Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Wretched Indignity of US Torture

I’ve been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10 and have lost well over 30 pounds. I will not eat until they restore my dignity. I’ve been detained at Guantánamo for 11 years and three months. I have never been charged with any crime. I have never received a trial.

Our fear of Muslims can tell us what we fear about ourselves. Our charges of irrationality and violence against them can tell us about our own unreasoning fanaticisms and our own violence. Peace will not be achieved by torturing and bombing them into democracy. We have been making terrorists faster than we can kill them. Only by addressing the underlying causes of terrorism honestly is peace possible.
William T. Cavanaugh

Last year, our family participated in the 100 year+ Patriot's Day tradition of the Boston Marathon. In the wake of my father-in-law's death due to pancreatic cancer, my sister-in-law qualified...and then found out she was pregnant just a month before race day. She couldn't run the entire 26.2 miles so we broke up the course into bite size pieces and turned it into a relay. In 90-degree heat, we combined to finish just under 4 hours.

That was last year. If it was this year, my wife, brother-in-law and mother-in-law would have all been right in the path of two exploding bombs. Wrong place. Wrong time. The news on Monday of these bombings was rather vivid for me. I could picture the crowds and the finish line. Last year, the faces of runners signaled exhaustion and unseaonsal extreme heat. This year, panic and terror.

Our hearts burn with the pain and grieving of survivors and victims families. Understandably, the Boston Bombing has bloated the news cycle as we all wait for law enforcement to make arrests so that some sort of justice can be made. We all long for justice. That's why it is even more unfortunate that many of us have missed a key report released this week in the days following the tragedy.

Consider the eye-opening work of the Constitution Project, the 577-page nonpartisan, independent review of interrogation and detention programs during the Bush years. The report is absolutely conclusive that the US government (from Bush all the way down) knowingly used "torture" and, to add insult to injury, did not really get any important information as a result of their dehumanizing tactics. The use of torture, the report concludes has led to:

1. Damaged the moral standing of the US
2. Increased the danger to US military personnel taken captive
3. Reduced the capacity of US government for moral censure throughout the world

Not only were suspected terrorists waterboarded, they were stripped naked, slammed into walls, chained into uncomfortable positions and kept awake for days on end. The post-9/11 US government has now officially gone down the road of Latin American dictatorship with "enforced disappearances" and "secret detentions." We should all be shocked, but most of us missed this news item, stashed on the 2nd page of the LA Times Extra section.

With some of the most ironic language used in the history of our country, former Bush crony John Bolton responded by saying the report is "completely divorced from reality." Of course, those in power, including Bush and Bolton, who signed off on the use of these tactics and have consistently denied using "torture" over the past dozen years, are themselves proven to be living in a fantasy world.

And perhaps even more ironic, today is the 25th Anniversary of the US government's signing of the Convention Against Torture, condemning the use of the very tactics we eventually used in the months and years following 9/11.

This week, as we rightly call for justice to be served for those who cowardly planted bombs in Boston, we must also be resolute in our demand for justice be served for all those who cowardly locked up "suspected terrorists" into a hidden-yet-all-too-real world of fear, violence, pain and complete loss of agency and identity.

It's gut check time for all Americans of faith and conscience. For followers of the tortured Jesus, this is particularly a vital issue. As William Cavanaugh writes,

The world did not change on 9/11; the world changed on 12/25. When the Word of God became incarnate in human history, when he was tortured to death by the powers of this world, and when he rose to give us new life—it was then that everything changed. Christ made friends of us who are enemies of God, and He thus made us capable of loving our enemies as ourselves.

May we never confuse the Pax Americana with the Pax Christi.

Pray for Guantanamo Bay detainees who courageously continue what Glenn Greenwald describes as "the escalating hunger strike to protest both horrible conditions and, particularly, the supreme injustice of being locked in a cage indefinitely without any evidence of wrongdoing presented or any opportunity to contest the accusations that have been made."

1 comment:

  1. That type of power to detain a person in such a manner is so despicable, it's truly sickening. I mean, I think about that and I literally get upset - it's disgusting. This really pisses me off.