The world in 2005, as now, was at war. In the thick of it, my government, powered by perhaps the greediest men who ever walked the face of the Earth. The wars were external, in foreign lands, but internal as well, against the very citizens our government was charged with protecting.
At that time, as now, my country–Land of the Free–routinely spied on its citizens, listening in on our telephone calls, intercepting our e-mails, videotaping our every movement, and perusing our bank accounts and credit cards at will.
While they undermined and outright stole our civil liberties–a thievery that only worsened despite a 2008 change of party and power in the White House–our leaders declared war on two countries in the name of democracy and freedom. We counted our dead in Afghanistan and Iraq weekly in single and double digits. The Afghans and Persians counted theirs in the hundreds.
Most of us knew the real reason for choosing to fight those particular wars: Our insatiable thirst for oil. Then, to our horror, we discovered our government routinely tortured its prisoners of war, violating our own laws an international laws to which we had agreed.
Equally alarming, under the guise of protecting its citizens, the United States government paid mercenaries in foreign lands to turn in their friends, acquaintances and enemies for cash. All they had to do to win this US lottery was make a claim that an individual might be a terrorist plotting to harm Americans. Whether there was evidence to back these claims seems to have been irrelevant, and hundreds, perhaps thousands of men, women and children were detained for years without counsel or rights.
Some were tortured, breaking our own and international laws. Witness first-hand accounts from former Guantanamo Bay prisoners in this American Civil Liberties Union video. Sometimes the video doesn’t show up here; if you don’t see it below, you can watch it on YouTube.
Some of these prisoners were tortured unto death. Some who survived were lost to their families and loved ones, possibly forever. Many known innocent victims remain in the custody of our government to this day. No country wants them. Because of what we’ve done to them, our own people fear them and refuse to take them. And now, one of the officials who oversaw that torture, a woman, has been named by our current president, a man who apparently believes torture a good thing, to head the CIA.
Brokenhearted to discover such tragedies occurring again and again in my country, the Land of the Free, I struggled then and continue to struggle to find ways to cope with the horror. Back then I participated in a few peace marches, but felt shattered when too many marching with me carried signs and shouted slogans advocating violence, even death, against the warmongers and torturers. How can more violence bring peace, I asked? There has to be another way.
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