FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Uncrucify Them

This weekend thousands of people are gathering at Fort Benning, Georgia, to demonstrate their continued opposition to the “School of Assassins,” a school that has been training Latin America’s military in the techniques of torture and terror for more than fifty years. Each November a protest and solemn funeral procession are held around the anniversary of the 1989 assassination of six Salvadoran Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her daughter at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador. The soldiers responsible for their murders were among the elite forces who trained at Fort Benning’s School of the Americas.

Ignacio Ellacuría, the Jesuit priest and rector of the UCA, may have been predicting his own slaying when he wrote that if the university were to make a clear, strong stand for justice, it would suffer persecution. And so it did. Yet his focus was not on what would happen to the privileged Jesuits at the university, but what was already happening to the majority of Salvadorans living in inhuman poverty.

Ellacuría once proposed an exercise of the imagination for this present age of atrocity; an exercise that calls people of good will to step outside their own comfort so that others might simply live:

I want you to set your eyes and your hearts on these people who are suffering so much-some from poverty and hunger, others from oppression and repression. Then, standing before this people thus crucified you must repeat St. Ignatius’ examination from the first week of the [Spiritual] Exercises.

Ask yourselves: What have I done to crucify them? What do I do to uncrucify them? What must I do for this people to rise again?

Now, these many years later, Ellacuría’s questions carry a new urgency for all of us mired in the global “war on terror.” Indeed, we can look in many directions and see people suffering so much from the results of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. We need only turn our gaze toward Fallujah and Ramadi, the pulverized cities of Iraq, once cities of thousands, now shells, their populations scattered to makeshift desert dwellings and refugee camps. How did we contribute-by our taxes, our silence, our timidity-to their crucifixion?

We at the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in Saint Louis, Missouri, have been especially horrified by one particular expression of contemporary “crucifixion,” the brazen use of torture as an instrument of U.S policy. From Bagram Prison in Afghanistan, to Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantánamo in Cuba, the U.S. has scandalized the world with the sickening disparity between our official rhetoric about “liberation” and “democracy” and our operative practices of abuse, humiliation, and torture.

Lest you think crucifixion is merely an antiquated metaphor, consider the story of Manadel al-Jamadi. Taken prisoner in Bagdhad by U. S. Navy Seals, witnesses said he arrived at Abu Ghraib alive, but after a short period of “interrogation” during which his arms were wrenched behind his back and his body hoisted by his wrists into a position known as “Palestinian hanging,” al-Jamadi was soon dead from asphyxiation.

Hannah Arendt instructed us long ago in the utter banality of evil, neatly laying bare the mechanisms of evil’s shockingly everyday quality. So it’s not just-or even primarily-the hands of Lynndie England, but the senators, bureaucrats, military personnel, doctors, lawyers, private contractors, corporate heads, and pundits who all do their part to keep the gears of this U.S. torture machine turning. Evidently wanting to be rid of the terrorist threat once and for all, they are willing to accept “whatever works.” And so they line up in loyalty, from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice dutifully parroting the mantra of “a different kind of war,” to our representatives who will not vote to “tie the president’s hands,” or White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan regurgitating his professions of American rectitude. George Bush himself taunts us all with his recent declaration in Argentina, “We do not torture.”

But we see the victims. What do we do to uncrucify them?

Every morning thousands of commuters head into Raleigh/Durham from the south, traveling along Route 70. Just north of Smithfield they pass the Johnston County Airport, where shielded only by a small grove of trees, Aero Contractors does its duty by participating in our government’s program of “extraordinary rendition.” Aero provides the pilots and planes so teams of CIA agents can snatch terror suspects and fly them to countries with known records of torture where the dirty work will be done for us, or directly to Guantánamo and other “black sites” where we will do it ourselves.

On Friday morning, a group of us (some from St. Louis, several Catholic Workers and others from Raleigh, and Kathy Kelly from Chicago) gathered outside the hangar that houses these CIA “torture taxis” to offer a Litany of Lament and Mourning. The Jewish prophets’ reliance on “the language of grief,” writes Biblical scholar Walter Brueggemann, breaks open “the rhetoric that engages the community in mourning for a funeral they do not want to admit. It is indeed their own funeral.” One by one Friday morning we lamented the torment and death of victims of torture throughout the world while we mourned the death of our own souls as we learn more each day about our own complicity.

We lowered the American flag at Aero to half-staff as a sign of mourning and grief for the suffering caused by the oppression and repression that is U.S. policy.

We also willingly trespassed at Aero Contractors in order to read and present an indictment of Aero’s direct involvement in numerous violations of domestic and international law by its aiding and abetting the torture program of the Bush Administration.

While some of our group held signs and banners along the highway, others delivered copies of the indictment to county officials, calling on them to take action against Aero.

The vibrant movement to close the School of Assassins in Georgia has sought to shine a light on the nefarious U.S. practice of training in torture and terrorism against the Latin American people.

By our actions Friday in North Carolina, we hope to shine a light on what has become the U.S. reliance on torture across the globe. Let’s put our bodies before the wheels of the great machine that crushes Iraqis and Americans both, and to say, “No more!”

We urge you to engage in your own acts of mourning and resistance.

Go to Johnston County. Haunt Aero Contractors. Sit on the runway. Shine the light. Refuse to move.

No more crucifixion. No more rendition. No more torture.

Go to WWW.STOPTORTURENOW.ORG for video and audio accounts of the action.

Mark Chmiel and Andrew Wimmer teach at Saint Louis University and work with the Center for Theology and Social Analysis (www.ctsastl.org). They can be reached at: wimmera@slu.edu

 

Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
Jonah Raskin
What’s Hippie Food? A Culinary Quest for the Real Deal
Raouf Halaby
Give It Up, Ya Mahmoud
Brian Wakamo
We Subsidize the Wrong Kind of Agriculture
Patrick Higgins
Children in Cages Create Glimmers of the Moral Reserve
Patrick Bobilin
What Does Optimism Look Like Now?
Don Qaswa
A Reduction of Economic Warfare and Bombing Might Help 
Robin Carver
Why We Still Need Pride Parades
Jill Richardson
Immigrant Kids are Suffering From Trauma That Will Last for Years
Thomas Mountain
USA’s “Soft” Coup in Ethiopia?
Jim Hightower
Big Oil’s Man in Foreign Policy
Louis Proyect
Civilization and Its Absence
David Yearsley
Midsummer Music Even the Nazis Couldn’t Stamp Out
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail