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ARRESTED FOR PROTESTING THE NOMINATION OF AN ARCHITECT OF TORTURE
BY ANN WRIGHT
On July 11, day eight of a fast to bring the troops home, I was arrested in the US Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the confirmation of William J. Haynes II to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
I was wearing an orange Guantanamo jumpsuit (with two others in Gitmo orange) in the hearing room to remind the Senators that Haynes was a critical player in the development of the Bush administration’s torture program at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. As a retired US Army Reserve Colonel with 13 years on active duty and 16 in the Reserves and a 16 year US diplomat, I felt I had to voice my professional military concerns to the Senators on the Judiciary Committee that Mr. Haynes has done extreme harm to the US military and to the country during his tenure as the Department of Defense General Counsel and should not be confirmed with a life-time appointment as a judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judiciary Committee chairman Arlen Specter vigorously banging his gavel precipitating the Capitol Police removing from the committee room and arresting me. I was charged with unlawful conduct.
As the Department of Defense General Counsel (chief civilian lawyer), Haynes ignored the advice of the two-star Judge Advocate Generals of the US Army, Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy to continue to use the provisions of the Geneva Conventions to provide protections to the combatants captured by US forces in Afghanistan and other places throughout the world. His role was so obvious and blatant that Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that Haynes contributed to the “legal confusion” that provided an atmosphere in the military that fostered the torture at Abu Ghraib and the harsh conditions at Guantanamo. Some of the low ranking military responsible for implementing the policies have been court-martialed and a few high ranking have seen their careers stalled. No civilians at the policy making level have been reprimanded. Instead they have been promoted. The Bush administration sacrifices the lambs and protects their wolves.
Haynes ok-ed the “Bybee memo” that narrowly defined torture and suggested it would be legal to subject some al-Qaeda prisoners to "cruel, inhumane or degrading" treatment. The memo also said that a president could ignore international and domestic prohibitions against torture in the name of national security. The author of that memo was Jay Bybee, a Department of Justice lawyer, who was nominated by the Bush administration and incredibly confirmed last year by the Senate as a judge in the Federal appeals courts.
I deeply feel that we must stop the Senate from confirming another architect of illegal and immoral policies into our federal judicial system. The Bush administration’s legacy will continue for decades if we do not put tremendous pressure on the Congress to refuse to hand stamp the creators of the disastrous policies that have broken US laws and have put the United States in the doghouse of the world.
My small protest in the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings was a way to express the outrage of huge numbers of American military and civilians to the individuals who created the policies of the Bush administration that have placed our country in greater danger rather than making it safer.
It is up to us the people to hold the Congress and Administration accountable for their deeds. I firmly believe that protest and arrest, if necessary, are honorable steps in this accountability.
About the Author: Ann Wright is a retired US Army Reserve Colonel who served 13 years on active duty and 16 years in the Reserves. She also served 16 years in the US diplomatic corps, and was Deputy Chief of Mission, or Deputy Ambassador in Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan (briefly) and Mongolia. She resigned from the diplomatic corps in March, 2003 in opposition to the Iraq War.