Archive for the ‘torture’ Category

Averting your eyes?

February 29, 2012

“Then force entered in; might making right; power and its tool, violence, and its most devoted ally, the averted eye.”*

There is so much injustice in US society that to catalogue it all would take pages. Yesterday’s Don’t Suppress OWS event focused on that directed toward the peaceful protestors of the Occupy Movement, who had brought to national attention the staggering economic equality that exists in this country.

All the injustices are connected. The police state at home, the wars and brutality here and abroad, the devastation of the planet, the abrogation of rights, and on and on.

Are you averting your eyes? I know that some people are not. They act in some way to stop the madness that reigns in this society. Some give money to support things like yesterday’s action. If you didn’t, you still can here or go to the event website where on the right hand side there is an address where you can send a check . If you prefer other organizations or issues, there are lots of places to make a difference with your contribution. Find one and give what you can. Then you will know you are not averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

Some people go to the streets. If you haven’t ever done that, you are missing an experience not like any other. Do it now. Then you and others will know you are not averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

Some people organize protest at all levels. There is so much work to be done at computer terminals, in meetings, in courtrooms, on the streets. Find an organization and do something to help it. Then you will know that you are not averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

Failure to do something, to act, is averting your eyes and allying yourself with violence.

I am profoundly grateful for all the people on this planet who are working wherever they are to stop violence and injustice. I know that we are all connected in a vast web. I call on everyone who has not yet taken action to join us. We have right on our side. We will be able to answer our own consciences when we are asked how we could have lived in this time and allowed these horrors to happen with the true reply that we worked to stop them.

*From Ursula Le Quin’s The Dispossessed, Harper Voyager 2011,p.256 p.

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We Must Close Guantanamo and Stop Torture

February 15, 2012

We have always known at some level of consciousness from the opening of the prison at Guantanamo, but since the release of some of the prisoners we know for sure that the US tortures them.  Below are damning sections of a report by Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild and fierce advocate for human rights:

“Although the Convention Against Torture, a treaty the United States has ratified, forbids the use of coercion under any circumstances to obtain information, prisoners released from Guantánamo have detailed assaults, prolonged shackling in uncomfortable positions, sexual abuse, and threats with dogs.  Mustafa Ait Idr, an Algerian citizen who was living in Bosnia when he was sent to Guantánamo, charged that U.S. military guards jumped on his head, resulting in a stroke that paralyzed his face. They also broke several of his fingers and nearly drowned him in a toilet. Mohammed Sagheer, a Pakistani cleric, claimed the wardens at Guantánamo used drugs “that made us senseless.” French citizen Mourad Benchellali, released from Guantánamo in July 2004, said, “I cannot describe in just a few lines the suffering and the torture; but the worst aspect of being at the camp was the despair, the feeling that whatever you say, it will never make a difference.”  Benchellali added, “There is unlimited cruelty in a system that seems to be unable to free the innocent and unable to punish the guilty.”

Prisoners kneeling in the sun

“Australian lawyer Richard Bourke, who has represented many of the men incarcerated at Guantánamo, charged that prisoners have been subjected to “good old-fashioned torture, as people would have understood it in the Dark Ages.” According to Bourke, “One of the detainees had described being taken out and tied to a post and having rubber bullets fired at them. They were being made to kneel cruciform in the sun until they collapsed.” Abdul Rahim Muslimdost, an Afghan who was released from Guantánamo in April 2005, said he suffered “indescribable torture” there.

“U.S. and international bodies have verified reports of torture and abuse.  Physicians for Human Rights found that “the United States has been engaged in systematic psychological torture of Guantánamo detainees” at least since 2002. FBI agents saw female interrogators forcibly squeeze male prisoners’ genitals and witnessed detainees stripped and shackled low to the floor for many hours. In February 2006, the United Nations Human Rights Commission reported that the violent force-feeding of detainees by the U.S. military at Guantánamo amounts to torture.”

Read the entire article here.

Will you turn away from these horrors or take responsibility and work to stop them?  I hold citizenship in a country that tortures people.  I cannot act as though this does not concern me. I join with others to protest and demand the end to torture by the US.

Lena spoke with old friends in France recently when she was there.  She said that they had seen news reports on that country’s media about the protest in Washington, DC on the anniversary of the opening of the torture camp at Guantanamo in January.  The US media, handmaidens of the ruling elite here, did not cover that event.  It is up to us to make these crimes against humanity by the US known and to resist them.

Ed Reports on Washington Action

January 18, 2012

World Can’t Wait Contingent from NYC just off the bus, Ed is on the front row far left, camera in hand, ready to go!

So, I went down to our nation’s capital (second time, since High School field trip in ’84) to cover the 10th Anniversary of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp, and it was a pretty eye-opening experience.  Didn’t know too much about it, as our press doesn’t cover it, for obvious reasons:  There are innocent (our government even admits they’re innocent) people being tortured and detained in GITMO – being held there with no habeas corpus rights, no evidence, no trial – nothing.  And to make matters worse, Obama just signed a law, stating that the Federal Govt. now has the right to do this to American Citizens!  Isn’t this supposed to be a free country?  Why does the press not cover this and why is every single attorney and citizen not up in arms about this?  Gotta wonder.  Well, all walks of American life were out there in the rain letting their voices be heard, and here’s the footage…

Click here for Guantanamo Bay Protest in DC, January 11, 2012

Still from the video of Street Theater Before the Big March

and here for GITMO Spoken Word and Dance Protest

CCR Advocate about to read a poem by one of the Prisoners

and here for Andy Worthington and Other Protesters at Supreme Court

Other film stills showing people of all ages who participated

Ed’s Film of Andy on the Steps of the Supreme Court

January 16, 2012

Since there is precious little coverage of the protest last Wednesday, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the torture camp at Guantanamo, it is especially important for me to share the film Ed Haas made of the event.  Here is a link to remarks by Andy Worthington foremost authority on the prisoners at Guantanamo, from the steps of the Supreme Court Building.

Andy Worthington

See Andy’s new website here.

Close Guantanamo Protest, Jan. 11, 2012

January 13, 2012

We gathered at Lafayette Park across from the White House, protesters from all over who were determined on the date of the beginning of the 11th year of the infamous torture camp at Guantanamo Bay to see it closed.  Our group had gotten on the bus in New York at 6:30am to get there.

Speakers, including Col. Morris Davis, ret. who was a prosecutor at the prison and has denounced it, reminded us briefly of the horrors there and of the blight on the US of establishing and continuing this and other torture centers throughout the world.  It was cold and raining, but we were not daunted.  Many of us donned the orange jumpsuits that the prisoners wear.  We wanted to be as brightly visible to the people in Washington, DC as the prisoners are to their guards.

After a stop in front of the White House …

… we began a  long march of over two miles through the city to the Supreme Court Building.

Crossing the street to head up to the Supreme Court

We were noisy and spirited in spite of the weather.  “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Guantanamo has got to go!”  “What do we want?  Human rights!  When do we want them? Now?”  were chanted all along the way.

Some of our youngest protesters leading the chants

The World Can’t Wait contingent had two big banners that proclaimed to passers by and motorists just exactly what we demand.

We stopped at the Department of Justice to chant, “What do we want? Justice.  When do we want it? Now!”  and “Shame! Shame!”  Then we continued on.

Marching to the Supreme Court

When we finally got to the Supreme Court building, 171 protesters, representing the remaining prisoners at the Guantanamo torture camp, stood on the steps.

On the Steps of the Supreme Court

A few people who have been instrumental in the movement to close the camp and lawyers who have fought for the rights of the prisoners made brief remarks.

Debra Sweet told us we were there because we are “not adjusted to injustice,” earning a big cheer.

Debra Sweet, Director of The World Can’t Wait

I silently made a vow never to get adjusted to it.

Lots of people made photographs with digital cameras and cell phones in addition to some alternative media sources and filmmakers like Ed Haas whose film produced the stills on this post.

Andy Worthington, world authority on and advocate for the prisoners

One of the lawyers read a poem by her client, a prisoner whom the US has declared never to have been engaged in any violence much less against this country and who has endured torture and indefinite imprisonment for ten long years with no end in sight.  It was a tragic cry of desperation: will he ever see his children, his wife, his parents again?  It was my very great privilege to have been asked to dance as she read.

Some of the lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights who are at Guantanamo right now had called to let their colleagues know that the prisoners were aware we were protesting and had taken heart from that.  They were protesting, too, with a hunger strike on January 10, 11, and 12 and a sit down strike for those allowed to move about.  Not all of them are in that category.  I hated thinking about both the conditions of those others and the possible retribution for all of them.  I can only admire their continuing courage and humanity.

Union  Station where we were to get back on the bus was only a few blocks from the Supreme Court.  When the proceedings were over, we walked down to board the bus for the long ride home, cold, wet, and tired, but very glad to have been at this historic protest.  We have done what we could to

CLOSE GUANTANAMO NOW.

See Ed Haas’s film footage here.

Go to Closeguantanamo.org to join with others to close down this heinous torture camp.

The Prisoners Know

January 13, 2012

Word came today from Andy Worthington that the prisoners at Guantanamo know that there will be protests in Washington and other cities in the US and around the world to close Guantanamo tomorrow, January 11, the beginning of the 11th year of that torture camp.  They are going to protest also.

If they, who risk very serious repercussions indeed, are willing to protest, let us all make an effort.  If you cannot be at one of the planned actions, you can make a sign on a sheet of paper saying CLOSE QUANTANAMO NOW! and pin it to your clothes or hang it around your neck.

These prisoners, only a few of whom may have used violence against the US, have endured enough and the prison is a great disgrace to the US.  We can demand it be shut down.

Will you do that now?

My next report will be when I get back from Washington.

And I didn’t speak, because I wasn’t a ….

December 24, 2011

At this moment I am on a train stopped in Rochester with a border patrol officer hassling an English speaking national of another country in the seat behind me.  It is 11:30 at night, the car lights are dim, people are resting, some were sleeping.  We have been violently jerked awake and alert; the tension is very high in what had been a peaceful car.  No one of us makes a sound.  The poor young man is hauled off to custody for not having proper identification.  The young woman who sat beside him did have the right things and remains with us.

I had just signed on and was going to quote German pastor Martin Niemöller for another reason.  It seems fortuitous that I had found this statement before the officer burst in.

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me

I felt during the incident as though I should have risen to the defense of this young man.  I do not have the skills to do that, nor the community of the occupation that Bonnie speaks about below.  I feel terrible.  I don’t know what would have happened if I had risen to his defense; probably nothing but that I, too, would have been arrested.

I just had a conversation with the two men next to me, one of whom, a professional photographer, had gotten to Liberty Square at 6am on the morning of the threatened eviction when Bonnie and I had been there all night.  The other, a student in Albany, had been there for a short time to support the movement.  The older man does not share my rage about this treatment of human beings, including the rest of the people on this train; he says I don’t know anything about the young well spoken man who was just hauled off. I replied that I know he is a human being and so are all of us.   The younger one says he shares my feelings, including that of helplessness and impotence in the face of this act of repression.

In a country where extra-judicial imprisonment and torture of anyone, anywhere is “legal,” the arrest of someone in this circumstance could be very serious.  Indeed, none of us is safe from this and we delude ourselves if we think we are.

I want to quote now from Bonnie’s article as I had intended to.  It is  about a different world that is already emerging, one where people resist police repression together.  She reports first hand of an incident at OWS:
“After Bloomberg’s shameless and violent paramilitary crackdown in the dead of night on OWS in Zuccotti Park last month, I attended the general assembly meeting there the night after. I was awed by the resilient communal spirit of the occupiers facillitating and attending the meeting.

“Suddenly there was a disturbing distraction to the proceedings. Some occupiers were sitting on top of a wall ledge on the south edge of the park. A few overzealous police officers were ordering them to get down. To my mind it seemed gratuitous power-flexing by the police.

“After hundreds of NYC Occupiers were roughed up and/or arrested, their tents and personal items damaged or destroyed, and metal barricades erected around every last inch of the encampment’s borders, with that night only four police-monitored entrances available, in which each entrant was carefully inspected (for sleeping bags?) while going in and clandestinely, no doubt, had his or her photo taken. After hundreds of occupiers now had to find alternative sleeping accommodations this ‘get off the ledge’ power dictum to a tiny cluster of peaceful occupiers seemed insult to injury.

“A young man near me began to aim a stream of expletives at one aggressive officer hassling a young woman in particular. I inhaled worriedly, sure that his provocation would not bode well for the individuals in direct line of police engagement. Would one hot head cop and one hot head occupier derail the civilized Occupation community this evening tending to its vital and noble business?

“Suddenly an attractive dark-haired young woman stood up on the ledge, cupped her hands around her mouth and queried loudly, ‘Should I get down from the wall?’ I twisted my head to view the crowd of occupiers behind me re-chanting her message earnestly but without inflated hysteria. How empowering for her and all of us was that rhetorical ritual! She would not get down unless called to by her Occupy community.

“I looked back to the feisty young woman and had to blink. Every inch of the ledge was suddenly — it seemed automatically — filled with bodies defiantly sitting. Had there been a lot more sitters all along and I had not registered them, or, more likely, had countless occupiers hastened to the wall to join the woman and her comrades? The message of this passionately bonded proactive community was clear, if she were to be forcibly removed and arrested so would they all be. I’d call it a ‘checkmate’ moment for the police.

“I was awed by the display of loyalty as well as savvy.

“The most aggressive policeman was clearly enraged by the dazzling dynamic and seemed all the more motivated to force the issue, but four of his fellow officers were backing away, encouraging him to let it go.

“I exhaled, believing that was the end of it. But from the front of the meeting, a message was chanted back to us that the meeting may be momentarily terminated. Again, no strident messaging. The voice of calm, conveying ‘Please stand by, we will handle this as we have handled so much already. More maturely than we have been treated, certainly.’ The police apparently were deciding if the wall incident should be used by them for more broadscale power-flexing.

“The meeting was allowed to go on. A meeting that was taking care of business. The business of finding sleeping accommodations for 300 people, which they did, informing people where they could go to retrieve whatever remnants of their personal possessions had not been destroyed by the violent police, informing the community of the status of their fellow occupiers who had been arrested, and sharing and soliciting preliminary plans for further action.”

You can read Bonnie’s full article here.

Thank you, Bonnie, for putting your body on the line with the OWS movement and for reporting on it.  Thank you to all the courageous, smart, committed occupiers who are showing us that another world is possible.

I don’t know what would have happened in this train car if I had asked my fellow passengers if I should rise to defend the young man.  The time did not seem right to try to find out, so I didn’t.  I long for the day when anyone could ask and know that the mass of other people would respond wisely and courageously  in such a situation.

Torture Still Goes On

December 12, 2011

Jeffrey Kaye in The Public Record of Dec 8th, 2011 quotes Diane Feinstien:

“As chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, I can say that we are nearing the completion [of] a comprehensive review of the CIA’s former interrogation and detention program, and I can assure the Senate and the Nation that coercive and abusive treatment of detainees in U.S. custody was far more systematic and widespread than we thought.

“Moreover, the abuse stemmed not from the isolated acts of a few bad apples but from fact that the line was blurred between what is permissible and impermissible conduct, putting U.S. personnel in an untenable position with their superiors and the law.”

This testimony by Senator Diane Feinstein concludes with more obfuscating language, but this part is at least clear and direct.   Kaye continues:

“One reason for the lulled non-murmur over torture is the outrageous lie that Obama, after coming into office, ‘ended torture.’  He enshrined the Army Field Manual as the supposedly humane alternative to the Bush torture regime of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ Feinstein, who certainly knows better, is an exemplary model for such myth-making — ‘myth’ because the Army Field Manual actually uses torture of various sorts, and even though about half-a-dozen human rights and legal organizations, and a number of prominent government interrogators have said so in a Nov. 2010 letter signed by 14 well-known interrogators to then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates..” Feinstein clearly knows this and,  as Kaye shows in the rest of the article, but she still claims that the AFM and other guidelines are enough without secret documents.  What she fails to say is that they allow torture openly.

He states that he does not expect Feinstein to respond to questions he has about US torture methods.  He continues:

“Instead I ask readers, what kind of a country is it that has torture written into its public documents, and no one raises a fuss (or practically no one)?

“The failure to take on the AFM [Army Field Manual]and its Appendix M abuses in a serious fashion has led in a straight line to the political pornography of watching torture debated in Congress and among Presidential candidates, as well as a surge of political effort being made in some circles to make sure all such abuse is hidden forever behind a veil of classification. This failure is directly the responsibility of the human rights groups, who have not made it clear to their constituencies and the public at large how serious the problem currently is. While most of them are on the record of opposing the abuses described above, they repeatedly have pulled their punches for political reasons (as during the recent debate on the Ayotte amendment), and as a result, they must take the hard criticism when it comes, until, or unless they turn this around.”

I ask why we as citizens depend on the “human rights groups” who don’t do what they can for “political reasons.”  Such groups are not worth supporting.  What can we do directly as citizens?  Are we among those who have let US torture go unchallenged?  What can we do to resist torture by the US government right now?

US Reaps What It Has Sown

December 2, 2011

I just read a BBC story that a seventy year old US “aid expert” was kidnapped in August by armed men in Lahore Pakistan and continues to be held, and that the current head of al Qaeda has said he is being held “in retaliation.”

US Aid Expert Warren Weinstein

“‘Just as the Americans detain whomever they suspect may be connected to al-Qaeda or the Taliban even in the slightest of ways, we have detained this man who has been involved with US aid to Pakistan since the 1970s,’ Zawahiri said in the 31-minute video.

“He also demanded that America stop air strikes on Somalia and Yemen, according to a US monitoring group, Site Intelligence.”

My heart goes out to Mr Weinstein and his family.  I am also very afraid for his conditions of imprisonment there, and in no small part because of what the US has done and continues to do to aid workers and other completely innocent people at Guantanamo and in its other black sites.  My own values do not condone retaliation; the eye for an eye concept has not historically achieved desirable results, nor does it fit with my ideas about the way all human beings should be respected in and for themselves.  I can, however, understand that people could want to retaliate against US crimes against humanity.

One of the grisliest stories at Guantanamo is about Shaker Aamer, a British resident with a British wife and children, who was engaged in humanitarian and educational work in Afghanistan at the time of the US invasion.  Andy Worthington reported on 24 November of this year about his deteriorating condition and said,he  “remains held, exactly ten years since he was first seized, even though he was notified that he had been cleared for release in 2007, and even though successive British governments have requested his return to the UK.”

Worthington further reports there that Aamer, an English speaker and greatly humanitarian person was a “foremost advocate” for his fellow prisoners.  He “was tortured to within an inch of his life” during the same night that three prisoners died   Shaker Aamer is held in complete solitary confinement since that  incident reported as three “suicides” at the torture camp by US authorities, but which lawyer/writer Scott Horton has shown could not have been suicides. Military guards at the camp who later spoke with Horton suggest the three men were tortured to death.

Like so many of the nearly 800 men and boys who ended up in Guantanamo, Aamer was swept up in Dick Cheney’s indiscriminate drag net to catch enough people to populate the Guantanamo torture camp that had already been built and which was likely to go empty otherwise after he let the military president of Pakistan airlift probable al Qaeda and other leaders out of Kunduz.  Cheney had to fill up the camp and anybody, especially Arab Muslims living in Afghanistan were the primary targets of his dragnet.

Torture still goes on at Guantanamo.  Indefinite, extra-judicial imprisonment of people is against international law, and unless the current bill in Congress passes, is also illegal under US law.  Whether the US “law” changes or not, such treatment of people clearly does not adhere to international legal standards.

The BBC article mentions the capture and beheading of Wall Street Journal writer Daniel Pearl, a horrific crime, to be sure .  It does not, however, make any reference to the kidnapping and torture by the US of many people, not just the 779 in Guantanamo, but the thousands more in Bagram and black sites all over the world.

As it has sown, the US now reaps.  People will not infinitely allow themselves to be attacked by drones, their countries ravaged by US wars of aggression, their people victims of US crimes against humanity.

The US must take the first step by stopping all aggression, closing all the prisons abroad and releasing the prisoners, withdrawing its military personnel from its bases all over the world, closing the bases and returning the property to the countries where they are located, stopping all drone and other air wars, and making amends to the world.  Only in this way, can US citizens begin to be free and safe in the world.