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Of course, its prisoners who remained generally uncharged and without access to Iraqi courts, weren't just released to the winds. Quite the opposite, over 3,000 of them were redistributed to two other U.S. prisons, Camp Bucca in Iraq's south and Camp Cropper at the huge U.S. base adjoining Baghdad International Airport, once dedicated to the holding of "high-value" detainees like Saddam Hussein and top officials of his regime.
Camp Cropper itself turns out to be an interesting story, but one with a problem: While the emptying of Abu Ghraib made the news everywhere, the filling of Camp Cropper made no news at all. And yet it turns out that Camp Cropper, which started out as a bunch of tents, has now become a $60 million "state-of-the-art" prison. The upgrade, on the drawing boards since 2004, was just completed and hardly a word has been written about it. We really have no idea what it consists of or what it looks like, even though it's in one of the few places in Iraq that an American reporter could safely visit, being on a vast American military base constructed, like the prison, with taxpayer dollars.
... ...Camp Cropper wasn't the business of ordinary Americans (or even their representatives in Congress). Despite the fact that the $60 million dollars, which made the camp "state of the art," was surely ours, no one in the United States debated or discussed the upgrade and there was no serious consideration of it in Congress before the money was anted up - any more than Congress or the American people are in any way involved in the constant upgrading of our military bases in Iraq.
First, we had those huge military bases that officials were careful never to label "permanent." (For a while, they were given the charming name of "enduring camps" by the Pentagon.) Just about no one in the mainstream bothered to write about them for a couple of years as quite literally billions of dollars were poured into them and they morphed into the size of American towns with their own bus routes, sports facilities, Pizza Huts, Subways, Burger Kings, and mini-golf courses. Huge as they now are, elaborate as they now are, they are still continually being upgraded. Now, it seems that on one of them we have $60 million worth of the first "permanent U.S. prison" in Iraq. Meanwhile, in the heart of Baghdad, the Bush administration is building what's probably the largest, best fortified "embassy" in the solar system with its own elaborate apartment complexes and entertainment facilities, meant for a staff of 3,500.
Recently, speaking of the Bush administration's urge to publicly redefine and so abrogate the Geneva Conventions, former Secretary of State Colin Powell said: "If you just look at how we are perceived in the world and the kind of criticism we have taken over Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and renditions, whether we believe it or not, people are now starting to question whether we're following our own high standards."
The media plays up the courageous stands of Republican Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner in bringing us back to those "high standards." In the process, the details of how much of what we can use in questioning whomever and what modest protections prisoners might or might not receive in our offshore prison system are hashed out.
...[a system] which bears no relation to any system of imprisonment Americans have previously imagined, continues non-stop, unchecked and unbalanced by Congress or the courts, unaffected by the Republic, but very distinctly under the flag "for which it stands stands."
And don't imagine that this is an anomaly, applicable only to imprisonment abroad. Almost anywhere you look, the facts on the ground tell a story at odds with what's important, what's real as we Americans imagine it. Let's take, for instance, what's now referred to as the Intelligence Community or IC, a collection of at least 16 agencies, ranging from the Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. Consider then just one recent piece about the IC by Greg Miller of the Los Angeles Times, headlined Spy Agencies Outsourcing to Fill Key Jobs.
Around all such "facts," of course, ever more entrenched and ever more expansive sets of interests arise: companies to organize the private contractees, or to deal with the outsourcing, or to handle contracts and construction work, not to speak of whole worlds of consultants, specialists, and lobbyists. This is a reality which no future administration, nor any better empowered Congress, would be likely to reverse, no less erase any time soon...
Take for example the Department of Homeland Security... Around it has sprung into existence an anti-terrorism homeland-security industry... "Seven years ago," writes Paul Harris of the British Guardian, "there were nine companies with federal homeland security contracts. By 2003 it was 3,512. Now there are 33,890."
These are increasingly the crucial realities of our world - and it's not the world of a republic. It's not a world of checks and balances. It's not a world where even a change of ownership in one or both houses of Congress in November would prove a determining factor. It's not a world where people out there are just "starting to question whether we're following our own high standards." It's distinctly not the world as we Americans like to imagine it, but it is the world we are, regrettably enough, lost in. It's the world created not just by a commander-in-chief presidency, but by a Pentagon-in-chief-dominated government, and by a corporation-in-chief style of imperial rule.
It is a world striving for permanence, which doesn't faintly mean that it's permanent - not in Iraq and not here. But it might be helpful if we began to register more fully not just the latest flurry of whatever passes for news, but the facts-on-the-ground that are, every minute, every hour, every day, transforming our lives and our planet.