|Zero Tolerance for Torture|
My Dear Friends,
?Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter.?
I send greetings to you from TASSC, the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International. Each of the members of our organization is a survivor of torture and, therefore, I assure you that we stand in solidarity with you this weekend and throughout the year.
I regret that I cannot be with you on this most important occasion. As this month of November is important to SOA Watch, it is important to me as well?but for a very different reason. This month marks the fifteenth ?anniversary? of my abduction and torture in Guatemala?that period which I often describe as the darkest night of my soul. It was a moment when everything that gave life meaning, dried up and hope disappeared?what Martin Buber called ?the eclipse of God. I still remember everything?the smells?reeking of decomposing bodies and burning skin?images?the mutilated remains of children, the Policeman?s cratered face?eyes dead like buttons?blood gushing out of the woman as my hands were forced to thrust a machete into her already broken body. There was all that and so much more. It is especially at this time of the year, that I wonder if I should have survived at all. Had I not, the terrible memories I live with would have gone to the grave with me.
Please understand, my situation is not unique. I?m one among millions who has suffered and survived torture. The tortured carry their torture with them all their lives. Austrian philosopher, Jean Amery, a torture survivor himself said, ?Anyone who has been tortured remains tortured. Anyone who has suffered torture never again will be at ease in the world?faith in humanity, already cracked by the first slap in the face, then demolished by torture is, never acquired again.? More than twenty years after his physical torture, Jean Amery took his life.
I share this reflection with you for two reasons. First, I hope you will remember that torture?s ghost walks with those of us who have survived torture everyday of our lives?reminding us that the past is not gone?that the past will always be. For those who were brutalized by graduates of this wretched ?school,? their torture will never end. They will remember it forever. They will remember, too, the United States as the training ground of those who tortured them. They will remember, as well, our government which refused to close this school in shame.
My second reason for sharing this reflection is quite personal. One of those Latin American military honored by the United States government and its School of the Assassins was found liable by a U.S. federal court in the case of my own torture and indigenous from Guatemala?my sister and brother survivors. I remember my torture. I remember the American who was the boss of my Guatemalan torturers and I remember that the man a U.S. court found liable for my torture, was honored by this ?school of shame.?
One hundred fifty governments in the world torture. Ours is one of them. It used to be hard to convince audiences of decent Americans that this was true. It shouldn?t be any longer.
There are those photographs from Abu Ghraib prison. There are the reports from Afghanistan, Guantanamo and elsewhere. And there are the memos, many of them leaked because the government wished to hide what it was doing?just as it did here at Ft. Benning.
Of course, we were assured over and over again that it was only a few low level bad apples who were responsible. When news of the torture training manuals used at the School of the Americas finally became public, a friend of mine contacted government officials to find out why torture was being taught here. He was assured that no one in a position of authority, at the ?School?, Ft Benning or the Defense Department knew that torture was being taught. Apparently another case of a few low level bad apples.
Well, there?s an important question to be answered. Just how did all those apples at the bottom of the barrel get rotten? And we know the answer. It?s the ones at the top that are really rotten and the rot works downwards. How do we know this? Because we have eyes to read and ears to hear. We know those leaked memos were intended to facilitate and justify the practice of torture and, thus, the violation of law.
Could this be true? Of course not. We are assured that while high-level administrators may be responsible, they are not culpable. And this is said with a straight face! They truly expect us to believe it. And so, our leaders continue to live within a culture of impunity.
As you go about your important work in Georgia this weekend, we who are members of TASSC salute you. We will spend this weekend and the coming weeks working to defeat the nomination of an apologist for torture to be Attorney General. The twin facts that Alberto Gonzales was nominated to be Attorney General and that the School of the Assassins still operates show how much work we have yet to do. We will work with you against this school and we ask that you join with us in our efforts to remove advocates for torture from the government.
The road we walk may be long and difficult but walk it we will. Those who glory in the corruption of this world may scorn and mock us, but we have fixed our eyes upon the stars and they will lead us to the day when the world is finally torture-free.
733 Euclid Street NW
Washington, DC 20001