Opinion, by Michael Royster

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Yesterday’s headline news from the U.S. was utterly depressing, if not entirely unexpected. Today’s headline news from Brazil is also utterly depressing, but certainly not unexpected. Both concern official reports showing that torture was an official policy of both governments, routinely used by government officials.

Michael Royster, aka The Curmudgeon.
Michael Royster, aka The Curmudgeon.

The U.S. began its torture policy in 2002, shortly after 9/11 changed the way Americans thought about war. The policy was ended in 2008 by President Obama. Brazil began its torture policy around 1965, shortly after the “Revolution” installed a military dictatorship. The policy was ended around 1979 with the passage of a law granting general amnesty.

Both countries’ military organizations have, for years, mendaciously denied the existence of an official torture policy — these denials have now been buried by the truth. Both countries’ presidents now claim they will never again institute or tolerate such a policy.

In both countries, there have always been those who claim torture was necessary, using the rationalization “the end justifies the means”. In both countries, the end was to “stamp out terrorism”. In both countries, the defenders have claimed that torture was an effective means to achieving the end. In both countries, this week’s official reports show this is arrant nonsense.

Both countries have honorable public figures who expressed their indignation and sadness. Senator John McCain, who was tortured by the Vietnamese, said torture has “stained our national honor”. President Dilma Rousseff, who was tortured by Brazilians, wept while hearing the report.

The citizens of both countries should be immensely proud of both these brave people.

[Full disclosure: The Curmudgeon lived in Brazil from 1968 to 1970, when both McCain and Dilma were being tortured. He is embarrassed to admit he didn’t believe there was any significant torture being carried out in Brazil. He was horrendously wrong.]

The Curmudgeon will emit more Smidgens opportunely.


  1. Hi Curmudgeon,

    I agree with your comments. Do you have any to add as to why these two leaders, who can agree on the abhorrence of torture, yet cannot agree on working better together for the benefit the people of both Brazil and the United States? As far as I am concerned, they are allowing the past to obstruct a fabulous opportunity.

  2. @Danad, the leader of one of the countries has to deal with a whole section of the legislative branch that has repeatedly publicly vowed to do everything in their power to make him look bad and nothing to make him look good.

  3. Torture of human or animal is worst; torture the world over should be banned; once a country is known as torturer, then its universal prestige is dented; that is worst than torture; every member state of the UNO should sign anti-torture treaty and abide by that. I am grateful to the Rio Times for providing me with this opportunity to post my feelings.

  4. Hi Mike, Hameed,
    I agree, torture needs to be eliminated – period. Mike, I also agree that US politics are so polarized that getting much done at the federal level is really hard. However, I don’t think this should stop either party from trying to find solutions that represent the desires of the majority of citizens. If there is any bright part of how the system is currently operating is that extreme positions are not being realized into legislation. Finally, the politicians from both parties sign up to represent us. Unfortunately, the emergent problems we are all facing in the 21st century are larger than the old politicking models and methods have the capacity to solve. They require adaption and some sacrifice by all involved if we are going to get ahead of them. I think to get there, it is going to take some exceptional, innovative leadership.
    Best, Dana


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