Day 1 WAT’s Fast for Justice begins

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

Day 1 January 7,8 -The witness begins

***Please let us know if you would like to receive daily updates from the fast by sending an e-mail with “fast updates” in the subject to witnesstorture@gmail.com.

Witness Against Torture members began assembling in Washington, D.C. on Sunday evening, January 7. Matt Daloisio and Luke Nephew arrived in a van that Matt had carefully packed with twelve years worth of posters, banners, and other paraphernalia, along with sleeping bags, pillows, cups, winter clothing and other essentials for a week of fasting intended to close Guantanamo and abolish torture forever.

Matt spent close to an hour organizing the equipment and the posters. “He curates it,” said Josie Setzler, recognizing that Matt alone seems to know what is packed in every box and stored at the Maryhouse Catholic Worker.  He organized a wall of past posters and flyers that offers a montage of WAT history.

In an opening circle reflection, Matt noted that many of the prisoners whose visages and names appeared on banners over the years have been released. In 2007, there were 430 prisoners in Guantanamo. Today, 41 men are imprisoned there. Matt mentioned that Shaker Aamer has been reunited with the son whom he had never met while imprisoned in Guantanamo. Mohammed Ould Slahi, author of Guantanamo Diary, has finally been released. These encouraging realities don’t in the slightest diminish the urgency we feel in seeking the release of the 41 men still imprisoned in Guantanamo. Yet our sense of renewed purpose was heightened as Matt “curated” the stage, setting the scene for actions this week.


Early Monday morning, we met members of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker at the Pentagon for their weekly vigil.  Art Laffin led us in the following Call and Response, as we greeted Pentagon workers hurrying into the building.  His words movingly framed our week’s work.

Pentagon DDCW-WAT Vigil Statement/Litany by Art Laffin—January 8, 2018

Good Morning. We greet all Pentagon workers and police in a spirit of peace and nonviolence. We, members of the Dorothy Day CW and Witness Against Torture (WAT), come to the Pentagon, the center of warmaking on our planet, to say YES to life, love and justice, and NO to the death-dealing policies of a warmaking empire. God calls us to love our neighbor and to never mistreat, torture, kill and wage war against them. We witness in the hope that the Pentagon will one day be transformed into a center that serves life, not death!
Response: Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

WAT formed in 2005 when 25 Catholic Workers and other peacemakers from the U.S. went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. For the last 12 years members of WAT have fasted and engaged in numerous nonviolent actions to call for the closing of Guantanamo. Today is the first day of WAT’s week-long “Fast for Justice” to mark the 16th year of the first prisoners being taken to Guantanamo on January 11, 2002. We call for the closing of Guantanamo, and for an end to the crime of torture and indefinite detention.
Response:  Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

We remember and pray for all victims of U.S. torture and warmaking, including the 9 men who have died at Guantanamo since its opening. Adnan Latif was one of these men who have been all but forgotten. Latif, who spent more than ten years in Guantanamo without ever being charged with a crime, would often go on a hunger strike to protest his unjust confinement. A Yemeni citizen, poet, father and husband, Latif was subject to severe beatings, druggings and torture. He had been cleared for release at least four separate times, yet continued to be imprisoned. On September 8, 2012, Latif was found dead in his cell. No independent investigation has been conducted into his death. We call for an independent investigation into the death of Latif and the other eight who died at Guantanamo! Before he died Latif wrote the following words: “Where is the world to save us from torture?” Adnan Latif: we and many others hear your cry and that is why we are here today!
Response:  Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

The U.S. Senate Select Committee Intelligence Report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program was released on December 9, 2014. The report details actions by CIA officials, including torturing prisoners, providing misleading or false information about classified CIA programs to the media, impeding government oversight and internal criticism, and mismanaging the program. It also revealed the existence of previously unknown detainees, that more detainees were subjected to harsher treatment than was previously disclosed, and that more forms of torture were used than previously disclosed. We call for accountability for the entire chain of command who are responsible for carrying out torture, including those who, ordered, perpetrated, approved and provided legal cover for the torture of detainees. In the name of the detainees who continue to be unjustly held at Guantanamo, we call on all who work at the Pentagon to implore President Trump to issue an executive order to close Guantanamo immediately!
Response:  Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

Today, 41 men continue to languish at Guantanamo enduring tortuous brutal confinement, most for the last 16 years, never knowing their fate, with no resolution to their cases in sight. We need to see these men as members’ of our own blood family and act on their behalf.
Response:   Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

In today’s scripture in the Catholic lectionary, the prophet Isaiah declares: “I, the Lord, have called you for the victory of justice…to bring out prisoners from confinement, and from the dungeon, those who live in darkness.” (Is. 42: 6-7) What if we were to live as though this biblical mandate was a Divine summons for us to act on here and now, today? Now is the time to end the sin of torture and to proclaim liberty to the captives!
Response: Torture is a Crime, Close Guantanamo Now!

Please join us as we commit to resisting Islamophobia and all forms of oppression, and eradicating what Dr. King called the “triple evils of poverty, racism and militarism.”  Together, let us strive to create the Beloved Community!


Lu Aya (Luke) Nephew offers the following poetic reflection on our experience.

The Pentagon, Sunrise
It’s the darkest hour as we levitate out of the metro. Then a golden splash licks our eyes as we rise up.  We float across the sidewalk.  We glide into position. Swoosh.  We in formation.  Face to face with the mansion of murder.  Our eyes stare in unison.  Our silence faces theirs. Our presence flourishes up into song.  Their alibis dissolve into uncomfortable coughs.

Orange jumpsuits bellowing melancholy messages in all kinds of languages at the volume of the breeze through the leaves.  Fierce like that.  Recklessly righteous.  Soaring wing to wing with the heart-filled history of the Dorothy Day Community witnessing the wonders of creation.  Right here. On this very land. This very patch of precious earth that cradles us sweetly in defiance of all the empires ever.  What a sight we are to behold.  Our love so radical it is warming up the cold.

And then guess what happened next?

The miracles of human life that are currently confined in the tragedy of working in the pentagon begin to pass by the natural temple of our tableau.

And turns out –  they don’t see the scene I described.

They see a bunch of beating hearts wearing activist uniforms doing activist things.

And you know what?

We couldn’t quite see ourselves in the true light of the sunrise either…

We saw ourselves as tired workers, stumbling out of sleep into the freezing cold and bumbling with a bunch of signs.    Unable to untangle the mic chord or unfold the banner or take the echo out the amplifier. We saw ourselves fumbling into a good try.  A valiant effort. A good intention.  But actually.  Get this… we kinda loved each for it. and we kinda really deeply loved our families and friends and the detainees and their families and their friends and all the other families and friends. We kinda loved. A little bit.

And that little bit of love was a smooth stone deep in the forest that reminds the weary traveler of the path back home.

And without realizing that we had just reminded each other where to walk while alive, we set off. Together.

In the right direction.

And we might never see what really happened.

Until everyone. everyone gets home.

And from there

From home… a golden splash licks our eyes as we rise up.


Khalid Qassim
At the Pentagon Chris Spicer-Hankle lifted up the name of Khalid Qassim, a Yemeni detainee still at Guantanamo.  Later in the morning we received a message from Khalid’s attorney at Reprieve.  She sent us images of  Khalid’s moving artwork from the exhibit Ode to the Sea at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York until January 26, 2018.  See these images on our Facebook page.  Read Khalid’s bio on the Reprieve website.


Monday turned into a rainy day in DC, a perfect day to work hard on our action planning.  Please stay tuned this week as our actions unfold.  We offer you our heartfelt gratitude for sharing this journey in solidarity with the men in Guantanamo and prisoners everywhere.


Witness Against Torture on Social Media:

Please “like” us on Facebook & follow us on Twitter & Instagram.

Post any pictures of your local activities to our Flickr account and we will help spread the word.

Donate to support our work:

Witness Against Torture is completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff, but do have expenses associated with our organizing work. If you are able, click here to donate.

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Week of Actions: Closing Guantanamo, Ending Torture

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

We invite you to join Witness Against Torture and partner organizations for a series of events in Washington, DC, calling for closing Guantanamo and ending torture.  Highlights include:

Tuesday, January 9th, 6:30 pm
UNJUSTIFIABLE MEANS BY MARK FALLON
Kramer Books, 1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20036

“President Trump wants to bring back torture. This is why he’s wrong…In Unjustifiable Means, Fallon reveals this dark side of the United States government, which threw our own laws and international covenants aside to become a nation that tortured—sanctioned by the highest-ranking members of the Bush Administration, the Army, and the CIA, many of whom still hold government positions, although none have been held accountable.”  –kramers.com

Wednesday, January 10th, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
THERE IS A MAN UNDER THAT HOOD: CLOSING GUANTANAMO AND ENDING TORTURE
Impact Hub, 419 7th St., NW, Suite 300, Washington, DC 20004
PEACE POETS – ANDY WORTHINGTON – ALIYA HUSSAIN – BOOK LAUNCH
Sponsored by Witness Against Torture & Center for Constitutional Rights

Please join Witness Against Torture, the Peace Poets and friends for a book launch and performance on the eve of our annual January 11 demonstrations against Guantanamo. The book — “There is a Man Under that Hood” — sets the words of Luke Nephew’s (Peace Poets) remarkable poem of that title to images of anti-torture demonstrations: photographs taken or curated by Justin Norman (WAT). The afterword is written by Omar Farah, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Thursday, January 11th, 11:30 am – 1:00 pm
RALLY TO CLOSE GUANTANAMO AND STOP TORTURE
White House, Lafayette Square, Washington, DC 20006
Hosted by a coalition of 15 organizations

Please join human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantánamo attorneys, 9-11 family members, ex-military officials, and members of diverse faith communities in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, as they rally to close the prison, end indefinite detention, dismantle Islamophobia, and call for the immediate transfer of the cleared detainees.

Thursday, January 11th, 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm
GUANTANAMO UNDER TRUMP
New America, 740 15th St., NW, Suite 900, Washington, DC 20005
ANDY WORTHINGTON – KAREN GREENBERG – THOMAS B. WILNER – MODERATED BY PETER BERGEN

“What will happen to the prison and its detainees in the remaining years of the Trump administration? Will Donald Trump reverse course and increase the number of detainees held there? Will the prison ever close?”  –newamerica.org


2018 Fast for Justice
Witness Against Torture will be hosting activists for the entire week, Jan. 7 – 14, for its 2018 Fast for Justice.  Click here for the tentative schedule.  For RSVP or further information:  please email witnesstorture@gmail.com.

 

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2018 Fast for Justice Schedule

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

WITNESS AGAINST TORTURE  2018 FAST FOR JUSTICE
TENTATIVE SCHEDULE OF EVENTS (Subject to change as the week progresses)
January 7 – 14, 2018

For further information or to RSVP, please email witnesstorture@gmail.com.

Sunday the 7th:
3 pm: arrive settle in*, supper on your own
8 pm: gather for evening circle (orientation, connecting, planning)

Monday the 8th we begin our fast**:
7 am: vigil at the Pentagon
9 am: share a simple final meal and begin the fast
10 am: opening circle (orientation, connecting, begin planning the week)
Team meetings, more people arriving, planning and preparing
7:00 pm Circle

Tuesday the 9th:
9 am: morning circle, followed by team meetings for planning and preparing actions
6:30 pm: Kramer Books (Speaker: Mark Fallon, who wrote Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture)

Wednesday the 10th:
9 am: morning circle, followed by more team meetings
2:30 pm: Meet at the church to leave for grieving procession/ritual
6 pm:  Event at Impact Hub (Book launch of There Is a Man Under That Hood, spoken word by Peace Poets, and much more)

Thursday the 11th:
9 am: morning circle and prep for the day
11:30 am White House rally with coalition partners, followed by an action
Other events for those interested:
9:30 am live-stream CCR press conference, announcing a significant new filing challenging Guantanamo under Trump
2:30 – 4:00 pm, Guantanamo Under Trump, at New America, 740 15th St., N.S., Suite 900, Washington, DC

Friday the 12th:
9 am: morning circle
Morning: possible participation in NCNR action
3 pm: No Foreign Military Bases demonstration in Baltimore
Evening: options include opening session of No Bases Conference and opening night of movie The Post

Saturday the 13th we end our fast:
10 am to 5 pm: retreat at First Trinity (to examine our capacity and explore how we move forward in these times
6 pm: evening meal to break the fast together and celebrate our community

Sunday the 14th:
9 am: breakfast, followed by circle and closing ceremony
noon: depart for home


*First Trinity Lutheran Church hostel, Washington, DC

**The Fast:  Our “fast for justice”  is a liquids-only fast.  Participants may adopt their own definition of liquids.  Juices, teas, supplements, and coffee will be made available to participants.  Those who choose not to fast may obtain meals on their own.

Our Fasting Tips document:
Fasting Tips

Witness Against Torture’s Community Values Statement:
WAT Community Values

 

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16 years of Guantanamo and a year of Trump: The work for justice continues

Fast for Justice 2018 // Film

 

Close Guantanamo, Stop Torture:
Seeking Justice and Resisting Islamophobia in the Age of Trump

We invite you to join us in community in Washington, DC,  January 7 – 14, for Witness Against Torture’s 2018 Fast for Justice.  Please let us know you’re coming– for the week or any part of it– by sending an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com.

We will gather for a week of events marking a tragic and ongoing history:  After 16 years, the US detention camp at Guantanamo remains a living symbol of US torture and human rights abuses and a place of misery for the 41 Muslim men it still houses. Five of the men have been long cleared for release and yet still languish there.  The Trump administration is holding 26 of the detainees for indefinite detention without charge or trial. The Pentagon has plans to try only a small handful of the prisoners.

It is easy to lose hope in these troubling times.  Yet we know that hope resides not in calculating future probabilities, but in bearing witness to injustice in this present moment.  It resides in lifting up human dignity. It resides in imploring our fellow citizens not to turn their eyes away.  And so, once again, we gather.

Highlights of WAT’s 2018 Fast for Justice

Here is a preliminary skeleton structure for the week (Jan. 7 – 14):

Sunday evening: arrive anytime after 3; settle in and gather for evening circle
Monday:  share the morning meal and begin the fast; opening circle; begin planning the week’s actions
Tuesday:  morning circle; plan and carry out actions; evening event (Mark Fallon talk: see below)
Wednesday:  morning circle; plan and carry out actions; evening event (Book launch and Peace Poets: see below)
Thursday:  11:30 am White House rally with coalition partners; action; possible evening vigil
Friday:  morning circle; afternoon No Foreign Military Bases demonstration in Baltimore; possible evening circle
Saturday:  all-day retreat to examine our capacity and how to move forward; evening meal to break the fast together and celebrate our community
Sunday morning:  breakfast, circle and closing ceremony; depart.

January 9 – Mark Fallon Event

Author Mark Fallon presents Unjustifiable Means: The Inside Story of How the CIA, Pentagon, and US Government Conspired to Torture, at Kramerbooks at 1517 Conn. Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.  6:30 pm.

Mark Fallon is a former intelligence officer and investigator at the heart of America’s “war on terror.”  Karen Greenberg, Director of the Center on National Security, calls his book “Essential reading for those who wish to understand this dark period in American history.”

January 10 –  Book Launch, Performance, and Speakers

There is a Man Under that Hood: Closing Guantánamo and Stopping Torture in the Age of Trump

The Impact Hub
419 7th St. NW, Washington, DC
Jan. 10, 6-8 pm

Please join Witness Against Torture, the Peace Poets and friends for a book launch and performance on the eve of our annual January 11 demonstrations against Guantanamo.

The book, There is a Man Under that Hood, collects highlights from eight years of anti-torture photography curated by Justin Norman, and pairs them with Luke Nephew’s powerful poem by the same name. The contents are book-ended by a foreword from WAT’s Jeremy Varon and an afterword from Omar Farah, Senior Staff Attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The Peace Poets will perform pieces from current human rights struggles. UK author Andy Worthington will address the state of Guantanamo in the era of Trump. And legal advocates will report on the fate of their clients still in the prison. Together we will celebrate our resistance to torture and work to close Guantanamo.

New book from Witness Against Torture on Guantanamo activism

The 72-page book is available for pre-order in hardcover for $25. Release is set for January 10th, 2018. The proceeds will be used to further the human rights work of the creators.

January 11 – Rally Marking 16 years of Guantanamo

Please join human rights activists, torture survivors, Guantanamo attorneys, 9-11 family members, ex-military officials, and members of diverse faith communities in Washington, D.C. on January 11, 2018 as we rally against Guantanamo, indefinite detention, and Islamophobia and call for the immediate transfer of the cleared detainees. The rally at the White House will begin at 11:30 am.

Muslim Ban

Just days after Donald Trump retweeted anti-Muslim propaganda, the Supreme Court decided to implement Muslim Ban 3.0 while the lower courts adjudicate the ban’s constitutionality, by kicking the case back to the 4th and 9th Circuit courts.  However, they have allowed the racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and anti-Muslim ban to go into effect in the meantime. See this op-ed from the ACLU.

In response, the Justice for Muslims Collective organized an emergency rally at the Supreme Court on December 7th. Co-directors Maha Hilal and Darakshan Raja MC’d the event that highlighted the voices of inspiring Muslim women speaking truth to power:

Here’s a link to the livestream video of the rally.

North Carolina Torture Accountability Hearings

On November 30 and December 1, several hundred people gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina for an extraordinary event: the public hearings of the North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture.  Over two days, eight commissioners heard riveting and often heart rending testimony about the global rendition and torture program undertaken by the United States following the 9/11 attacks.  The witnesses included the world’s leading rendition researcher; military, ex-military, and ex-intelligence officers outspoken against torture; legal experts on human rights; psychologists who treat torture victims; and, via Skype, survivors of US torture. The Commission grew out of local, North Carolina efforts to protest Aero Contractors — a private airline company contracted by the CIA to carry out likely hundreds of rendition flights ferrying US captive to torture by the CIA or foreign governments.  The commissioners will author a report based on the hearings.

The NCCIT hearings were a landmark event.  The Bush administration sought to define out of existence, conceal, and immunize grave crimes. The Obama administration chose not to prosecute potential perpetrators of torture operating under legal directives from Bush’s DoJ.  Several lawsuits targeting torture policies have been dismissed from federal and international courts for reasons of executive privilege, state’s secrets provisions, and pressure from the US government. It has therefore been up to civil society actors like the NCCIT to provide at least symbolic forms of accountability for years of US torture.  The hearings further educated the public about US conduct, solidified the legal case that torture occurred, and may help to deter future uses of torture by fortifying a public narrative that it happened and that it was wrong.  The hearings also brought victims of torture into a judicial-style inquiry, simulating forms of due process that has been denied them.

For more on the hearings, including links to media and video archive of them, go to the NCCIT website.

We Must Resist: Join WAT in DC in January!

For 13 years Witness Against Torture has championed the cause of the Muslim men unjustly imprisoned at Guantanamo, also using our witness to shine a light on other U.S. institutions of racist, Islamophobic state violence.

Now, as our outrageous Narcissist-In-Chief distracts the world, those very institutions are quietly cementing into place and strengthening the security state that is stripping entire groups of people of due process rights and protection under the law.

We must resist: come to DC in January to witness in community with us and to engage the future together!

Donate to support our work

Please consider a donation to help fund our annual Fast for Justice this January.  We are completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff; all of the money you donate goes to funding the work we do together. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit. If you are able, click here to donate.

 

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Announcing 2018 Fast for Justice, Jan. 7-14

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Dear Friends,

2018 Fast For Justice, Jan. 7 – 14
Mark your calendars!  Witness Against Torture will return to Washington January 7 – 14 for our 2018 Fast for Justice.  As a community we will again offer our public witness to close Guantanamo, end indefinite detention, and hold torturers accountable.

We hope you’ll join us as we gather at First Trinity Lutheran Church in Washington, DC beginning on the evening of Jan. 7.  We’ll start our fast after having a meal together Monday morning Jan. 8.  On Thursday, Jan. 11 we’ll hold a day of action to mark 16 long years since the first men were brought to Guantanamo.  We’ll conclude our Fast for Justice with a strategic planning weekend, inviting our partners to join us. Further details about the week’s activities will be provided later.  If you plan to come, please let us know at witnesstorture@gmail.com.

Welcome to Camp America:  Inside Guantanamo Bay, Oct. 19 in DC
Please join CCR for a conversation about Guantánamo, art, and activism to celebrate the launch of conceptual documentary artist Debi Cornwall’s new book, Welcome to Camp America: Inside Guantánamo Bay.   The event will be held Thursday, Oct. 19, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, at Busboys and Poets (14th & V St.) in DC.  Witness Against Torture and DC Justice for Muslims Coalition are cosponsors.  CCR advocacy program manager Aliya Hussain will moderate the conversation with Debi Cornwall, Major Raashid Williams, a defense lawyer with the Military Commissions Defense Organization, and Dr. Maha Hilal, the inaugural Michael Ratner Middle East Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and an organizer with Witness Against Torture.   To learn more about the event, visit CCR’s webpage.

Reflecting on accountability for torture
WAT organizing team member Dr. Maha Hilal recently published an article entitled “Abu Ghraib: The legacy of torture in the war on terror.”  Reflecting on the recent hearing about contractor accountability in the case Al-Shimari v CACI et al, Maha writes: “For the United States in the war on terror, accountability has meant little other than prosecuting the so-called ‘bad apples’ who conduct torture and/or murder in order to make the point that they are an aberration, not a product of a system-wide policy of sanctioned abuse in the war on terror.”

Donate to support our work
Please consider a donation to help fund our annual Fast for Justice this January.  We are completely volunteer driven and run. We have no paid staff; all of the money you donate goes to funding the work we do together. We are fiscally sponsored by the Washington Peace Center. The Washington Peace Center is a verified US-registered non profit. If you are able, click here to donate.

www.witnessagainsttorture.com

Witness Against Torture formed in 2005 when 25 Americans went to Guantánamo Bay and attempted to visit the detention facility. They began to organize more broadly to shut down Guantánamo, end indefinite detention and torture and call out Islamophobia. During our demonstrations, we lift up the words of the detainees themselves, bringing them to public spaces they are not permitted to access. Witness Against Torture will carry on in its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantánamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account.

 

 

 

 

 

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Remembering Guantánamo on Independence Day

In Focus - Front Page // Film

By Andy Worthington, author of “The Guantánamo Files” and co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign

Today, as a British citizen, I’m acutely aware that, 241 years ago, the United States of America issued a Declaration of Independence from the UK, noting that King George III had sought “the establishment of an absolute Tyranny.”

A system of checks and balances introduced by the Founding Fathers was supposed to prevent tyranny from arising in the liberated United States of America, and yet, at various times in its history, these safeguards have been discarded — during the Civil War, for example, and during the Second World War, in the shameful internment of Japanese Americans.

Another example is still taking place now — at Guantánamo Bay, in Cuba, where the U.S. runs a naval base, and where, since January 11, 2002, it has been holding prisoners seized in the “war on terror” that George W. Bush declared after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Under the laws and treaties we rely on to protect ourselves from executive tyranny, people can only be deprived of their liberty if they are accused of a crime, when they must speedily be put on trial in a court with a judge and a jury, or if they are seized on a battlefield during wartime, when they can be held until the end of hostilities, unmolested and with the protections of the Geneva Conventions.

However, in the “war on terror” declared after 9/11, George W. Bush came up with a third method of imprisonment that brought back into sharp focus the executive overreach of centuries past that was supposed to have been done away with once and for all.

Bush and his advisors decided that prisoners seized in their “war on terror” would have no rights whatsoever, and could be held forever if they so wished. They invented a term for them — “enemy combatants” — and, when they felt they were resistant to questioning, they introduced a torture program to get them to talk. This was repellant under any circumstances, but it was also an innovation based, often, on shockingly imprecise information.

Men were rounded up in Afghanistan and Pakistan not because they were “on the battlefield,” as the US authorities claimed, but because, for the most part, they were sold to the US by their Afghan and Pakistani allies for generous bounty payments. Others, who were rounded up by the U.S., were often seized as a result of unreliable evidence, and these men, held in Guantánamo, in CIA “black sites” in Thailand, Poland, Romania and Lithuania, and even in proxy torture prisons run by other regimes — in Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Morocco, for example — then ended up telling lies about their fellow prisoners, to such an extent that the publicly available files (leaked to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, and publicly released in 2011) are so full of unreliable information that they are, fundamentally, worthless.

And yet, Guantánamo continues to exist — with the Bush administration’s early claims that the men held there were “the worst of the worst” still resonating throughout American public life, and with most Americans unconcerned by the tyranny that is happening in their name at this wretched offshore prison.

There have been times in Guantánamo’s long and ignoble history when it has been off the radar more fundamentally than at other times. One such occasion was in the prison’s early years, under George W. Bush, when no one wanted to speak out. Then under Obama, there was widespread silence, after his promise to close the prison within a year expired, unfulfilled, and Congress cynically set up obstacles to try to prevent the release of prisoners, until the prisoners themselves brought Guantánamo and its ongoing injustice back onto the agenda through a prison-wide hunger strike in 2013.

And now, under Donald Trump, with so much going wrong under his inept leadership, Guantánamo has once more receded from view, after Trump’s early attempts to send new prisoners there, and to reintroduce torture, were widely criticized, not just outside his administration, but even by some of his own appointees, who are clearly not as unhinged as the president himself.

To be honest, though, Guantánamo has never been as prominent in the minds and the consciences of ordinary Americans as it should have been, and this is as true now as it was when the prison first opened, 15 and a half years ago.

Those of us who recognize Guantánamo for what it is — a legal, moral and ethical abomination, which shames America every day is it open — will continue to campaign to get it closed, and if you are not already with us, we hope you to will be moved to join us, to rid us of the tyranny that has been allowed to thrive in this U.S.-controlled corner of Cuba for far too long.

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16 Arrested in Actions Against Torture, Trump’s Cabinet Nominees

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Hundreds Demand That Guantánamo Be Shut Down

Witness Against Torture at the Hart Building, 2017

For Immediate Release
January 11, 2017
Contact: Paula Miller, 520-406-4370pmillercleve@yahoo.com
Chris Knestrick, 216-496-2637cknest11@gmail.com

Clad in orange jumpsuits and “Shut Down Guantánamo” t-shirts, activists with Witness Against Torture took over the Hart Senate Building with a message for Senators, staffers, and the general public. They marked the 15th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  

The message was “Shut Down Guantánamo,” “No Torture Cabinet” and “Hate Doesn’t Make U.S. Great.” These statements were painted on a banner that activists dropped from a balcony as 9 members of the group dressed in orange jumpsuits and black hoods held a die-in, mourning those Muslim men who died at Guantanamo without ever being charged with a crime. The nine, and four others, were arrested by Capitol Police, as supporters sang “O America, don’t believe their lies. Their politics of hate will destroy our children’s lives.” The balconies were crowded with onlookers as the action unfolded. One of the two who unfurled the “No Torture Cabinet” banner was also taken into custody.

These actions took place as Senators were hearing testimony from President elect Trump’s picks for Attorney General and Secretary of State, which were interrupted repeatedly by WAT activists. Three of those are now in custody.

WAT released a statement reading: “President-Elect Donald J. Trump has nominated militarists for top cabinet positions. He has promised to ‘load up Guantanamo with really bad dudes.’ On the critical human rights and rule of law issues, Trump’s posturing represents backsliding to the worst of the Bush administration’s misdeeds and abrogation of the law. 

Remembering those who have been imprisoned, tortured and, in some cases, lost their lives, at Guantanamo, Witness Against Torture calls on President Obama to use his last days in office to expedite releases from Guantanamo, and make public the full U.S. Senate Torture Report.  We demand that President-elect Trump reject the use of torture, continue transferring men from Guantanamo, end indefinite detention and reject national security or other measures that discriminate against Muslims. 

WAT urges members of the Senate, in whom the public has placed its trust, to use all their power to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law. You can choose to reject the Trump administration’s nominees and insist that people at the highest levels of government would never advocate for torture. You have the opportunity to repudiate torture, release the Torture Report and acknowledge responsibility for the ghastly abuses that occurred during both the Bush and Obama administrations. 

The names of those arrested at both locations are:
Chantal de Alcuaz
Jerica Arents
Beth Brockman
Don Cunning
Erica Ewing
Ellen Graves
Martha Hennessey
Sherrill Hogan
Kathy Kelly
Joanne Lingle
Joan Pleune
Manijeh Saba
Helen Schietinger
Eve Tetaz
Carmen Trotta
Silke Tudor 

Images of Witness Against Torture’s action are available here. 

Witness Against Torture will carry on its activities until torture is decisively ended, its victims are fully acknowledged, Guantanamo and similar facilities are closed, and those who ordered and committed torture are held to account

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Take Action: Call your senators today to denounce torture

In Focus - Front Page // Film

Witness Against Torture is concerned to learn that Donald Trump is already making cabinet picks who are willing to support his campaign calls for “waterboarding and much worse.”  Mike Pompeo, his nominee for CIA director, is an open torture supporter, who responded to the Senate intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report by calling CIA participants in the torture program “heroes.” Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions has opposed past anti-torture legislation.  National Security Advisor nominee Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn when questioned about waterboarding during the campaign answered that he believes in leaving as many options as possible “on the table right up until the last minute.”

Senator John McCain, however, spoke out against torture at a Nov. 19 conference, saying, “I don’t give a damn what the President of the United States wants to do, we will not waterboard. We will not torture. We will not torture people, and sometime I hope we can get David Petraeus up to this forum. He’s one of the great military leaders. He’ll tell you it doesn’t work. My friends, it doesn’t work. If you inflict pain on somebody long enough, they’re going to tell you whatever they think you want to hear to have it stopped.”

WAT is delivering a letter to Sen. McCain on Monday to support his stance on torture, offer WAT’s perspective on torture at Guantanamo, and ask him to continue to speak loudly in favor of a zero-tolerance stance against torture.  Click here to read the letter.

WAT is VERY concerned about what the president-elect intends to do.  JOIN WAT TODAY in calling and writing Senator McCain and your own senators. Demand that your senators join Sen. McCain to oppose this new administration’s stated intentions to “bring back waterboarding” and other forms of torture.  Ask them to question Cabinet nominees about their views on torture and oppose nominees who support torture.  Thank Senator McCain for his recent refusal to accept Trump’s plan to return to illegal treatment of U.S. captives and tell him to never back down.

US Capitol Switchboard:  (202) 224-3121

To support your advocacy, we offer links to the following WAT statements:

In this critical transition to the Trump administration, we repeat the call we made earlier this year:

We remind ourselves that Islamophobia is dangerous.  It is at the foundation of Guantanamo Bay Prison’s existence and the fuel that carries the violence we see today.  We continue to offer our love and support to our Muslim sisters and brothers who will be targeted by violence fostered by hate speech.  The work to dismantle racism and xenophobia should be our call.

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Senator John McCain Speaks Against Torture

In Focus - Front Page // Film

This last week, Senator John McCain spoke out against torture, saying “I don’t give a damn what the President of the United States wants to do, we will not waterboard. We will not torture. We will not torture people, and sometime I hope we can get David Petraeus up to this forum. He’s one of the great military leaders. He’ll tell you it doesn’t work. My friends, it doesn’t work. If you inflict pain on somebody long enough, they’re going to tell you whatever they think you want to hear to have it stopped.”

We are sending a letter to Senator McCain, regarding his statement:

Senator McCain,

Thank you for stating unequivocally that any agency of the U.S. government that starts waterboarding will be hauled into court.  It was good to hear you say of our country that we will not torture people, now that Congress has passed a law that is consistent with our decades-old treaty obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture. Your statement at the Halifax International Security Forum was desperately needed as Donald Trump prepares to take control of the administration.  

We at Witness Against Torture have long opposed the abhorrent treatment of the men being held at Guantánamo: both the torture methods used in “enhanced interrogation” and the cruel dehumanizing conditions of their detention.  We have visited your office as well as other Congressional offices asking that you release and provide reparations to the men in Guantánamo who have been tortured.  The closest we got to that goal was for Congress to acknowledge (in a perversely redacted manner) that torture occurred, with no accountability for the atrocities committed in the name of the American public.

We have petitioned the Department of Justice, called and written letters to Attorneys General, and rallied and held vigils outside their doors, demanding that those responsible for justifying and orchestrating the program of torture be investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

At this moment, as Trump is working to pervert the constitution, the Republican party, and the American military, it is refreshing and encouraging to hear you speak loudly in favor of a zero-tolerance stance toward torture. We hope that you will continue to make your voice heard. As long as you continue to do so, we will work to amplify your message and stand with you in the fight for a torture-free America.

Yours in peace,

Witness Against Torture

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WAT Workshop Presentation at the October 2016 SOAW Convergence on the Border

Uncategorized // Film

 

Earlier this  month Witness Against Torture members traveled to the US-Mexico border in Arizona to attend the SOAW Convergence on the Border protesting border militarization, as well as the criminalization of migrants, asylum seekers, refugees and people of color.  Maha Hilal, Paula Miller, and Helen Schietinger presented a workshop at the convergence.  Helen reports below.

WAT Workshop Presentation at the October 2016 SOAW Convergence on the Border:  What connects the Eloy Detention Center, Rikers Island, Guantanamo Prison and Communication Management Units? (Hint: think racism and state violence.)

Presented by Maha Hilal, Paula Miller, and Helen Schietinger
Reported by Helen Schietinger

The Plan:

We had a great workshop planned: we would begin by spending five minutes on each of four types of detention institutions:

  • Paula would use her five minutes to describe immigration detention centers and present the story of a person imprisoned in one.
  • Helen would describe Guantanamo prison and show a short video of WAT members reading the words of Tariq Ba Odah.
  • Maha would explain Communication Management Units and read the words of a Muslim person doomed to being in one.
  • Helen would describe U.S. prisons and show a video of the words of Kalief Broder, who committed suicide after being imprisoned and horribly abused at Rikers Island.

We would follow these brief spotlights with a discussion of what these institutions have in common and what state objectives they achieve through racism and violence.  The conclusion would be a video of the Peace Poets performing Mental Slavery.

The Real Thing:

Even though the video equipment ended up not working and we were competing with other intriguing workshops and the interfaith service at the border, lots of people came and they appreciated what we had to offer.  I ended by playing Mental Slavery on my laptop since the AV equipment didn’t work, wondering if the audience could hear well enough, and if so, whether the strong language in the poem would offend anyone, but most folks were rapt.

We continued to get positive feedback from people for the next two days. WAT’s instinct to connect the dots between the different forms of U.S. detention and torture is a good one. Many participants, passionately committed to opposing one form of detention abuse or torture, had no idea of the extent of human rights abuses in other institutions.  Nobody had even heard of CMU’s.  Our work to build bridges and provide education among our diverse communities is as important as ever.

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