a polymer-based life form of nearly limitless pliability, is as
long on cash as he is short on genuine convictions. For the Power
Elite's political brokers, few traits are more endearing in a potential
president than malleability. Romney's suppleness of spine helps
explain how he was able to soak up $10 million in promised campaign
donations from politically connected oligarchs during a day-long
marathon fundraiser in Las Vegas.
issue on which Romney takes a binding, definitive stand often seems
like trying to overtake the horizon. Clayton
Holden, a wheelchair-bound man and long-time medical marijuana
patient, may be the only person who has ever seen Romney perform
a plausible impression of Martin Luther ("Here I stand, I can
do no other") regarding any subject.
suffers from Duchene Muscular Dystrophy, an affliction that
has left him with a twisted spine, inflamed nerve bundles, and unremitting
chronic pain. When Holden was 16, his suffering was compounded when
he was hit by a car while crossing the street in his wheelchair.
others who suffer from debilitating pain, Holden has found that
marijuana offers him relief while inflicting none of the side-effects
that accompany many government-approved drugs. On
at least ten occasions, Holden has been confronted by police,
who – to their credit – have been willing to flout what they are
required to call "the law" in favor of elemental decency.
It’s only a matter of time before some armed functionary will be
found who is sufficiently vicious to throw Holden in a cage. That’s
the outcome that Mitt Romney would favor.
October 7, 2007 Republican presidential forum in New Hampshire,
Holden politely but forcefully confronted Romney to ask him the
same question he had posed to other
candidates (only one
of whom – no extra credit for guessing which one – actually
gave him an unequivocal answer): Since Holden has to use marijuana
to treat his affliction, would Romney be willing to see him and
his doctors arrested and carried off to jail?
is his habit, tried to take refuge in persiflage, insisting – on
the basis of what qualifications, he didn’t say – that synthetic
marijuana would work just as well. He then sought to ooze his way
out of the question by quipping that he doesn’t "arrest anyone."
The most remarkable
aspect of Romney’s encounter with Holden is that he displayed none
of his characteristic equivocation in defending drug prohibition.
He yielded not so much as a millimeter in his insistence that medical
marijuana is a "gateway drug"; this means that Holden and other
patients who use it either have to settle for useless or harmful
government-approved treatments or endure the punitive wrath of the
divine State. The Mittster didn't even seek to palliate the feelings
of this powerless, suffering individual by deploying a sympathetic
politics in our putrefying empire deals in the infliction of wholesale
cruelty through the destruction of wealth, the propagation of
aggressive violence, and the constriction of individual liberty.
Like most people who aspire to the imperial purple, Romney doesn't
like to be seen dispensing cruelty on an individual basis, which
is why he ended the conversation with Holden as quickly as possible,
and was palpably angry that this uncomfortable moment was caught
Owing to the
influence of big-money campaign donation "bundlers," and dubious
bookkeeping of the sort that that is common among the politically
protected Wall Street denizens who favor he ardently courts, Romney
has emerged as the fundraising front-runner among GOP presidential
aspirants. As Romney
campaign minion Chris Slick memorably put it during the day-long
grovel-fest in Vegas: "Today we demonstrate our ability
to raise excessive and ungodly amounts of cash while other candidates
are still pattering about in bumf*ck, Iowa somewhere. No one can
come close to what our machine can do. No one."
By "our machine,"
Slick wasn't just talking about Romney's political campaign; he
was referring to an interlocking network of pressure groups, lobbyists,
and political criminals who support, sustain, and profit from the
There are many
pressure groups who promote various elements of the War Party agenda
ala carte. Gabriel's group will settle for nothing less than the
Full Cheney combo meal: Permanent war abroad, unlimited regimentation
at home, indefinite detention of suspected terrorists, institutionalization
of torture, and so on.
pointing out that during the 1980s, Gabriel under her birth name
was a correspondent/propagandist for a television network affiliated
with the South Lebanon Army (SLA). During the horrific Lebanese
civil war a multi-sided conflict in which no belligerent had
a monopoly on unspeakable
acts the SLA was an Israeli-supported militia that ran
a notorious torture dungeon called Al Khiam Prison. Many of
the methods now employed by Washington's Homeland Security State
those not devised by the CIA, or reverse-engineered from Soviet
sources, that is were field-tested on detainees in the Al Khiam
Romney has committed against the current GOP line, the hints of
calculated cruelty behind his smarmy demeanor make him irresistible
to at least some of those who want to make war against Islam the
central organizing principle of American life.
It is in Romney's
profitable relationship with former U.S. Ambassador to Italy Mel
Sembler that these separate strands of cruelty are woven together
like the braids of a torturer's whip. In 2008, Romney appointed
Sembler to serve as one of his ten national campaign fund-raisers.
Sembler, a retired shopping mall magnate from Florida, also served
as chairman for the legal defense fund established on behalf of
felon Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's former chief of staff.
to being an architect of the war in Iraq, Libby helped devise the
legal framework for the globe-straddling archipelago of CIA torture
facilities. In 2007, Libby was found guilty of perjury and obstruction
in the case of outed CIA operative Valerie Plame; his prison term
was commuted by George W. Bush, who like Romney is
someone whose sympathy for the powerful and corrupt is inexhaustible.
the administration of Bush the Dumber made torture an official federal
policy, Mel Sembler and his wife were promoting the use of torture
and indefinite detention in the "war on drugs." In the early 1970s,
a behavioral modification program called "Straight"
that targeted youngsters who either had drug or alcohol addictions,
or were considered to be "at risk" of falling prey to
addiction. Many of the teenagers put into Sembler's program complained
of physical, emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.
"Straight" program was, in a sense, a progenitor of the Bush-Cheney
"enhanced interrogation" regime.
was shut down in the mid-1970s, but Sembler's network (nine clinics
in seven states) continued to receive funding from the same federal
agencies that had underwritten the Communist-derived initiative.
"Straight" was closed down in 1993, but by this time it had planted
seeds of its own that sprouted up across the U.S. and abroad, where
"drug rehabilitation" facilities employed "treatment" techniques
that were indistinguishable from the criminal abuses carried out
in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison.
In her valuable
at Any Cost, investigative journalist Maia Szalavitz documented
how programs constructed from Sembler's template had employed "punishments
banned for use on criminals and by the Geneva Convention."
extended isolation and restraint, public humiliation, food deprivation,
sleep deprivation, forced exercise to the point of exhaustion, sensory
deprivation, and lengthy maintenance of stress positions are common,"
More than a
few of the teenagers consigned to those facilities which have
been uncovered in several states, as well as Mexico, Jamaica, American
Samoa, the Czech Republic, and elsewhere had no documentable
problem with drugs or alcohol, or any other self-destructive behaviors.
But just as we're told that practically any development justifies
"expanded vigilance" against terrorism, just about any adolescent
problem or behavior can be depicted as an indication that the youngster
is "at risk," and thus needs to be confined in a BM facility to
get "straightened out" through means that include unambiguous
At one BM facility
in Puerto Rico, "teens were found bound and gagged with nooses
around their necks," reports Szalavitz. At "High Impact," a
Mexico-based facility run by the Utah-based World-Wide
Association of Specialty Programs and Schools (WWASPS), teenage
detainees were locked in dog cages. One survivor of that gulag was
nearly drowned to death by a group of older kids who having been
made feral through prolonged mistreatment hoped that a murder
would shut the program down.
former director of the WWASPS-affiliated Dundee Ranch in Costa Rica,
testifies that food deprivation was commonly used to punish inmates,
and particularly rebellious kids were taken to a tiny isolation
room and forced to kneel on concrete for up to 14 hours a day.
a WWASPS program in Samoa were sometimes held for hours in an "ISO
Box," a three-foot by three-foot box akin to a North Vietnamese
"tiger cage." Others were hog-tied with duct tape or beaten
by staffers. When the Samoan government began a child abuse inquiry,
WWASPS hastily shut down the facility.
Spring Creek Lodge in Montana featured a tiny disciplinary cubicle
called "The Hobbit" in which some inmates were confined for weeks
or months at a time and fed nothing but beans and bananas. One counselor
at Spring Creek was charged with sexually molesting two boys who
had been imprisoned in The Hobbit.
As it happens,
Lichfield was co-chairman of WWASPS, and as of 2006 he
was pulling in an estimated $90 million a year by funneling
teens into a globe-spanning network of detention camps. At least
some of that money used to fuel Romney's presidential ambitions.
against WWASPS coincided with the housing bust. Like many other
criminal enterprises that prospered during the bubble, WWASPS has
gone out of business, even as the attorneys for Lichfield and his
cohorts have employed every
dilatory maneuver in their arsenal to hold the lawsuit in abeyance.
spite of all this, there still seems to be a market for a business
specializing in teen "rehabilitation" through torture: Narvin Lichfield,
Robert's brother and partner in crime,
recently re-opened a WWASPS-inspired facility in South Carolina
that had been shut down amid an avalanche of civil lawsuits and
there are still people who can scrounge up nearly $3,000 a month
to purchase the services of people who specialize in "therapeutic"
child abuse, and state officials willing to countenance such operations
as an adjunct to the "war on drugs." There is a lot of ambient cruelty
in late-imperial America, and Mitt Romney's presidential aspirations
will depend on his ability to catalyze that cruelty into hard cash.