Week of Pride and Shame - by
Cat Garlit Bucher
I was so proud of Texans this
week, when citizens came together to donate
and pack medical supplies for tsunami survivors.
Within days, Austin College students personally
delivered to a Bangkok non-governmental organization
more than $10,000 of donated medicines and wound
care supplies, and $4000...thanks to the generosity
of their larger community.
I was proud of the conscientiousness of donors
who, in their passion for Southeast Asia, did
not redirect their dollars away
from local charities. After all, the local Red
Cross is a different entity than either the
U.S. Red Cross or the International Red Cross.
I wish we could extend our remarkable
compassion into critical thinking about others
hurting in the world -including Darfur, Sudan;
but also including "unintended" victims
of our U.S. government's aggression.
We need to push ourselves to experience that
paradox of "both/and." While helping
the 150,000+ who died in the tsunami, we need
to struggle with the ethics of 100,000+ innocent
civilians killed in Iraq (thousands more in
Afghanistan) as "collateral damage"
to the U.S. government's foreign policy, and
remember that the Fallujah story is not just
We need to be able to mourn with the innocents
of large cities our military forces have destroyed.
We need to hear victims' anger about U.S. subcontractors
being paid to rebuild Fallujah (instead of locals
being compensated to rebuild their own city),
anger we seldom hear about in U.S. newscasts.
Do we realize our laws dictate that up to 90%
of "relief aid" dollars actually must
be spent with U.S.-owned companies? If we could
wrestle with these real-life dilemmas, we might
be able to express support of our troops in
ways which protect and heal them, including
grieving with them when they are ordered into
situations and behaviors which terrorize and
kill civilians. Are we really ready for the
counseling many will need upon return?
Then, we might be competent to participate in
what has become (thankfully) a national discussion
It is no surprise that Senator John Cornyn introduced
Whilte House Legal Advisor Alberto Gonzalez
at the U.S. attorney general confirmation hearings
this week. After all, while Texas Attorney General,
Cornyn presented Texas' Outstanding Lawman of
the Year award to Tom Coleman for work in Tulia,
Texas. As deputy sheriff of Tulia, Coleman catapulted
the town into international human rights notoriety
as an example of "drug stings" in
Texas which sent amazing numbers of minorities
to jail based on no physical evidence, and uncorroborated
notes/names Coleman "wrote on his knee."
Thankfully, there were citizens in Tulia
and throughout Texas who voiced their conscience
and behaved their activism, so that those
prisoners were (three years later) pardoned
by Governor Perry. Citizen activists also helped
change Texas laws so that physical evidence
and corroborated non-police testimony are now
necessary before sending folks to jail (police
testimony still needs no corroboration).
But in the meantime, Tulia, Texas has become
an international byword for racist juries and
flaws in the U.S. "war on drugs."
Cornyn's excuse was that he "didn't know"
Coleman's background. Currently, the jury selection
process has started for Coleman's trial on purjury
Does Cornyn also "not know" Gonzalez'
track record for "reinterpreting"
(overturning) U.S. military codes of conduct
which have been in place since George Washington
led revolutionary forces against the British?
Does Cornyn "not know" about the letters,
signed by many retired U.S. generals and admirals,
stating that Gonzalez' policy interpretations
generated memoranda which put our soldiers in
grave danger? Is Cornyn not familiar with the
FBI "torture memos" about "abuses"
in Guantamo which resulted from Gonzalez' interpretations?
Last summer, I sat in the U.S. embassy in Bogota,
Colombia, talking with embassy staff about the
harm Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo "interrogation
practices" had done to their international
credibility. With 16 other U.S. citizens in
a Presbyterian Peace Fellowship delegation,
I saw the U.S. political officer hang his head
and groan, while the human rights officer admitted
his ability to speak against Colombian human
rights abuses had been nullified by the Abu
In the weeks since visiting churches and displaced
persons camps in Colombia, I have followed the
history of almost daily civilian massacres committed
in that country, mainly by paramilitary forces.
Most paramilitaries are military soldiers moonlighting
in private "security" armies. There
was another civilian massacre in Colombia on
Christmas day, and more since then. Much of
this industrialized killing was accomplished
with U.S.-manufactured military equipment which
the Rand Corporation has reported takes only
three days to move from military to paramilitary
Do we care about the 7% of Colombian civilians
displaced since our government started Plan
Colombia? Do we know that Colombia is the
third largest recipient of U.S. military aid
(after Israel and Egypt), or are we too busy
collecting paychecks and tax money from for-profit
Texas-based private oil companies whose Colombian
pipelines U.S.soldiers protect (paid by our
tax dollars)? Do we talk about the Texas-based
private companies who build the helicopters
and guns with which massacres are committed
(guns often bought at Texas gun shows)? Do we
care that Texas subcontractors are recruiting
from Latin American former paramilitary to supply
their "security forces" in Iraq who
will provide "security" in our name?
If we can't face what is happening to the international
human victims of the U.S. addiction to war,
can we at least advocate for the sons and daughters
we are sending to do this work? Can we at least
back the military generals who appeal to us
for a strong stand against even the hint of
torture, so our sons and daughters will not
be treated likewise if they fall under the control
of other countries or their citizens?
As someone who has worked in therapeutic contexts
with survivors of state-sponsored torture, I
have witnessed that that there is no such thing
as "torture lite," and that especially
the non-physical, psychological techniques used
to "break down" individuals renders
permanent personality destruction and even physical
harm. Most CIA professionals agree torture does
not render reliable intelligence, but instead
is about terrorizing the surrounding population
into submission... deja vu Abu Ghraib.
Nationally known psychologist/author/broadcaster
Dr. James Dobson (Focus on the Family) this
week threatened U.S. legislators who stand in
the way of President Bush's judiciary nominees
(such as Gonzalez). Like other people of power
who do not allow voices of dissent or criticism
in their midst, Dobson may have lost his way.
Brainwashed by Rove Rhetoric, scarred by situation
ethics, and blind to the abhorrent behaviors
which have (predicted by Secretary of State
Powell) led not to "abuse," but to
anti-Christian and anti-human violations of
the Convention Against Torture (which was ratified
by the U.S. Congress), perhaps "family
counselor" Dobson has forgotten that when
dealing with domestic violence OR international
violence alike, it is behavior that counts;
intentions and rhetoric should be irrelevant
to decisions about awarding future responsibility.
The essence of the Gonzalez nomination is about
holding accountable the intellectual authors
of policies which led to behaviors, predictable
or not. It isn't any different than "family
systems" psychology, which holds those
in authority accountable for creating the systems
which impulse harmful behavior in other family
Gonzalez and Cornyn's past behavior/choices
do not inspire confidence. Gonzalez' answers
to senators this week have been appallingly
If we really care about the safety and
integrity of our troops, if we really care about
having Texans we can be proud of in the national
and international spotlight, if we have any
comprehension of how U.S. government sanction
of torture makes torturers of us all, we'll
be on the phone immediately to Senators Kay
Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn, objecting
to the confirmation of Alberto Gonzalez as Attorney
General of the United States of America.
Cat Garlet Bucher lives in Sherman,
Texas with her husband Henry. They are both
third-generation mission worker to Latin America,
were active in starting the Center for Survivors
of Torture in Dallas. Cat is active in Presbyterian
peacemaking as well.