President Obama will give a major speech Thursday at the National Defense University in Washington, reportedly about drones and Guantanamo. The Washington Post reports that
“Obama was prepared to deliver the speech earlier this month, but it was put off amid mounting concerns over a prisoner hunger strike at Guantanamo Bay and more recently the Justice Department leaks investigation — both of which the revised speech may address.”
The Post also reports that an anonymous White House official says the President
“…will discuss the policy and legal framework under which we take action against terrorist threats, including the use of drones. And he will review our detention policy and efforts to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.”
World Can’t Wait has been pondering hard on what more we can do to create a political situation where Obama has to back down, release at least some of the men at Guantanamo, and be forced into closing the prison. The use of indefinite detention and targeted killing is an affront to generally recognized precepts of international law. Usually, the administration answers, as Eric Holder did last year, makes a claim that “we can do whatever we want,” essentially, when “national security” is at stake.
Obama promised to close Guantanamo more than four years ago. We have been led to expect, over the last four years, that it’s really not that important to him to do so.
But along comes the prisoners’ hunger strike — a dynamic factor neither Obama’s people, nor the millions of us outraged at Guantanamo’s continued existence expected. Their action could bring a possible change in the administration’s plans to maintain indefinite detention, at least for some of the men in Guantanamo.
A major missing ingredient in this moment, though, has been the collective voices of artists, intellectuals, politicians, religious and cultural figures who are respected and beloved for being voices of conscience, speaking as one to demand that the torture of Guantanamo be ended. It’s time and past time, as more than 100 days of the prisoners’ hunger strike have passed, that we provide a way for them to speak out together, and for that message to be seen.
Dennis Loo of Cal Poly Pomona drafted a message which will run this week as a full page ad in The New York Times this week which could serve as such a vehicle. Demanding “Close Guantanamo,” it has been signed by 1100, including John Cusack, Alice Walker, Wallace Shawn, Junot Diaz, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Eve Ensler, Kara Walker, Dave Eggers, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Haggis, Bianca Jagger, Ariel Dorfman, Erica Jong, Michael Moore, Ron Kovic, Tom Morello, Mark Ruffalo, Coco Fusco, Peter Selz, James Schamus, Carl Dix, Oliver Stone, Cindy Sheehan, and Cornel West, joined by attorneys for the Guantanamo prisoners, law professors, clergy and academics.
The message powerfully challenges us to look at Guantanamo as “part of larger, alarming developments” including the NDAA, targeted killing by executive order, and the prosecution of whistle-blowers, “most flagrantly in the torture, slander and draconian legal charges against Bradley Manning.”
It says, “It is up to people to stand up for principle and morality when their institutions and public officials refuse to do so. The fates of those who are maimed or killed by our government’s policies are inextricably intertwined with our own: we must listen and respond to their cry for justice. We demand the release of the cleared Guantanamo prisoners now, and an end to indefinite detention without charge for the others, before they lose their lives.”
While promoting the message to Close Guantanamo that we are raising funds to publish in The New York Times, we have been hearing, especially in the Twitterverse, that people think, because Obama promised to close Guantanamo, and says that Congress is not allowing him to do that, the main problem is with Congress.
It is quite true that the U.S. Congress, both when the Republicans led it under Bush, and since the Democrats took over leadership in 2006, has a shameful record in advancing all sorts of repression. Memorably, they’ve made speeches and passed resolutions — and tried to pass laws — saying Guantanamo, specificially, can’t be closed, nor can the prisoners ever by tried here or released in the U.S.
So appealing to the right-wing Congress is going to continue to be a very hopeless road, absent the kind of mass political movement from the people needed, on all issues of justice, from authorizing un-ending wars, targeted killing, violation of borders for other countries, while further militarizing this country’s borders and infrastructure.
Obama, however, as people rightly point out, has promised to close Guantanamo. For his own reasons, whatever they may be, he repeats what most of the world thinks, that the continued existence of the illegal prison in Guantanamo, set up to avoid U.S. law by the Bush regime, doesn’t serve the U.S. public image as the land of freedom and democracy.
Obama repeated, in remarks at a press conference last month, that it is Congress who refuses to let him release prisoners who have been cleared for release. 86 prisoners were cleared, some back to 2006, by the Bush administration, and then again by a task force of Obama’s own creation in 2009, after what he’s called a very “thorough review.”
There are 3 main reasons the ball is in Obama’s court on Guantanamo:
1. Obama put in place the ban on transferring the 56 Yemeni prisoners, out of the 86 who have been cleared for release. Says Andy Worthington in Eloquent But Unconvincing: President Obama’s Response to the Guantánamo Hunger Strike
it was the President “who issued a ban on the release of Yemenis from Guantánamo after a failed bomb plot on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009, undertaken by a Nigerian man who was recruited in Yemen.”
Not Congress, though they’ve done many other reactionary things. It was also Obama who in January 2013 closed the office in the Executive Branch run by Donald Fried, which was tasked with resettling the prisoners.
2. It’s the Obama administration which has made life for prisoners worse at Guantanamo after some improvements at the end of the Bush administration. Glenn Greenwald wrote in July 2012,
“Last week, the Obama administration imposed new arbitrary rules for Guantanamo detainees who have lost their first habeas corpus challenge. Those new rules eliminate the right of lawyers to visit their clients at the detention facility; the old rules establishing that right were in place since 2004, and were bolstered by the Supreme Court’s 2008 Boumediene ruling that detainees were entitled to a “meaningful” opportunity to contest the legality of their detention. The DOJ recently informed a lawyer for a Yemeni detainee, Yasein Khasem Mohammad Esmail, that he would be barred from visiting his client unless he agreed to a new regime of restrictive rules, including acknowledging that such visits are within the sole discretion of the camp’s military commander.”
Obama’s credentials as a protector of the prisoners are non-existent, making his claims to fear for their deaths hollow. Yet, he should be held to follow through on his promise. You can read more on that in the text of our message.
3. Obama can use the clause written into the National Defense Authorization Act allowing the executive to release prisoners.
Senator Levin wrote to Obama on May 9, reminding him, “I successfully fought for a national security waiver that provides a clear route for the transfer of detainees to third countries in appropriate cases, i.e., to make sure the certification requirements do not constitute an effective prohibition.”
President Obama seems quite ready to use executive authority when it comes to targeted kill lists. He doesn’t wait for Congress, or even acknowledge Congressional authority in matters of war and national boundaries for drone war or special operations. So why is he allowed to hide behind “Congress won’t let me” now?
I would urge people who take Barack Obama at his word that he wants to close Guantanamo, to investigate more deeply what Obama’s policies have amounted to by reading Greenwald’s piece from 2012: The Obama GTMO Myth.
“Every time the issue of ongoing injustices at Guantanamo is raised, one hears the same apologia from the President’s defenders: the President wanted and tried to end all of this, but Congress — including even liberals such as Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders — overwhelming voted to deny him the funds to close Guantanamo. While those claims, standing alone, are true, they omit crucial facts and thus paint a wildly misleading picture about what Obama actually did and did not seek to do.”
Andy Worthington writes in the wake of Obama’s latest statements,
“The best that can be said of President Obama’s performance on Tuesday is that the words he uttered can be used to hammer home to him the ongoing injustice of the prison, if he tries, as he has before, to lose interest in it. Mostly, though, what is needed is action — action to persuade Congress to drop its restriction on the release of prisoners, and action and honesty by President Obama himself: on his Yemeni ban, on the need to appoint someone to deal with the closure of Guantanamo on a full-time basis, and, if necessary, on releasing prisoners through the waiver in the NDAA.
He also, as an urgent matter, needs to initiate review boards for 46 other prisoners who he consigned to indefinite detention without charge or trial in an executive order in March 2011, on the basis that they are regarded as too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. That is, and was an unacceptable decision to take, but the only proviso that tempered it ever so slightly was the President’s promise to initiate periodic reviews of the men’s cases, which, over two years later, have not taken place.
Political speeches and posturing are one thing. Reality is another. Greenwald reminded us after Adnan Latif died in Guantanamo earlier this year, “more detainees have died at the camp (nine) than have been convicted of wrongdoing by its military commissions (six).”
Obama needs to release the cleared prisoners, whatever work that takes; charge or release those being held indefinitely without charges, and close the prison. You can donate to help publish the ad. And sign it, along with the above writers, and myself.
My friend Stephen Phelps, Senior Minister at The Riverside Church, signed The New York Times ad on closing Guantanamo we plan to publish next week, and sent a note saying he would “begin to send the hope around to some others.” This hit me strongly. For the last four+ years, since Obama promised to close it, nothing hopeful has come out of Guantanamo.
It’s only the courageous, and desperate, actions of the prisoners which provide hope now, and which are enlivening the rest of the world with the idea that now Obama must, as Lynn Feinerman put it in Tikkun Daily, “Close Guantánamo. Repatriate and rehabilitate those destroyed by it.”
25 former Guantanamo prisoners just wrote Obama demanding he close the prison. They say that force-feeding (for which even more “medical” personnel have been brought in recently) “demonstrates the absence of any morals and principles the US administration may claim to have regarding these men,” and cite:
- The abuse of the prisoners’ religious rights, such as the desecration of the Qur’an
- The use of chemical sprays and rubber bullets to “quell unrest”
- Regular and humiliating strip searches
- Extremely long periods in total isolation
- Interference in privileged client/attorney relationships
- Lack of meaningful communication with relatives
- Arbitrary imprisonment without charge or trial
Ahmed Rachidi, a former prisoner released to Morocco, said recently:
The Obama Administration claims they are on a hunger strike because they want better treatment or better food. But that is not true. They are on a hunger strike because they want justice. They want freedom. They want to go home to their families. And this time they will not quit.
I hope we don’t fail to see how horrific a hunger strike is. Rachidi goes on:
This will be the last hunger strike. To stop eating is the only way prisoners can exert any control when they are powerless. But this time Shaker and the other prisoners don’t have the same strength, the same energy they used to have. Mentally and physically they are very weak. I am worried that something can go wrong, that someone will lose his life… Guantanamo is a concern to every human being who believes in democracy, who believes in human rights, who believes in the rule of law. We don’t have a lot of time. We need to come together to force President Obama to restore the rule of law and put an end to this disgrace.
In the thirty-six hours since we debuted the ad text, and began asking people to sign on, circulate it, and donate for its publication, I’ve been very heartened by the comments and donations, from $5 to $1,000. The lawyers who represent prisoners are a group with every reason to have given up in defeat, since they are barely allowed to get to Guantanamo, and now their clients are visibly weakened, some unable to converse. They are signing on, and helping raise funds.
Activists, artists, academics, lawyers, elected officials: this is an urgent call to you. Unite your voices together to support justice for the prisoners in the “newspaper of record” on the 100th day of the hunger strike.
Publishing this ad will resonate in a way other actions don’t, and could help create a situation where the Obama administration is forced to respond. Let’s get into the streets around the world on May 17-19 as part of taking hold of the moment where how a society is measured comes down to closing Guantanamo, and gives hope that the war crimes this country has perpetrated can be addressed.
The April month of protest against US drone warfare and surveillance ended very strongly in Syracuse Sunday with a protest of hundreds of us at Hancock Air Force Base, where drones — unmanned aerial vehicles — are piloted over Pakistan, Afghanistan, and perhaps Yemen, Somalia and other countries. Picture the starkness of the political clash:
- On the empire’s side, the richest, strongest, most dangerously armed military in world history. A worldwide network of perhaps 1,100 bases and hundreds of thousands of troops with the most sophisticated weapons of mass destruction, extending from space; networks of surveillance, secret operations, indefinite detention, with political cover of compliant politicians justifying more and more. At Hancock, this power was expressed through police forces arrayed around us, photographing from every angle, threatening arrest and prison terms for stepping over an arbitrary line on the street.
- On the side of humanity, in opposition to the war OF terror, a few hundred people, many with white hair, deploying the means of song, speech, costumes, music, symbolism, and appealing for justice, at pains to recycle and not harm the grass. The protesters carried the names and photographs of people actually killed by the drones, reading their names aloud, and symbolically dying on the street. Their weapons, the truth that the war on terror is illegitimately destroying whole countries and people.
The serious and dignified march of people wearing black, carrying mock coffins representing the countries attacked by the U.S. was staged to dramatize the gap between what the U.S. promises — “democracy” — and what it delivers: domination and destruction. As a press release from the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and Stop the Wars said:
People who participated in the demonstration, including some who were arrested, came from all over the country to raise an outcry against the proliferation of drone strikes abroad, including countries with whom the US is not at war. Drone use violates the US Constitution, Article 6, and International Law, which the U.S. has signed on to. Demonstrators also object to the militarization of the police and the growing domestic use of drones.
For crossing the arbitrary police line in the street by the base, 31 people were arrested and charged mostly with Obstructing Government Administration, a Class A misdemeanor often used against protesters, which carries 12 months in jail, and with Disorderly Conduct, another catch-all anti-protest charge. Almost all were given bail, up to $3500, and forced to sign “order of protection” which disallows them from returning to the base. Bruce Gagnon of the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, shared the content of the order that protesters:
“refrain from assault, stalking, harassment, aggravated harassment, menacing, reckless endangerment, strangulation, criminal obstruction of breathing or circulation, disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, sexual abuse, sexual misconduct, forcible touching, intimidation, threats or any criminal offense or interference with the victim or victims of, or designated witnesses to, the alleged offense and such members of the family or household of such victim(s) or witness(es) as shall be specifically named Greg Semmel.”
Greg Semmel is commander of Hancock AFB.
AS IF the Air Force needs the same type of protection from peaceful political protest that a battered woman needs from her abuser(!)
What does the US military and the government fear from political protest at the gates of the base, such that people engaged in non-violent speech and actions would be banned from being on the street near it? Likely, they fear that thousands will come with the same message. But nothing they do can make the US war on terror, with its drones and concentration camps, legitimate, just, or moral.
One way to support the protest is to contribute to the bail fund from wherever you are:
The thirty-one arrestees were arraigned in De Witt Town Court before Judges Benack, Gideon, and Jokl, who imposed bails ranging from $500 – $3500, totaling $34,000. Some of the defendants were released with appearance tickets Others are refusing to post bail and will be held in jail until the next court date of May 7th & 8th. Donations may be sent to the Syracuse Peace Council, with checks made out to Syracuse Peace Council, note: Upstate Drone Action Bail Fund. 2013 E. Genessee St., Syracuse, NY 13210.
Saturday was the first time it felt like spring in NYC, and crowds of people filled Union Square Park watching jugglers and musicians, and just hanging out. It was so heartbreakingly pleasant, one felt bad bearing the news to tourists that out of many things wrong in this class-divided world, we were about to challenge them to take notice of one very important thing.
Ten of us put on orange jumpsuits to mark the 51st day of the potentially deadly hunger strike by men imprisoned by the U.S. at Guantanamo. Witness Against Torture activists have been fasting for a week in solidarity; this was a public way and place to end the fast, and have visual impact. Often I am doing public relations at events like this. Today I wanted to experience the time under the hood, and be able to listen for peoples’ comments.
90% of those seeing us walked on by. Hundreds took flyers. Many took photos, though oddly, most didn’t really stop to find out much. Several said “thank you” to those of us in jumpsuits. Comments ran from “they should burn that place down with everyone in it,” to “they should free all those guys, and then burn it down!” A few people ranted that “they” were all terrorists. One said, “the prisoners are lucky; they could of all just been shot.” Some people were just confused, saying Obama had closed down the prison. Memorably, one hipster told another, “I think they’re monks, protesting Easter.”
One of the people flyering commented that all the Black people who stopped for a flyer “got it,” recognized what the problem is, and expressed compassion. A people who has suffered oppression is maybe most able to empathize, notwithstanding that the current President and Attorney General are responsible for no prisoners leaving Guantanamo in the last 18 months alive.
At this point, so far into the fast, we hear men are suffering terribly, possibly being deprived of water they see as safe to drink, some force-fed and some hospitalized. Clive Stafford-Smith, attorney for Shaker Amer, tweeted “90mins on phone with Shaker Aamer today; 130 detainees on hunger strike; situation in
#Gitmo as dire as General ‘Miller Time’” referencing Geoffrey Miller, who ran Guantanamo in 2004, and then went to Abu Ghraib, running torture at both.
How do we close Guantanamo and save the lives of the prisoners? Without the men taking this action, the White House would not have been finally forced to acknowledge the hunger strike, and major media would not be now covering Guantanamo. Their action is decisive, and desperate, as their attorneys report. There is no way out of Guantanamo now, absent a mass demand that it be finally closed and the prisoners charged and tried, or released, as most of them have been already cleared for.
But our action is decisive also. Find out what you can do where you are.
Support World Can’t Wait’s work to make Guantanamo visible in the U.S. Materials (flyers, signs); websites, travel cost $$. Our work is 100% supported by direct donations from individuals. Donate now.
Six anti-war activists and leaders, aged 30 through 75 were sentenced on March 19 to eight hours “community service,” and $125 court costs for a disorderly conduct conviction arising from a protest 300 people made December 1, 2009, when Obama announced, inside the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a huge expansion of US troops to Afghanistan.
Elaine Brower, Matthis Chiroux, Tarak Kauff, Alison Beth Levy, and Richie Marini agreed to serve the time, washing Highland Falls, NY, ambulances and police cars, and pay the fee. Beverly Rice asked that she be able to send funds instead to the National Lawyers Guild, and when that was denied, she took jail time, on the basis of conscience. Her sentence was ten days at the Orange County jail, where she was taken immediately. The sheriff says Bev, 75, will be released early.
The case had gone on for more than 3 years. After one of two disorderly conduct convictions was overturned on a pro se appeal, a new judge delayed sentencing because court records were “lost” in Hurricane Irene. He then forced the defendants to appear two more times with an attorney before sentencing. The courtroom in Highland Falls was packed with mostly young people charged with traffic and other violations, at least one in an Army uniform. Everyone listened quietly as most of the defendants made pre-sentence statements to the judge.
Elaine Brower said she had been outside the gate at West Point to “petition my government” to stop the war. “My son did ten years in the Marine Corps, two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He has done horrible things” as part of the U.S. war on those countries. She said “I am seeing that injustice in the eyes of my son who is emotionally wounded.”
Elaine went on to say that “we have no recourse” to get the government’s attention except our legally permitted right to assemble. “They keep sending young men and women to kill. We protested at West Point when Bush was president, and we had to be there when Obama expanded the war on Afghanistan. And we’ll be here when the next president invades a sovereign nation. Humanity and the planet come first. Crimes are crimes, no matter who does them.”
Richie Marini’s statement included:
The United States has an incredibly violent history as we stand here today on land acquired through Genocidal means and can claim title to the only country to ever use an atomic weapon of mass destruction against another. The United States government continues down this trajectory of violence today with it’s use of torture, extraordinary rendition and drones that murder innocent civilians every day. It commits these violent acts to sustain itself by creating new markets, obtaining resources and enslaving people into it’s system in order to prevent itself from collapsing at the expense of innocent lives abroad…
Despite the penalties imposed upon me here today I will continue to work effortlessly to organize the citizens of Highland Falls and elsewhere to put stop the crimes of this government. As an Humanitarian, this is the greatest service that I can do for the citizens of Highland Falls, the United States, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere… Read more
Bev Rice said she would not apologize for the protest:
A total of 2177 American soldiers have been killed during the eleven years we have been fighting in Afghanistan.
1230 have been killed since we were arrested three years ago? How many more have been wounded? How many more have been sent home suffering emotional and mental illnesses? Consider, 22 veterans commit suicide each day! Consider also the sorrowful loss for the family and friends of our dead and wounded soldiers. I consider these each and every day.
I am proud to have been involved in the protest, and to have participated in the defense of the West Point Six. We need more people willing to speak the truth, and put themselves on the line to stop the crimes of our government.
Yes, I know it wasn’t all of the countries of the Americas which made war on Iraq. It was the United States of America, as Barack Obama is so fond of saying, dragging along with it the coalition of the bribed and coerced. Just as it was for the Vietnamese people an American war, while we called it the Vietnam War, this one is known in Iraq as the American War. We have to accept that.
It was the U.S. government that heaped crippling economic sanctions, and lots of missile strikes, on Iraq, through the 90′s, leading to the deaths of an estimated 500,000 children. Using the 9/11 attack as an opportunity, George W. Bush, “Dick” Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and the rest of the regime concocted their “yellow-cake uranium” and “secular Saddam Hussein befriending al Qaeda” stories, with the aim of rolling through Iraq toward Iran, strengthening U.S. control of the strategic Middle East.
The 2003 war, says Larry Everest, author of Oil Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda
was not waged to eliminate “terrorism,” destroy weapons of mass destruction, or liberate the Iraqi people. Instead, it was an unjust war of aggression, conquest and greater empire.
We know this, but sometimes we forget that this war destroyed the infrastructure, cultural history and morale of an advanced, literate society with a long history, in the name of removing a despotic ruler the U.S. at one time supported heavily.
The American war on Iraq was our war to stop — had people living in this country responded as we should have, with sustained protest, making the prosecution of the war, and the legitimacy of the Bush regime itself, a fundamental question for tens of millions. Indeed, the mass protests denied Bush the coalition he wanted, and weakened the U.S. efforts globally so much that the war went very badly for the U.S. But at what a price for the people of Iraq!
Michael Otterman’s book Erasing Iraq: The Human Cost of Carnage, written with Robert Hill and Paul Wilson, is one of the few to look at what the U.S. did to Iraq. Otterman was interviewed in the Washington Report on the Middle East Affairs:
A study published in October 2006 by the prestigious medical journal Lancet provides the most reliable estimate to date. Their methodology, Otterman explained, “was the same the U.S. government uses to count the dead in conflict areas, including Kosovo.” The study’s findings were that approximately 655,000 excess Iraqi deaths had occurred, including both militants and civilians.
But much violence has occurred since then, Otterman noted, and by extrapolating the data through to the present, a rough estimate of one million deaths can be made.
“When you combine this figure with the more than five million displaced since 2003,” he said, “you begin to get a sense of the deep, permanent level of destruction the United States has unleashed.”
Describing the level of trauma as “truly incalculable,” Otterman asked: “How do you quantify this human toll? The answer: Simply by reading and accessing the narratives of Iraqis that have lived through this very real sociocide. In Erasing Iraq, we quote dozens of refugees in Syria, Jordan, and Sweden, plus a slew of Iraqi bloggers who lived through the carnage in real time. These narratives exist in sharp contrast to the bland, misleading, or propagandistic accounts of war featured heavily in the mainstream news outlets. Only by engaging directly with Iraqi narratives can outsiders get a true sense of the human costs of war in Iraq.
See The Fallujah Project, which writes:
The U.S. occupation has had horrible effects on the Iraqi population, but Fallujah has suffered more than any other Iraqi city. Fallujah is to the Occupation of Iraq, what My Lai was to the Vietnam War, and what Hiroshima and Nagasaki were to World War II.
In the video below, which World Can’t Wait posted to YouTube in 2006, and which has been viewed more than 700,000 times since then, a scene much like that captured in the notorious Collateral Murder is seen from the gunsights of a US F-16, as a crowd of people in Fallujah is gunned down:
As we mark 10 years since the “shock and awe” beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a massive assemblage of war crimes carried out in our name, let’s fully look at what was done.
If you read only a bit of this post, make it the following paragraph, and then buy your ticket here. Revolution newspaper asks and answers:
“Why go to this film premiere? Simply: It’s by far the most important thing people could be doing that day–it’s dealing with the most important thing there could be–because it’s about the real possibility of bringing into being a radically different world, where all this madness, all the oppression and injustice, all the abuse and degradation that is so much a part of life now, would be done away with. If anybody can think of anything more important than that–let’s hear it!”
My personal invite to you is based on what’s possible, and necessary, and what’s true.
Often, people ask me why I haven’t quit trying, in discouragement, to change the world, or even to just stop the crimes of the US government through a mass movement of people, as supporters of World Can’t Wait are working on. The challenges are obvious, and I am aware of how rare – much too rare — it is to refuse to give in.
Part of the answer to why I’ll never give up is that I’m continually outraged, and don’t accept this as the “best” of all possible ways the world could be. I came of age in the 60′s, amongst the struggles of Black people, women, people around the globe struggling for justice and liberation, which set the stage for being a rebel.
More significantly, I saw the possibility of a much better society because the largest country in the world then was socialist – The Peoples’ Republic of China. The most vibrant, scientific, inspiring propagators of revolution internationally were the revolutionary communists who came out of that worldwide movement. At the center of that ferment was Bob Avakian, BA, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Cornel West introduced BA in a recent interview as “one of the few coming out of the 60′s who never sold out, he never caved in, he never gave up, held on to his forging of a rigorous, scientific analysis of the objective realities that are driven by a revolutionary love – because he has such a deep love for poor people, oppressed people, all around the world.”
I heard him speak late last year. BA made an extremely deep-going call to get with the movement for revolution, calling out the crimes of the imperialist system, envisioning how society could be, outlining the strategy to work through the huge challenges in how to get there. He said something that has stuck with me, and I’m paraphrasing here, that if you see all those horrors, and you know it doesn’t have to be that way, why would you not want to be working and struggling to end this? He talked about the need to confront reality, looking at the horrors this system creates, continually, and then applying science to transform the contradictions to create a whole different world. That resonates with me. You can get more, right now, from BA by listening to an interview with Michael Slate on KPFK, where he went into these points.
Avakian and the RCP are leading a movement for real revolution, with a Constitution for the Socialist Republic in North America, (draft proposal), which aims to bring about a:
socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
Hearing BA in BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS! in a theater with hundreds of others on the road to discover what can be done to end this madness and bring about the emancipation of all humanity is something I invite you to join me in doing. What could be more important?
This trailer is playing at the Magic Johnson Theater in Harlem, where the film will premiere Saturday:
The film is simultaneously premiering in Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles in addition to Harlem. Details and tickets here.
I was sitting in a Brooklyn court room last week, listening to police testify for prosecution of freedom fighters who protest NYPD stop-and-frisk. (Later that day charges were dropped by the judge). At the same moment, Bradley Manning was giving a first public statement on releasing documents on U.S. war crimes, including what came to be called the “Collateral Murder” video, the U.S. diplomatic cables, material on indefinite detention in Guantanamo, and Afghan War Diaries and Iraq War Log.
Manning accepted responsibility for some of the charges the US government has made, opening himself to two years prison on each of ten counts. What is most disturbing is the government’s intention to try him on June 1 for the remaining, more serious charges, and to ask for life in prison.
Monitoring my phone on breaks in the trial, we heard via Twitter that Bradley had tried the Washington Post, The New York Times, and Politico, before uploading the data to Wikileaks, with the urgent intent of getting the public in the U.S. to engage in a debate about war policy, based on knowing what their government is doing. Alexa O’Brien provided a transcript of the statement Bradley Manning made in military court last week, well worth reading through.
On Collateral Murder, he said of the U.S. military on the ground and in the Apache helicopter in 2007:
Preparations to rally at Ft. Meade, Maryland, site of the trial are being made now. The Bradley Manning Support Committee reports on international support actions February 23, 2013.
They dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by referring to them as quote “dead bastards” unquote and congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
While saddened by the aerial weapons team crew’s lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see that the bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew– as soon as the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times.
What the video depicted was the truth of war. There were completely inhuman things—laughing about killing people, laughing about rolling over dead bodies with tanks. It was just abominable and reprehensible and sickening. When you watch it, it just makes you gasp to hear the language. But this is not an aberration. This is the truth of war. And that’s what we need to convey to people. What Bradley Manning did was a huge service to the world, to let people know the ugly, awful truth of war.
I have no doubt the government will continue to pile on Bradley Manning with all the force they have. That an Army private, so articulate, so clearly out for the benefit of humanity, as opposed to personal gain, could begin a mass public reaction that brought down reactionary governments in the Middle East, and expose the U.S. for its illegitimate use of military force the world over, is dangerous to them. Much more dangerous, than say, CIA torture of thousands or the destruction of whole countries.
Virtually no one is being prosecuted for those crimes; yet, Bradley Manning faces life in prison for exposing them.
Glenn Greenwald, on Democracy Now, captured a lot of what the US is doing to this person of great moral conscience:
This is a case of extraordinary prosecutorial overkill. The government has never been able to identify any substantial harm that has come from any of the leaks that Bradley Manning is accused of and now admits to being responsible for. Certainly nobody has died as a result of these leaks, even though the government originally said that WikiLeaks and the leaker has blood on their hands. Journalists investigated and found that there was no evidence for that. So, just the very idea that he should spend decades in prison, let alone be faced with life on parole, given what it is that he actually did and the consequences of it, is really remarkable.
But even more specifically, the theory that the government is proceeding on is one that’s really quite radical and menacing. That is, that although he never communicated with, quote-unquote, “the enemy,” which the government has said is al-Qaeda, although there’s no evidence that he intended in any way to benefit al-Qaeda—he could have sold this information, made a great deal of money, had he wanted to. All the evidence indicates that he did it for exactly the reason that he said, with the intent that he said, which was to spark reform and to bring attention to these abuse…
In the chat logs that were published over a year ago with the government informant who turned him in, he said very much the same thing while he thought he was speaking in complete confidence, to somebody who had promised him confidentiality, about what led him on this path, that he had become disillusioned first about the Iraq war when he discovered that people they were detaining weren’t really insurgents but were simply opponents of the Maliki government, and he brought it to his superiors, and they ignored him. He then looked at documents that showed extreme amounts of criminality and deceit and violence, that he could no longer in good conscience participate in concealing. It was really an act of conscience, pure conscience and heroism, that he did, knowing he was sacrificing his liberty.
The government has insulated its conduct from what are supposed to be the legitimate means of accountability and transparency—judicial proceedings, media coverage, FOIA requests—and has really erected this impenetrable wall of secrecy, using what are supposed to be the institutions designed to prevent that. That is what makes whistleblowing all the more imperative. It really is the only remaining avenue that we have to learn about what the government is doing
Speaking for thousands of us who have protested Manning’s trial, from signing petitions to civil disobedience, I think we can say with even more determination now, after hearing him, “FREE Bradley Manning!”
The Senate Intelligence Committee voted to send the nomination of John Brennan as CIA Director to the full Senate, as we knew they would. After sparring with the Obama administration over how much information the Committee would be given on the U.S. drone program, they got some, though the public did not.
What the public got was a statement by Attorney General Holder, in response to an inquiry from Senator Paul of Kentucky which says that in an “entirely hypothetical” situation, the president could authorize the military to use lethal force within the U.S., presumably by drone. The Huffington Post reported that:
The Obama administration, Holder said, rejected the use of military force where “well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.” But in theory, it’d be legal for the president to order such an attack under certain circumstances, Holder said.
Brennan answered Paul’s inquiry with a statement that the CIA, unequivocally, “does not conduct lethal operations within the United States, nor does it have any authority to do so.” Adam Serwer, in Mother Jones, reported:
Holder’s answer was more detailed, however, stating that under certain circumstances, the president would have the authority to order lethal attacks on American citizens. The two possible examples of such “extraordinary” circumstances were the attack on Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Which leaves the U.S. military, which specifically is now authorized to operate in the United States via the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.