“If you see Zero Dark Thirty, take twenty minutes and see this movie too.” That was one of the messages the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT) president Linda Gustitus shared at Tuesday’s screening of “Ending U.S.-sponsored Torture Forever” at Takoma Park DC’s “Electric Maid.”
The video (shown above) is part of NRCAT’s “Fact not Fiction” campaign prompted by the release of “Zero Dark Thirty,” a movie that many feel presented torture as justifiable and effective when it was neither. Over a dozen people gathered at the Electric Maid to watch the NRCAT video on Tuesday evening, and then joined in an excellent discussion led by Ms. Gustitus.
Ms. Gustitus is a former chief of Staff to Armed Services Committee Chairman Senator Carl Levin (MI). She teaches at American and Georgetown Universities and has been the president of NRCAT since 2007. In her opening remarks, she explained that NRCAT’s number one priority is to get a commission of inquiry about detainee treatment after 9/11, and to hold wrongdoers accountable. She continued,
“The best option we have for that right now is the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has done a three year investigation into the torture program, and come out with a bipartisan 6,000 page document that apparently, according to those people who have seen it, is very thorough and very compelling. […] We’re trying to get that released to the public. There’s a big push on the CIA’s side to keep it confidential and classified.”
Readers can add their names to the NRCAT “A Call For the Facts” petition urging the release of this report. NRCAT also opposes prolonged solitary confinement as amounting to “Torture in U.S. prisons.” Ms. Gustitus noted “there’s no other country that uses prolonged solitary confinement like the United States,” with an estimated 36,000 prisoners in prolonged solitary confinement at any given moment. Finally, identifying Islamophobia as a contributing factor to the U.S. practice of torture in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, NRCAT participates in a “Shoulder to Shoulder” coalition to foster relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims.
After Ms. Gustitus’s remarks, the subsequent discussion was excellent and touched on a number of important points and references, such as…
- the recent Open Society report “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” which documents the complicity of many other governments with U.S.-sponsored torture since 9/11.
- the fact that U.S. torture practices were copied from North Korea via the KUBARK program — yet North Korean practices were designed to elicit false confessions for propaganda purposes, not useful intelligence.
- the smaller percentage of young people who absolutely reject torture compared to older people; on the other hand, wavering and sometimes disappointing post-9/11 US opinions on torture may be influenced by “false consensus” — the belief that many more people support torture than actually do.
- opposition within the military and ex-military to torture, highlighting Human Rights First work with ex-military in this regard
- …and more
The NRCAT video “Ending U.S.-Sponsored Torture Forever” video, Ms. Gustitus’s opening remarks, and the ensuing discussion can be viewed in a single playlist on our YouTube channel “Montgomery County Civil Rights.”