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Senate Hearing on Closing Guantanamo July 27, 2013

Posted by grellet in Guantánamo Bay Prison, torture.
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Last Wednesday, July 24,  I Joined friends from Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, Code Pink, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, and Amnesty International in holding a vigil outside the Dirksen Senate building and then attending the “Hearing on Closing Guantanamo: The National Security, Fiscal, and Human Rights Implications,” convened by Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL). The following persons gave testimony:

Army General Paul Eaton (ret)
Brigadier General Stephen Xenakis (ret)
Frank Gaffney, Founder and president of the Center for Security Policy
Navy Lt. Joshua Fryday
Elisa Massimino, President and CEO, Human Rights First
and two invited members of the House of Representatives, Adam Smith (D-WA) and Mike Pompeo (R-KS)
Senators Durbin, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, and Ted Cruz also gave extended remarks

The video is now available for your viewing pleasure on the C-SPAN website:
http://www.c-spanvideo.org/program/BayPris

Some highlights of the testimony given:

In his opening statement, Sen. Durbin reminded those attending of former Sec. of Defense Rumsfeld’s approval of the use of torture, and he quoted Justice Sandra Day O’Connor: “a state of war is not a blank check for the president.”  The main thrust of his argument was that detainees can be safely held at supermax facilities in the U.S., from which no one has ever escaped.  In fact, according to the senator, nearly 500 terrorists have been tried in the U.S. and are currently being held under supermax conditions. Unfortunately, in emphasizing the airtight security of our supermax prisons, Mr. Durbin left the impression that all the Gitmo detainees are actually guilty of some crime. To the contrary, 86 of them were been cleared for release long ago by the Combat Status Review Tribunals. As a matter of fact, I do not remember any mention at any time during the hearing that the vast majority of detainees ended up in custody. after being betrayed far from the battlefield for a hefty ransom offered by our government.

Finally,  I must confess to being less than delighted with the senator’s reassurances that any detainee who dares to resume hostilities against the U.S. (uh, how can one “resume” an action that one never practiced in the first place?) will surely perish in a US drone strike.  A truly comforting thought on many levels…

Gen. Eaton reminded the committee of the “Gitmoization” of Abu Ghraib and stated that there is “no national security reason to keep Guantánamo open.”

The most riveting statements were made by Brig. Gen. Xenakis, a practicing psychiatrist who has examined at least 50 of the detainees over the years. He unequivocally condemned force-feeding the hunger strikers, deploring the fact that military medical personnel are placed in an “untenable position,” as force-feeding is in blatant violation of their professional medical ethics and international human rights standards. He called for “independent doctors and nurses” to be brought in to care for the detainees.

Frank Gaffney made the breathtaking generalization that Guantánamo can never be closed because the detainees are all dedicated to the “doctrine of Sharia” and “believe it’s their duty to destroy us.” He also cautioned that detainees, if transferred to supermax facilities on the mainland, will proselytize in the US prisons.” Mr. Gaffney has obviously never read any of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal transcripts and seems to have a spotty understanding of Islam, to say the least.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein seemed to have the clearest appreciation of why some detainees are on hunger strike. She explained that a hunger strike is a form of protest, not attempted suicide, and reinforced the stance that force-feeding violates “international norms and medical ethics.”  She also reminded those present that locking prisoners away indefinitely without trial is “not the American way” and “makes a myth out of our legal system.”  Not to mention the revelation that it costs $2.7 million per year to keep each detainee at Guantánamo.  One can only hope that fiscal concerns will convince  those not moved by ethical considerations.

Finally, I can only conclude that Rep. Mike Pompeo and Sen. Feinstein, who have both toured Guantánamo, must have visited two different places.  Sen. Feinstein saw that “everything down there is so deceiving,” including the shiny new courtroom with no trials scheduled, and came away convinced that Gitmo “falsifies our principles.” Congressman Pompeo, on the other hand, made the following edifying statements:

“There are no human rights violations occurring at Guantanamo Bay.”

The hunger strike currently in progress is “a political stunt orchestrated or encouraged at least in part by counsel for the detainees.”

There is “no question of the constitutionality of Guantanamo.”

In short, the arguments to close Gitmo rested on international human rights considerations and the principle of the rule of law, while those who maintained that the place is essential to our national security appealed to naked fear.  As Sen Leahy put it, “We are the most powerful nation on earth. Why are we afraid to use our justice system?”

_______________
Thanks to Witness Against Torture for the photo of the suspicious, jumpsuit-clad individual.
#closegitmo

Taking Torture Personally July 1, 2013

Posted by grellet in Guantánamo Bay Prison, torture, Torture Awareness Month.
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Last Wednesday was the International Day of Support for Victims of Torture and the 140th day of the Guantanamo Bay detainee hunger strike. I headed down to Washington, D.C. to take part in the protest in front of the White House organized by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amnesty International USA, Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait, Torture Abolition and Survivor Support Coalition, and many other human rights groups.

We displayed the names of the 86 detainees cleared for release years ago, yet still imprisoned. Many are on hunger strike, the only means they have to get the American government to notice their plight and let them go.

We condemned the force-feeding of the detainees who are on hunger strike.

    We demanded that Pres. Obama stop
wringing his hands, go over Congress’ head and close Gitmo.

In obedience to the Light Within, I follow the example of Friends who supported their imprisoned brothers and sisters in 17th-century England, who have long worked to improve prison conditions (even for those convicted of grievous crimes), who helped slaves escape to freedom, who were part of feminism’s First Wave, and who currently assist vets in obtaining the medical benefits they so desperately need.

I affirm that those whose legal and human rights are being violated have the right to protest nonviolently, even if the only way they can do so is by fasting.I denounce force-feeding as torture and deplore the pain and suffering inflicted on them.

I march, clothed as the detainees were clothed when they first arrived at Gitmo, because they cannot march. Their fast is their voice, my footsteps are mine.

However, when all all is said and done, I was just there for decoration. My friend and fellow Quaker Megan really lived her conviction and joined those who chose to risk arrest and were indeed arrested. Not sure I’ll ever have that sort of courage.  She stood before the the White House fence radiating a quiet, assured, loving peacefulness. A real example of what it means to live the Peace Testimony.

Unfortunately for the cause of those subjected to torture and solitary confinement (but fortunately for gays who have also been awaiting justice), the Supreme Court chose the same day to hand down its momentous decisions. This had two consequences for our group of protesters.  First, we didn’t get much press coverage.  Second, I think the absence of recognizable journalists emboldened the police to use more severe tactics.  For instance, I saw them force an elderly, nonviolent vet to lie face-down in the street while they handcuffed him.

Here are some other sites with photos and videos of the protest:

Video of speakers — vet face-down on ground toward the end
http://youtu.be/61GU8IeFgHI

Medea Benjamin being thrown to the ground
http://www.popularresistance.org/police-brutality-against-codepink-at-white-house-close-guantanamo/

Photo gallery – close-up of Diane Wilson being arrested
www.closegitmo.net

Story on CommonDreams
http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2013/06/25

http://www.popularresistance.org/protest-at-white-house-close-guantanamo-diane-wilson-goes-over-white-house-fence/

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/06/protester-arrested-after-jumping-white-house-fence/

http://www.flickr.com/photos/billyclub/sets/72157634347963763/

http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/34970911

I hope we Americans find a way to throw off our pall of self-righteousness, paranoia, and vengeance and start treating everyone as children of the same Divine Parent.

Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured. Hebrews 13:3

Starving for Justice May 18, 2013

Posted by grellet in Uncategorized.
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Very moving video…

Day 100 of the hunger strike May 16, 2013

Posted by grellet in Guantánamo Bay Prison.
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…as so many of those signing would say, time to close Gitmo!

http://www.worldcantwait.net/index.php/calls-to-action/8236-world-can-t-wait-to-place-new-ad-against-guantanamo-in-the-new-york-times

Signers include:
John Cusack, Wallace Shawn, Junot Diaz, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, Eve Ensler, Dave Eggers, Glenn Greenwald, Paul Haggis, Bianca Jagger, Ariel Dorfman, Erica Jong, Michael Moore, Ron Kovic, Moby, Tom Morello, Mark Ruffalo, James Schamus, Carl Dix, Oliver Stone, Cindy Sheehan, and Cornel West, joined by attorneys for the Guantanamo prisoners and hundreds of others who stand for justice

Add your name:
http://org.salsalabs.com/o/1170/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13340

Watch an in-depth report:

Hunger Strike Song May 13, 2013

Posted by grellet in Uncategorized.
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Sing it loud for our brothers on hunger strike at Guantanamo.

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