31 Mar 2007

Hicks: Stockholm Syndrome?

The latest news from the Hicks trial is disturbing indeed. Hicks is not only confessing, apparently, but has promised to lag on others. Hicks has renounced a religion he believed in so fiercely before his incarceration that he was willing to put his life on the line for it. Perhaps most disturbingly of all, the five years of incarceration will not even be retrospectively declared punishment for his crimes, meaning that the prerogative of the US government to imprison foreign nationals for such periods without any wrongdoing being proven is to be upheld.

Hicks's renunciation of Islam is in itself neither disturbing nor reprehensible from a non-Islamic perspective. Still, it forms part of a pattern by which Hicks has effectively completely surrendered to the will of his captors. After five years of psychological tricks and torture, such a general change of allegiance should not surprise us. There is no doubt that what is done to inmates in Gitmo has been done precisely, technically, purposively to break their spirit and change their allegiances. That Hicks is willing to turn on his erstwhile comrades shows the completeness of the conversion. Of course, we don't know what, if anything, he will say. People under torture will say anything, which is why it is so ineffective, and it is possible that Hicks will say things that are made up to get released – it is quite possible that he does not actually have any information useful to the US.
Still, it is also possible that Hicks will simply assist to US state by fingering others, perhaps even innocents, to save himself. We will have to see, and one suspects that the full facts will be late in emerging.