Stop the Torture! Close Guantánamo! End the War Crimes & Violations of Fundamental Rights!
by Debra Sweet We’ve been pondering hard on what more we can do to create a political situation where Obama has to back down, release at least a few of the men at Guantanamo, and be forced into closing the prison. All of our frequent protests, petitions, call-ins, editorials and op-eds are part of what's needed.
Some initial signers:
Shaker Aamer, one of the Guantanamo hunger strikers, pictured with his children more than 11 years ago.
The major missing ingredient in this moment, though, is 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 we reach 100 days of the prisoners' hunger strike, that we provide a way for them to speak out together, and for that message to be seen.
Dennis Loo has drafted text for a full-page ad in The New York Times which could serve as such a vehicle. If circulated widely, signed by a collection of notable names, and funded sufficiently by the end of this week, it could be placed on stand-by and run on around the 99th day of the strike, just before international support actions May 17-19.
Going back to 2002, when the Not in Our Name statement was run several times in The Times, and 50+ other papers; and to World Can't Wait's experience of doing seven full page ads, mostly when Bush was in office, I've seen the potential of such ads to pull together that needed voice. The Times is seen as the paper of record both here and worldwide. I anticipate, viscerally, the joy and surprise of people reading a statement that really speaks for them; and conversely, I think of Obama having the newspaper laid open on his desk to the faces of Shaker Aamer and others, seeing the words "Close Guantanamo Now" coming from people who paid dearly to place the message.
Our goal date for publication would be Thursday May 16. Cost at the stand-by advocacy rate is $52,030. No, World Can't Wait does not have those funds on hand. The funds are in the accounts of people who appreciate this particular way of being heard, or of seeing names of people they respect in the ad. It will take a fast social-networking base to bring in many small donations, and more importantly larger donations, and likely loans, from people who can give $1,000 or $5,000 readily.
The text content of the ad is below. We expect to have a beautiful, arresting ad design for print. You can donate online here, and/or be in touch with me about other forms of donations and fund-raising. Online or check donations to Alliance for Global Justice, our fiscal sponsor, make your donation tax-deductible.
We seek to change how people look at Guantanamo, and at the justifications Obama et al make for other dangerous aspects of what they're doing in the world.
It will mean a lot if you add your name as a signer and/or can help get others to add their names, and most importantly, donate for the publication.
Stop the Torture! Close Guantanamo! End the War Crimes and Violations of Fundamental Rights!
166 men remain imprisoned at Guantanamo. Most are 100 days into a hunger strike. Some are near death, many imprisoned for more than ten years. They have lost hope of being released, although a majority were cleared to leave years ago. As Adnan Latif, a detainee, wrote during an earlier hunger strike, "Where is the world to save us from torture? Where is the world to save the hunger strikers?" Mr. Latif was cleared for release as well, but he died in September 2012, still waiting for justice.
President Obama has said nothing about Guantanamo for years. Facing a growing outcry, he says that he wants to close it, but that Congress is blocking closure. Even under Congress’ existing criteria, however, Obama could have released most of the detainees years ago. He closed the office responsible for processing prisoners’ releases; recently prevented lawyers from meeting with their clients by banning flights to the prison; barred emergency calls by attorneys to the detainees; ordered forced feeding through excruciating means and by strapping prisoners down (a violation of medical ethics and torture in itself); and authorized an April 13 assault in which guards fired rubber bullets on hunger strikers. Obama does not need Congressional approval: as Commander in Chief, he has the power to shut the prison down now.
The continuing torture at Guantanamo is part of larger, alarming developments. When he ran for office, Obama promised to restore the rule of law. Instead he has claimed and exercised unchecked executive powers beyond what George Bush used. He refuses to prosecute officials for their use of torture, yet aggressively prosecutes any whistle-blowers who expose war crimes, most flagrantly in the torture, slander and draconian legal charges against Bradley Manning. By signing the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, Obama made indefinite detention, based on merely an accusation, the law of the land. These actions amount to institutionalizing and, in important respects, escalating, the “Bush Doctrine.”
In the name of “democracy,” our government has tortured at least one hundred people to death. In the name of the “war on terror,” thousands have been detained without a chance to face their accusers or even know what charges they are held under. In opposition to international law, Obama has advanced a policy of targeted killing across sovereign borders, deciding who will die by Hellfire missiles shot from drones - without charges, trials, or any evidence other than what only Obama and his close advisers deem sufficient. At least 176 children have been killed by drones in Pakistan alone and between 3-4,000 non-combatants have died in drone attacks. John Bellinger, who drafted Bush’s justifications for targeted killings, concludes that the Obama administration has decided to kill people with drones so that they don’t have to imprison them.
Fundamental civil liberties have been eviscerated. In the name of safety, fear, or revenge, American presidents cannot be allowed to arrogate to themselves the power of judge, jury and executioner. Actions that utilize de facto torture, that run roughshod over the rule of law and due process, and that rain down terror and murder on peoples and nations, without any declaration of war, amount to war crimes. Such actions cannot in any way be morally justified in the name of “protecting Americans.” American lives are not more precious than any other nation’s people’s lives.
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 must demand their release now, before they lose their lives as well.