Patriot

Posted by Ellen

This month's Patriot of the Month–shown above at left, with his brothers–is none other than our own Ted Stein, as proclaimed by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

Ted was honored for his work with the Center for Torture Accountability, an organization he founded two years ago as "a way to shame torturers and hold them accountable at a cultural level even if our government isn't holding them legally accountable."

The critical importance of a culture of accountability became evident to Ted when he learned of efforts by torture survivors in Argentina to bring stories of torture to the attention of the public, so that even when the government failed to prosecute, everyone would know that there were torturers living among them. Stories about the torturers showed up on walls all over town, and posters made the torturers' faces well known to the public at large.

It occurred to Ted that the internet could be used for similar purposes in the United States. We have torturers in midst, men and women who as part of our government, tortured thousands, likely tens of thousands, of people in the name of the fight against terrorism. We have tortured prisoners to death in some cases. Many victims of our torture have had no personal association with terrorism; they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, or were turned in by bounty-hunters. Some of them were children. Some of the acts of torture inflicted upon them are the same as actions for which we executed Nazis after World War II.

The Center for Torture Accountability attempts to make the American public understand the horror of what the government has done in our name, by ensuring that the stories of government-sponsored torture show up front and center in internet searches. The goal is to make sure that the names of torturers, and of the people who organized the American torture regime, will be forever associated in the public sphere with the deeds they did.

Torture and torturers thrive, observes Ted, in cultures of impunity; torture stops when the culture becomes one of accountability. We may wait a long time for the government to hold its torturers to legal accountability, but in the meantime all of us can begin the hard work of changing our overall culture, so that torturers are no longer accepted as good citizens or welcomed in decent society.

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