Mumia Abu Jamal is one of the longest serving political prisoners in the United States.
[Speech Writ. 4/2/05] Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal
Thanks for your kind invitation to join the ‘Attica to Abu Ghraib’
Conference; *Ona Move!*
When we think about the atrocities of Attica, and the abominations at Abu
Ghraib, we are sometimes caught searching for a common denominator. What
could it be, we wonder, as we look at the brutal state assault on both
prisoners and staff at Attica, and the human rights violations, and yes –
torture, that marked American behavior at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq?
The commonalities, however, are more than first meets the eye. Of course,
they are both prisons (but that’s obvious). They both came to public
consciousness through the actions of people who were prison guards. And
they both were, initially, defended by the State by a flood of lies.
What matters really least, is that they occurred in different
countries. They both happened in the same empire.
What marked the differences between them is the critical element of time,
and even this quality does not speak well of things to come. For, as time
is the difference, yet it tells us how far things have fallen; how the 30
years between Attica and Abu Ghraib have marked a coarsening of American
character, and a brutishness of imperial defenders.
Attica opened up an era of prison reform across much of the nation, and
fueled the movement to attempt to eradicate the most depraved elements of
the nation’s repressive prison systems.
Abu Ghraib was met by quasi-official justifications, government
obfuscation, and the incredible spectacle of right-wing pundits likening
the torture and human rights abuses there to ‘college pranks.’ The
humiliation of naked Arab men was compared to the field displays of
There is, of course, another monstrous difference: the architects of Abu
Ghraib, and high-level defenders of torture, have been rewarded by higher,
and more prestigious posts in government!
In a nutshell, torture pays!
We have not spoken of the pivotal American issue of race.
Without prisoners actively advocating Black liberation, there would have
been no Attica.
The tortured, maimed, and humiliated prisoners at Abu Ghraib were targeted
by the U.S. Army because they were seeking to intimidate and eliminate
people who were trying to fight to free their country from foreign
occupiers. In other words, they were fighting for their own national
liberation. In an empire, which picks puppets for other nations, this is
not acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable under the Roman Empire, the British
Empire, nor its North American successor empire, the American Empire.
To this latest global incarnation of the White Nation, Arabs are but sand
niggers, to be beaten into submission and obedience. It is the refusal to
accept this status that is fueling what the U.S. media calls ‘the insurgency.’
There is another element that arises from the evidence: American
cruelty. Big Black, the late veteran of Attica, told stories of the
torture and beatings that he endured, as he was naked, and held under
gunpoint. It is an eerie precursor of the treatment of Arab prisoners at
Nor is it mere coincidence that some of the most brutal, most vicious
actors at Abu Ghraib were U.S. Reserves, who, in their civilian lives, were
prison guards. How else could they learn it?
One of the most infamous was from SCI-Greene, in Southwestern Pennsylvania,
named Charles Graner. Recently his ex-wife came forward to tell of the
terrors to which she was exposed daily. She said Graner promised to cut
her into little pieces, and that no one would ever find her body.
Welcome to U.S. ‘corrections’ as the Prison Nation goes Global.
Copyright 2005 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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