Who We Are: Zeitoun and Camp Greyhound Five Years On

In a country founded on “self evident truths” such as life, liberty, equality, and due process of law, the timeless quote from Ben Franklin speaks to the peril imposed when the founding principles are discarded or compromised:

Those who desire to give up freedom in order to gain security will not have, nor do they deserve, either one.

Yet, of course, since 9/11 that is exactly what the United States has done and what has resulted in return. Fareed Zakaria has a piece up at Newsweek speaking to the senseless and destructive madness that has consumed the US since the 9/11 attacks:

The error this time is more damaging. September 11 was a shock to the American psyche and the American system. As a result, we overreacted.


Some 30,000 people are now employed exclusively to listen in on phone conversations and other communications in the United States. And yet no one in Army intelligence noticed that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan had been making a series of strange threats at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he trained. The father of the Nigerian “Christmas bomber” reported his son’s radicalism to the U.S. Embassy. But that message never made its way to the right people in this vast security apparatus. The plot was foiled only by the bomber’s own incompetence and some alert passengers.

Such mistakes might be excusable. But the rise of this national-security state has entailed a vast expansion in the government’s powers that now touches every aspect of American life, even when seemingly unrelated to terrorism.


In the past, the U.S. government has built up for wars, assumed emergency authority, and sometimes abused that power, yet always demobilized after the war. But this is a war without end. When do we declare victory? When do the emergency powers cease?

Conservatives are worried about the growing power of the state. Surely this usurpation is more worrisome than a few federal stimulus programs. When James Madison pondered this issue, he came to a simple conclusion: “Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germs of every other … In war, too, the discretionary power of the executive is extended?.?.?.?and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people.

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual war,” Madison concluded.

Indeed it is a chilling picture we have allowed our political “leaders” to paint us into, and Zakaria does not even hit some of the most disturbing impingements on due process and the rule of law such as the government arrogating itself the right to summarily execute American citizens with no judicial trial or due process whatsoever and the legal black hole that is Guantanamo and the Obama Military Commission and indefinite detention program. That is, as a nation, who and what we are today and it has bought us nothing except world scorn, geometrically more enemies, a plundered treasury, ignored and dilapidated domestic infrastructure, swelling joblessness and exploding income inequality.

But, hey, at least we have increased security and all those oppressive terrorist modalities are only for al-Qaida and the bad foreigners, right? No. The rot is now who we are, towards ourselves in addition to “them”. And that is where we finally get to the subject of the title of this post. Nothing demonstrates the deadly rot virus that has been injected into the blood of the American ethos than the story of Zeitoun. (more after jump)

Zeitoun is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the subject of author Dave Eggers’ 2009 book Zeitoun, and his story is fascinating, chilling and the perfect illustration of the depths the United States has fallen from its founding principles. Zeitoun, originally of Syrian descent, is a long time resident of New Orleans who, along with his American born wife Kathy, owned and operated a successful contracting business, have four wonderful children and was (and still is) a beloved pillar of his community held in the highest regard by literally everybody who has ever come in contact with him. Literally the kind of folks that America daily claims to be built on. And so it was for Zeitoun and his family.

Then came Katrina and the ground changed. August 29, 2005 all hell broke loose in New Orleans and Zeitoun loaded up Kathy and their children and sent them off in the evacuation to Baton Rouge and later to stay with friends in Texas. But not Zeitoun, he stayed, not for himself, but for the city and community that he loved and which coursed through his veins. As the levees gave way and the city filled with water, so too did Zeitoun’s neighborhood and home. Zeitoun dug a battered old canoe from his garage, put into the teeming water and set about trying to help others; it was reflex for him, that is just who he is.

And help others he did. Zeitoun paddled his canoe to bring food to stranded neighbors and animals and literally saved the life of at least one elderly woman and likely others as well. From The Guardian:

Zeitoun takes us on a guided tour of the route that he negotiated in his canoe in the days after the storm. He begins by pointing to a pillar at the front of his house. “That’s where I kept the canoe tied, like you’d tie up your horse.”

We set off by car along the maze of streets around his neighbourhood. On every street corner he has a tale to tell. The first stop we make is at a house of grey clapboard standing on stilts. In the hurricane, the flood waters reached almost up to its windows. As he paddled by, Zeitoun explains, he heard a voice faintly crying “Help!”. He swam to the front door and inside found a woman in her 70s hovering above him. In one of the most memorable phrases of the book, Eggers writes: “Her patterned dress was spread out on the surface of the water like a great floating flower.”

“She was inside the house holding on to the bookshelf with water up to her shoulder,” Zeitoun recalls, as we stand outside the house. “She must have been in the water for about 24 hours by then.”

Zeitoun helped the woman reach safety in a fishing boat, which was no small feat given that she weighed 90kg (14st). His construction skills and great strength proved invaluable as he levered her on a ladder out to the vessel.

Our tour continues and we pass the house of a local Baptist church pastor and his wife whom the Zeitouns had known for years and who similarly cried out for help. Further on, we come to the residence of a man who was stranded and to whom Zeitoun brought food and water every day while he still had his canoe and his liberty.

All in all, Zeitoun reckons he must have helped to save or rescue more than 10 neighbours. “The way I thought of it was, anything you can do to help. God left me here for a reason. I did what I was brought up to do – to help people.”

But a new hell was about to descend on Zeitoun. The roiling waters and uncertainty were, as Zacharia described the US in the aftermath of 9/11, causing a gross overreaction from government and its leaders. The new militaristic ethos that now seems to grip every facet of American governance was about to swallow up family man and community hero Zeitoun. On September 6, 2005, exactly five years ago today, Zeitoun made his way to a rental property he and Kathy owned to check the status of the friends he leased the house to and to use the telephone, as it was in one of the few locations in the city left with active phone service.

This is when things for Zeitoun went from the darkness of Katrina’s wake to the black hole that is now, thanks to the cowed and craven political leadership in the United States, the American “rule of law”. As Zeitoun spoke on the phone to a concerned relative overseas, a group of at least six National Guardsmen and police officers, in full out battle dress and armed with automatic weapons, broke the door down, stormed in and seized Zeitoun and the three other men in the house. Zeitoun tried desperately to show his legal identification and convey that he was the owner of the house, that the others were legitimately there and there was nothing improper going on. This, of course, was all to no avail whatsoever.

Zeitoun and the others were handcuffed and shackled at automatic weapon point, thrown like meat into a boat and transported to “Camp Greyhound”. If you are not familiar with Camp Greyhound, you should be. If there was any doubt as to whether American citizens could be portaged off to a Gitmo like gulag with no due process right here on American soil, Camp Greyhound will disabuse you of such notion.

While unable to rescue stranded and dying citizens from their sweltering attics and rooftops, or get food and water to the festering Superdome refugees, the federal government, commissioned through the Louisiana Prison Bureau, amazingly managed to complete the first reconstruction program, the Camp Greyhound detention facility:

…an outdoor jail built in New Orleans’ central bus station within hours of the hurricane’s landfall at the behest of the federal Department of Homeland Security and FEMA. Similar to Guantanamo Bay, Camp Greyhound (the guards’ name for it) was a kennel, runs of wire fencing and concrete flooring; there was nothing to sit or sleep on, and toilet facilities were portables outside the enclosures. Power was provided by a running diesel locomotive parked within yards of the cages, providing a continuous deafening hum and diesel pall.

Once the sudden stormtroopers had packed Zeitoun and his three fellow innocent compatriots from Zeitoun’s own property into the boat, it was to Camp Greyhound they were rendered to and, along with hundreds of other citizens, caged like animals. No Miranda, no initial appearance, no charges, no evidence of wrongdoing, no explanation, no communication permitted to the outside, no due process and no humanity. All sanctioned by the government against American citizens. Surely Zeitoun and friends were the unfortunate exception at Camp Greyhound. No.

Again from the review of Eggers’ book in the Buffalo News by Ed Taylor linked above:

Fellow prisoners he was able to talk to included a New Orleans firefighter ordered to stay in the city to work who was arrested in his own yard, and a Houston sanitation worker whose company contracted to help in the cleanup effort — arrested wearing his work uniform, possessing ID, and with the keys to his garbage truck in his hand.

Prisoners included Marlene Maten, 73-year-old diabetic deaconess at Resurrection Mission Baptist Church, arrested as she carried a package of sausages from a cooler in her car, parked beside the hotel to which she was returning.

Marlene, along with Zeitoun and hundreds of others from Camp Greyhound, ended up at maximum security Elayn Hunt Correctional Center, in St. Gabriel, La., 70 miles from New Orleans. They were FEMA prisoners: FEMA rented state prison space and Camp Greyhound transfers were, according to prison staff, “FEMA’s problem.” Again: transferred with no charges, no information, no opportunity to make a phone call or talk to a lawyer.

Thanks only to a volunteer missionary making rounds at the Hunt Prison facility, Zeitoun was able to get word to his wife and family, who had presumed him dead, where he was. On September 29, well over three Kafkaesque weeks after being rendered, and after having to post $75,000 bail, Zeitoun finally was released. The three other innocent men taken with him from the house he owned were not as fortunate and spent nearly half a year more in prison. No substantial prosecution was completed against any of them and all charges dismissed.

Their experiences were just a blip in the civil rights catastrophe that was Katrina. Camp Greyhound held a total of 1,200 detainees in the aftermath of the hurricane, most of whom were African-Americans and all of whom suffered the indignity of having their right to habeas corpus removed.

Detention, rendition, torture, waterboarding, extrajudicial assassination – even of American citizens, secret foreign prisons, indefinite detention, Gitmo and Camp Greyhound. It is all of the same immoral and un-American cloth. From 9/11’s global war on terror to Zeitoun in the post Katrina aftermath, the new American response paradigm is increasingly militaristic and totalitarian. It is driven by political cowardice and opportunism, fueled by the insatiable greed of the military industrial security complex. The blog Dystopolitik addressed the same conclusion from the governmental reaction to Katrina:

The “criminals of Katrina” are clearly victims of circumstance. A government that could not ensure their survival criminalized their survival techniques. A government terrified of armed citizens armed itself to the teeth. A government whose jail flooded constructed a camp to administer justice. A simple reading of these events would be that of projection, or scapegoating, and there is no doubt that media attention shifted from a scathing portrayal of government problems to a terrifying portrait of chaos.

The spectacular drama of a breakdown in “Law & Order” appears to be a drama of anarchy, rebellion and criminality. At a deeper level of analysis, the situation is actually a crisis of raison d’état. A government that failed it’s citizens with poorly constructed levees, bad crisis management and delayed evacuations, violently reestablished its legitimacy with force. “Camp Greyhound” and the militarization of New Orleans are flip sides of a cypher that we might use to uncover our contemporary political situation. If government failures in the Katrina crisis transformed the human figures of that failure into detainees at one end of the spectrum and refugees at the other, might the large scale socio-economic failures of government be transforming similar figures into America’s swelling prison population? In this analysis, Katrina appears to have exposed the dark underbelly of a generalized governmental failure and a corresponding expansion of military tactics over the population. Put concisely, when the state’s power to protect its citizens floundered, the criminalization of citizens of New Orleans reestablished a reason for the existence of the state.

We might extend our argument even further. Perhaps, the fact that scenarios of this sort are poping up around the globe is evidence of a larger scale crisis of raison d’etat. That is certainly the perspective of the military establishment. Pentagon planners, and military officials are using Katrina data to conduct war-games of future domestic scenarios, according to Army Times. In fact, Congress passed legislation in 2006 overturning the century old Posse Comitatus Act, banning the deployment of active duty military personnel on domestic soil. The law was repealed in subsequent legislation in 2008, but the precedent has been set.

In the security complex that responded to Katrina, we can see the growing indistinction between police and military operations. The combat mission has been generalized, and so have the camps.

That strikes home pretty hard, but pretty accurately. And you see the trend not just in complete breakdowns such as Katrina, but every day in seemingly normal life. The burgeoning use and abuse of Tasers by law enforcement and security personnel is a prime example; it is now second nature to Taser citizens for any perceived slight or non-compliance, no matter how trivial.

The mark of a society is not how it enjoys peace, calm and prosperity, but how it reacts and carries itself in times of trouble and despair. That is a test the United States is rapidly failing. The direction of our country under the Bush/Cheney administration and, quite disappointingly, the not nearly so enlightened as advertised administration of Barack Obama, will not be treated kindly in history’s analysis. And while economic strife is the order of the day now, you can bet that the loss of the American ethos will be the lasting imprint from our time now.

When a society refuses to inspect its mistakes and wrongs, mete out appropriate accountability and learn from the exercise, it loses its moral authority. When Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress belligerently refused to honor their oaths of office by defending and protecting the Constitution via bringing accountability for the attacks on it by the previous administration, it served to ingrain and ratify the offenses and abuses into our fabric of society and law; it set a new and disturbing norm.

And thus, bit by bit, we have waived and forfeited our founding principles. Nine years from September 11, and five years from Zeitoun’s Katrina gulag hell, what Ben Franklin presciently predicted, and what Fareed Zakaria lamented occurring in the wake of 9/11, has come to pass.

It is who we are now.

[The wonderful graphic is by Mirko Ilić. Mirko is an artist par ecellence in New York who also teaches illustration and design. Please visit Mirko and check out his stock of work, it is really superb.]

Bmaz is a rather large saguaro cactus in the Southwestern Sonoran desert. A lover of the Constitution, law, family, sports, food and spirits. As you might imagine, a bit prickly occasionally. Bmaz has attended all three state universities in Arizona, with both undergraduate and graduate degrees from Arizona State University, and with significant post-graduate work (in physics and organic chemistry, go figure) at both the University of Colorado in Boulder and the University of Arizona. Married, with both a lovely child and a giant Sasquatch dog. Bmaz has been a participant on the internet since the early 2000’s, including active participation in the precursor to Emptywheel, The Next Hurrah. Formally joined the Emptywheel blog as an original contributing member at its founding in 2007. Bmaz grew up around politics, education, sports and, most significantly, cars; notably around Formula One racing and Concours de Elegance automobile restoration and showing. Currently lives in the Cactus Patch with his lovely wife and beast of a dog, and practices both criminal and civil trial law.
  1. justbetty says:

    Thanks, bmaz, for this in-depth look at what has happened to the US. I can’t imagine what it will take to put the kind of leadership in place that would begin reversing this terrible trend. Nice to know there are genuine patriots, such as you, trying to wake people up.

  2. Jim White says:

    Thanks, bmaz, just awesome work. Somehow I had not been aware of Camp Greyhound. The outrages of the government’s actions during that time just continue to mount.

    As for this bit:

    And while economic strife is the order of the day now, you can bet that the loss of the American ethos will be the lasting imprint from our time now.

    I would add that the economic strife and the government’s loss of its ethos are intimately linked. In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein documents in detail how the move to disaster capitalism always is accompanied by brutal treatment of the citizens in order to “keep them in line” when they discover just how badly they are being screwed.

    • phred says:

      Indeed. And it isn’t just the brutal treatment. It is the daily, increasingly pervasive, intrusiveness as the government continues its inexorable march towards a totalitarian police state. Just one step at a time. You may not like each step, but you get used to it, and you quit complaining, and then they push the envelope a bit further, then a little bit more.

      And then it finally dawns on you that “the land of the free and the home of the brave” has been swept away without any formal declarations or explicit consent of the governed. We just kept our heads down and went about our business and when we looked up, there was nothing left.

  3. ANOther says:

    Great post, bmaz. I was not familiar with the story of Camp Greyhound.

    One minor quibble – it’s Zakaria not Zacharia.

  4. fatster says:

    You started this day with a real humdinger, bmaz! Many thanks for highlighting this important, but barely remembered, story.

    And here’s something for the C Street watchers: Frat House for Jesus
    The entity behind C Street.

  5. bobschacht says:

    Thanks, bmaz. I want my relatives to read this, and I hope they will. It’s too long to paste into an email, but I’ll try to abstract a teaser plus a link.

    It is interesting that some of those now writing about this subject with the most passion and clarity are not White Anglo-Saxon Protestants– People like Fareed Zakaria, whom Sarah Palin probably thinks are not “real Americans.” Thanks for finding this and highlighting it, and the legal issues involved.

    The second paragraph after the jump opens with these sentences:

    Then came Katrina and the ground changed. August 29, 2009 all hell broke loose in New Orleans and Zeitoun loaded up Kathy and their children and sent them off in the evacuation to Baton rouge and later to stay with friends in Texas.

    Surely the date is wrong?

    Bob in AZ

  6. fatster says:

    Prison Rape, America’s Torture
    Why is Eric Holder Dragging His Feet?

    “In 2008 and 2009, 88,500 adults held in jails and prisons reported being sexually assaulted. The rates of exploitation of juveniles is even higher, one in eight will be victimized during their incarceration.”


  7. Twain says:

    What a great post, bmaz. Thank you for all the info although it’s chilling. I don’t even recognize who we are now. Very strange country we have today.

  8. Peterr says:

    Reading this makes me understand how Justice Harlan likely felt on May 18, 1896 when Plessy v Ferguson was decided.

    Or perhaps the better parallel might be Justice Jackson, who wrote this in his dissent from Korematsu v US (starting on page 322 US 243):

    Korematsu was born on our soil, of parents born in Japan. The Constitution makes him a citizen of the United States by nativity, and a citizen of California by residence. No claim is made that he is not loyal to this country. There is no suggestion that, apart from the matter involved here, he is not law-abiding and well disposed. Korematsu, however, has been convicted of an act not commonly a crime. It consists merely of being present in the state whereof he is a citizen, near the place where he was born, and where all his life he has lived.

    Even more unusual is the series of military orders which made this conduct a crime. They forbid such a one to remain, and they also forbid him to leave. They were so drawn that the only way Korematsu could avoid violation was to give himself up to the military authority. This meant submission to custody, examination, and transportation out of the territory, to be followed by indeterminate confinement in detention camps. . . .

    A military order, however unconstitutional, is not apt to last longer than the military emergency. Even during that period, a succeeding commander may revoke it all. But once a judicial opinion rationalizes such an order to show that it conforms to the Constitution, or rather rationalizes the Constitution to show that the Constitution sanctions such an order, the Court for all time has validated the principle of racial discrimination in criminal procedure and of transplanting American citizens. The principle then lies about like a loaded weapon, ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need. Every repetition imbeds that principle more deeply in our law and thinking and expands it to new purposes. All who observe the work of courts are familiar with what Judge Cardozo described as “the tendency of a principle to expand itself to the limit of its logic.” * A military commander may overstep the bounds of constitutionality, and it is an incident. But if we review and approve, that passing incident becomes the doctrine of the Constitution. There it has a generative power of its own, and all that it creates will be in its own image. Nothing better illustrates this danger than does the Court’s opinion in this case.

    The difference, of course, is that Korematsu at least got a day in court for the crime of “being present.”

    We’ve apparently given that whole trial thing up, post 9/11 and post Katrina.

    Thanks for the post, bmaz, as depressing as it is.

    • bmaz says:

      There is Korematsu present here, no question. But the shark has jumped a rather long distance to get to Camp Greyhound if you really look at the respective fact constructs of the two situations.

  9. Jeff Kaye says:

    A superlative essay, bmaz, on the state of the former democracy we had, now authoritarian Empire, moving closer and closer to totalitarianism each day. That is not hyperbole, unfortunately. Like Jim, I’d not heard of “Camp Greyhound.” Zeitoun’s tale is a modern American horror story, but unlike U.S. citizen Jose Padilla, he was lucky, I suppose, not to have been subjected to the full panoply of the U.S. terror state in action.

    And so glad to see you mention the outrageous Taser issue. Here’s a link (w/video) to yet another Tasering of an old white person in their own home, and in classic suburbia as well, Marin County’s San Rafael. If anyone thinks the terror is only reserved for brown or black people, they are sorely mistaken. The militarists are in power, and unless this country is sharply pulled back, there will be no turning back, if it not in fact too late now.

    Happy Labor Day, bmaz. This essay is a work of labor, and much appreciated. I’ll have to also get Eggers’ book.

  10. TalkingStick says:

    Excellent summary Bmaz. You and those you quote identify the greatest concern I have had since I listened to the reports of closing down the nation as the trade towers were still blazing.

    The facet that is especially destructive is this blending of the military and civilian law enforcement. I am appalled at the tazering and killing of the unarmed vulnerable at th e hands civilian law enforcement as well as government agencies such as TSA. But even more alarming are the excuses given when there was no obvious danger to the police. Usually it boils down to the victim wouldn’t obey my orders immediately. Or I did it because I could.

  11. canadianbeaver says:

    Funny and sad at the same time, the inevitable tripe that Americans actually believe about themselves. Even those leaders nostalgically remembered as “hero liberal” “good guys” continued the same killing and corruption as every other leader. The US was founded on murder, and pillage. It continues to do so globally. Why does this come as such a shock to normally intelligent people? This didn’t just happen in the last 10, 20 or 30 years. It’s been there in broad daylight for all to see for centuries. (except apparently for Americans)

  12. canadianbeaver says:

    In a country founded on “self evident truths” such as life, liberty, equality, and due process of law

    Unless of course if you were a native, or a black slave. Then all bets were off.

  13. R.H. Green says:

    “August 29,2009 all hell broke loose…” I think you meant 2005.

    Thanks for this gruesome story; I’d never heard of this “camp”.

    While Labor Day is generally considered a day of celebration of the Organized Labor movement, I regard it as a celebration of the worth of toil. We work to achieve certain ends, not only survival, but a quality of life. This quality not only includes the material aspects of food, clothing, shelter, etc.,but also includes liberty, and justice, including due process, which is another word for controlling governmental excess. We have much to celebrate, but much has eroded, as your tale of woe illustrates.

    I suggest that to think in terms of Dems and Reps is counterproductive. We are facing, as in the late 1700s, an entrenched priviliged class that feeds on the rest of us, and this story is illustrative of that status of that predicament.

  14. hackworth1 says:

    Thanks for the compelling narrative about Zeitoun and Camp Greyhound.

    Warmonger and Beltway Status Quo protector is usually Fareed Zakaria.

    I guess, like Newsweek, he needs to tell the truth some of the time for ratings.

    • kindGSL says:

      Maybe being confronted with charges of a conspiracy to commit war crimes has convinced him to change his tune. It has happened to reporters before, I try to pick them off one by one. Many of them are very resistant, others flip immediately.

  15. hackworth1 says:

    Conservatives are worried about the growing power of the state. Surely this usurpation is more worrisome than a few federal stimulus programs. When James…

    This is a typical Fareed obfuscation. Conservatives en masse appear to be worried now that a Democrat is in office. Only a few like Bruce Fein were worried when Dubya was in charge. The Conservative Fox News Public is belligerent: wanted dead or alive, terrist hunting permit, shock and awe, you have no worry about gubmint intrusion (sneak and peek, warrantless eavesdropping) if you are not guilty of a crime, etc. They have little real knowlege or concern over the evisceration of their rights as citizens. They are myopic, bigoted xenophobic parrots.

    • kindGSL says:

      Maybe he was referring to the Tea Party faction. (Not the FOX Noise drones.)

      They are conservatives who are worried about this sort of stuff. They also seem to have all the political energy this time around. I think stuff like this would totally stir them up, even inspire a few of them to show up at rallies packing guns, giving big media plenty to talk about.

      Or were you planning on politically ignoring them?

      • hackworth1 says:

        Where I am (Central FL), I find no distinction between the Tea Party and Fox News fans. IMHO, Fareed is giving them credit for reasoning skills where none exist. He is acknowledging a sensitivity that is contrived. There was no public outcry from Citizen Conservatives en masse when Dubya did it. Was that (creating Homeland Security, Domestic Spying, gutting FISA, Bank Bailouts) not the equivalent of (Obama’s) Big Government Takeover?

        All the ones I talk to express that they are concerned about Obama’s Big Government Takeover, but most are not worried about Domestic Surveillance and the Security State because they haven’t done anything wrong. A few say they are concerned about Domestic Surveillance and the Security State because Obama the Socialist is the one doing it.

        I know that Conservatives exist. I’m just saying that Fareed Zakaria is a huckster.

        • readerOfTeaLeaves says:

          All the ones I talk to express that they are concerned about Obama’s Big Government Takeover, but most are not worried about Domestic Surveillance and the Security State because they haven’t done anything wrong. A few say they are concerned about Domestic Surveillance and the Security State because Obama the Socialist is the one doing it.

          One of the first people to express alarm (a few years ago) about domestic surveillance was a retired cop in my family. He had to go through many procedures to listen to anyone, and believed that the **process** of having to go through a specific set of criteria helped sharpen his focus.

          Look at bmaz’s descriptions: these are all situations of chaos; no clear information, no clear processes. Like Abu Gharib: ‘make shit up’ in a context of little command-and-control. This is asking for trouble.

    • Mason says:

      They are myopic, bigoted xenophobic parrots.

      I know parrots. My companion is a Congo African Grey parrot named Nikko. Trust me on this. Parrots are not “myopic, bigoted, [and] xenophobic.” African Greys are a helluva lot smarter than the idiot crowd at Fox and their drooling audience.

      Yeah, I know you were just making a point about the lack of any discernible sign of intelligence in the Fox audience and its propensity to repeat without thinking whatever Fox News tells them, a point with which I obviously agree, but please don’t insult Mr. Nikko and his buddies by associating them with drooling racist human idiots.

  16. hackworth1 says:

    Fareed is being cute – dog whistling to “Conservatives” here – underpinning the Obama Big Government Takeover of Everything Socialism meme.

    Not that Obama has continued the Bush Policies of The GWOT, Homeland Security, Domestic Surveillance, but the big gumint takeover with more Health Clinics for black people.

  17. Mason says:

    I’ve never heard of Camp Greyhound until you mentioned it in your post, bmaz. Thanks, for informing us about it. It’s definitely information everyone needs to know as is the distressing information compiled by Amnesty International about the vast number of people unjustifiably tasered to death by ill tempered authoritarian assholes under badge.

    Do you know whether Zeitoun and any of the other 1,200 people who were assaulted, arrested, and detained at Camp Greyhound and later transferred to the Hunt Prison sued the government under 42 USC 1983?

    • RevBev says:

      I would like to know that, also. There has been a lot of coverage lately about a number of lawsuits, including murder and out of control police action. This certainly sounds like another to be going forward…

    • bmaz says:

      I do not know, although there are sovereign immunity issues with suing the Federal actors under 1983. There are state actors that appear to be available and, perhaps, avenues other than 1983 itself.

      • kindGSL says:

        Conspiracy to commit war crimes, illegal military invasions of innocent muslim countries, use of banned uranium munitions, racketeering, rape, murder, etc. There is no shortage of crimes to charge them with, the problem is ‘political will’, in other words we are operating with a completely corrupt justice department.

        Wow, what great timing this post is to ask congressional candidates about the issue right before an election!

        Remember how in years past FOX noise, et. al. would claim that we can’t talk about big issues like this before elections? After last summer they cant get away with that any longer. But don’t be surprised if they try it again any way. They will do what ever works and they do count on us forgetting their tricks, or never even learning them. I can’t believe how much they play everybody for fools – and how much it works!

        I keep thinking we are smarter than that. Silly me.

    • suejazz says:

      Zeitoun and his wife, Kathy and Dave Eggers were interviewed for an hour by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now on August 27th. You can watch it at the Democracy Now website. Very powerful interview. They have sued but Eggers does not think the suit will go anywhere.

      The book is riveting. I urge everyone to read it.

  18. Sharkbabe says:

    Just. Damn.

    I almost couldn’t believe my eyes reading this, even knowing all I (thought I) know.

    That’s about all I can think of to say.

    Incredible post, bmaz, many thanks.

  19. bluevistas says:

    horrifying story.

    And it is NOT who I am, but it certainly is who the powers that be are.

    We should be in revolt against this horror.

    Thank you for posting this bmaz.

    • hackworth1 says:

      Look at the book reviews on Amazon. While overwhelmingly positive, “Conservative’s” authoritarian response says the guy had no bizniss staying. There was a mandatory evacuation.

      • arcadesproject says:

        Can an ad hoc order from a failed government require a citizen to abandon his neigbors and leave them to die? Was the order that was issued accompanied by provisions setting out penalties for staying? Were citizens to be deprived of due process when accused of failing to complay?

  20. dustbunny44 says:

    >>September 11 was a shock to the American psyche and the American system. As a result, we overreacted.

    More likely we have become a dysfunctional nation, and reacted as we were capable.

    We do know that much of our reaction was manipulated: in the wake of attack we were told lies about a non-threatening foe, so most of us lined up behind the invasion of Iraq to stop WMDs that did not exist. We were flank attacked with biological weapons – anthrax – and we still don’t know where it came from or who was behind it. We were ironically convinced that this menace was large enough to suspend our American guaranteed freedoms, so we still have many prisoners who have been held for years without trial, without being charged. We are still in that neck of the woods spending billions of dollars a month waging war and we don’t know why. Some of us turn on fellow citizens that look or dress or worship like those we are told are irrational, threatening.

    Add to this the wall street bailout, the relentless impending end of Social Security, watching many of my fellow citizens lose their homes to scam mortgage deals, the resulting mortgage relief designed for lenders and not the victims, the largest health care cost in the world with the worst result (and yet the relentless call to make it worse still), etc.

    I continue to feel like my leaders, collectively, are Tony Soprano’s gang, and the only future for the citizenry is being methodically stripped of assets and dignity in the service of proclaimed authority, the wealthy, the owners.

    Happy Labor Day!

  21. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Terrific post, bmaz. I’d not been aware of Camp Greyhound, but this:

    Katrina appears to have exposed the dark underbelly of a generalized governmental failure and a corresponding expansion of military tactics over the population. Put concisely, when the state’s power to protect its citizens floundered, the criminalization of citizens of New Orleans reestablished a reason for the existence of the state.

    Ah, the Shock Doctrine.

    When you’ve governed so cravenly that you can’t address fundamental, structural problems (outed CIA agents, bridges collapsing into the Mississippi, Wall Street theft) then what else are you left with?

    If you can’t claim to govern legitimately, you devolve into oppression, surveillance, distrust, and militarization; it’s happened throughout history.

    When the arts of politics and governance fail to address systemic problems, you’re left with an unstable situation.

    I thought Zakaria’s article was painful, chilling, and refreshing. It reminded me of one of William Ockham’s comments here, some years back, to the effect that after 9-11 the Bush-Cheney administration panicked and made terrible decisions. (I hope my paraphrase does not put me in the doghouse with WmO; I’m recollecting from some years ago.)

    When a society refuses to inspect its mistakes and wrongs, mete out appropriate accountability and learn from the exercise, it loses its moral authority. When Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress belligerently refused to honor their oaths of office by defending and protecting the Constitution via bringing accountability for the attacks on it by the previous administration, it served to ingrain and ratify the offenses and abuses into our fabric of society and law; it set a new and disturbing norm.


  22. bluedot12 says:

    War !! what is it good for and where does it lead us? A militaristic society where everyone is suspected of undermining the government.

  23. pdaly says:

    It took me a few viewings to see Lady Liberty up there on the crucifix.

    I add my name to the list of commenters here who had not heard about Camp Greyhound before now. Thanks, bmaz.

    Zeiton’s interview with the Guardian contains a positive message from Zeiton himself, despite the overall depressing details of his capture and incarceration.

    He [Zeiton] has never even thought of abandoning the US. He refuses to bear a grudge, and says, for him, it remains a great country – you don’t judge 300 million people on the behaviour of a few bad guys. Nor will he contemplate quitting New Orleans. “This is my home, my city. My life is here now,” he says.

    To prove the point to himself, perhaps, he plans to buy another boat; his canoe went missing following his arrest. This time, though, he wants a bigger model that would allow him to rescue people more easily.


  24. alinaustex says:


    Thank you for this excellent article.

    And I believe that Mr Zakaria is on point about our complete over reaction to the 9-11 attacks . And I also believe Mr Zakaria is also very much on point for returning an award that Abe Foxman gave him because the AntiDefamation League has opposed the Ground Zero Community Center .

    And may God Bless Zeiton and all of his family members .

    Camp Greyhound is extremely troubling -and totally UnAmerican.

    (1984 knocking at Our door..)

  25. skdadl says:

    OT: Carol Rosenberg, Judge John Bates upholds indefinite detention of shopkeeper:

    “Khan repeatedly asserted that he is a shopkeeper, not a terrorist, and that he was captured by corrupt and lawless Afghans who turned him over to the Americans and told lies about him,” wrote defense attorney Len Goodman in a brief.

    Bates heard arguments on the case for three days in closed session starting May 13. The government presented intelligence documents, no witnesses. Khan testified via closed-circuit feed from the remote U.S. base in southeast Cuba.

    “He’s sort of a country bumpkin,” said Goodman this weekend, adding that Khan, who has never been married, had a farm outside of Kandahar until he moved there to support the family with a shop.

    Goodman also called a professor, Brian Glyn Williams, who testified there was no HIG presence in Kandahar at the time of Khan capture, and that the leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar had just returned to Afghanistan from exile — and was not then in the area.

  26. b2020 says:

    “It is all of the same immoral and un-American cloth.”

    Do you now your own history?

    From the founding onwards, there has always been the fictional America that aspired – “all man are created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights” – and the real America of slavery, genocide of natives, broken contracts, wars of aggression (including the forgotten 1812). What has changed is that, 40 years ago, a man like LBJ could find it in himself and others to conceive of, and push through, the FOIA – the very first piece of Information Age legislation, and the only one – and the civil rights legislation. Now, a second tier retainer named Obama is presiding over the dismantling of any and all aspiration.

    This is who you are now – a nation that no longer aspires, comfortable in being an object of history, eager to be second to no-one in bringing back the dark ages.

      • b2020 says:

        Thanks for the quote from and link of Dystopolitik – that was really good stuff. So was your article, btw.

        Listen, it’s not my place – or history – to pack into a lesson, but the issue is a genuine source of confusion for me. Growing up in Germany, I am used to a culture that, for all its failings, selective memory and double standards, has been dedicated to a multi-generational project of reckoning. Yet, the opening lines of the Declaration of Independence, encountered in school, were an unbelievable contrast to Germany of the 70’s, and the society my parents lived in just a decade prior is inconceiveable to me, courtesy of changes brought about by the same grindstones of history that brought us the Vietnam War and its protest, three generations of German RAF terrorism, untrained cops with submachine guns killing citizens in traffic stops, PLO hijackings of airplanes, US nuclear-tipped first-strike dacpitation missiles deployed at the German-German border etc. Two steps forward, one step back. No revolutions on the lawn. No First Amendment in Germany. No FOIA.

        I fully agree with your assessment of the US present, but I do not agree, and I honestly don’t “get”, the notion that, maybe, “9/11 changed everything”, or that “leaders” are to blame. I experienced 9/11 as a minor part of a seismic event in the original sense – decades of under-the-ground pent-up pressure waiting for that one crack, that one opening to *move*, shift hard and fast, destroying structures, buildings, lives, dreams. I do not believe that 9/11 created what has taken the name of this nation, I believe the entity known as the USA has been waiting for something like 9/11 to throw of what it perceived as its “shackles”, to “get its war on” and live the Unipolar American Moment Of Manifest Destiny, or whatever ideological label you want to stick on it, because of the born-ready for-profit machine feeding of a militarized society dedicated to paying lip-service and taxes to “support the troops and troopers”.

        One of your most relevant comments – in my view – was the reference to the electoral military industrial complex, and the National Security/Information State it has evolved into. What you are describing has grown out of WW2 just as WW2 grew out of Wilson’s intervention in the bled-out stalemate of WW1, blowback on a global scale that is beneficial to short-sighted, sociopathic and incompetent elite interests until it isn’t. It is, at its core, the oligarchy privatization of public money – tax revenue – within the constraints of an increasingly dysfunctional republic – elected representatives diverting a fraction of tax revenue to their own constituents in exchange for campaign donations financed by the bulk of the same tax revenue stream channeled into an electorally stable, post-partisan, unassailable “security” business – a 600 billion per year con game that will never face any challenge from a population that is too much at ease with its own history, to wilfully oblivious to the bloody entrails of that history, and to willing to Pledge Allegiance To A Flag while the ideas that cloth is supposed to stand for are shredded in broad daylight.

        So yes, it sucks to be US. But what you see now is surely nothing new – certainly nothing new to Native Americans and African-Americans and many other groups that have experienced US law enforcement head-on long before there was a taser patent – and it was obvious enough as far back as Eisenhower’s term for him to speak out about it once he was safely off the hook. As others have mentioned, the War On Drug, the prison state etc. are not exactly fallout from 9/11 either.

        You do democracy with The People you have, not The People you wish for. Whatever its failing, the US is still a democracy, and an economy depending on 70% consumer spending is hostage to any politically engaged population that has the balls to fight for its own interest. If the vast majority is still content to borrow from their own descendants to sustain the unsustainable, and still content to trade their bill of rights for “security”, then with or without 9/11 you will wind up in the same dark places. If you let them do it to others, it is not really a surprise they will do it to you eventually.

        I would not rely on enablers like Zakaria to make my case, and calling Bush and Obama “leaders” is giving them – and us – too much credit in my view. As somebody else wrote yesterday, we have nothing to fear – not even another 9/11 – but ourselves. This is us. This is US. That is the biggest problem facing the nation.

    • bobschacht says:

      I had to go to your link to understand what “control fraud” is:

      Control frauds occur when those that control a seemingly legitimate entity use it as a “weapon” to defraud. Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime – combined. Control frauds can also cause immense damage to a nation because they are run by financial elites that curry favor from political elites.

      Very interesting. I wonder what Sheila Bair and Elizabeth Warren would say about this. Are there laws against this sort of thing?

      Was this sort of thing involved in the Enron fiasco?

      Bob in AZ

  27. Stephen says:

    A father and husband looks out his living room window at his newly purchased boat that will allow his three daughters and one son to enjoy weekends and holidays. The boat is attached to a fairly impressive SUV. He feels satisfied that he has provided the “good things” in life for them as a family through hard work and by following the rules of his nation.
    The news is on his impressive flat screen television connected to his home theater centre with a story about another suicide bombing in Iraq that has killed scores of Iraqi civilians and American soldiers at a security checkpoint. The man then picks up his remote and changes the channel. Americans and their families are scared and are tuning out hoping it will all go away someday.

  28. Kathryn in MA says:

    The overwhelming militaristic force response is also in the realm of the failed War on Drugs – SWAT teams breaking into family home and shooting the family dog.

  29. bgrothus says:

    I heard only part of the DN program when the interview of Zeitoun and Kathy was broadcast. Thanks for filling in the gaps and for the link above.

    I know from personal experience that when evacuation orders are given, people who refuse to leave are under an imposed “house arrest.” If you leave your house, you can be arrested.

    This happened to my father, who was arrested in 2000 at age 77 in Los Alamos, NM after the fire set by the government burned the town. His arrest was broadcast on the national nightly news.

    Like Zeitoun, he was using a 55 gallon tank of water he had on the back of his truck to put out spot fires in his neighborhood after staying up all night at his business to protect it from the fire. He was ordered home by the police, and instead went to the police station to see if he could get permission to continue his work for the community. Instead, they charged him with refusing to obey a police order and arrested him.

    He was not held incommunicado of course, and he was released OR. This was prior to 9-11. Also.

  30. klynn says:


    I have read this post at least four times since you posted it.

    Thank you for such a wealth and depth of information on the turning tide regarding equality and freedom.

    My heart aches and my mind asks, “What can we do?”

  31. timbo says:

    Thanks for pointing out the slide. It is very painful to watch how all the norms of society have slid to such lows under the cowards who now pander to the monied classes in this country. Cheney and Bush were wealthy, and they changed the system in America to help themselves to more wealth, to keep the wealth that they garnered, and to pass it on to their kids, like an aristocracy. And they did this over the dead bodies of many human beings.

    Let’s all hope that the war crimes they perpetuated on the world are investigate and prosecuted. Although, as you’ve pointed out before, slim chance, given the lack of leadership or respect for the laws and treaties in America these days.

    Yeah, tasering–since when did it become acceptable for police to horse-whip people for not complying? Oh, I’m sorry! I meant ‘taser’. Sorry. I’ve got the whole psychological scenario all wrong, obviously!