzzled over the silence of U.S. officials. In an op-ed smuggled out of prison and published in the New York Times last summer, he wrote:
The silence was so thorough that I joked with my colleagues, “Do we really exist or were we Photoshopped in? My brothers and sisters in humanity, I know why the Egyptian military government demands my complete silence, but please answer me this: Why are you so silent about me.”
I am confident that U.S. officials never answered al-Qazzaz, and so I’ll give him the answer to his question.
The reason for the U.S. government’s silence is that the U.S. national-security state not only believes in indefinite incarceration, it also partners with and supports the Egyptian military dictatorship and, therefore, is not about to question its decisions.
After all, let’s not forget that it has been decades of U.S. support, principally in the form of weaponry, that the U.S. national-security state has provided Egypt’s military dictatorship that has established and fortified Egypt’s military dictatorship. From the inception of all that support for the dictatorship, there has been one primary purpose of all that weaponry: to enable the Egyptian military tyrants to maintain their iron grip over Egypt.
Since the election of Morsi was threatening the sovereignty of military rule in Egypt, the military decided he needed to be ousted from power. After the coup in which Morsi and his advisers were arrested and incarcerated, the U.S. government maintained its silence and continued flooding the regime with armaments to ensure that nothing would threaten the military’s ouster of Morsi.
That’s what the shooting of demonstrators has been all about, and that’s what all the censorship has been about. And it’s also what indefinite incarceration has been all about. These are some of the ways a tyrannical regime maintains itself in power — by tyrannizing and oppressing anyone who might object to the tyranny.
In fact, one of the most popular ways for tyrants to maintain their tyranny is to label opponents to their tyranny as terrorists. It shouldn’t surprise anyone to know that the Egyptian military brutes are among the most enthusiastic supporters of the war on terrorism within Egypt, all with the full support of the U.S. national-security state.
After all, consider historical examples of tyrants who the U.S. national-security state has installed into power. The Shah of Iran and the military generals in Guatemala and Chile come to mind. They engaged in indefinite incarceration as well as such things as torture, rape, extra-judicial execution, and assassination.
As in Egypt, the U.S. national-security state stayed silent about what those tyrants in Iran, Guatemala, and Chile were doing. And why not? Not only were they flooding those tyrannical regimes with U.S. foreign aid, the U.S. military and the CIA were actually helping train the tyrants’ military and police forces in the art of indefinite incarceration, torture, and assassination, including at military training centers like the School of the Americas.
Look at the U.S. national-security state’s prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Yes, they also engage in indefinite incarceration and torture because, like their Egyptian counterparts, they believe in indefinite incarceration and torture. Al-Qazzaz should count himself lucky. His 588 days in jail without charges pale compared to 13 years of no charges or trial for the U.S. national-security state’s prisoners at Gitmo.
Lucky for us Americans that our ancestors had the courage, foresight, and wisdom to include the Fourth, Fifth, Sixth, and Eight Amendments in the Bill of Rights. Otherwise, we would be living under a legal system in which there was indefinite incarceration not just for terrorism-related crimes but also for anything else U.S. officials wanted to punish people for. Just like in Egypt.