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
February 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Richard D. Wolff
Capitalism as Obstacle to Equality and Democracy: the US Story
Paul Street
Where’s the Beef Stroganoff? Eight Sacrilegious Reflections on Russiagate
Jeffrey St. Clair
They Came, They Saw, They Tweeted
Andrew Levine
Their Meddlers and Ours
Charles Pierson
Nuclear Nonproliferation, American Style
Joseph Essertier
Why Japan’s Ultranationalists Hate the Olympic Truce
W. T. Whitney
US and Allies Look to Military Intervention in Venezuela
John Laforge
Maybe All Threats of Mass Destruction are “Mentally Deranged”
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: an American Reckoning
David Rosen
For Some Reason, Being White Still Matters
Robert Fantina
Nikki Haley: the U.S. Embarrassment at the United Nations
Joyce Nelson
Why Mueller’s Indictments Are Hugely Important
Joshua Frank
Pearl Jam, Will You Help Stop Sen. Tester From Destroying Montana’s Public Lands?
Dana E. Abizaid
The Attack on Historical Perspective
Conn Hallinan
Immigration and the Italian Elections
George Ochenski
The Great Danger of Anthropocentricity
Pete Dolack
China Can’t Save Capitalism from Environmental Destruction
Joseph Natoli
Broken Lives
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Did Russia Vote For Trump?
Geoff Dutton
One Regime to Rule Them All
Torkil Lauesen – Gabriel Kuhn
Radical Theory and Academia: a Thorny Relationship
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Work of Persuasion
Thomas Klikauer
Umberto Eco and Germany’s New Fascism
George Burchett
La Folie Des Grandeurs
Howard Lisnoff
Minister of War
Eileen Appelbaum
Why Trump’s Plan Won’t Solve the Problems of America’s Crumbling Infrastructure
Ramzy Baroud
More Than a Fight over Couscous: Why the Palestinian Narrative Must Be Embraced
Jill Richardson
Mass Shootings Shouldn’t Be the Only Time We Talk About Mental Illness
Jessicah Pierre
Racism is Killing African American Mothers
Steve Horn
Wyoming Now Third State to Propose ALEC Bill Cracking Down on Pipeline Protests
David Griscom
When ‘Fake News’ is Good For Business
Barton Kunstler
Brainwashed Nation
Griffin Bird
I’m an Eagle Scout and I Don’t Want Pipelines in My Wilderness
Edward Curtin
The Coming Wars to End All Wars
Missy Comley Beattie
Message To New Activists
Jonah Raskin
Literary Hubbub in Sonoma: Novel about Mrs. Jack London Roils the Faithful
Binoy Kampmark
Frontiersman of the Internet: John Perry Barlow
Chelli Stanley
The Mirrors of Palestine
James McEnteer
How Brexit Won World War Two
Ralph Nader
Absorbing the Irresistible Consumer Reports Magazine
Cesar Chelala
A Word I Shouldn’t Use
Louis Proyect
Marx at the Movies
Osha Neumann
A White Guy Watches “The Black Panther”
Stephen Cooper
Rebel Talk with Nattali Rize: the Interview
David Yearsley
Market Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail