“In places like Bosnia and El Salvador, Chile and South Africa, East Germany and Argentina, people are struggling to come to terms with their former torturers and enemies. Should they be pardoned? Forgiven? Should they apologize? Be prosecuted? These questions must be answered in different ways in different nations. How much truth a society will tolerate depends largely on the new balance of power.”
There are three unfortunate realities about the ways in which those sentences, from 1997, need to be updated.
- First, we can add “Iraq” and “Guantanamo” to the list of places.
- Second, we can see US military and civilian personnel among the “torturers and enemies;” we can see very high-ranking US official among those who rationalize and approve of such behavior.
- Third, those same people are now included in the large group about whom we must ask questions like, “Should they apologize? Be prosecuted?”
- I guess there’s a fourth. Our society does not seem able to tolerate much truth about our own behaviors and culpability.
Here are a few excerpts from the story of just one of those Iraqis that US forces have tortured. This was last summer. (There are a few pictures accompanying the original article. They are not what is usually called “graphic”, but they are damning and infuriating. The article also includes a picture of Zoman before his experience with the Americans, and information about the impact on his family.)
US troops captured an Iraqi family man on July 21, 2003 only to drop him off at a civilian hospital more than a month later, beaten and in a vegetative state.
…. Although he was unable to recount his story, his body bore telltale signs of torture: what appear to be point burns on his skin, bludgeon marks on the back of his head, a badly broken thumb, electrical burns on the soles of his feet. Additionally, family members say they found whip marks across his back and more electrical burns on his genitalia.
…. The alleged mistreatment of Sadiq Zoman while in US custody came as no surprise to his friends and neighbors. Some of them had returned after having been abducted by US forces with their own stories of terrifying and heartbreaking ordeals.
…. cases like that of Sadiq Zoman suggest the problem may extend beyond the major holding facilities to more remote stations. There unit commanders and military counter-intelligence personnel hold and interrogate Iraqis even before many of the detainees reach prison facilities like the now-infamous Abu Ghraib prison.
Zoman’s family said he was in perfect health before US soldiers took him away. They further insist no firearms, bombs, or other incriminating evidence was ever found by the search that accompanied Zoman’s capture by US troops. They said that when US soldiers entered their home to detain Zoman the front door was smashed in, furniture broken and torn apart, and money, gold and jewelry looted by the troops.
The Army has so far offered no explanation of why the Zoman home was raided or the reason for Zoman’s capture.
And here’s a quote from a US military spokesperson.
“Building the trust, building the relationships between the Iraqis and coalition forces — that is so critical. When you have an instance of a detainee being allegedly abused or treated improperly, that makes us no different than the former regime.” –Major Josslyn Aberle, 4th Inf. Div. Public Affairs Officer
(I was directed to the story by SusanHu’s diary at dailykos.)
Torture is not a way to get information. All you get from the victim of torture is whatever he / she thinks you want to hear. The only justification I can think of for indulging in such calculated and totally unproductive violence is psycho-pathology, socio-pathology, what the Bible calls “sin.” I shouldn’t say it is unproductive; it produces rage in the victim people or nation and advancing spiritual bondage in the torturing regime. It is hatred of the human race made very particular; I believe it is self-hatred projected. It is truly Satanic thinking and behavior.
It is one of the common and very great evils of human history, one of those things from which the Messiah came and comes to bring us deliverance. But now the United States of America is justly seen by the whole rest of the world as just another low-class player in that sick old game.
 Walter Wink, When the Powers Fall: Reconciliation and the Healing of Nations, Fortress Press, 1997, 1998. p vi.