From the Editors
In my first Jadaliyya post, I described my “great and terrible obsession” with torture. Generally speaking, I love my obsession; thinking and talking about torture in an age of torture seems not only rational and reasonable but politically responsible. I’d bet my torture-related information command center (i.e., the part of my brain that stores, categorizes and operationalizes torture data) would be a source of great riches if there was a Jeopardy-Torture game show.
Over the last month, the torture-related news has been coming at such a fast and furious rate that I’m feeling overwhelmed. For example, on October 7 the judge presiding over the case of Ahmed Ghailani—the first prisoner from Guantánamo (GTMO) to be moved to the US to stand trial in a federal court—ruled to exclude one of the government’s main witnesses (the guy who claims he sold Ghailani the explosives used in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Africa) because the witness’s identity became known to the government as a result of torturing Ghailani in CIA black sites, where he was held for several years. On October 6, information became public that Syrian former GTMO prisoner Abdul Rahim Abdul Razak al Janko is suing Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and other current and former officials for the torture he endured during his seven years of detention in US custody. (Janko attempted suicide 17 times.)
In the last week of September, Fawzi al-Odah, a Kuwaiti who was one of the first prisoners to arrive at GTMO and who remains there to date, appealed the denial of his habeas petition to the Supreme Court; his is the first habeas case to hit their docket since Boumediene. The main issue the Supremes will tackle (if they accept the case) is the question of whether the government’s basis for holding al-Odah (and the Obama administration’s decision to put him into the ignominious category of those who can be held without trial indefinitely) is the result of torture. In that same week, the District Court of Washington, DC, denied a lawsuit brought by the families of two of three GTMO prisoners who died under “mysterious” circumstances—in other words, men who might have been tortured to death.
On September 21, there was a pre-trial hearing in the GTMO military commissions for Sudanese prisoner Noor Uthman. He was captured in 2002 with Abu Zubaydah, the latter being the first person to be tortured in CIA custody and for whom the original infamous “torture memos” were written by lawyers in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel. The government’s allegations against Uthman include information provided by Abu Zubaydah, so inevitably torture will be part of his trial, which is scheduled to begin early next year. And then there is the case of Omar Khadr, the Canadian “child soldier” whose trial was interrupted on its first day (August 12) when his military lawyer collapsed in the court room. Three days earlier, the judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, had ruled to admit all Khadr’s statements, claiming that he had seen no “credible evidence” that the then-15-year-old had been tortured in either Bagram or GTMO. Khadr’s trial resumes on October 18, and all those who testified about his interrogation during the pre-trial hearings will be back in court to testify for the jury.
To turn to the point of my titular question, the deluge of news is nourishing my obsession, which has been consistently well fed since 2004. The problem, though, is the compulsion that accompanies the obsession. Information must be digested, processed, analyzed, and filed in the command center. And readily available to pull out and use at conferences and dinner parties.
Obsessions are fine and normal. Everyone should have at least one. And compulsions are rational manifestations of self-discipline. But what happens when they combine and overwhelm? One thing that has NEVER obsessed me is the “psyche”—the study of, that is. In fact, I tend to be adverse to thinking deeply about anything that begins with the letters p,s,y,c and h. (I favor anything that begins with s, o and c, or p, o and l.) Of course I have heard of “obsessive compulsive disorders” (OCD); I watch TV and it is a re-emergent theme in some of my favorite shows. But I began wondering: is this feeling of being overwhelmed a sign that I have a torture OCD? What is OCD?
I did what everyone does when s/he wants to find out about something s/he doesn’t already know. I looked it up on Wikipedia. The Wiki page for OCD has one of those “warning” boxes that the information contained therein has “multiple issues.” Not deterred, I read on. Here’s the Wiki definition:
Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry, by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety, or by a combination of such thoughts (obsessions) and behaviors (compulsions). Symptoms may include repetitive handwashing; extensive hoarding; preoccupation with sexual or aggressive impulses, or with particular religious beliefs; aversion to odd numbers; and nervous habits, such as opening a door and closing it a certain number of times before one enters or leaves a room. These symptoms can be alienating and time-consuming, and often cause severe emotional and financial distress. The acts of those who have OCD may appear paranoid and come across to others as psychotic. However, OCD sufferers generally recognize their thoughts and subsequent actions as irrational, and they may become further distressed by this realization.
On one level, I was relieved. My rate of handwashing falls within the norm, and I have no fear of odd numbers. (In fact, my favorite number is 13.) Nevertheless, I did see bits of myself in this definition. I’m definitely a torture-info hoarder, and I do find the whole fascination with torture time-consuming. I’m not financially “distressed” (at least not for this reason), and I could even be financially enriched if only someone would make a Jeopardy-Torture show. I don’t know if I seem “paranoid” to others or if my friends and family regard me as “psychotic.” No one has said anything…But it was the last sentence—“OCD sufferers generally recognize their thoughts and subsequent actions as irrational”—that gave me pause. Is OCD partly defined by self-awareness? If so, is self-awareness actually a sign of the disorder? Perhaps that sentence is one of the aspects of the Wiki page that reflects “multiple issues.”
Ultimately, I concluded that my “problem” (i.e., when good obsessions and rational compulsions overwhelm) would be “solved” by less news about torture. And so the solution is contained within the problem. I must do more, obsess more, write and speak more about torture, because my “problem” isn’t psych-anything. My problem is torture.
3 comments for "Is There A Pill For This? "
If you prefer, email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hot on Facebook
While the regime worked for half a century to strip Syrians of political interest and to spread apathy among them, the uprising today represents a great collective rehearsal on politics and on developing a concern for common interests.click | email | tweet
Jad NavigationView Full Map, Topics, and Countries »
From Jadaliyya Reports
Jadalicious / جدلشس
Latest EntriesView All Entries »
- مسخ الذاكرة
- New Texts Out Now: Louise Cainkar, Global Arab World Migrations and Diasporas
- Arabian Peninsula Media Roundup (May 21)
- إعادة الحساب الدائمة: إساءة فهم سوريا بعد سنتين
- From al-Araqib to Susiya: Forced Displacement of Palestinians on Both Sides of the Green Line
- كارل ماركس واليسار في لبنان
- Picturing Algeria
- Egypt Media Roundup (May 20)
- Last Week on Jadaliyya (May 13-19)
- Jadaliyya's Occupation, Intervention, and Law Page Resonates
- Al Jazeera Management Orders Joseph Massad Article Pulled in an Act of Pro-Israel Censorship
- سعادت حسن منتو: قصة قصيرة
- Reports Roundup (May 18)
- Injuries, Arrests and House Raids: The Case of a Bahraini Family
- الليبرالية الفلسطينية أمام القضاء الإسرائيلي
- ما هي النكبة؟
- Academic Freedom and the Middle East: A Handbook for Teaching and Research
- Syria's Inglorious Basterd
- Maghreb Media Roundup (May 17)