Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002
The interrogation celebrated spikes and cuffs, the inky blue that invades a blackened eye, the eyeball that bulges like a radish, that incarnadine only blood can create. They asked the young taxi driver questions he could not answer, and they beat his legs until he could no longer kneel on their command. They chained him by the wrists to the ceiling. They may have admired the human form then, stretched out, for the soldiers were also athletes trained to shout in unison and be buddies. By the time his legs had stiffened, a blood clot was already tracing a vein into his heart. They said he was dead when they cut him down, but he was dead the day they arrested him. Are they feeding the prisoners gravel now? To make them skillful orators as they confess? Here stands Demosthenes in the military court, unable to form the words “my country.” What shall we do, we who are at war but are asked to pretend we are not? Do we need another naive apologist to crown us with clichés that would turn the grass brown above a grave? They called the carcass Mr. Dilawar. They believed he was innocent. Their orders were to step on the necks of the prisoners, to break their will, to make them say something in a sleep-deprived delirium of fractures, rising to the occasion, or, like Mr. Dilawar, leaving his few possessions and his body.
From Mars Being Red by Marvin Bell. Copyright © 2007 by Marvin Bell. Reprinted by permission of Copper Canyon Press.