Call To Action, Obama's Orders

The Counter Terror With Justice campaign and Amnesty International volunteers were on the National Mall yesterday, gathering 100 Days petition signatures before the inauguration and wearing orange and holding signs on the parade route.

I took this picture of JD with my phone, sorry it’s kinda pixely. It was great meeting so many people from around the country who want GTMO closed, torture ended and accountability for abuse. (Reminded me of the GTMO Cell Tour.)

We’ve been hearing for a few days now that President Obama would act quickly to address some of these points, but I didn’t think about how I’d feel when the time came. Now I’m getting a sense. My Aunt just forwarded me this, from ABC News: “Torture, Gitmo, and the Treatment of Detainees: President Obama’s Three Executive Orders for Thursday.”  If this article is correct, these orders would, quote:

  • close the detainee camp at Guantanamo Bay within a year and establish a process by which the U.S. government figures out what to do with the remaining detainees;
  • establish new rules on interrogation methods moving forward;
  • establish new guidelines for the treatment of detainees moving forward.

I have mixed emotions. I’d be thrilled to see such profoundly positive movement on these issues from President Obama, especially so quickly, but I’m already steeling myself for what will be probably be harder than getting to this point:

  • getting the details of the above right;
  • making sure illegal practices stop not just at GTMO, but also at Bagram, CIA sites and other US facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere;
  • ending rendition
  • ensuring accountability for torture and other illegal US interrogation and detention practices and policies—whether under Bush, Clinton, or anyone else.

Right now, the best thing we can all do is let President Obama know that we support and care about efforts to bring US interrogation and detention practices and policies in line with international law.

To that end, please take a moment to:








  • celebrate. We’ve all put a lot of hard work into this campaign—please give yourself a pat on the back. Have some orange juice. You’ll need a recharge for the fight ahead. Get that orange gear washed, ironed up and ready to go.

They Can’t Get Away With It…

So it ain’t breaking news that the Bush administration concocted a legal flip-flam to justify the kidnapping, capture, detention and torture of hundreds of people from around the world, under the guise of national security. But to witness how and exactly what they did in meticulous detail – legal memos, public statements (ie, lies) by administration officials, accurate re-enactments of torture, and testimony from a few extraordinarily strong men who survived death-defying treatment – was beyond maddening.

This happened last night as my husband pulled me away from Facebook to watch Torturing Democracy, an excellent new documentary produced by National Security Archive and Washington Media Associates airing now on PBS. My blood was boiling by the end.

Perhaps most compelling were the half-dozen or more former military officers who denounced the detainee treatment policy. These guys weren’t paper-pushing, desk-weenies. One is a former Navy aviator and one is the former head of the Navy’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) program. They stated emphatically how this undercut America’s core values and how this will harm American servicemen and women “for decades.”

Here’s a transcript from Malcolm Nance, Chief of Training, US Navy SERE, (1997-2001):

“It will hurt us for decades to come. Decades. Our people will all be subjected to these tactics, because we have authorized them for the world now. How it got to Guantanamo is a crime and somebody needs to figure out who did it, how they did it, who authorized them to do it, and shut it down because our servicemen will suffer for years.”

Lt. Colonel Stuart Couch, Senior Prosecutor, Office of Military Commissions, (2003-06):

“If we stoop and we compromise on our ideals as a nation, then these guys have accomplished much more than driving airplanes into the World Trade Center and into the Pentagon.”

As for me, I’m not religious, but I love how Col. Couch simply framed this issue:

“God means what he says. And we were created in his image, and we owe each other a certain level of dignity — a certain level of respect. And that’s just a line we can’t cross.”

As a human being, I was heartbroken and astonished that anyone could survive torture of this sickness and duration. As the daughter of a 32-year decorated Viet Nam veteran (U.S. Marine), I can only imagine that my dad is turning in his grave at Quantico National Cemetery. As an Amnesty International staff member, I am both fired up and proud that my organization is unwaveringly committed to fighting this unspeakable crap wherever it occurs, no matter who does it and no matter how far ahead of public opinion we may be.

Skip late-night Friends re-runs, this is must-see TV — if you care what your government does in your name.

Most Americans are ready to move beyond the nightmare of the last eight years. Yep, I’m all for massive change. But for some things in life the perps really ought to pay. And the U.S. war-on-terror detainees’ policy is one of them.

Sign Amnesty International’s petition for accountability. They just can’t get away with this.

Watch the trailer to Torturing Democracy

Torture Might Be Necessary

CongressDaily reports yesterday:

“The House Intelligence Committee’s top Democrat said Tuesday he has recommended that President-elect Barack Obama keep the country’s current national intelligence director and CIA chief in place for some time to ensure continuity in U.S. intelligence programs during the transition to a new administration.

Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, said he also recommended to Obama’s transition team that some parts of the CIA’s controversial alternative interrogation program should be allowed to continue. He declined to say what he specifically recommended, however.”

Personnel issues aside, the Obama team needs to send a clear message, that it repudiates the fact that the US has abdicated a bipartisan position on treatment and torture that has spanned over 50 years. The US should adopt a single standard for the treatment of detainees and it should be based on the US Army field manual.

The notion that undermining this standard advances our national security is absurd, and based on a cartoon-like view of the threats and challenges we face. Everytime we hold an individual we put a mirror to ourselves and our values, and we should treat them according to the golden rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The Real Story Behind Abu Ghraib

Standard Operating Procedure, directed by Errol Morris, tells the dark story behind the infamous photographs of detainee abuse and humiliation that came out of Abu Ghraib in 2004.

The images are haunting and uncomfortably familiar. Pictures of naked detainees stacked in a pyramid, a hooded prisoner standing on a box waiting to be electrocuted, a U.S. soldier giving the thumbs-up in front of a dead inmate in a body bag—these images are burned into minds around the world as symbols of the United States’ “war on terror.”

At face value, these images just show the ugly side of a few “bad apples,” but this documentary reveals the structures and policies that allowed routine human rights violations to happen and raises the important issue of accountability.

“I do not think that everything that happened at Abu Ghraib was directed by the White House or by the Pentagon. But I do think that polices were put in place by this administration that made it all possible,” said Errol Morris, the film’s director.  “…To me it’s a question of, what kind of country do we want to live in?”

The past elections prove that Americans do not condone torture; that Americans will not let their government flout human rights in the name of national security. Today, president-elect Obama announced the members of his future national security team, saying that they represent “the very best of the American example.”

But a fresh start and a new cabinet can’t wipe the slate clean. Questions of accountability still remain. President Bush still has the power to pardon any number of people potentially responsible for the egregious acts committed in the “war on terror.”

The American people deserve to know exactly what measures were taken to ensure their “protection.”

You're Free to Go Now…Just Kidding!

Can someone please explain this to me? How is it OK to arrest someone, send them to Guantánamo, keep them there a couple years, clear them for release, and then not let them leave? Among all the things that confuse and upset me about the way the US government has dealt with the detainees at Guantánamo, the situation of Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini is one of the most baffling.

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini  © Private

Mohammed Mohammed Hassan Odaini © Private

A Yemeni national, he was arrested in 2002 in Pakistan, where he had gone to study Islamic law. In 2005, US authorities declared him suitable for release, and Yemeni authorities indicated that they were willing to take him back. But now it’s almost 2009, and Odaini is still stuck in Guantánamo. This situation does not appear to be complicated. Unlike some other Guantánamo detainees, it’s not as if Odaini would be at risk of torture if he returned to Yemen, and it’s clear that he’d be welcomed there. What’s the holdup??

Odaini’s lawyer says “For all he knows, he could be there for the rest of his life.” I really hope this isn’t true, and that Odaini is not feeling totally hopeless.