Saturday, January 17, 2009

Stuff: "Obviously, my evolution has taken place at a rapid pace."

To let you really know that I'm back, we're going to drag today's entry back to an evergreen topic here on ANTSS: torture.

Hey, if you're going to be blocked from work computers as sheep, might as well be blocked as a wolf. That's what Grammy ANTSS always used to say.

In certain sections of the Axis o' Blogging, there's an increasingly shrill chatter about the likelihood of prosecuting Bush administration officials for war crimes in connection with the administration of torture both domestically and abroad. What has passed without much notice is the sentencing of one Chucky Taylor (shown above), born Charles McArthur Emmanuel, the first U.S. citizen to ever be convicted under the federal anti-torture statutes of the United States of America.

Earlier this month, the Honorable Cecilia M. Altonaga of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida handed down a sentence of 97 years, ensuring that Taylor, an African American native of Dorchester, Massachusetts, will most likely die in federal prison.

Altonaga, a Bush appointee and one-time short list contender for the Supreme Court, called Taylor's actions "sadistic, cruel and atrocious." She went on to say, "It is hard to conceive of any more serious offenses against the dignity and the lives of human beings."

The fullest description of the bizarre life and times of Chucky Taylor, American son of African warlord Charles Taylor, can be found, in of all places, Rolling Stone magazine, in a 2008 article writing a few months before Taylor's conviction.

From the article:

Emmanuel and Taylor eventually moved into a cozy apartment together. They soon had a son, Michael, who passed away at seven months, and a daughter, Zoe. On February 12th, 1977, after a torturous labor, Emmanuel gave birth to Chucky; he weighed 12 pounds, 14 ounces. Chucky had gray eyes and a ghostly pale complexion, a vestige of Emmanuel's white grandfather. When Charles Taylor arrived at the hospital, "he didn't believe that the boy was his kid," Emmanuel says. "He didn't look like he was a black baby." They named their son Charles McArthur Emmanuel.

The couple never married, but they enjoyed several idyllic years in their Dorchester apartment. "We lived together for eight years," Emmanuel says. "I was considered his common-law wife."

During Chucky's first year, Emmanuel was the breadwinner, though Taylor juggled jobs at Sears and Mutual of Omaha. Chucky, Emmanuel says, "was the happiest baby." One day, around Chucky's first birthday, Taylor saw his son drinking from a baby bottle. He plucked it from his son's hands and threw it out the window. "You're too grown for bottles," he declared.

Despite moments of domesticity, Taylor led a separate life outside the home. He partied and protested with other Liberian activists living along the East Coast. In 1980, he traveled back to Liberia just in time for a coup by a small band of army officers. In a volatile political climate, Taylor quickly proved to be a canny opportunist: He married the niece of a general, ingratiating himself with the new government. He called Emmanuel, asking her to move to Liberia, but she refused.

Later, after Taylor was caught stealing from the post-coup government, he fled to the US. There he was arrested by US Marshals, but escaped the Massachusetts jail he was being held in and fled back to Africa.

Emmanuel moved on with her life. In the mid-1980s, she married a man named Roy Belfast and relocated the family to a two-story brick home on the corner of a quiet street in Orlando. Chucky slept in a small bedroom, barely big enough for his bed and dresser, but he made room for a turntable, a mixer and a massive set of speakers. As he grew from a boy into a teenager, his light complexion darkened. He began to strongly resemble his father, who was drifting in and out of prisons in Ghana and Sierra Leone, and into Muammar el-Qaddafi's paramilitary training camps in Libya. In 1989, on Christmas Eve, Taylor re-emerged as a self-styled revolutionary leader, invading Liberia with a small band of guerrillas. A month later, Chucky went with his mother to the Orange County Clerk's Office and changed his name to that of his stepfather, becoming Roy Belfast Jr. "I was his father at the time," Chucky's stepfather says simply.

A few years later, right around Christmas, Chucky answered the phone at home. Now in his early teens, he was a quiet kid, awkward and shy. The man on the line asked to speak to his mother. Emmanuel wasn't home at the time, but before Chucky hung up, the stranger explained that he was the boy's father.

"My dad called," Chucky announced when Emmanuel returned home a short while later. "I didn't want to talk to him."

Emmanuel was stunned. It had been so long since she had heard from Taylor, she couldn't understand what Chucky was telling her at first. "Who's your dad?" she asked, bewildered.

In 1990, young Chucky went to visit his father. Impressed by the importance and power of his father wielded in Liberia, the young Taylor was unable to readjust to life in America. In 1994, he got in trouble with law and, rather than face jail time, he was shipped off to be with his father. By that time, Taylor had "officially" been elected President of Liberia:

Taylor had finally been elected president, sweeping into power with 75 percent of the vote. His campaign slogan was a bizarre mixture of honesty and thinly veiled threat: "He Killed My Ma, He Killed My Pa, But I Will Vote for Him."

Despite a tempestuous relationship, Taylor put his son in charge of the nation's Anti-Terror Unit. The federal indictment describes the unit's tactics:

In April 1999, a rebel group attacked the town of Voinjama, near the border with Guinea. As described in the federal indictment, Chucky traveled to a checkpoint near the site of the attack with members of the Anti-Terrorist Unit. Civilians fleeing the town streamed over the St. Paul River Bridge, deeper into Liberia. Chucky stopped a group passing through the checkpoint. He asked whether there were rebels among them. According to the indictment, he then "selected three persons from the group and summarily shot them in front of the others." The ATU detained several survivors and brought them to the base at Gbatala; by that time the prisoners had been pistol-whipped by Chucky and several ATU officers. The prisoners were then tossed into pits, which were covered with iron bars and barbed wire, and subjected to a laundry list of torture, including being burned by cigarettes and having plastic melted on their genitals. At one point, according to the indictment, Chucky ordered the execution of a prisoner, but when an ATU officer raised his gun, Chucky instructed him to cut off the man's head instead. Several officers held the man down, forcing his head over a bucket. "The soldiers then severed [the victim's] head by cutting his throat from back to front as blood dripped into the bucket, while he screamed and begged for his life," the indictment states.

After Taylor's government collapsed, Chucky did what any kid raised on American pop culture would do: He made a gangster rap album.

Chucky followed him there, and over the next several years his life took a nomadic turn. He ventured to South Africa, Libya, Paris and London. In 2005, he spent several weeks at a studio in Trinidad, recording 20 hip-hop tracks. "I grew up in the era of hip-hop," he says. "Obviously, my evolution has taken place at a rapid pace. It is a snapshot of my mind frame at that time." Federal agents confiscated a notebook of his lyrics, which included the lines "We ain't takin' no slack/Y'all try to tackle mine/Layin' bodies in stacks" and "Take this for free/Six feet under is where you gonna be."

You can hear a fairly crappy track from Taylor's album, an awkwardly produced contempo-R&B influenced track called "Angel," at the end of the Rolling Stone article. It is, in my humble opinion, painfully awful.


Sasquatchan said...

I dunno, which chucky would you put your money on to get a confession on where the last bomb is hidden ? ;)

Glad you are back. Funeral on your side or the mrs ? Regardless, sorry for your loss.. (Didn't the mrs lose a family member ~2 yrs ago as well ?)

CRwM said...

Thanks for the kind thoughts. The loss was on my side of the family.

Babeco said...

Sorry, I know that is not the right place but I can´t find a mail contact.

Hello my name is Francisco Calvelo and I directed the short film "Vampire Prison" (Santiago de sangre) produced by Perro Verde Films (Zombie Western, Going Nuts, the Missing Lynx) and starring Eloy Azorín (All about my mother). I would like to invite you to see it.


The Igloo Keeper... said...

Cool shades though.