America, You’re Being White-Vanned

This is how abductions used to happen in Sri Lanka

Indi Samarajiva
Jul 29 · 4 min read
Goon squad

In Sri Lanka, during the war, they used to abduct people in white vans. Political opponents, suspected insurgents, but eventually just for ransom. Unaccountable thugs eventually do unaccountable things.

In the 80s, my late friend Mohan was picked up by the police. He was wearing a red shirt and jeans which made him look like a communist. They beat him mercilessly and were taking him to the latrine to kill him. Then his family finally got a phone call in that saved his life.

I was just asking why he never wore shoes and he told me this story. His feet were still too broken, years later. I don’t think he was ever under arrest.

In my generation, I remember my friend Gane going home early, like the minute the sun went down. Back then young Tamils were being abducted, held for ransom and then — once the money was collected — murdered anyways. We called it being white-vanned. We had it in various forms for decades. It’s not about the van per se, but that’s the symbol. It’s official arrest made into unofficial abduction.

It could happen to anyone, for any reason. It was so frequent and so feared that we made a verb out of it, a sick joke. As a writer I used to hear it all the time. ‘Ah, they haven’t white-vanned you yet?’

Now it’s happening to you. You’re being white-vanned America. WTF.

The White Van

There is a certain edge of chaos you go careening down when the state uses serial killer transportation. For us it got super fucked up when a rogue Navy unit just started abducting the sons of rich business people for money — whom, as mentioned, they murdered anyways.

Regular cops are unaccountable enough, but you get to straight up kidnapping when you remove the markings from a vehicle. Then it’s just a bunch of men who are above the law, and common people gagged and in twist-ties. And eventually at the bottom of a lake.

Things got bad. Things got really bad. It’s scary to see it happening to you. And believe me, this is happening to you.

Chickens Coming Home To Roost

People comment that this is something out of another country, but they’re missing the point. This is classic American occupation, just happening to Americans. This is what American troops do regularly in other countries. Now those troops have come home and joined the police force, or the feds. And the government has given them military equipment. And the political leadership seems to enjoy it. Republicans seems as happy occupying Portland as Ramallah. As long as they’re occupying somebody.

America has been abducting people professionally since 9/11. Now it’s just happening to Americans.

When you say ‘how is this happening here?’ I would remind you, it was always happening somewhere, and it was always bad. With no due respect, fuck your troops. You’re the baddies.

This Is Happening To You

America’s occupation of itself just takes it to another level. Not in terms of brutality, though it can easily get there, but just in terms of impunity. Even in Sri Lanka, they didn’t abduct people in broad daylight and let people film it. That would defeat the purpose. The American state just doesn’t care. They like terrorizing the public. That’s genuinely terrifying.

America’s also scary because this is completely by choice. Almost done for fun. Sri Lanka’s abductions happened during multiple insurrections, civil wars, and mind-bogglingly regular terrorist attacks. We were are war. Everybody was abducting everyone else.

In America this is happening during peace-time, to peaceful protestors. This is not a state backed into a corner with explosions every other week. There is no American land occupied by rebels. This is just one man, backed into a corner, and his enablers — using all the brutal infrastructure that Americans used to level against Muslims and migrants.

This is simply gratuitous violence, and that’s scary because America is so good at that. They’re the most experienced abductors in the world. They’re a multi-national corporation of this shit. America has been consultants to torturers and murders across the world. And now that full force is being brought to bear upon their own cities. It’s not torture and murder yet, but it can get there fast. And, to be honest, the intermediate steps are horrifying enough.

I wish I could tell you how it ends. For us the war ended, but American white-vanning is divorced from any actual threat. So I don’t know how it ends. They’re unleashing troops to protect property and statues. This is frankly uncharted territory. This is stupid autocracy. Autocrazy really.

Congratulations America, you’ve been white-vanned. I hope you get out.

indica

Views from the global south

Indi Samarajiva

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Founded some stuff, sold one, now writing full time. He/him. Contact: indi@indi.ca

indica

indica

A global south perspective on the world.

Indi Samarajiva

Written by

A writer living in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Founded some stuff, sold one, now writing full time. He/him. Contact: indi@indi.ca

indica

indica

A global south perspective on the world.

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