What the New York Times Ad “CLOSE GUANATANMO NOW!” Signifies
“It is up to the 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.” (From the Close Guantanamo Now! Statement)
By Dennis Loo (5/20/13)
This week World Can’t Wait will be running a full-page advocacy ad in The New York Times, “the paper of record.”
This major statement calling for Guantanamo’s closure, an end to torture and to the attacks on fundamental civil liberties could not be timelier. It will be published very close in time to Obama’s nationwide speech this Thursday in which he is expected to defend his drone and detention policies.
The GTMO prisoners on hunger strike have passed 100 days in their strike and their lives hang in the balance. The battle to shut down Guantanamo is also part of a larger picture, which the statement also speaks directly to: you cannot separate GTMO from the overall so-called “war on terror.”
The WCW statement has already been signed by over 1100 people from all walks of life, including a truly impressive, sizable, and growing list of famous and highly respected individuals such as Cornel West, Glenn Greenwald, Alice Walker, Daniel Ellsberg, Michael Moore, S. Brian Willson, Noam Chomsky, Ray McGovern, M. Cherif Bassiouni (the “godfather of international law”), Mark Ruffalo, Moby, Bianca Jagger, Wallace Shawn, Dave Eggers, Oliver Stone, Ron Kovic, Tom Morello, Andy Worthington, Denis Haliday (former UN Assistant Secretary-General), Junot Diaz, Carl Dix, Cindy Sheehan, Boots Reilly, Rev. Michael Lerner, Harper’s Editor Jeff Sharlet, Margaret Ratner Kunstler, Outernational, Le Tigre, attorneys for GTMO detainees, and so on. See here for the names as of this writing.
This growing list of endorsers is extremely significant for a number of reasons.
Starving for Justice Video
Close Guantanamo! Stop the Torture! End the War Crimes and Violations of Fundamental Rights!
166 men remain imprisoned at . Most are on hunger strike and for many it is now 100 days that they have been refusing food. Some are near death, many imprisoned for more than ten years. They have lost hope of ever 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?"[i] Mr. Latif was cleared for release as well, but he died in September 2012, still waiting for justice.
President Obama had said nothing about Guantanamo for years. Facing a growing outcry, he blames Congress for blocking closure. Even under Congress’ existing criteria, however, Obama could have released most of the detainees years ago. He responsible for processing prisoners’ releases; made it harder for lawyers to meet with their clients by recently banning commercial flights to the prison and barring emergency calls by attorneys to the detainees; ordered forced feeding through excruciating means and by strapping prisoners down (a of medical ethics and torture in itself); and authorized an in which 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 and 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,[ii] 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 “security,” our government has tortured at least . 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 implemented a policy of killing with drones across sovereign borders, deciding who will die by Hellfire missiles - 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 and between 3-4,000 have died in . , 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, amount to war crimes. Such actions cannot in any way be morally justified in the name of “protecting Americans.” The lives of people living here are not more precious than any other people's lives.
It is up to the 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 demand the release , before they lose their lives as well.
Signed, to date, by over one thousand people, including Alice Walker, 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.
[i] Adnan Latif’s poem was published in Mark Falkoff, Ed., Poems from Guantanamo, University of Iowa Press, 2007. Describing Latif, Witness Against Torture, http://witnesstorture.org/survivors/adnan-farhan-abdul-latif/ states: “Originating from Yemen, Adnan Latif was sold for bounty at the Pakistan/Afghanistan border in 2001, was one of the first men to be brought to the camp back in 2002, suffered torture including solitary confinement for the first three years, then willingly undertook a hunger strike for justice for over six months in 2005, was later held at the base psychiatric ward due to his deteriorating mental health, and was forbidden under a moratorium – like the other fifty-six Yemeni men detained at Guantánamo yet cleared for release since 2009 – by the Obama administration to return to Yemen because of that country’s instability. At the time of his death at the age of thirty-six years old, Adnan Latif spent ten years, seven months, and twenty-five days detained at Guantánamo.”
[ii] The bill itself can be found at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr4310/text. The 2013 version of NDAA, also signed by Obama, includes language that declares that habeas corpus rights are a Constitutional right of Americans (non-Americans’ rights are ignored entirely), but that statement is window dressing rhetoric, as Joe Wolverton’s commentary on it indicates:
The new bill does nothing to prevent the indefinite detention of Americans under the 2013 NDAA; furthermore, it only reiterates that habeas corpus is a right in courts established under Article III of the Constitution. That such a right exists in the courts of the United States has never been the issue. The concern of millions of Americans from every band in the political spectrum is that Americans detained as “belligerents” under the terms of the NDAA will not be tried in Article III courts, but will be subject to military tribunals such as the one currently considering the case of the so-called “Gitmo Five.”
There is not a single syllable of the 2013 NDAA currently being considered by the Senate Armed Service Committee on Thursday that will guarantee Americans will be tried in a constitutional court and not a military commission.
Obama Needs Congress to Close GTMO, but Not to Use Drones?
By Dennis Loo (5/16/13)
In late April of 2013, Congress held a hearing, finally, on Obama's use of drones. Obama, however, oddly declined to send anyone to represent the White House at this hearing. Obama had promised in his February 12, 2013 State of the Union Address to bring more transparency to his drone program.
In his SOTU address, Obama said this:
"We must enlist our values in the fight," Obama said, in a portion of the speech dedicated to the "range of capabilities" the U.S. would deploy against suspected terrorists worldwide. "In the months ahead, I will continue to engage with Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention, and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world."
Note this phrase in particular: "consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances." I learned in grade school that "checks and balances" refers to the interactions between the three major branches of the government, the Legislative (Congress), the Judiciary, and the Executive Branch (White House). Despite promising once again to be "transparent" in the months ahead, Obama doesn't think that checks and balances refers to participating in a Senate hearing on one of his most controversial policies two months after he promised to do this in the "months ahead."