Posts Tagged torture
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.”
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 platform of the Republican Party, and Romney in his speeches, promotes reviving the “global war on terror” as a concept, and criticizes the Obama administration for changing its name to the “overseas contingency operation.” I will grant you, there is a difference in approach between the two parties.
But does emphasizing that distinction miss the essential spread and development of the US “war on terror” which the Obama administration has relentlessly pursued? Beyond the matter of not closing Guantanamo, Obama’s lawyers argue against habeas corpus rights for 6,000 prisoners in Bagram; against even the right of people tortured in Guantanamo and U.S. secret rendition programs to sue for damages; against the release of photos of torture at Abu Ghraib so that people would have seen more of what the Bush regime was responsible for.
An announcement right before the Democrats convened in Charlotte to re-nominate Obama that his Justice Department is dropping any plans to investigate, much less prosecute cases of homicide by the CIA on detained prisoners might have shocked people, had they not already been rocked back by the reactionary rot spewing from the Republicans in Tampa. Don’t think the announcement was not very carefully timed to blindside the millions of people who say, “It’s true Obama hasn’t done ___, but at least he’s going to do better than Bush on torture.”
In fact, the CIA now has formal immunity in two instances of killings, which means they will do whatever they can to get away with more, no matter who is president. As reported by Jane Mayer in The New Yorker, Gul Rahman, who was beaten, shackled, and froze to death in the CIA prison knows as The Salt Pit,” in 2002, and Manadel al-Jamadi who died in CIA custody of a beating at Abu Ghraib in 2003.
No president can deliberately fail to dismantle the torture network assembled by the Bush regime, deciding not to prosecute anyone, not even to investigate most charges, except whistle-blowers like John Kiriakou who mildly criticized the CIA for carrying out torture. Glenn Greenwald called it an “aggressive, full-scale whitewashing of the “war on terror” crimes committed by Bush officials,” in Whitewashing Torture:
Obama has shielded Bush torture crimes not only from criminal prosecution, but any and all forms of accountability. Obama himself vigorously opposed and succeeded in killing even a congressional investigation into the torture regime at a time when his party controlled both houses of Congress.
Chris Floyd echoes a point made in the 12 Step Program to Overcome Addiction to Voting for the “Lesser” of Two Evils in Obama and Holder: Sanctioning State Murder that all the terrible things Republicans do are not canceled out by supporting Democrats.
The faction of the Imperial Bloc that just nominated Mitt Romney is a pack of militarist nutballs and enemies of the truth. But so is the other faction, which protects torturers, murderers people whose names they don’t even know based on arbitrarily chosen “life-pattern” details gleaned by robots in the sky, launches secret wars, foments coups, runs “black ops” in dozens of countries all over the world, killing hundreds of innocent people each year, plunging whole countries into chaos and ruin with its ‘terror war’ and ‘drug war’ and ‘economic war’ agendas — and ferociously prosecutes anyone who tries to smuggle out a few crumbs of truth about the abominable atrocities and self-destructive follies being carried out daily by a berserk militarist system which has no goal other than its own self-perpetuation and the forced domination of others.
Don’t you find it outrageous that the current president is prosecuting more whistle-blowers at one time than have ever been prosecuted? Whistle-blowing means criticizing wrong-doing by your superiors in government. Adam Serwer in Mother Jones, writes about what Obama & Holder are doing to add insult to injury;
[N]ot everyone connected to Bush-era torture has escaped accountability. John Kiriakou, the former CIA official who went public about interrogation techniques like waterboarding, is being prosecuted for disclosing classified information for allegedly assisting defense attorneys who were seeking to identify interrogators who may have tortured their clients. You can torture a detainee in your custody to death and get away with it. You just can’t talk about it. [emphasis mine].
If you don’t care about these issues — and the Obama presidency has surely reduced the outrage among Democrats over them — then be at peace with four more years of what most civilized peoples consider to be war crimes.
Join the Sustainer Drive
One thing I can state for certain: no matter who which party wins in November, or who is president, we will be facing a government intent on spreading empire, detaining indefinitely, surveilling almost everyone.
A friend asked me recently if there’s any hope for justice and accountability for the Bush era war crimes. He had campaigned hard for Obama, with the hopes many had, that Guantánamo would close, and that the Bush regime would face charges, or at least investigation for Abu Ghraib, for lying about WMD’s, or at least for detaining thousands of people with no charge.
No one in power is going to act to bring justice on these issues without mass upheaval and resistance, regardless of whether it’s election time. There are elements, now, of potential for sentiment and action against these crimes to catch hold strongly. The Arab Spring, the unrest in Europe over economic disaster, the threats by the U.S. and Israel to start a war on Iran or other unforeseen developments can effect how people here see what’s possible, and what’s acceptable.
Never forget that what the Bush regime did — and what the Obama administration continued — is illegitimate, unjust, and immoral. And there are hundreds of millions who know and see that. It can’t be covered up, even if Wikileaks is punished severely.
Consider the 4 year investigation in Poland of the CIA “black site” secret prison there. There’s a struggle within the Polish government over whether torture charges will come out of it, and how far up they’ll go. Andy Worthington looks into that case in Polish Senator’s Startling New Allegations About CIA Torture Prison in Poland:
“In the long quest for accountability for those who ordered, authorized or were complicit in the Bush administration’s torture program, every avenue has been shut down within the US by the Obama administration, the Justice Department and the courts, and the only hope lies elsewhere in the world, and specifically Poland, one of three European countries that hosted secret CIA prisons, where “high-value detainees” were subjected to torture.” Andy delves deeply into the story, citing his trip to Poland with Anna Minkiewicz when he learned more about what the investigation. See also the LA Times story Poland Shaken by Case Alleging an Illicit CIA Prison There.
What to do? Support World Can’t Wait’s work to stop the crimes of your government. Become a sustainer! Engage in visible protest, tell the truth about these crimes.
Reporting on a Week Against Torture Across the U.S.
“I find myself living in an EXCEPTIONAL time. A time when the myth of American moral superiority is being used to excuse, even PROMOTE, cruel and intolerable crimes against humanity…”
From the speech given by World Can’t Wait representative MaryAnn Thomas at the Rally Against Torture, Guantanamo & NDAA on June 26th in San Francisco.
Across the country last week, from Olympia to Dallas (left) to Washington, people challenged the new — 10 year old – “normal” of indefinite detention.
Candace represents prisoners still held in Guantanamo, 2.5 years after the Obama administration said it would have been closed. She has just returned from a visit there, and will give us not only the latest news, but her perspective on her years-long efforts to get her clients released.
Anyone concerned about the “rule of law” and the National Defense Authorization Act should join in this60 minute conversation.
Read Candace at GTMOblog.
Write for details to join the call.
An irony acutely felt this week:
Tens of thousands of people in the U.S., taking the lead from millions in the Middle East, are “occupying” public spaces, seeking change in the the world as it is, standing up to authority, power, and blowing the ceiling off expectations that the vast disparity in global income “has to” be as it is. We’ve got to spread these occupations!
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military, support staff and private contractors are “occupying” two countries in the Middle East, in a mission to enforce, with a vengeance, U.S. domination over the region, employing night raids, torture, and terror towards the civilian population. We’ve got to end those occupations!
We marked the 10th anniversary of the Bush regime’s bombing and invasion of Afghanistan last week, with protests across the U.S. which were in many cases intermingled with the Occupy Wall Street protests, and in all cases influenced by the outpouring of public anger at the system.
Significantly, a protest in Kabul by Afghans demanded the occupiers leave.
paints a devastating picture of abuse, citing evidence of “systematic torture” during interrogations by Afghan intelligence and police officials even as American and other Western backers provide training and pay for nearly the entire budget of the Afghan ministries running the detention centers.
Detainees — and we’ve known this since November 2001, when the U.S. first set up operations at an old Afghan prison in Bagram — are hung by their hands and beaten with cables, their genitals twisted until they lose consciousness. Because of the Obama administration’s successful argument that the prisoners are not entitled to habeas corpus rights, they have no way out.
This is in no way a departure from all the rest of the Bush war crimes begun 10 years ago. The NY Times, which editorially opposes torture, while supporting the wars in which the U.S. uses it, said today
such widespread use of torture in a detention system supported by American mentors and money raises serious questions about potential complicity of American officials and whether they benefited from information obtained from suspects who had been tortured….There have been a number of instances that raise similar questions in other places, including Uzbekistan, Pakistan and El Salvador, according to a RAND Corporation report in 2006.
This systematic abuse must be working for the United States government. According to Glenn Greenwald, the Obama administration
unveiled plans for “the construction of Detention Facility in Parwan (DFIP), Bagram, Afghanistan” which includes “detainee housing capability for approximately 2000 detainees.” It will also feature “guard towers, administrative facility and Vehicle/Personnel Access Control Gates, security surveillance and restricted access systems.” The announcement provided: ”the estimated cost of the project is between $25,000,000 to $100,000,000.”
This occupation won’t be ended by Obama, or any presidents to follow him, unless people in this country demand it.
Raise your voice! January 11, 2012, we’ll be back in Washington on the 10th anniversary of the U.S. prison in Guantanamo, marking it with a protest/human chain of 2,200 people. We’ll stand for the 171 prisoners in Guantanamo, with no way out, and the 2,000 some at Bagram, with no legal standing. Join in!
Watching the delirious celebrations in Egypt, and spreading to cities across the region, and the world, you’ve got to feel the joy. A hated dictator, who until a month or so ago held unchallengeable power, is gone, relatively quickly, through the action of people in the streets. Standing up to the police state, the open on-the-street killing of protesters, the jailing and torture of 10,000 political prisoners as S.O.P., Egyptian youth have opened something up which is doubtless making other repressive governments nervous.
Where this all will go we can’t know. But never tell me, again, that protest “doesn’t do any good.” People used to ask, when we began World Can’t Wait – Drive Out the Bush Regime, “what does that mean? drive out?” The last 3 weeks provide a stunning example. Received via Twitter: “ya’ll know we could have done this w/ Pres Bush right?? it’s not too late to end the war & torture. world can’t wait.”
Our responsibility to stop the crimes of our own government is really acute now. The Egyptian military is now in charge. Exactly the problem! As World Can’t Wait posted today:
The Mubarak regime was “Made in the U.S.A.” Since 1979, the U.S. has given the regime $35 billion, $1.3 billion per year in military support. Because of this, Egypt has a large military, and the world’s 4th largest fleet of F-16 fighter planes. Egyptian police who have held 10,000 political prisoners receive training from the U.S. military. Even the tear gas fired on demonstrators is “Made in the U.S.A.”
Despite decades of torture, disappearing political opponents, and the most open brutality against its own citizens, neither Republican or Democrat leaders plan to reduce military aid to Egypt (LA Times 2/9/11).
The Army was under the control of and trained under the Mubarak regime, and successive U.S. administrations which showered it with money, while the country was a police-state dictatorship for decades. Wolf Blitzer on CNN just now:
“I’m sure the U.S. leaders are relieved that the Egyptian military is in charge, because they have a strong relationship with them.”
Will the U.S. stop its “rendition” relationship with state torture in Egypt? Mubarak’s man, Omar Suleiman, who seems to be out along with Mubarak, was also the CIA’s man. According to Stephen Soldz of Psychologists for Social Responsibility:
Each rendition was authorized at the very top levels of both governments….The long-serving chief of the Egyptian central intelligence agency, Omar Suleiman, negotiated directly with top Agency officials. [Former U.S. Ambassador to Egypt] Walker described the Egyptian counterpart, Suleiman, as “very bright, very realistic,” adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to “some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way” (pp. 113).
Stephen Hendricks, in his fascinating 2010 book, “A Kidnapping in Milan: The CIA on Trial “ traces the CIA – Egypt relationship back 60 years:
One of the earliest recipients of the CIA’s training was Egypt. The trainers were former Nazi commanders from Germany who were recruited by the CIA not long after the Second World War, probably because the agency was then inexperienced in brutality and wanted men of expertise.”
Hendricks goes on to describe, in gruesome detail, the torture of Abu Omar (Osama Mustafa Hassan Masri), a suspected member of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt. He was kidnapped by a CIA team in Milan, and “rendered” back to Egypt, where he was tortured for over a year, and released for 23 days, long enough to tell his story. When the Egyptian State Security Service notified him to return and pick up his identification papers, without which he could not move about, he returned to the prison, only to disappear completely, never to be heard from in the last 7 years.
That’s the legacy of the Egyptian torture state, paid for and used by the United States.
That’s the legacy we have to learn about, resist, and stop.
From the Center for Constitutional Rights comes good news… G.W. Bush has been forced to cancel a speaking trip in Switzerland next week to avoid being charged in a torture case:
“CCR, with the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and Paris-based International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), have spent weeks preparing a 2,500 page torture case against Bush that would have been filed on Monday, February 7 – the anniversary of the day, nine years ago, when Bush decided the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply to ‘enemy combatants.’ Bush was due to be in Geneva on the 12th, and his presence on Swiss territory is required for the prosecutor to take action.
“The complaint, brought under the Convention Against Torture with the support of 50 NGOs, two former UN Special Rapporteurs on Torture and two Nobel Prize winners, was on behalf of two torture victims, one who is still at Guantánamo.
“Whatever Bush or his hosts say, we have no doubt he cancelled his trip to avoid our case. The message from civil society is clear – If you’re a torturer, be careful in your travel plans. It’s a slow process for accountability, but we keep going.”
In the Guardian UK today:
The visit would have been Bush’s first to Europe since he admitted in his autobiography, Decision Points, in November that he had authorised the use of waterboarding – simulated drowning – on detainees at Guantánamo accused of links with al-Qaida. Whether out of concern over the protests or the arrest warrant, it is an extraordinary development for a former US president to have his travel plans curtailed in this way, and amounts to a victory for human rights campaigners.
Reuters reports today in Bush’s Swiss visit off after complaints on torture:
Bush, in his “Decision Points” memoirs on his 2001-2009 presidency, strongly defends the use of waterboarding as key to preventing a repeat of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
Most human rights experts consider the practice a form of torture, banned by the Convention on Torture, an international pact prohibiting torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. Switzerland and the United States are among 147 countries to have ratified the 1987 treaty.
Bush was to speak at a Jewish charity function. McClatchy newspapers report:
“Protest organizers told participants to bring an extra shoe, prompting fears that someone might re-enact an Iraqi journalist’s 2008 assault on President Bush in Baghdad. The reporter hurled his own footwear as a sign of contempt.”
Whether the threat of prosecution or the threat of determined mass protest caused the cancellation of Bush’s visit, it’s a sign that people are paying attention, and acting on the necessity of holding Bush accountable for war crimes.
On Tuesday January 25, at the same moment Congress gathered for the State of the Union address from Barack Obama, almost a hundred people gathered to discuss “Torture, Guantanamo and Accountability” at DePaul University Law School in Chicago. It’s been difficult over the last 2+ years to fill a room for such a discussion, so we were heartened by the participation of 40 law students and attorneys. Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a distinguished research professor emeritus at the law school, and founder of the International Human Rights Law Institute; and Candace Gorman, who represents two men imprisoned at Guantanamo, spoke with me on the panel.
Dr. Bassiouni described the “chasm” between the promises made by Obama while campaigning and the actions of Obama as president, regarding the rule of law as represented by the United States. Candace told the story of one of her clients, still in Guantanamo. He is apparently one of the 48 who will be detained indefinitely, bringing some of the students to tears of frustration. We’ll have more on the program soon. Listen to Dr. Bassiouni and Ms. Gorman in an excellent hour-long discussion on Chicago public radio WBEZ.
Our colleague Andy Worthington, about to tour Poland with former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, took the time to describe the Obama’s administration’s plans for those imprisoned at Guantanamo in Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions:
This year the President’s bitter surprise for the prisoners (which has encouraged a widespread peaceful protest at the prison, as reported here) was two-fold. The first was his failure to veto a military spending bill passed by Congress, which contained cynical and unconstitutional provisions preventing the transfer of any prisoner to the US mainland, in which lawmakers also demanded the power to prevent the release of prisoners to countries regarded as dangerous…
The second bitter surprise for the prisoners was the announcement last week, first mentioned by the New York Times, that, although federal court trials have effectively been suspended, specifically derailing the administration’s stated intention to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal court, the administration is preparing to push ahead instead with trials by Military Commission for at least some of the 33 men recommended for trials by Obama’s Task Force.
No, none of those plans were part of the State of the Union address. Those of you listening for “real change” in Obama’s direction on the wars Tuesday night were disappointed. Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and an opponent of torture, spoke on Democracy Now January 26 about the speech:
He didn’t mention human rights at a time when he has assassination lists for the first time in our nation’s history, that include U.S. citizens. No due process—we don’t just have indefinite detention anymore; we just go out, put their name on a list, and kill them. The invocation of state secrets, it’s absolutely obliterated any notion of checks and balances. Our courts have been removed from that equation, by and large, when it comes to torture, when it comes to warrantless wiretapping by our government. No discussion about that, of course. And we’re seeing, really, an institutionalization by this president of some of the worst abuses and what we, a lot of us, thought were just aberrations during the Bush years.
I’d like to note what Obama did say:
…because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored. Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)
…We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.
Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)
Last I heard, the Defense Department is balking at even a 2014 pull out date of Afghanistan. The unjust, immoral, illegitimate occupations continue, and with them, the “war on terror” against civilians across the region. It’s up to us to bring out that reality to people.
I saw John Boehner pinch up his face when Obama obliquely mentioned the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” As much as the reactionaries howled against letting gays be out in the military, I have to say that any gay person who actually decides now to enlist has lost their mind. Just because one can now serve openly does not mean the whole enterprise of occupying countries and killing civilians should involve you! I say, “don’t ask, don’t tell….no — DON’T GO!” It’s a bad thing, as several professors have written me, that because DODT is being repealed, colleges are now planning to open the doors once again to military recruiters.
I’ll see you in Washington D.C. on March 17-19 as we step up the visible protest on the anniversary of the Iraq war.
A contradiction to ponder:
- A three-year investigation by the Department of Justice into the CIA operatives who carried out waterboarding, filmed the acts on 2 men, and then destroyed the tapes, ended this past November – with the government deciding not to prosecute anyone. Jason Leopold, in Special Prosecutor Declines to File Criminal Charges Over Destruction of CIA Torture Tapes wrote:It is widely believed that the videotapes were destroyed to cover up torture. It is also believed that the tapes were destroyed because Democratic members of Congress who were briefed about the tapes began asking questions about whether the interrogations were illegal, according to Jane Mayer, author of the book, “The Dark Side” and a reporter for The New Yorker magazine.
- A two-year secret federal investigation of the U.S. anti-war movement has been conducted by the Obama administration, apparently with a federal grand jury in Chicago hearing evidence from Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, looking into “possible links between U.S. anti-war groups and foreign terrorist organizations,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Fitzgerald issued subpoenas beginning in September 2010, delivered via FBI raids to their homes, for activists to appear before the grand jury. With all the records sealed by court order, it is impossible to know about the scope and intent of the probe.
But knowing what we know about how the “war on terror” has been conducted, one can be suspicious that the aim of the first investigation was to find no crimes, while the aim of the second is to manufacture crimes.
23 anti-war activists have now been targeted by the FBI, many through September raids that confiscated a wide range of personal material. In FBI Raids Anti-War Activists Homes in Midwest, Revolution newspaper reported after the initial raids:
The FBI spokesman in Minneapolis was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, “The warrants are seeking evidence in support of an ongoing Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation into activities concerning the material support of terrorism.” This was a charge which activists immediately dismissed as illegitimate and unjustified. No arrests have been made and the FBI admitted that there was no “imminent danger” to the public.
9 of the 23 activists have subpoenas compelling them to appear before the grand jury on Tuesday, January 25. Their profiles and background are posted by The Committee to Stop FBI Repression. According to the site:
These activists are involved in many groups, including the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists and many others came together to organize the 2008 anti-war marches during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.
The Committee’s site continues in a section on Grand Juries:
Some of those targeted have traveled to other countries to understand our government’s role in places like Palestine and Colombia. While there, they met with people to learn about their experience facing brutal repression from U.S. sponsored regimes, and brought their stories back to people in the U.S. Hearing about the reality of U.S. military aid is not a crime, and yet this appears to be the target of this investigation.
The Committee’s demands are:
- Stop the repression of anti-war and international solidarity activists.
- Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc.
- End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.
Grand Juries as Politically Repressive Tools
It’s important to know how grand juries are used in political investigations in this country. Glen Ford, in President Barack “Midnight Raid” Obama: End Your Wars at Home and Abroad writes
Grand juries are places where rights are butchered, and we can clearly see the broad outlines of a mass prosecution strategy unfolding, in which grand juries are the engines of political destruction.
Revolution newspaper gathered resources from the Center for Constitutional Rights in The Grand Jury – The Grand Inquisition and summarizes:
The person who has refused to testify [before a grand jury] can be brought back before the judge and held in what is known as “civil contempt” of the court. Without a trial, the judge can imprison the person for whatever is the length of the grand jury. Grand juries are normally 18 months, but there are special federal grand juries that are empanelled for 36 months, and this can be extended because it is “special.”
Historically, the Justice Department and the FBI have used the subpoena power of the federal grand jury, coupled with compulsory immunity, to jail activists who refuse to cooperate with government investigations. In the 1960s and well into the ’80s, there were many instances of courageous people who refused to testify before grand juries.
Joe Iosbaker, one of those originally subpoenaed said in October,
“We have nothing to say to a Grand Jury. Most people do not understand how secretive and undemocratic the Grand Jury is. I am not allowed to have my lawyer with me. There isn’t even a judge. How strange is that? It is the U.S. prosecutor with 23 people they hand picked to pretty much rubber stamp whatever the prosecutor says. A person is defenseless in that situation.”
Maureen Murphy received a subpoena on December 21 to appear on January 25. In explaining why she will not testify, she cites the danger not only to the activists in the United States by giving legitimacy to the investigation, but principally to those they could be forced to testify about in other countries
I have no intention to participate in the government’s witch hunt. It is very clear that no crime has been committed and that the government’s motivation in issuing these subpoenas is to have us name the names of other activists not only here in the United States, but also in places like Palestine and Colombia, where many of us have traveled to learn about the human rights situations in those places. We can only assume that the US government shares intelligence with the governments of Israel and Colombia, whose repressive military rule the US bankrolls at the US taxpayer’s expense. And it is essentially a prison sentence or worse for human rights activists in Palestine and Colombia to be singled out and identified in this way. And I have no intention in playing any role in that.
Jess Sundlin, another whose home was raided, said
“If our friends choose not to testify, they could be imprisoned. It could be for months or even years, like in the case of Professor Abdelhaleem Ashqar, who faced the same prosecutor we face and who was investigated of violating the same law we are confronting. Before he was acquitted of the charges against him, Dr. Ashqar was sentenced to criminal contempt for refusing to testify before Fitzgerald’s grand jury in Chicago. The punitive sentence against him was more than 11 years. Again, he was acquitted of the crimes the grand jury was investigating.”
Needed: A Wave of Support for Antiwar Resisters
On Tuesday, January 25, The Committee to Stop FBI Repression, and affiliated organizations are holding protests of the grand jury investigation in dozens of cities. I’ll be in Chicago that day, outside the Federal Building, in support of those refusing to testify.
Jill McLaughlin, in Reality And Morality: Standing Up To Repressive Forces While Standing Up For Humanity expressed the mission of World Can’t Wait in opposing this dangerous and repressive investigation.
We cannot allow these repressive attacks to deter us from righteously opposing and resisting the crimes of our government. We must have courage.