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Chapter 16: The Commissioner

Through all the noise and catcalling, I was able to record Commissioner Torres’ “testimony:’

"My name is Leo Torres and I was put in charge of the Amarillo Project before anything else happened. I want to make sure that it is known that I oppose military intervention here. There’s been too much bloodshed already. There shouldn’t have been any.

'Right now, our project represents a failure of the revolutionary process, and I am the guilty leader of that process and that failure.
The project was designed by our revolutionary leaders to alleviate from society a kind of crime that not even the highest ideals and most dedicated activity can curtail – crimes committed by those who have lost their connection to humanity. I am referring to the victims of addictive drugs whose addiction has become their singular goal in living. Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t stop being criminals and could never find a place in a society where everyone respects everyone’s rights.

'If someone checked the progress of the Amarillo project against its intentions, they would conclude that we were a resounding success. There hasn’t been a lot of data yet, but the data we have seen was very reaffirming. A few addicts seem to have been rehabilitated and have returned to society with the intention of being sober and responsible citizens. A great many others have died, which is neither a measure of our success nor of our failure. Probably the same ones and even more of them would have died if they hadn’t come to Amarillo.

'The purpose of the plan had very little to do with what happened within the area of our project. The purpose was to alleviate crime in the rest of the country, and early data indicates that we were successful in that. Crime, especially the kinds of thievery and destruction associated with drug addiction, seems to be lessening in the whole population as more and more hopeless addicts found their way to our project. We on the staff were rather pleased with this early data before we realized that we had also made a fatal mistake.

'I’ll take the blame for it, not because the original plan was mine nor because the staff and I didn’t carry out the plan well, but because I should have recognized the problem long before we found ourselves desperately besieged by an irresponsible mob of local citizenry. I didn’t. I failed in my duties as an administrator. Worse, I failed as a member of the ongoing revolution. I could try to share that failure with everyone else who didn’t see the problem, but it wasn’t their responsibility to guide the Amarillo Project. It was mine.

'Military intervention would only compound the mistake I made. I don’t know that my opinion will have any weight at all with the military forces that are said to be gathering nearby. But if it does, I beg them to stay away.

'The military leaders might argue that no small part of this society we’re living in and trying to improve should have the right to overthrow a project designed for the general good of all. I could see that argument, and in fact I’ve followed it since I first became involved with this revolution. The good of all takes precedence.

'That’s exactly where we went wrong. We focused only on the good of all in our brave new society when we should have also considered the good of each.

'The Amarillo Project was conceived and executed with very little consideration for and almost no input from the local people. It’s a mistake we make all the time. If we had done this right, local people would have been involved from the very initial planning stages. By ignoring the particular needs and understandings of the people directly and immediately concerned, we made a fatal error and we paid for it with violence and murder.

'Responsibility for the lives of those shot down in this rampage hangs on the perpetrators, but it also hangs on the project itself, and it hangs on me.

'I have erred. If we are holding a proceeding to determine guilt, we have found it.

'I hope we are doing more than that. I hope we are going beyond seeking guilt and seeking instead for a way forward for the living. As you are considering what to do with me and the rest of your prisoners, consider also what you are going to do with the helpless people that you have driven into the prairie.

'Above all, consider the most important question before you: what are you going to do with yourselves?"


--July Eason, Project Archivist

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