L. Neil Smith's
Number 358, March 12, 2006

Arizona Snowstorm

The Story of H
by Ali Massoud

Special to TLE

My friend H. is probably gonna kill a cop some night. Deliberately, violently, and with no remorse in his heart whatever. But it could be a hapless security guard or nightwatchman that he kills though too. Or perhaps maybe a pizza-deliveryman that knocks on H.'s door by accident some night also. Hell, it could even be me that he kills. Now me getting hurt would presumably be an accident on H.'s part. I am his friend and comrade of longstanding after all. However I wouldn't be any less dead or wounded for all that though would I?

Why is H. wrapped so tight? H. is a torture victim that's why. He can't get past what happened to him. H. says that under no circumstances is he ever getting put back in cuffs or a cell again, no matter what. The next time he's in state custody again will be when he's inside a zipped bag with a tag on his toe.

H. is from Iran and he was a grad student at the University of Michigan in 1979. He was studying the then new field of information technology after receiving his BSEE back in Iran. After the 1979 overthrow of the Shah he was jubilant. He too had bridled and chafed at the Shah's lengthy term of misrule. H. planned to go back to his native country, get married, and help build a new society with his youthful energy and superb education. And so off he went. Unfortunately for H. he was arrested soon after his arrival by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards who then held him in prison for the next three years. Why H. was arrested I have never learned.

I am not going to go into the gory details here. For one, I don't know all of what transpired. Real torture victims don't yap on and on to their friends about what happened to them. However looking at his arms, hands, and face tells me all I want and need to know. H.'s flesh is a topographical record of physical pain in the same way a geological map of a glacier's progress is a physical representation of its power to twist and rend the earth.

H. can't sleep very well without serious drugs, which he can't always easily get a hold of. He usually won't use street drugs. So instead he meditates, exercises, and does the best he can. But the dreams still come. And they prolly always will too. Physical and psychological damage works in tandem that way I'm told.

Between H.'s lack of sleep, his brooding, unfathomable paranoia, and his barely repressed anxiety attacks you can see why I've come to regard him as a ticking time bomb. Oh, and he carries a pistol with him wherever he goes too. And I've no doubt at all that he'd use it too, if agitated, scared, or startled suddenly.

My big fear is that some state police trooper or other cop is gonna pull him over some dark night for a burned out taillight or some other minor infraction and H. is gonna blow his head off. He'll prolly die too, either at the scene or soon after, but that likelihood will not figure into his estimation of things. Now H. keeps his car and its required paperwork in scrupulous order, but we all know how cops can be sometimes though, eh? Say Mr. Trooper notices a "furtive movement" on H.'s part or asks him one too many rude questions with a high-powered flashlight beam in his face and bad things could happen. Whether Mr. Trooper's officer survival training or H.'s fear of re-capture wins out will be settled in an instant.

All of the forgoing description of my friend's condition brings me to a larger point. The number of people who have been arrested, imprisoned, and "vigorously interrogated" (as the term is), by the US government in the past few years has been truly staggering. I wonder how many H.'s Spc.4 Charles Graner, Donald Rumsfeld, the CIA's "black prison network", Guantanamo Bay and all the rest have added to our world? H. wasn't arrested, imprisoned and tortured by the US government as far as I know. Who did this and why is not the point. The point is that people who are victimized in this way often do not fully recover.

So the next time you shake your head at the news of some new outrage or atrocity here or abroad remember this: H. and many more just like him are all out there in the world. Physically and emotionally scarred, aggrieved, and with a hair trigger. And the States and other powers-that-be that most of us look to for protection are the very ones creating them too. And no amount of moral, legal, or political sophistry can obscure this fact no matter how hard they try to either.

And so I end this cautionary tale where I began. I think that my friend H. is gonna kill someone one night. And I am powerless to prevent it.

Ali Hassan Massoud writes for the Internet and blogs.


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