I became obsessed with sodomizing Sheikh Arif round about the time his posters started crawling all over the streets. Today is July 20, 2012, right? A little over a year and a half after we toppled our president-for-life, Hosny Mubarak. Sheikh Arif’s posters began to show up only three, maybe four months ago—when he announced he was running in the elections held by the Army to replace said president. They seemed to self-procreate. And the more I saw of them, the more intense was the impetus to make the bovine symbol of virility they depicted a creature penetrated. Penetrated personally by me, of course, and I made a pledge to the universe that it would be.
«الذين يستحبون الموت على الكفر…» – أسامة بن لادن
«وعمرَّ الله موضع خروجها من آدم بالاشتياق إليها، فحن إليها حنينه إلى نفسه لأنها جزء منه، وحنت إليه لأنه موطنها الذي صدرت عنه» – ابن عربي
«فلم تهوني ما لم تكن في فانيا» – ابن الفارض
ذات يوم، اضطررت للكف عن الحشيش.
The Torture Career of Egypt’s New Vice President: Omar Suleiman and the Rendition to Torture Program
by Stephen Soldz / January 31st, 2011
In response to the mass protests of recent days, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has appointed his first Vice President in his over 30 years rule, intelligence chief Omar Suleiman. When Suleiman was first announced, Al-jazeera commentators were describing him as a “distinguished” and “respected ” man. It turns out, however, that he is distinguished for, among other things, his central role in Egyptian torture and in the US rendition-to-torture program. Further, he is “respected” by US officials for his cooperation with their torture plans, among other initiatives.
Katherine Hawkins, an expert on the US’s rendition-to-torture program, in an email, has sent some critical texts where Suleiman pops up. Thus, Jane Mayer, in The Dark Side, pointed to Suleiman’s role in the rendition program:
Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).
Stephen Grey, in Ghost Plane, his investigative work on the rendition program also points to Suleiman as central in the rendition program:
To negotiate these assurances [that the Egyptians wouldn't "torture" the prisoner delivered for torture] the CIA dealt principally in Egypt through Omar Suleiman, the chief of the Egyptian general intelligence service (EGIS) since 1993. It was he who arranged the meetings with the Egyptian interior ministry…. Suleiman, who understood English well, was an urbane and sophisticated man. Others told me that for years Suleiman was America’s chief interlocutor with the Egyptian regime — the main channel to President Hosni Mubarak himself, even on matters far removed from intelligence and security.
Suleiman’s role in the rendition program was also highlighted in a Wikileaks cable:
the context of the close and sustained cooperation between the USG and GOE on counterterrorism, Post believes that the written GOE assurances regarding the return of three Egyptians detained at Guantanamo (reftel) represent the firm commitment of the GOE to adhere to the requested principles. These assurances were passed directly from Egyptian General Intelligence Service (EGIS) Chief Soliman through liaison channels — the most effective communication path on this issue. General Soliman’s word is the GOE’s guarantee, and the GOE’s track record of cooperation on CT issues lends further support to this assessment. End summary.
Suleiman wasn’t just the go-to bureaucrat for when the Americans wanted to arrange a little torture. This “urbane and sophisticated man” apparently enjoyed a little rough stuff himself.
Shortly after 9/11, Australian citizen, Mamdouh Habib, was captured by Pakistani security forces and, under US pressure, tortured by Pakistanis. He was then rendered (with an Australian diplomats watching) by CIA operatives to Egypt, a not uncommon practice. In Egypt, Habib merited Suleiman’s personal attention. As related by Richard Neville, based on Habib’s memoir:
Habib was interrogated by the country’s Intelligence Director, General Omar Suleiman…. Suleiman took a personal interest in anyone suspected of links with Al Qaeda. As Habib had visited Afghanistan shortly before 9/11, he was under suspicion. Habib was repeatedly zapped with high-voltage electricity, immersed in water up to his nostrils, beaten, his fingers were broken and he was hung from metal hooks.
That treatment wasn’t enough for Suleiman, so:
To loosen Habib’s tongue, Suleiman ordered a guard to murder a gruesomely shackled Turkistan prisoner in front of Habib – and he did, with a vicious karate kick.
After Suleiman’s men extracted Habib’s confession, he was transferred back to US custody, where he eventually was imprisoned at Guantanamo. His “confession” was then used as evidence in his Guantanamo trial.
The Washington Post’s intelligence correspondent, Jeff Stein, reported some additional details regarding Suleiman and his important role in the old Egypt the demonstrators are trying to leave behind:
“Suleiman is seen by some analysts as a possible successor to the president,” the Voice of American said Friday. “He earned international respect for his role as a mediator in Middle East affairs and for curbing Islamic extremism.”
An editorialist at Pakistan’s “International News” predicted Thursday that “Suleiman will probably scupper his boss’s plans [to install his son], even if the aspiring intelligence guru himself is as young as 75.”
Suleiman graduated from Egypt’s prestigious Military Academy but also received training in the Soviet Union. Under his guidance, Egyptian intelligence has worked hand-in-glove with the CIA’s counterterrorism programs, most notably in the 2003 rendition from Italy of an al-Qaeda suspect known as Abu Omar.
In 2009, Foreign Policy magazine ranked Suleiman as the Middle East’s most powerful intelligence chief, ahead of Mossad chief Meir Dagan.
In an observation that may turn out to be ironic, the magazine wrote, “More than from any other single factor, Suleiman’s influence stems from his unswerving loyalty to Mubarak.”
If Suleiman succeeds Mubarak and retains power, we will likely be treated to plaudits for his distinguished credentials from government officials and US pundits. We should remember that what they really mean is his ability to brutalize and torture. As Stephen Grey puts it:
But in secret, men like Omar Suleiman, the country’s most powerful spy and secret politician, did our work, the sort of work that Western countries have no appetite to do ourselves.
If Suleiman receives praise in the US, it will be because our leaders know that he’s the sort of leader who can be counted on to do what it takes to restore order and ensure that Egypt remains friendly to US interests.
There are some signs, however, that the Obama administration may not accept Suleiman’s appointment. Today they criticized the rearrangement of the chairs in Egypt’s government. If so, that will be a welcome sign that the Obama administration may have some limits beyond which it is hesitant to go in aligning with our most brutal “friends.”
We sure hope that the Egyptian demonstrators reject the farce of Suleiman’s appointment and push on to a complete change of regime. Otherwise the Egyptian torture chamber will undoubtedly return, as a new regime reestablishes “stability” and serves US interests.
Stephen Soldz is a psychoanalyst, psychologist, public health researcher, and faculty member at the Boston Graduate School of Psychoanalysis. He maintains the Psychoanalysts for Peace and Justice web page and the Psyche, Science, and Society blog. He is a founder of the Coalition for an Ethical Psychology, one of the organizations leading the struggle to change American Psychological Association policy on participation in abusive interrogations. He is President of Psychologists for Social Responsibility and a consultant to Physicians for Human Rights. Read other articles by Stephen.
Youssef Rakha on resistance
Two years before 9/11, the Wachowski brothers’ The Matrix seemed to predict something of cosmic magnitude. Not the levelling of the World Trade Center, exactly, but something like a new and impossibly difficult beginning after the definitive end — of humanity as we know it, of science-based civilisation, of freedom as a value or state of being, confined to a particular set of material practises. Anyway, with the benefit of hindsight, The Matrix made a strong case against Francis Fukuyama’s end-of-history hypothesis. The logical conclusion of liberal democracy was not only the “desert of the real”, as Slavoj Zizek eventually noted, but also the perfect starting point for global insurgency. The fight that could no longer be between capitalism and its mirror image would not be, as the film presented it, between man and machine, nor would it be between the west and Islam (the majority of westerners, after all, have as little empirically to do with George W. Bush as the majority of Muslims with Salafism, even less with its jihadi and takfiri formulations). The fight would rather be between the paradise of Samuel P. Huntington and all that it actually costs — Saddam and Al Qaeda included. To the contemporary human being, even the contemporary Muslim, Neo is of course a far more attractive messiah than Bin Laden — hence the rational world’s greater sympathy for Neo — but consciously or not, both perform the same function of resisting a system designed to cheat people not out of material advantage as such but out of seeing what their existence entails. Without a live mind that directs it, the body of the people is as good as dead.
Under Mubarak in Egypt, under whatever it is that Mubarak stands for — military-based, as opposed to simply military dictatorship — freedom remains at a premium. By freedom I do not mean simply political freedom, the right to “peaceful” protest, to personal safety against state- and (by extension) Washington-endorsed abuse, to participation in public decisions, or to the flow of information and ideas. I do not mean simply economic freedom: quality of education and employment opportunities, work ethics, the relative epistemic and material security required for developing an interest in any rights at all. I do not even necessarily mean social freedom: access to minimally humane public and private space, recreational leeway, or channels for interpersonal contact not based on financial exchange. I mean freedom from the burden of the lie which, while reflecting deprivation from all the above, also involves that idea of resistance — expressed, as it must be under the circumstances, through identity. We are where we are because they are where they are; our edge is that we are different from them. In itself this is perfectly true; the relevant questions however have to do with who they are and how to reposition things sufficiently for us to be elsewhere. Neo, you will remember, could only battle with the machine from within the Matrix, on its own terms, in his virtual as opposed to physical incarnation; and if in the process he virtually dies, then he has died physically too; because, as Morpheus tells him, “The body cannot live without the mind.”
Democracy only goes so far, then — but surely the answer is neither autocracy nor theocracy. It is not because neither of those two alternatives have been able to stand up to democracy in the first place; if anything they lend it credence, they strengthen and glorify the Matrix, they make the machine seem not only the best of all possible worlds but the only world that is possible. And if the body cannot live without the mind, in this sense, then resistance — like communism, like jihad — reduces to a mere aspect of the matrix. It is true enough that Arab and Muslim identity — the driving force of resistance, in our case — has proved incredibly flexible. Identity is flexible enough for the matrix of liberal democracy to run through it whether as is or in altered form. It is flexible enough to provide the machine with a pretext to kill, and to be the instrument of death. It is flexible enough for Mubarak to suggest, in the last address he gives before stepping down (probably on American orders) that he will not step down on American orders — and for a sizable part of the population to be taken in by that — even though Mubarak’s principal job for decades has been to carry out American orders without the least consideration for the feelings or interests of his people. Such flexibility is possible because, unlike the force with which Neo must contend, the substance of the global order is human and discursive. Identity does not prevent the very symbol of Arab-Muslim resistance, Hassan Nasrallah, from expressing unconditional support for a Syrian regime which — never having been chosen by a majority of Syrians — is happy to commit mass murder on the streets. Nasrallah is no messiah after all. The body cannot live without the mind.
And so it becomes possible, by recourse to identity and resistance — the same lie by which Saddam, Al Qaeda and Hassan Nasrallah are smuggled into Arab and Muslim minds as Neo-like figures when in fact they are agents of the Matrix — to see the events of January and February not as a people’s revolution (and it is true that a good 80 percent of the Egyptian people did not have the freedom to participate in a revolution) but as some kind of conspiracy aimed at destabilising the country, destroying the economy, compromising the security of the people. Yet in the absence of a vision for the future, let alone a global movement which, unlike the Soviet Union, unlike Pakistan or Iran, is both ready and able to content with liberal democracy, what is even the most glorious of revolutions if not a bid to take full advantage of the Matrix, to enjoy “the real,” as Morpheus puts it: “what you can feel, smell, taste and see… simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.”