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Day 208: Homeland Insecurity

Anna and I take turns reassuring one another, cycling between anxious hope and confirmed paranoia. I still haven’t asked her what she thinks of what I said about her. She acts as if nothing matters but the present and future.

Perhaps to make me feel better about the words we find painted on our apartment door (“TRAITOR” and “PROFITEER” being two I can post), a homecoming present appeared today to brighten the wall in my suddenly spacious kitchen. Where boxes of personal protective gear once loomed, an extravagantly framed tapestry proclaims in red, white, and blue: AMERICALOVE IT OR LEAVE IT!

GOTHIC AS HELL: WHERE THE KUBARK MANUAL'S TORMENTS BEGANAnna won’t say how or where she got my homecoming gift—only that she’s happy her notorious “unemployed architect-blogger” is back.

Danged if my presence isn’t her doing. Anna worked tirelessly to spring me, as you all knew before I did. I thank her and I thank those of you who stuck your necks out. Home Sweet Homeland!

Blogula’s still not quite here, to be honest. I’ve been crawling through mind tunnels trying to recall and record everything that happened to me in that place. I feel empty and sick. Now that I’ve shared a lot of them, the memories are no longer any use to me. They’re like rocks weighing me down in quicksand. I wish I could cut them loose, forget it all. Anna keeps saying that writing about it might help.

I hope no one gets angry with me for saying this, but I wonder if this is how women feel after they’ve been raped. I’m numb, walking heel-to-toe in the fog, trying to fulfill tasks, hoping no one can tell I have flaming holes in my brain and body and soul and heart. I’ve been rendered helpless and hopeless by unthinking hateful brutes. What makes me safe from them now?

It wasn’t sexual, but I feel thoroughly violated, like someone penetrated my cerebral cortex with a toilet plunger. I feel like shit. I’m not sleeping.

I’m still here, writing. I miss my iMac, but I’m really grateful to the person who donated their plain old Mac. Even though I feel as if someone else is doing the typing, it’s a start. I’m awed when a sentence turns out to make sense. The words link to form nice-sounding logic that might even be true. Gee.

The Shock Doctrine

I can read, although it triggers headaches. I’ve been locked into a book Anna gave me: Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine. It begins with torture and it pisses me off immensely, but it explains what happened to me.

Many of you will have heard about the CIA’s experiments with LSD in the 1950s and ‘60s. In fact, the agency’s Project MK-ULTRA deployed a wide variety of drugs and non-pharmaceutical pressures in mind-control experiments that traumatized, even killed, an unknown number of Americans. One likely effect was the violent eco-oriented career of Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who participated in MK-ULTRA experiments for three years while a student at Harvard.

Some of the nastiest known work was conducted for seven years in the Allan Memorial Institute, a Montreal mental hospital, by Donald Ewen Cameron, a former president of the World Psychiatric Association and the American and Canadian psychiatric associations. As Klein details very well in Shock Doctrine (buy it on this site), Cameron used an intense array of legal drugs, environmental controls, electroshock treatment (ECT), brainwashing tapes, and LSD on patients who weren’t necessarily so troubled when they entered his office, but who fared very badly later on in life.

Why would a psychiatrist who had served at the Nuremberg Medical Tribunal that sentenced German doctors to death for having conducted Nazi experiments on prisoners do these things? Apart from hating communism, Cameron wanted to prove the ‘psychic driving theory’ he had pioneered, whereby you could blow someone’s mind to bits with drugs and shocks and then play audiotapes to condition a new him or her. None of his patients knew what they were getting into.

Cameron, Klein writes, focused on “regression, the idea that by depriving people of their sense of who they are and where they are in time and space, adults can be converted into dependent children whose minds are a blank slate of suggestibility.”

I quacked for those freelance Fed torturers. I liked making them laugh under their hoods. It felt really good for a moment.

What if Anna hadn’t gotten me out of that place?

I’ll cut to the chase. The CIA’s MK-ULTRA experiments surfaced in a tide of government scandals in the 1970s. The CIA claimed involuntary drugging and torture were the doings of ‘rogue agents’ who had achieved nothing of value. Ho hum. I mean, why would any government ever want to turn dissenting adults into frail, trembling children?

Then something called the KUBARK Manual surfaced in the 1990s. (KUBARK is the CIA’s cryptonym for its own headquarters.) A series of CIA documents that began in 1963, the KUBARK Manual (read the entire text here) is the spy agency’s evolving blueprint for torturing people. It’s full of stuff Dr. Cameron did. It describes what the U.S. government trained Latin American military units to do to civilians in the 1970s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. And what our government did to people it seized in the post 9/11 Middle Eastern conflicts: brutally administer drugs at Guantanamo and abuse prisoners at Abu Ghraib. (Some people probably shouldn’t look at these photos from Abu Ghraib—nudity being the least problem).

A word about forced nakedness: It’s a way of breaking down a prisoner’s character, cracking his or her psychological integrity. Nakedness has been a significant feature of torture since the CIA revived it. If they know everything, we are nothing.

Sometimes I just want to sit in the bathroom, alone. I come out when Anna needs to use it. I write better in there.

I have to stop. I feel sick that I didn’t complain when this was happening to far-off Iraqis. Now would be a very good time for us all to speak up. It’s never too late.

Is it?

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