FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Stop the Torture

by Sister DIANNA ORTIZ

On Thursday, January 20, I listened to George W. Bush take the oath of office as President. He made many promises. One promise he did not make is to end the torture his administration has not only tolerated but facilitated. It left me wondering what his promises to uphold the law and fight for freedom and liberty really mean.

I am a survivor of torture. On November 2, 1989, I was abducted by members of the Guatemalan security forces. I am still talking today about the torture that followed because it is with me at every moment. I carry it with me physically”I wear in my skin the marks of 111 cigarette burns. But the scars go as deep as my very being. I was tortured for twenty-four hours, and in that time who I was, who I had been for 31 years, died. I was a nun, a missionary, a teacher of children. But now there was no God. People could not be trusted. And I could not trust myself.

Those were the lessons I learned. But in that clandestine prison there was one person who reached out to me, a woman who had also been tortured. She asked me my name and took my hand. I made a silent promise to her that, if I managed to survive, I would tell the world what had been done in that secret prison, to her and to others. I would not let her simply vanish, as tens of thousands had at the hands of the Guatemalan army.

I honored my promise. I spoke out about my torture and filed criminal charges in a futile effort to obtain justice in Guatemala. I called on the U.S. government to reveal information about the American who entered the secret prison, ordered my torturers to let me go, and escorted me out. Who was he? How did he know the location of a secret torture center? Why did the Guatemalan torturers obey him, as if he were their boss? Why did he leave all the others there, under torture?

Fifteen years have passed since I was abducted. I pray for the day I will no longer be shackled to that promise I made in the clandestine prison. But I,m still talking about torture, not only because it is with me at every moment but because it is with us, as a nation, and with us, as a world.

Bush has nominated Alberto Gonzales to be Attorney General, the highest law enforcement officer in our land. We are told he will almost certainly be confirmed. Gonzales set forth his opinions on the permissibility of torture as White House Counsel in a memo to Bush, knowing that his opinions had a likelihood of being translated into policy and that torture could well be the result. And torture was the result.

We have seen the photos from Abu Ghraib. We have heard the accounts from Guantanamo. We have heard Gonazales, evasive testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Unfortunately, those who suffered the torture encouraged by Gonzales did not have the opportunity to testify before that Committee.

The damage Gonzales and his colleagues in the administration have done is irreparable. The damage that Bush has done is incalculable. That the President has nominated Mr. Gonzales for one of the highest offices in our land, an office specifically devoted to the rule of law, is a scandal of epic proportions.

At what point will we say no? At what point will we distinguish ourselves from the American in the prison where I was tortured who had the power to save dozens of Guatemalans but shut the door on their screams? At what point will we demand that the President of the United States live up to the oath he swore to God and to the American people? I hope I don,t have to wait another 15 years for answers to these questions.

Sister DIANNA ORTIZ is Executive Director of Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC) and a a policy analyst for Foreign Policy In Focus (online at www.fpif.org), where this essay originally appeared. TASSC International (online at www.tassc.org) is an organization of torture survivors from countries around the world working for the abolition of torture. She can be reached at: diortiz@tassc.org

More articles by:
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
Jeffrey St. Clair
Lines Written on the Occasion of Bernie Sanders’ Announcement of His Intention to Vote for Hillary Clinton
Norman Pollack
Fissures in World Capitalism: the British Vote
Paul Bentley
Mercenary Logic: 12 Dead in Kabul
Binoy Kampmark
Parting Is Such Sweet Joy: Brexit Prevails!
Elliot Sperber
Show Me Your Papers: Supreme Court Legalizes Arbitrary Searches
Jan Oberg
The Brexit Shock: Now It’s All Up in the Air
Nauman Sadiq
Brexit: a Victory for Britain’s Working Class
Brian Cloughley
Murder by Drone: Killing Taxi Drivers in the Name of Freedom
Ramzy Baroud
How Israel Uses Water as a Weapon of War
Brad Evans – Henry Giroux
The Violence of Forgetting
Ben Debney
Homophobia and the Conservative Victim Complex
Margaret Kimberley
The Orlando Massacre and US Foreign Policy
David Rosen
Americans Work Too Long for Too Little
Murray Dobbin
Do We Really Want a War With Russia?
Kathy Kelly
What’s at Stake
Louis Yako
I Have Nothing “Newsworthy” to Report this Week
Pete Dolack
Killing Ourselves With Technology
David Krieger
The 10 Worst Acts of the Nuclear Age
Lamont Lilly
Movement for Black Lives Yields New Targets of the State
Martha Rosenberg
A Hated Industry Fights Back
Robert Fantina
Hillary, Gloria and Jill: a Brief Look at Alternatives
Chris Doyle
No Fireworks: Bicentennial Summer and the Decline of American Ideals
Michael Doliner
Beyond Dangerous: the Politics of Climate
Colin Todhunter
Modi, Monsanto, Bayer and Cargill: Doing Business or Corporate Imperialism?
Steve Church
Brexit: a Rush for the Exits!
Matthew Koehler
Mega Corporation Gobbles Up Slightly Less-Mega Corporation; Chops Jobs to Increase Profits; Blames Enviros. Film at 11.
David Green
Rape Culture, The Hunting Ground, and Amy Goodman: a Critical Perspective
Ed Kemmick
Truckin’: Pro Driver Dispenses Wisdom, Rules of the Road
Alessandro Bianchi
“China Will React if Provoked Again: You Risk the War”: Interview with Andre Vltchek
Christy Rodgers
Biophilia as Extreme Sport
Missy Comley Beattie
At Liberty
Ron Jacobs
Is Everything Permitted?
Cesar Chelala
The Sad Truth About Messi
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail