Morphing the Gestapo

There I was – a bratty, independent kid, with a twisted sense of humor who enjoyed doing illegal things: Entrance into anyplace at all displaying the "No Dogs or Jews Allowed" signs was fun, even though it was clearly understood that – if discovered – neither dog nor Jew would ever be seen again, regardless of age. The best game of all, though, was diving into the Berlin Olympic Pool, and, hiding behind my Teutonic looks, smiling innocently at the guards. But those men were just ordinary cops. When it came to the Gestapo, it was best to quickly and quietly disappear. Oh yes. The Gestapo meant business.

When Benjamin Franklin said, "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety," he was right on!

In 1930's Germany, "safety" meant "power." The popular sentiment was: "Power will keep us safe. After all, we are the good people, the ones who want to clear the planet earth of all who hinder progress, of all who stand in the way of our good intentions – and the more power our Empire has, the safer we will be, the safer we will make the world." The national slogan, shouted joyfully in the streets, was, after all, "Heute Deutschland, Morgen Die Welt" (translation: Today Germany, tomorrow the World.)

The Germans, then, willingly gave up essential liberty to purchase that safety of power, and the Nazis did an excellent job of facilitating that. They invented the Gestapo, which was an acronym for Geheime Staats Polizei. (translation: Secret State Police.) And the Gestapo was formidable, indeed.

Black, form-fitting uniform jackets, complete with epaulets; black breeches tucked into jack-boots polished to such perfection that they gleamed in all weather; black hats with visors so glossy, they shone in the dark. Oh, yes, these men were quite rightfully feared.

In 1930's Germany, it was completely proper, fitting and expected for persons to turn in to the authorities anyone even remotely suspected of in some way subverting the government. Neither a suspicion nor an informant was too small: Children over the age of eight, all of whom were members of the Hitler Jugend if they were boys and Bund Deutscher Mdchen if they were girls, were expected to turn in family members – including parents – if they were overheard speaking disrespectfully or seditiously of Hitler or any members of his administration. These kids were trained and propagandized to simply put the "safety" of their great country over the "liberty" of their families. Thus, if even one's own kids were gleeful informants, can you imagine what the neighbors were?

When someone was turned in, the Gestapo showed up to do the honors. No warrant was needed. Time of day or night was irrelevant. Folks simply got hauled off, and, once taken away, never returned. Gestapo interrogation methods were simple: Torture them till they talk. Most of the time – even if these prisoners had absolutely nothing of value to report – they eventually broke under the torture and simply blurted out whatever they thought the inquisitors wanted to hear. Once they had spoken, off they went to their deaths at the local extermination camp, and if they chose not to speak, well, then the torture continued till they died in the interrogation chamber.

Now, here we are in 2005, in the United States of America, busily trading essential liberties for the safety of power…We, too, understand that "safety" means "power." In today's America, the administration has taught us carefully and clearly that: "Power will keep us safe. After all, we are the good people, the ones who want to clear the planet earth of all who hinder progress, of all who stand in the way of our good intentions – and the more power our Empire has, the safer we will be, the safer we will make the world."

We do not have a Gestapo, of course. Intimidating black uniforms with jack boots and shiny hat visors to match are as out-dated as 33 1/3 RPM music albums. And, after all, the Gestapo wasn't very secret. Our current fascist government is so much smoother, sophisticated, slicker than the Nazis ever were. We just have organizations called FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation) and CIA (Central Intelligence Agency.)

And, as reported by the Associated Press (June, 2005), we also have an expanded, broader version of the Patriot Act, which gives the government more liberties with our liberties than ever before. The purpose of this expansion "Has, as its significant purpose, the collection of intelligence…."

On June 29, 2005, CNN TV, along with the LA Times-Washington Post News Service, announced that, In June, 2002, President Bush directed the creation of a new National Security Service within the FBI. This little gem specializes in intelligence and other "national security matters" under the grim direction of John Negroponte, who – given his background of association with South American terrorists – is pretty savvy when it comes to such matters.

The new service combines counterterrorism, intelligence and espionage units, and has been mandated to operate in secrecy as needed. "It will give control of all human intelligence operations to the CIA."

This new department is enthusiastically endorsed by FBI Director Robert Mueller, Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, CIA Director Porter Goss, and Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff. What a great new way to prevent terrorism. Now, we not only have secret agents who can conduct all business in secret, but can also use torture

"Torture?" You ask, "Now where did you get that from?"

Our current administration clearly understands the value of torture. After all, when the populace found out about the torture in Abu Ghraib and at Guantánamo – amongst other places – there was no public outcry. Those inquisitors were – and continue to – simply keep us all safe from terrorists. Good job. Not only that, but, now, torture is an officially sanctioned governmental procedure.

The very purpose of the international Geneva Conventions, formulated in 1949 by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human rights, was created to prevent – ever again – the kind of insane torture and ruthless extermination perpetrated by Nazi Germany. When interrogated, "No physical or mental torture, nor any form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatsoever." The Geneva Conventions, as a matter of fact, were updated in 1977 to provide greater protections for victims of armed conflict. To wit: "The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character." (Article 50)

But, just this spring, Alberto Gonzales, our own Attorney General, opened the door to torture when he stated, "The Geneva Conventions are quaint: They are obsolete."

We all know that torture techniques such as "waterboarding," electroshock, the use of attack dogs on naked prisoners were/are commonplace at Guatanomo. In an article by Robert Zeller (06/24/05, "The Triangle") the USA torture system is made even clearer: The USA, now, routinely sends persons for interrogation to nations that openly condone torture. "Flogging, anal rape, fingernail extraction, amputation, submersion in boiling water and mock executions are standard procedure, often under the eye of American agents" Agents – from the FBI and CIA – are sent as escorts with these prisoners, in order to note all information resulting from these techniques. According to Robert Zeller, "In so doing, the officials who direct these agents are in direct violation of the federal War Crimes Act, a 1996 statute that carries the death penalty."

America, on June 28, 2005, officially refused to back a United Nations protocol against torture, because of fears that this could allow international monitors to visit terrorist suspects in Guantánamo Bay.

But, is the secrecy of our "new" FBI/CIA actually new? On June 6, 2002, the Portland Oregonian reported that former University of South Florida professor, Sami Al-Arian, had his phones bugged, microphones planted in his office, and faxes as well as computer conversations recorded. And, all this took place well before the official conversion of the FBI to "Secrecy." Matter of fact, it was done for nine years, and no evidence was ever discovered making him in any way less than a good US Citizen.

On July 1, 2002, FBI agents searched the San Diego home of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham. No reason was given. No reason HAD to be given. No one is exempt from these new secret agents and what they choose to do. Ordinary citizen or legislator – it doesn't matter. In they come, and away we go

And who gets hauled off in the night? France Sénécal, who hosts a weekly interview program at Radio Station KDVS 90.3 FM at University of California – Davis, reports the horrifying family experience of “Sitara,” a long-time member of “Critical Resistance” who has often been interviewed on France’s program.

With no advance notice, with no warning whatsoever, Sitara’s aunt and uncle were taken away by government agents during the week of June 22, 2005. They have since been locked away in a detention prison in West Virginia. Sitara states, "They came from Afghanistan about ten years ago, and have since been involved in a long asylum attempt."

"Aunt, uncle and 19-year-old cousin were home after cousin's graduation from High School on June 22. Suddenly, on graduation day, the doorbell rang, and there stood the government officials and police, saying, "We need to take you for questioning about an investigation we are doing at Dulles airport (where my aunt worked, and my uncle also, until his work permit expired and wasn't renewed.). They told my 19-year-old cousin that his folks would be back that evening, but, instead, they simply disappeared."

In their West Virginian detention camp, the story they are told regarding the reason for their detention keeps changing, and no one knows what's going to happen to them. Will they be deported? And, is the young cousin also in danger? No one knows.

So, how far are we removed from the Gestapo of Nazi Germany? As Robert Zeller states, "It (fascism) comes through creating legal nonpersons of citizens and noncitizens alike. It comes through violating human rights standards, sanitizing torture and condoning murder."

As Hermann Goering stated at the Nuremberg trials: "Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger."

On June 14, 2005, Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill compared US interrogators at Guantánamo with Nazis and other historically infamous figures. By June 21, 2005, he had been pressured by the administration to the point that he issued the following: "Some may believe that my remarks crossed the line. To them, I extend my heartfelt apologies." In this regard, Durbin represents the entire nation: All of us see what sits in front of us. All of us are aware of what is going on. All of us understand that our endorsement of the Patriot Act, the new FBI/CIA does away with our essential freedoms. But, none of us want to "cross the line." Are we that close to the mentality of the German citizenry of the Nazi era? Seems that way, doesn't it…. Heil Hitler.

July 7, 2005

Doris Colmes is an independent writer in Portland, Or. The Iron Butterfly is the title of her book and her web site is: Her email address is: [email protected].