American tortures evoke painful memories

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Brenda Norrell (Southwest Staff Reporter/Indian Country Today) writes on how U.S. tortures elicit painful memories in Indian country.

American Indians said apologies would not erase the tortures in Iraq and President Bush should be held responsible for leading America into a groundless war.

“It seems like white people are the worst savages,” said Bessie Taylor, Navajo from Ch’ooshgai Mountain on the Navajo Nation in New Mexico.

After viewing the photograph of a female soldier holding a leash tied around the throat of a naked Iraqi, Taylor said the female soldier should be dragged in the same manner. “She probably doesn’t know what it feels like to be tortured.”

After Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld apologized for the abuses in Iraq, Taylor said, “An apology is nothing. What does an apology do for you – nothing.”

Taylor said Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Rumsfeld should be held responsible for the tortures in Iraq. “They were so eager for this war, now look what has happened. President Bush is responsible for leading America into this war. He is responsible for this. This war was about oil and making Bush’s friends rich.”

Taylor questioned why the United States is fighting the war in Iraq, since there were no weapons of mass destruction and no links to those responsible for the attacks on 9/11.

Jose Garcia, Tohono O’odham from the border region of Sonora, Mexico, said, “Usually when the United States says it wants justice, it winds up doing the same thing it accuses the other country of doing.” Garcia said torture and abuse is not just happening in Iraq.

Garcia pointed out that millions of dollars given by the United States to the government of Mexico to fight the so-called war on drugs is actually being used to torture and execute indigenous people in Mexico and elsewhere in Central and South America.

Garcia was a member of numerous indigenous human rights delegations to the highlands of Chiapas during the 1990s, when Mayans were being executed by the Mexican military with U.S.-issued ammunition.

“It still goes on today and not just in Chiapas. It happens in Brazil, Peru, Colombia and everywhere in Central and South America, where ever there is resistance to U.S. enterprises.”

Garcia said there is no serious U.S. led “war on drugs.” It is all politics and rhetoric. “Right now we see lots of drugs crossing into the United States. The ‘war on drugs’ is just words.” Residents living along the border from California to Texas, say drugs flow like water. In fact it is easier to find drugs than it is to find clean drinking water.

Taylor and Garcia, both indigenous elders, questioned if history would have been different if there had been photos and videos of the brutal tortures and executions of indigenous peoples in Central and South America. Since the 1970s, indigenous defending their land and families have been dismembered, raped, executed, their tongues cut out and others thrown from aircraft. The tortures and murders were carried out by Latin military officers trained at the U.S. School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Ga.

Torture and deception by those in power has been going on far longer.

“This oppression has been going on for 500 years. They have eliminated entire tribes over the years,” Garcia said.

Renee Still Day, American Indian activist living in Pueblo, Colo., said Bush’s war in Iraq has increased the risk of terrorism.

“We are in more danger from terrorism than ever before and the whole world hates our country with justification. Bush has put us in the most dangerous position we have ever been in.”

Still Day said Bush should be held responsible for the tortures.

“I would certainly hold Bush responsible for the actions in the Iraqi prisons. His attitude and aggressive war stance paved the way for just such abuses. His ‘good old boy’ way of doing things – shoot now and ask questions later – may have appealed to many right-wing conservatives, but I wonder now, how these good Christian people will explain away the
atrocities committed by our own?

Still Day said racism and religious intolerance is the basis for the tortures and the legacy of U.S. oppression.

“For those who still consider themselves the ‘moral majority’ and so righteous, how will they explain the widespread torture and murder of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of our troops? Is it because they aren’t Christian, does that make them less than human in their eyes? That is certainly the rationale that was used when annihilating the indigenous peoples of this continent.”

In Colorado, Denver police kept spy files on American Indian leaders, Indian attorneys, supporting senators and peace activists for 30 years. Now, she points out, the Patriot Act and Homeland Security threaten the fiber of American democracy and Americans rights to privacy and free speech.

“It seems whenever the tactics of this administration have been challenged, our civil liberties are denied. The administration openly threatens and attacks anyone who doesn’t agree with Bush and they clearly abuse anyone who advocates for peace as ‘anti-American.'”

Still Day said the Bush administration would be cranking out its media spin, their manipulation and control of the facts, images and reactions.

“This is still an illegal war, going after Iraq was clearly the wrong move, since they had nothing to do with 9/11, nor did they have weapons of mass destruction. There is no good argument to support this president, but it will be interesting to see how creative their answers will be when they try to explain this one away. Who will they try to put the blame on this time?”

Still Day said instead of waiting for Bush’s apology, Americans should go to the polls. “It will only stop with Bush, if we make it stop with him. If we, the people of this country are so blind and so completely absent of intelligence that we vote him back in office, then we get just what we deserve, four more years of mismanagement, abuse, torture and raping of this earth and its people.”

After Rumsfeld’s statement and apology concerning the tortures, Taylor said it is frightening to think of him in a decision-making role. She said the image of Americans has dipped to a new low around the world. “It is ruined and people will be afraid to travel to other countries

Taylor, however, thanked the media for exposing the truth in Iraq.

“You are real heroes. God bless. Whoever you are, good luck to you. Thank you for bringing us the real news again.”

This article can be found here.


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