Jul 8, 2010 - Issue 383
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Midnight in Area Two - Represent Our Resistance - By Dr. Lenore J. Daniels, PhD - BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board

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…the American self-evasion…is all that this country has as history…

The verdict is in: Former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge, the torturer, is found guilty on all counts! But while his Black victims, the Black community in Chicago, activists, lawyers, and supporters of the victims celebrate, we must keep in mind - Burge was not found guilty of torture.

Burge should have been found guilty of torture! Instead, a federal jury in Chicago on June 28, 2010, found Burge guilty on 3 counts of lying about torturing Black men and obstructing justice.

There is not a verdict on torture. Lying about the practice of torture is still operative in the U.S. Obstructing justice regarding the use of torture is still in play.

Judges, sheriffs, police officers, civic leaders, stand-up citizens in the old days, encircled their victims. A rope and a tree, hatchets and gasoline, the flames and the flag and tortured Black bodies testified to the persistent existence of a national consensus valued above all else: violence! Between 1973 and 1982, tortured Black bodies still testified to beatings, cattle prods, radiator burns, plastic bags over heads - all under the red, white, and blue flying above Area Two police district in a predominantly Black Chicago neighborhood. Commander Burge’s Midnight Crew (any connection to the midnight crew from Abu Ghraib, you think?) conducted a pogrom of torture in traditional American style, in recent years, introduced to the world through photos released from Abu Ghraib.

Burge should have been found guilty of torture but for the government’s practice of obstructing justice and lying about it.

The use of force is power in the U.S., and it is a peculiar kind of force.

Burge comes on the scene, dons his uniform and assembles his weapons in the right environment, surrounded by well-wishers and encouragers who assist the hero, who like most American heroes, finds a way through law and around the law, to get the job done. It is no wonder that while more victims came forward, charging the Chicago Police with the practice of illegal detention and torture, the more the police department winked at Burge and promoted him. It is no wonder that in 1977, Detective Burge becomes sergeant, and four years later, he is promoted to Lieutenant. It is no wonder that in 1986, he is flying as high as the flag as Commander of the Bomb and Arson Unit. However long the abused screamed for justice, Burge was shielded from justice by the well-wishers and encourages lead by Richard M. Daley, the then current Mayor of Chicago, and the son of Old “shoot to kill” Daley.

Eleven cases of police abuse come before the Chicago Police Superintendent while Daley Jr. served as State’s Attorney of Cook County between 1981 and 1988, but Daley is not alarmed. He does not order an immediate investigation of the Midnight Crew. He does not see a need to do so. Some of the victims, as we are learning, are a talkative and therefore troublesome bunch for the arrogant and powerful. As of this date, Mayor Daley is silent on the verdict, as silent as he was during his tenure as State’s Attorney. After all these years, it is safe to say that the use of torture has value in the U.S. because it has served to secure and protect what is most valued in this nation - at whatever cost. Ask the Indigenous Americans. The “systematic,” “methodical,” “psychological techniques,” and “planned torture,” committed by Burge and his Midnight Crew (1990 Goldston Report) is the right of the powerful to execute when necessary.

Fired in 1993 for torturing a man accused of killing a policeman, Burge escapes the justice that usually hunts down and crushes the often innocent Black. One hundred and thirty-five mostly men and some women and all of their family members witnessed the spectacle of a 4-year investigation end in 2006 with the conclusion that, according to the Chicago Tribune, June 28, 2010, the “statue of limitations on the claims of abuse had long passed.” Go home free, Jon Burge! Justice for the powerful has succeeded again. Go sailing in your boat named Vigilante!

Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick Weisman said of Burge after the verdict, “Jon Burge used lies and a belief that he was above the law” (The Chicago Criminal Law Blog) to escape charges of torture. Burge lied in 2003 when he was asked if the charge of torture were true. Did he practice torture? Did he witness torture? Why, me!

U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald pursued the case in 2008, charging Jon Burge with perjury, if not torture. For Fitzgerald, according to DemocraticUnderground.com, the “the jury’s decision was a measure of justice.” But is it even a measure of justice? At 62 years old and suffering from prostate cancer, Burge may not see a day behind bars. Justice for Burge will speak softly and with compassion about a man who has “suffered” enough and who is “suffering” and cannot, after all, “suffer” the indignities of living behind bars for the remaining time he has on this Earth. And what will it mean for Burge to be behind bars now, nearly 30 years after he began his torture pogrom, while the practice of torture is free to hunt down other victims?

“We need to have it on the record that this happened,” Fitzgerald said. “We need to treat it as a fact that it was proved and recognize that it was an awful thing before we can move forward,” said Fitzgerald (DemocraticUnderground.com).

But what is it that will be “recognized”?

For some, money, that is, the financial cost of defending Jon Burge. “The torture scandal sent innocent men to prison, tarnished the reputations of the Police department and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office and led to blanket commutations that emptied the state’s death row as well as repeated lawsuits that drained millions in taxpayer dollars from the city” (ChicagoTribune.com). The city in Pax Americana spent taxpayer’s dollars to pay for Burge’s defense and his pension, according to Flint Taylor with the People’s Law Office (Democracy Now!, June 29, 2010). The Fraternal Order of Police contributed to the defense of Burge and possibly will continue to do so if there is an appeal.

But is it only about taxpayer’s dollars? Will someone end this farce because more taxpayer’s dollars are at stake? What of substance, of transformative value, is to be “recognized” that is not “recognized” already, in fact, conveniently concealed in generalized psycho-babble about “everyone,” “all human beings.”

WBAI radio host and journalist Earl Caldwell noted on the air July 2, 2010 how the story of Brooklyn man, Michael Mineo, who charged New York police with using a baton to sexually abuse him in a subway last October 2008 involves “psycho-sexual madness.” It is about history, Caldwell said, “you can’t run away from it.” Oh, but the American public does at every chance it receives to transform. It will all come crumbling down, if the American public recognizes these post-racial incidents of seemingly bizarre behavior as a historical pattern in the use of force.

It is not just about a man named Jon Burge nor is it limited to a particular police department. In the U.S., what population of men is feared most by another?

Asked to testify as an expert witness at Burge’s trial, Dr. Robert Kirschner, a key contributor to The Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment, certainly offered what could be recognized as a motive for what Caldwell calls “psycho-sexual madness.” In People v. Darryl Cannon (November 1999), the Examiner questions Kirschner:

Examination: Now did you form any opinions with regard to Andrew Wilson and his allegations of police torture by John Burge?
Dr. Kirschner: I think there was no question that the was tortured; that he was given electric shock; that he was burned; that he also did suffer torture at the hand of John Burge and his associates.
Q: All right. That was your opinion at that time?
A: It is my opinion at that time. It is still my opinion today.
Q: What was the basis for your conclusion that Marcus Wiggins had been electric shocked at Area 3 (sic) under Burge?
A: At that time when I met with Marcus and his mother, it was based on my interview of him; and his description of what had happened to him, as well as the discussions with his mother to his marked regression, regression of his behavior. And even as I interviewed Marcus, his tearfulness of his – his difficulty in explaining what had happened; what his obvious fear relating again the events that had occurred. He had no physical residual – physical scars or marks from the electric shock injury that occurred to him. I know that also this was found on psychological examination with Doctor Martinez at the time; again found psychological effects that had upon him. (Human Right at Home: The Chicago Police Torture Archives)

All the power and wealth in the world is not enough. Even after the victim’s physical scars become invisible, a “marked regression” remains and that is worth more than gold!

A glitch is what happened in Chicago when a few Black victims refused to forget why their bodies transform subway platform, or schools, or dark street corner or cell block or Burge’s hole in Area Two into modern-day Pax Americana “coliseums.”

So recognize what?

A verdict on lying about torture is about America and the value it places on the right to torture those it fears. The verdict has freed America again to lie to itself about itself and continue to obstruct justice. It is a verdict about how American can never recognize itself so long as it remains silent about why and how it functions as if it is always midnight in Area Two.

BlackCommentator.com Editorial Board member, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has been a writer for over thirty years of commentary, resistance criticism and cultural theory, and short stories with a Marxist sensibility to the impact of cultural narrative violence and its antithesis, resistance narratives. With entrenched dedication to justice and equality, she has served as a coordinator of student and community resistance projects that encourage the Black Feminist idea of an equalitarian community and facilitator of student-teacher communities behind the walls of academia for the last twenty years. Dr. Daniels holds a PhD in Modern American Literatures, with a specialty in Cultural Theory (race, gender, class narratives) from Loyola University, Chicago. Click here to contact Dr. Daniels.


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