January 11, 2012

Spot the Terrorist!

The dystopian world of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil is beset by random blasts of violence, explosions laid at the feet of unnamed terrorists. It’s the terrorist threat that drives the world’s administration, one that includes a department of torture with the deliciously euphemistic label “Information Retrieval.” But the film never really shows you any actual terrorists. It’s even brought up in a discussion between the main character, Sam, and the woman of his dreams (literally):
JILL: Who is this war against, Sam?

SAM: Well, terrorists of course.

JILL: How many terrorists have you met? Actual terrorists?

SAM: Actual terrorists? Well...it's only my first day.
That line’s played for laughs, of course, but there’s an uncomfortable truth lurking there about how much of any “war on terror” is really a PR campaign by the state.

That idea flashed through my head when I read the sickening numbers compiled by the ACLU about the inmates confined at Guantanamo Bay (via). It looks like lots of people down there have never met an actual terrorist, either. Of the 779 people detained at Gitmo since 2002, a whopping 92% of them were never al Qaeda fighters. Maybe that’s because only 5% of them were actually captured by US troops in the field. The bulk of them (86%) were turned in for a bounty.

The other numbers are equally depressing (the number of men detained who the Government admits it can’t any allegations against but continue to detain anyway? 46). But that 92% says more about the “war on terror” than just about anything else could.

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