Let's Be Clear: "No Torture" Is a Commitment We Must Make

If you feel torture should be allowed to protect our national interests and therefore we are exempt as a nation, at least do this one thing: read or meet a story of a survivor of torture.
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Governments need to lead the nation the way good drivers operate a vehicle (you may not talk on your cell phone while driving). To avoid trouble, one must look ahead as well as in the rear-view mirror. To neglect either direction will invite serious trouble.

Eric Holder has called for a limited review of the past regarding torture accusations of the CIA. A good decision but not a great decision. Let me try to tell you why.

Governments that torture will inevitably inherit the hatred of people everywhere, and appropriately so. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention is clear in its statement of No Torture. Any government that does not keep that standard before their soldiers, intelligence people and prison guards risks the friendships that decency brings.

Not looking in the mirror when there has been a pattern of torture, or even the torture of one person, is immature denial of a dark past that should not occur again. There needs to be a review, a probe, and a study.

Violators must be chased in each case. I have met more victims of torture and heard more stories than one man should hear. And what I see time and again is this:

First, victims of torture want the torture to stop and second, they want to know who gave the orders.

Who gives the orders to torture? Failing to provide that answer is not an option. Human progress demands answers for Human Rights violations. If you are the father or the mother of a victim, you want and deserve an answer. Democratic governments were made for the good of its citizens. Thus, once torture is alleged, the government must act and dig into the facts of all the violations, not just some.

If you want a moment of despair from which you can escape, ask a survivor of torture what happened to him or her (two separate issues usually). Ask the person when, how did it feel, how long did it last, where did they hurt you, was it once or twice or weeks and months? How did you survive? How did you recuperate? As you ask, watch the eyes, the body reactions, help wipe the tears and the sweat, be prepared to catch one if they fall, watch the fear come and sweep over the room like a tsunami. Suicide often becomes an unseen but real visitor.

Then remember this: Almost all torturers go free. That is the history. A few brave nations are recently trying to turn this fact around: Peru, Argentina, Chile, Rwanda, Bosnia. But the damage torture brings onto the citizens is immense and there is little interest in a real and wide pursuit of justice for the offended. Sixty-three years after the founding of the United Nations the wickedness of torture is alive and well, and spreading. Will this tide of abuse continue?

If you feel torture should be allowed to protect our national interests and therefore we are exempt as a nation, at least do this one thing: read or meet a story of a survivor of torture. Women in particular need to look closely at these stories, for their gender is usually abused for weeks and months by many. 300,000 rapes in the Congo, 30,000 in Bosnia, I could go on, but why?

When the dogs of war are let into the jails, into intelligence meetings and into hidden rooms in hidden countries, cold sweat should come to the back of your neck for any one inside that chamber. If that is your sister, cousin, friend, you will pray and beg God for help. Little relief will come but you will demand the standard of No Torture should be kept and all violators prosecuted, no matter what the President says.

When governments torture, the car is crashing. And, whether you like it or not, the citizens of the U.S. will be implicated in the post-crash police report. It is now time to remove ourselves from this list. By chasing all the violators of people, we begin a process of saying 'no more' once again. Maybe this time we might mean it. The world's decent are looking to see how the U.S. will act. After preaching for years that we are the greatest nation on Earth, isn't it time to prove it?

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