According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word torture means to subject other person to an extremely physical, emotional or psychological cruelty. Another definition from The Istanbul protocol at the 1984’s United Nations Convention against Torture states: “Torture means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in, or incidental to lawful sanction.”
The word may sound distant and perhaps irrelevant but, today, torture looks like an angel, walks like an angel, and talks like an angel; and if we don’t become wise we won’t see the devil in disguise.
Even though governments around the world condemn torture, most of them tolerate the bad treatment of prisoners. When we American citizens, think about torture, images of other countries might come to our mind. We are not able to conceive in our mind the United States as practitioner of torturing methods in history. As we will mention below, in some other countries, torture is very explicit; but that does not mean we are exempt from committing this atrocity. We may be better than other countries regarding torture; but better does not mean exempt from it. Let’s take a look inside ourselves and let’s recognize the torture within our American Nation.
What do the following names have in common? The Maya, Aztecs, Incas and the early Egyptian and Roman bloody cultures, Adolf Hitler, the Nazis and the Holocaust, The Soviet State Security and the Cold War, Rafael L. Trujillo in Dominican Republic, Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro in Cuba, Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Agusto Pinochet’s Regime in Chile, and Jorge Rafael Videla’s Dirty War in Argentina, the Khmer Rougue in Cambodia, the Tupamaros in Uruguay, the Naxalites in India, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, Al-Qaeda, the Holy Inquisition, the Ku Klux Clan, and more… Maybe is the fact that all these names are officially known as or suspected to be torturers. Some of them had or have religious reasons; others political or ethnic/racial reasons. However, they marked history with their inhuman torturing practices. In the past and at present, the United States of America has been involved in wars and conflicts against some of them. Therefore, some Americans had been tortured by them; in other cases they changed roles playing as torturers.
We can’t ignore the historical facts in US history. The torture inflicted by the early Euro-Americans to Native Americans and African slaves in the past for the power beneath possessing lands and gold. Today, the suffering cause to illegal immigrants from all over the world that have come to America seeking economical progress and religious or/and political freedom due to the persecutions, rights violations and families’ separation is happening across the nation. This creates an uncomfortable atmosphere for thousands of illegal and legal immigrants which have led, in many cases, to psychological and emotional problems, including thousands of children.
As of April 2007 in the present “war against terrorism” the death toll is around 100,000 Iraqis and 3,500 Americans, including Latin American soldiers. Yet, we can’t forget about Americans and the Cold War, where they highly condemned “gulags” or “…the set of procedures that prisoners once called the “meat-grinder”: the arrests, the interrogations, the transport in unheated cattle cars, the forced labor, the destruction of families, the years spent in exile, the early and unnecessary deaths”. Today, the American “Black Sites” is the synonym of the word gulag adapted to modern times.
Another example is the assassination of the Archbishop Oscar Romero. It is believed that his assassins were members of Salvadorian death squads, directed by two graduates of the U.S. School of the Americas. “To defeat the rebels, the US equipped and trained an army which kidnapped and disappeared more than 30,000 people, and carried out large-scale massacres of thousands of old people women and children. US officials say that President Bush senior’s policies set the stage for peace, turning El Salvador into a democratic success story. However, it took more than 70,000 deaths and mass human rights violations, before peace was reached”.
The US government has sponsored a school which train people to torture others in order to obtain information. The School of the Americas (SOA), an institution which name changed to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHISC or WHINSEC) has a $10 million budget, funded by the US Army and by tuition fees, usually paid through the International Military Education and Training (IMET) grants, the International Narcotics Control (INC) assistance programs, or through the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program. This institution is also known as “The School of the Assassins” because some of its graduates include Victor Rojas, Fulgencio Batista, Augusto Pinochet, Robert Mugabe, Vladimiro Montesinos, Guillermo Rodríguez, Omar Torrijos, Roberto Viola and Roberto D’Aubuisson. All of whom are suspected or known to have committed acts of torture. SOA or WHISC is being sponsored by the US, directed by the US, and educated by the US. In fact, the WHISC is criticized because of the use of two manuals that state how a soldier must torture. These Manuals are “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation,” and “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983,” Both manuals were made by the U.S. military and used between 1987 and 1991 for intelligence training courses at the U.S. Army School of the Americas (SOA). Both teach how to use torture in different ways. “Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual – 1983,”, in the chapter about Control defines it as: “The capacity to cause or change certain types of human behavior by implying or using physical or psychological means to induce compliance. Compliance may be voluntary or involuntary. Control can rarely be established without control of the environment. By controlling the subject’s physical environment, we will be able to control his psychological state of mind.”
It seems we have been controlled by the US in a way that our memory forgets these atrocities…We need to change the fact that we are becoming robots, automatons that do not think about our society because it makes us to believe that we are living in heaven with angels leading us. America, like other civilizations and cultures, needs to be watched and criticized in order to reduce or eliminate torture. It is proved by history that humans, since we got “civilized”, have used torture as a mechanism to obtain something Also it is proved that the United States also use torture. Lets not try to hide the sun with our hand; perspective may fool us.
“Crawl motherfucker! Crawl!” A video of naked men crawling on the floor, in response to an order from American guards was broadcasted on local TV channel in the USA. These images are now seen around the world via the Internet. If I asked you to guess, where this atrocity happened, what would you say? Guantanamo Bay? Abu- Ghraib? What if I said in the United States of America? Would you believe me? I could understand if you didn’t. In fact, that’s what our great nation wants us to believe, in order to keep this “civilized and ethical” society. The US government, along with its broad communications system and other private organizations, creates a false atmosphere where cruelties such as torture do not happen. However, a documentary called America’s Brutal Prisons directed by Nick London and reported by Deborah Davies gives clear evidence of the shameful situation in some of our jails. Scenes where prison inmates are brutalized, often for minor infractions, with stun guns, by attack dogs, dangerous restraining devices, chemical sprays and even by guards. Our prison system, whose primary goal is to rehabilitate the prisoner, forgets the dignity and integrity that a prisoner has as a human. This dignity is inalienable and does not disappear even if the prisoner committed any terrible crime. Sadly, some of these tortures lead to death. And worse; most of these violent incidents against prisoners are never publicly known. As we all know, the United States of America is influential around the world. Recent, photos of torture by the U.S. soldiers at Abu-Ghraib are the clear evidence of their inhumanity. However I want to briefly put aside the international USA torture issues to make a parenthesis and hang on within the U.S. a little bit more. I want to address a more personal issue. Torture is a fascination for most of the U.S. citizens; the movies are the best way to satisfy the masses. “I learned about America by going to the movies.” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about his boyhood in Austria. In many ways, so do all of us. But, have we thought of what are we learning? The Most popular movies are rated R for Restricted (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). A good example is the movie Hostel, (Eli Roth’s gore-fest about young Americans who become unwilling subjects of a pay-to-torture service during a pleasure trip to Europe) grossing $19.6 million in 2,195 theaters  around the US in its first weekend. Roth told Box Office Mojo: “People want their horror to be horrific. They don’t want it to be safe.” Of course blockbuster movies like Hannibal, Saw, and Cabin Fever are not exceptions. One of the best examples is the best R rated movie, according to the Box Office Mojo lifetime movies list, The Passion of the Christ (2004) which since the year released, has grossed $370,782,930 million dollars lifetime gross. This movie is not only first in its category but 11th in all-time US Domestic Grosses. Directed by Mel Gibson, the movie narrates the story of Jesus Christ’s flagellation, portraying raw details of his torture and assassination on a cross.
Similarly, TV is being rocked by countless programs that evoke torture; sometimes in an explicit way, others in a very subtle way, however this images are corrupting our children; the future of our nation. The World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) plays a cultural role in the weekly entertaining torture, giving us a blast to the past to the Roman Empire’s gory events at the stadium for people’s entertainment. With millions of fans, the WWE raised torture to another level when wrestlers, seeking fame, compete in hardcore matches where getting knocked out with hammers or burning the opponent on fire is part of the fare. The WWE sub-division wrestling company Extreme Championship Wrestling (ECW) focuses on such matches. Independent companies like Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) are part of the bloody feast competition. Talking about competitions, the Internet, TV’s worse enemy, has led the race of mind corruption with the ability of sharing information worldwide. Web Pages, focusing on photos of dead people, video pod casts of people self torturing, evoking masochism as a funny thing, are spreading the ”beautiful” and ”entertaining” torture around the world. Of all the photos shared via Internet, the horrible photos from Abu Ghraib of the U.S. military torturing detainees are among the famous. These photos reflect sexual depravation and the abuse of military authority; in this case, from the U.S. The sexual depravation seen today also can be seen in rape. According to the Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture, rape is highly considered as torture. In 1995, USA child protective service agencies identified 126,000 children who were victims of either substantiated or indicated sexual abuse; of these, 75% were girls. Nearly 30% of child victims were between the ages of 4 and 7. In our culture we also consider other activities as torturous, such as work, traffic, or any situation that creates any stressful or uncomfortably atmosphere. This kind of torture cannot compare to the kind of torture presented before, still is considered as torture to some professionals. Now, let’s close our parenthesis, sponsored by the USA. Ironically, the USA is a party to a variety of treaties against torture such as The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) ratified by the American nation in 1992, as well as the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment which was ratified in 1994. Article #7 of the ICCPR states that ”No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment” This is a notorious contradiction. USA atrocities have led them to be monitored by organizations like the Human Rights Watch, The International Committee of the Red Cross, The United Nations and Amnesty International. The Washington Post, trying to awake, American’s conscience about this scandalous and shameful situation, reports what became one of the most controversial accusations to the USA government, specifically to the CIA, The White House, The US Military and even the former President George W. Bush. This report included a hair-raising testimony from an Iraqi detainee on Abu-Ghraib; “Then [the guard] brought a box of food and he made me stand on it, and he started punishing me. Then a tall black soldier came and put electrical wires on my fingers and toes and on my penis, and I had a bag over my head. Then he was saying “which switch is on for electricity?”
This article also alleges that the CIA maintains secret detention centers at military bases in Central European countries. Known as Black Sites, these places around the world are probably, according to The Washington’s Post, torturing or mistreating al-Qaeda detainees. Former Director of the CIA, Porter Gross reacted to the article saying that the media leaks about allies helping the CIA in capturing and interrogating detainees may provoke terrorist attacks in reprisal. He also said ”so we have to within the law and within all requirements of our professional ethics in this profession, develop agility. And that means putting a lot of judgment in the hands of individual overseas.” Did Porter mean he agrees with the CIA’s practice of rendition? Whether the answer is a “yes” or a “no”, rendition is being used by the CIA and to me, Porter’s reaction sounds a lot like rendition. An example of this “legal, professional and ethical strategy” is the case of Abu Omar, who was picked up off the street in Milan and flown (via Germany) to a “Black Site” in Egypt, where he was held for fourteen months and tortured. Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay are part of the Black Sites; as well as other countries. Black sites are suspected in countries like Thailand, Afghanistan, Egypt, Jordan and Morroco. What is happening in those places today? We certainly don’t know; but what we do know is that if we don’t start looking for additional information about what’s happening worldwide, lose our human sensibility and feelings, ending up approving such tortures. Whether torture happens on our soil or not, it is being conducted by our government in our name. Torture should not be tolerated anywhere. It is possible to end torture. Today, there are world judicial forums and ways to abolish it. Methods to investigate and verify torture also exist. What is needed, to permanently abolish torture, is the political will from the governments. It’s as simple and as hard as that. However, people’s consideration about this issue is more important. Our nation is composed by the people; the people are our nation. If we want to change our nation, people need to change; in order to change people we must start with ourselves. Knowledge is the only way that we can exorcise our nation from the devil on disguise.
Istanbul protocol is available at http://www.unhchr.ch/pdf/8istprot.pdf.
 Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Child Maltreatment, 1995
 Ivonne Moreno-Velázquez, PhD, El Trabajo en el Siglo XXI: Disfrute o Tortura. 24 de agosto de 2006
Periódico El Nuevo Día.
 This technique is said to be “a standard torture. It’s called the ‘
Vietnam’. But it’s not common knowledge. Ordinary American soldiers did this, but someone taught them.” Darius Rejali, quoted in The Roots of Torture, Newsweek, 24 May 2004.
 Abdou, 16 January 2004. Statement given to US military investigators. Obtained by The
Washington Post. http://media.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/world/iraq/abughraib/18170.pdf.
 Abducting people and flying them to countries where they can be interrogated without having to worry about whether any
US law is being broken.
 Italy Charges CIA Agents By John Crewdson, Tom Hundley and Liz Sly, Tribune correspondents
Published in the Chicago Tribune, June 25, 2005 http://www.serendipity.li/cia/cia_milan_kidnap.htm