In custody

When jailers resort to violence

When my seventeen-year-old daughter first saw the photos of tortured and abused Iraqi prisoners in the Times of India, she put the paper down and said, ā€œIā€™m ashamed to be an American.ā€

So was I. The delight the American soldiers seemed to take in the humiliation of helpless men was disgraceful and depraved, as well as pathetic: while they evidently believed that this proved their power and might, it proved just the opposite-they were bullies and cowards.

The sexual nature of the abuse reminded me of a scene twenty-five years ago when I was arrested at the construction site of a nuclear power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire. Of the 1,414 protesters arrested, a small number, myself included, were noncooperators. That meant going limp when asked to leave the site, refusing to give our names or be fingerprinted, and fasting until released from jail.

It was my bad luck to be the first noncooperator to be arrested, and the last person on a bus already filled with cooperators. That meant being separated from my support group for the entire arrest procedure. When we got to the National Guard armory where we were to be processed, everyone else filed off the bus nicely, except for me. I refused to walk.

The policeman who dragged me out of the bus had been up all night and was in no mood for extra effort. He was not cruel, but he was not gentle, either. My jeans were ripped on the way down the bus...

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About the Author

Jo McGowan, a Commonweal columnist, writes from Deradoon, India.