We all heard of Abu Ghraib, where prisoners were sadistically abused by U.S. military forces. We were told by our government that these abuses were an aberration conducted by a few rogue soldiers who have sullen the good name of all Americans.
Regardless of the spin the present administration tried to give this story, and the success they had in convincing the nation, some of us continued to insist that Abu Ghraib was part of a systemic process of abuse.
Now we know of Camp Nama and Task Force 6-26, the shadowy American military unit which operates the camp.
The camp, complete with a torture chamber known as the “Black Room,” was, until recently, secretly housed at Baghdad International Airport. Prisoners were repeatedly beaten with rifle butts and used for target practice in a game played by guards called jailer paintball.
Game players dubbed themselves “The High Five Paintball Club.” Under the mantra “No Blood, No Foul,” (that is if they don’t bleed they can’t prosecute), prisoners were, and continue to be, routinely tortured to obtain information about insurgents.
Stories of prisoners punched in the spine until they fall unconscious, or kicked in the stomach until they vomit, or stripped naked and drowsed in ice water in refrigerated rooms, or deprived of sleep via rap music played at deafening decibels are the type of scenes one expects to see in a Nazi war movie where the sadistic Gestapo agent sneers “we have ways of making you talk.”
We do not expect these acts to be conducted by American soldiers whose mission is to let democracy roll! Yet this is the norm for obtaining information even though nothing of any value has been extracted from these prisoners.
Last week television evangelist Pat Robertson said that radical Islam was satanic. I’m reminded of Jesus’ words about first removing the log from one’s own eye before attempting to remove the speck from the eye of the other.
Specifically, I am more concerned with radical Christianity as manifested by the Religious Right, which as wolves in sheep’s clothing, as angels of darkness clothed in light, provide spiritual justification for the anti-Christ acts our nation is presently committing.
When this past January the president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (along with three of his professors) defended the use of torture, they represented the antithesis of Jesus’ mission found in John 10:10, to “give life and give it abundantly.”
To be satanic is to exchange the glory of God for the pride of humans. Religious leaders serve the forces of darkness when they justify death, destruction, torture and thievery with high-sounding words like democracy, liberty and patriotism.
Like the false prophets of old, who prostrated themselves before kings and tickled their ear with flattery so as to carve out for themselves a sphere of power and influence, today’s leaders of the Religious Right have traded serving the Prince of Peace for the emperor of war.
But verily I say unto you, that on that day, many will come before the throne of God saying, “Lord, did we not run mega-broadcasting programs focusing on certain families, did we not purge the seminaries of all wrong thinking Christians, did we not get the Right people to sit on the Supreme Court’s bench?” But the Lord of Hosts will say on to them, “Get away from me you evildoers–for I never knew you.”
Am I being too hard or too judgmental on the Religious Right? Then I double-dog dare the Religious Right to prove me wrong–to demonstrate to the nation that God reigns above W, and not the other way around.
How? By publicly joining me in denouncing this administration for robbing prisoners of their humanity and dignity through torture. By joining me in stating that neither Jesus nor any who would call themselves his disciples would ever condone torture.
That what is occurring at Camp Nama, and those perpetuating these crimes against humanity, those politicians who continue to turn a blind eye to the abuse and those religious leaders who provide Christian justification of the abuses are indeed satanic.
Miguel A. De La Torre is professor of Social Ethics and Latinx Studies at Iliff School of Theology in Denver, Colorado.