June 26th is the International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture and Amnesty International has launched a powerful new online video – “Hooded” – to mark the occasion.
Hooding is a practice that gets to the heart of the relationship between the torturer and his – or her – victim. The hooded victim is dehumanized – hooding deprives the victim of a face, of an identity – and dehumanization is almost always a precursor of abuse.
The anthropologists Ashley Montagu and Floyd Matson famously labeled dehumanization “the fifth horseman of the apocalypse”, an essential precursor to war, rape, pillage and genocide.
Hooding is disorientating. It is designed to restrict the victim’s ability to defend himself – or herself – from harm. It is also calculated to instill fear, a dread of the unknown, of the dark.
In emails that have come out during the appeal of New Hampshire’s one and only death sentence, we have learned that former New Hampshire Attorney General (and current U.S. Senator-elect) Kelly A Ayotte began plans to run for election just days after announcing she was seeking the death penalty in the case. As the New Hampshire Union Leader reports (in a special “print-only” article):
In one e-mail exchange between Ayotte and Robert Varsalone, her friend and future political advisor, under the subject “Get ready to run….,” Varsalone discussed Republican campaign chances and possible candidates.
“Have you been following the last 2 week. A police officer was killed and I announced that I would seek the death penalty,” Ayotte responded to Varsalone in the Oct 27, 2006 e-mail.
“I know, I read about it. Where does AG Ayotte stand on the Death Penalty? BY THE SWITCH,” Varsalone wrote back.
Speaking of politics, as California officials were trying in October to engineer a pre-election execution (an effort that failed and cost the state’s taxpayers $4 million) it turns out they were madly searching the globe for sodium thiopental, since their supply of the execution drug had expired. From Pakistan to the U.K. they looked, but, as Stephen Colbert (who is a real comedian) explains below, they eventually found what they were looking for in neighboring Arizona, leading one California official to quip, “You guys are life-savers.”