Today, as Dr. Maran has so clearly explained, together with people in many other countries, we’re standing up in shared commitment and conscience to say No, Absolutely No, to the illegal and immoral practice of torture, and that the world demands that it stop.
Most especially, for us here in the U.S., we are talking about the illegal and immoral torture that’s been a staple of the U.S. government’s toolkit since 2001, and we’re saying this is a crime against humanity, and it must end — and all those responsible must be held accountable and brought to justice. And as long as this does NOT happen — the government of the U.S. and all other rulers around the world will take it as open permission to keep torturing.
World Can’t Wait gives props to Amnesty International and its Western Regional Office for anchoring this protest today, especially because on such a ceremonial date, some people make it into a bland ceremony-in-itself, a celebration even, abstract from reality. But Amnesty, you hit the mark exactly right, calling us to come together to PROTEST, and to voice the SPECIFIC DEMAND that the full torture report from the Senate Intelligence Committee be declassified and its pages opened to the world.
Six months ago just the executive summary was published, and even there the facts were laid bare. America’s hands are stained with the blood of torture victims, thousands of them, including over a hundred who’ve died under torture. And it’s all been fully approved, organized, and defended from the highest levels of power.
This, we have known, and condemned, for years. Our organizations and thousands of us have not been abstract about this reality. We’ve protested, and shouted out in writing and actions and in full page ads in the NYT, and been arrested, and we’ve kept going for many years. But now the defenders of the RDI program (“Rendition, Detention and enhanced Interrogation”) of Bush and Cheney — which is continued and defended under Obama — face a new wave of worldwide condemnation because of the Senate torture report. Even just from the executive summary alone, nobody can deny that great crimes have been committed. In the name of “keeping Americans safe” great crimes have been committed.
There is also the new exposure of how the CIA violated even its own guidelines on torture, including its performance of “human experimentation” on these prisoners. Who knew? The CIA actually had guidelines about how to do torture, AND knowingly broke them, AND then tried to paper that over by having medical professionals sign off on the torture.
This week a Guantanamo prisoner who has been on continuous hunger strike for 9 years is being ordered released. When he is shipped out, that will leave 115 men still at Guantanamo. 51 of them have been approved for release, all but 8 being Yemenis. Of the 51, 44 have been approved for release since 2009, the other 7 since 2013.
Politically the current administration has a problem: Obama promised to close this prison. It’s still open for business. If there’s no accountability — for the waterboarding, the sadism and brutality of so-called “rectal rehydration” — the deliberate murder of men by freezing, the physical and mental torture driving some into loss of sanity, and others to the heroic defiance of hunger strikes — and don’t forget the supposed “suicides” that reek of official cover-ups and lies —
All of this is already known. We don’t need more exposure to know what is already clear. More “transparency” will only reveal more of what’s already come to light. (Although I do keep wondering what’s in the full report that is so much more damaging to America’s image and/or to culpability at high levels, than what’s in the summary????)
And the torture story is not just the individually criminal acts over days and months and years, against many individuals, whose names the American people are not even supposed to know. The U.S. uses torture to terrorize whole peoples, and the world, not mainly to punish or abuse or seek revenge against individuals. Most of the torture was at least initially secret — but Guantanamo was opened almost as a showplace: to say to the world: American can do anything it wants, to anybody anywhere.
If all of this goes unaccounted and unpunished, while Cheney announces he would repeat these torture policies, and the Senate now piously votes to “ban” torture and permit the Red Cross to visit U.S. detainees anywhere in the world, when its members refuse to open the torture report — and when torture IS ALREADY ILLEGAL —
If the CIA and the whole U.S. government including Congress (who knew about all of this going way back) can get away with all this on the basis of their supposed “legitimacy” —
Then people have to ask: WHAT KIND OF A COUNTRY IS THIS?
This is a country that tortures, that goes to the dark side, that breaks the law and calls itself legal.
The only road towards changing that, toward protecting people everywhere against more of the same — is a power that is going to have to come from the people — demanding it — not coming from above. Until and unless the people here and around the world insist, and resist, the Bushes and Cheneys and Obamas and for that matter the courts and the congress as well, will keep to this road of torture and the lie that powers who torture have legitimacy on their side. This is not acceptable, this is not a world we accept living in.
Stephanie Tang is an activist with the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of World Can’t Wait. This speech was given during the action in San Francisco on the International Day of Solidarity with Victims of Torture on June 26, 2015.