Skip to content

Notes from the Field: 2-9-2011

February 9, 2011

Sparks Amid the Moral Darkness

“January 11, 2011: so begins the tenth year that Americans have lived with the knowledge that theirs is a torture state. On January 11, 2002, the first prisoners arrived at Guantanamo. The initial sight of them, shackled and hooded like a coffle of medieval slaves, was a shock to the system.”
            And so begins JoAnn Wypijewski’s thoughtful lead article in the January 1-15, 2011, issue of CounterPunch. There aren’t any new revelations in this piece, which is written from the perspective of the author’s ongoing cross-country exploration of the state of the nation. Instead, it reflects the sadness and discouragement of anyone who’s been paying attention for the past ten years – and Wypijewski has been paying more attention than most of us: she was one of only two journalists to sit through the entirety of the Fort Hood trials of Abu Ghraib torturers Charles Graner, Sabrina Harman, and Lynndie England.

Wypijewski expresses her feelings to the Reverend Rich Killmer of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and he responds: “There are reasons for being discouraged, of course, but I’ve seen more movement on this issue for a longer time than any other issue I’ve been involved with…It’s going to take a while. It takes everyone a while. Look how long it took to abolish child labor and slavery.”
            She comments: “Killmer is betting, like Dr. King, that the arc of the moral universe really does bend toward justice. It sure is long.” 

JoAnn Wypijewski is an independent journalist who writes for Mother Jones,  The Nation, Harpers,  The New York Times Magazine, Harpers, and other publications as well as CounterPunch. Her article is available with a subscription to CounterPunch.

Doug Johnson to Leave Center
for Victims of Torture at Year-End

The influential Center for Victims of Torture in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has announced that its long-time Director, Douglas A. Johnson, will be leaving the organization at the end of this year. CVT is among the first treatment programs for torture survivors in the United States and, in fact, in the world.
            An early contribution to CVT got me – inevitably – on its mailing list, and reading about its work over the years was a major contributor to my decision to launch production of the film Refuge: Caring for Survivors of Torture. During a visit to CVT in the project’s planning stage, Doug and his staff were welcoming and encouraging, arranging meetings with staff and survivors which helped me enormously in conceptualizing ing the issues involved. During a week-long subsequent visit to interview staff and clients, we also had the privilege of interviewing Doug about CVT’s work, and about the then upcoming Campaign to Ban Torture (see below – an excerpt from that interview can be viewed on our website.)
            Since joining CVT in 1988, Johnson has added an additional treatment center in St. Paul and led the expansion of the group to a major international human rights institution through treatment and training programs in Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere. CVT has provided care for more than 20,000 torture survivors, while also playing a leading role in legislation and advocacy. Johnson played a critical role in the development and passage of the Torture Victims Relief Act which now provides much of the funding for rehabilitation programs in the U.S., and he was a leader in the Campaign to Ban Torture, a bipartisan coalition of more than 200 senior military, intelligence, foreign policy, and faith leaders calling for an executive order banning torture.

“Preventing Torture” Newsletter Ceases Publishing

The newsletter, Preventing Torture Within the Fight Against Terror, which we mentioned in a previous post, was published for the last time in December, 2010. My apologies for not having this information sooner. All past issues are still available on the website of its parent organization, the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims. Subscriptions to the IRCT’s general newsletter are also available.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: