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:
November 21, 2017
Gregory Elich
What is Behind the Military Coup in Zimbabwe?
Louisa Willcox
Rising Grizzly Bear Deaths Raise Red Flag About Delisting
David Macaray
My Encounter With Charles Manson
Patrick Cockburn
The Greatest Threats to the Middle East are Jared Kushner and Mohamed bin Salman
Stephen Corry
OECD Fails to Recognize WWF Conservation Abuses
James Rothenberg
We All Know the Rich Don’t Need Tax Cuts
Elizabeth Keyes
Let There be a Benign Reason For Someone to be Crawling Through My Window at 3AM!
L. Ali Khan
The Merchant of Weapons
Thomas Knapp
How to Stop a Rogue President From Ordering a Nuclear First Strike
Lee Ballinger
Trump v. Marshawn Lynch
Michael Eisenscher
Donald Trump, Congress, and War with North Korea
Tom H. Hastings
Reckless
Franklin Lamb
Will Lebanon’s Economy Be Crippled?
Linn Washington Jr.
Forced Anthem Adherence Antithetical to Justice
Nicolas J S Davies
Why Do Civilians Become Combatants In Wars Against America?
November 20, 2017
T.J. Coles
Doomsday Scenarios: the UK’s Hair-Raising Admissions About the Prospect of Nuclear War and Accident
Peter Linebaugh
On the 800th Anniversary of the Charter of the Forest
Patrick Bond
Zimbabwe Witnessing an Elite Transition as Economic Meltdown Looms
Sheldon Richman
Assertions, Facts and CNN
Ben Debney
Plebiscites: Why Stop at One?
LV Filson
Yemen’s Collective Starvation: Where Money Can’t Buy Food, Water or Medicine
Thomas Knapp
Impeachment Theater, 2017 Edition
Binoy Kampmark
Trump in Asia
Curtis FJ Doebbler
COP23: Truth Without Consequences?
Louisa Willcox
Obesity in Bears: Vital and Beautiful
Deborah James
E-Commerce and the WTO
Ann Garrison
Burundi Defies the Imperial Criminal Court: an Interview with John Philpot
Robert Koehler
Trapped in ‘a Man’s World’
Stephen Cooper
Wiping the Stain of Capital Punishment Clean
Weekend Edition
November 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Thank an Anti-War Veteran
Andrew Levine
What’s Wrong With Bible Thumpers Nowadays?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The CIA’s House of Horrors: the Abominable Dr. Gottlieb
Wendy Wolfson – Ken Levy
Why We Need to Take Animal Cruelty Much More Seriously
Mike Whitney
Brennan and Clapper: Elder Statesmen or Serial Fabricators?
David Rosen
Of Sex Abusers and Sex Offenders
Ryan LaMothe
A Christian Nation?
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Finger on the Button: Why No President Should Have the Authority to Launch Nuclear Weapons
W. T. Whitney
A Bizarre US Pretext for Military Intrusion in South America
Deepak Tripathi
Sex, Lies and Incompetence: Britain’s Ruling Establishment in Crisis 
Howard Lisnoff
Who You’re Likely to Meet (and Not Meet) on a College Campus Today
Roy Morrison
Trump’s Excellent Asian Adventure
John W. Whitehead
Financial Tyranny
Ted Rall
How Society Makes Victimhood a No-Win Proposition
Jim Goodman
Stop Pretending the Estate Tax has Anything to do With Family Farmers
Thomas Klikauer
The Populism of Germany’s New Nazis
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail