The Torture Report: Reflections by Phyllis Rodriguez

October 18, 2019

Revisiting the Loss of My Son and its Aftermath

The Report evoked painful memories and deep emotion in me. It is a reminder of the loss of my son, Gregory on 9/11/01. He was 31 and worked for Cantor Fitzgerald on the 103rd floor of the North Tower of the WTC. His death and the manner of it left scars that will never heal completely and are easily pricked. That is why, on Saturday, September 14, 2019, I attended a screening of The Report in Manhattan with great trepidation.

The film speaks of our government’s secret policy of condoning torture of suspected Muslim extremists. This took place in “Black Sites” as a tactic to get information or confessions from these men, despite the fact that it violates the UN Declaration of Human Rights and has never been shown to succeed. It also shows us stooping to a very low level of behavior.

In some scenes there are graphic re-enactments of some of the brutal treatment meted out to “suspected” Islamic extremists. They are graphic representations of techniques used in “Black Sites” between 2001 to 2006(?). The purpose of this inhumane treatment was to get information and/or confessions from Muslim men taken into US custody on the basis of questionable informants in the Middle East. These dramatizations are very disturbing; I closed my eyes and ears trying to shut them out. I dislike gratuitous violence, but these scenes belong there and, I think, are necessary to show the public what was done in all our names and covered up for so many years.  I felt anger, physical revulsion and shame. Sorrow for the suffering of my fellow human beings and for the fact that my son and thousands of other victims’ family members were being used to justify such behavior. Shame that the leaders of my country condoned such behavior in violation of the US Constitution and the UN Human Rights Charter. These scenes make a strong statement about the dark and dirty things our government did and is capable of doing again if not stopped. But in spite of it all, I still fervently hope for peace and justice.

The use of torture isn’t the way to obtain information or confessions. This is a proven fact. So why would we condone its use? Any testimony is tainted if obtained by torture or “enhanced interrogation” and would be inadmissible in a court of law.  The five alleged masterminds of the attacks are being tried before a military tribunal on the Naval base in Guantanamo. They face capital charges. This issue of torture or coerced testimony isn’t automatically discarded as in Federal court. But nevertheless, is extremely important in capital cases. Jury trials – preferably in federal court – are the way to go. In this way we would be able learn what motivated 19 men to sacrifice their lives for their cause.

Soon after the attacks, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows was formed on February 14, 2002 by a group of families of victims opposed to military retaliation against Afghanistan as revenge for the attacks on our soil by Muslim extremists. Osama bin Laden, head of Al Qaeda, was believed to be in Afghanistan at his headquarters or hiding out in a cave.  I believed, along with other members of Peaceful Tomorrows, that such a response would only make the situation worse, not only for the US and Afghanistan, but the Middle East and beyond. The axiom that violence begets more violence has been proven. Since that fateful day in 2001, it has disturbed and upset me that even now, 18 years later, the attacks are used to justify military incursions without congressional approval, curtailing free speech, animosities between people of different races, dress styles, opinions and lifestyles.  The world is not safer now than it was then, but less safe and there is more fear. I guess we were prescient. The creation and release of The Senate Torture Report was courageous and upheld our nation’s “right to know” what our government is doing.

It makes me very sad that the death of my son and thousands of others didn’t bring about a more cooperative, less brutal and peaceful world. Losing him is the worst thing that ever happened to my immediate and extended families and I don’t want it to be the rationale for causing suffering by mothers and families in other countries.

Phyllis Rodriguez
Mother of Gregory E. Rodriguez and Member of September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Filed in: Guantanamo, Guantanamo & Military Commissions, Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez, Restoring Rule of Law, Torture and Challenges to Human Rights, Trauma and Healing, Voices of Peaceful Tomorrows

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