the blog of DC Drinking Liberally
Friday, January 11, is the sixth anniversary of the transfer of the first prisoners to the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and the ACLU, Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, and many other groups are organizing a protest on the Mall.
George Bush’s embrace of torture, secret prisons, and denial of habeas corpus and other legal procedures to prisoners is one of the worst stains he’s going to be leaving on the country, and one of the legacies that will be hardest to clean up. If you’re able to take the time during the day, go participate. I plan to. If not, you can at least wear orange — if you can find any (not sure what I’ll do about that, but maybe they’ll have orange armbands to give out).
10:00 am - Gather at the National Mall for Orientation to Prisoner March (National Mall @ 12th street NW btwn Madison Dr NW & Jefferson Drive SW - near the Smithsonian Metro Stop)
11: 00 am - Permitted demonstration on the National Mall co-sponsored by Amnesty International and National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Noon - Guantanamo Prisoner Procession from the National Mall to the Supreme Court (2 plus miles)
1:30 pm - Funeral Ceremony at the Supreme Court remembering the four men who died in custody at Guantanamo and mourning the death of Habeas Corpus
From Bush’s press conference today:
We will not go along with a partisan fishing expedition aimed at honorable public servants. The initial response by Democrats unfortunately shows some appear more interested in scoring political points than in learning the facts. It will be regrettable if they choose to head down the partisan road of issuing subpoenas and demanding show trials.
Bush knows a thing or two about show trials, considering he has people “voluntarily” confessing to lists of crimes in Gitmo right now. I don’t think demanding that witnesses testify under oath is quite the same as waterboarding, though I can see how it might seem that way to people from an administration as allergic to truth telling as this one.
Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the “War on Terror” tells the stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who have survived extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture by the U.S. government working with various other governments worldwide. “Outlawed” features relevant commentary from Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, U.S. President George W. Bush, Michael Scheuer, the chief architect of the rendition program and former head of the Osama Bin Laden unit at the CIA, and Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State.
“Outlawed” a documentary produced by WITNESS and AI USA in association with 12 other groups worldwide, places the post-9/11 phenomenon of renditions and the “war on terror” in a human rights context and calls for action end these human rights abuses.
Yesterday the Washington Post endorsed Frank Wolf, the Republican Congressman representing Virginia’s 10th District (which encompasses McLean and Manassas and areas to the west). I didn’t get a chance to respond immediately, since I was out most of the day volunteering for Wolf’s opponent, Judy Feder, but today I sent this letter to the editor:
I was disappointed to see the Post endorse Rep. Frank Wolf for reelection [”Mr. Wolf’s Diligence,” Oct. 14], especially since the editorial described him as someone who is “more than a party-line Republican” and has a “zeal for human rights.”
Rep. Wolf’s political independence and concern for human rights were nowhere in evidence on Sept. 29 when he voted for the Military Commissions Act, which gives the president free rein to define “torture” however he wishes; allows use of evidence obtained through cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and immunizes senior U.S. officials from prosecution for war crimes committed before passage of the act. In addition, any prohibitions of prisoner abuse contained in the act are made meaningless by its elimination of habeas corpus rights for detainees. If detainees are unable to bring their cases to court, then even innocent prisoners can be held indefinitely and subjected to outrageous treatment with no means of bringing the abuses to light or remedying them.
Seven House Republicans chose to break with the president and their party and oppose this shameful legislation because they cared about human rights and the principles the United States stands for. Rep. Wolf was not among them. What does that say about his commitment to human rights?
If you share my feelings about the Post’s endorsement, please write your own letter to the editor right away (e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org and include your name, home address, and home and work phone). The more letters (different letters, not copies of mine) they get on the subject, the more likely it is they’ll publish one. Letters from people in the 10th District would be especially good. If you need some ideas, try the New York Times editorial on the Military Commissions Act, which calls it “a tyrannical law that will be ranked with the low points in American democracy, our generation’s version of the Alien and Sedition Acts”, or Amnesty International’s analysis.
Update (17 Oct): Not that it matters much, but the Washington Times joins in with an endorsement titled “Frank Wolf, defender of human rights”.
Hear about the Guantánamo Bay detention camp from someone who’s visited it. Our guest speaker at DC Drinking Liberally Thursday, September 21, will be Charley Carpenter, a partner at Pepper Hamilton LLP, primarily engaged in civil litigation. Since January 2005, he’s been representing a couple of prisoners held at Guantánamo Bay in their petitions for habeas corpus, and related matters. He’ll talk about his experiences and answer questions.
My starting point for news on Guantánamo Bay detainment has been posts by Hilzoy and Katherine at Obsidian Wings, along with the comments there, which tend to be well above average in blog comment quality. The latest Guantánamo-related post is “Numbers”, from yesterday.
Drinking Liberally starts with a happy hour at 6:30, and the talk will begin at about 7:30. We’ll be in the back room Timberlake’s, 1726 Connecticut Ave NW (Dupont Circle Metro). To be informed of future events, subscribe to our e-mail announcement list.
As expected, today Senate supporters of the Marriage Protection Amendment, which would change the US Constitution to ban same-sex marriage, failed to muster the votes needed to end debate — and fell far short of the two-thirds vote that would have been needed for passage. The vote was 49-48, slightly better than the 48-50 on an identically worded amendment two years ago (what a coincidence that these votes come up only in election years!).
But the Republicans have gained 5 seats in the Senate since the 2004 vote, so why was there only 1 more vote in favor of the amendment? I decided to get into the details and see exactly what happened.
Three interesting book events this week, and I’m going to try to make it to all of them:
Tonight, Tuesday, May 9, our friends at The American Prospect magazine and the AFL-CIO are hosting a book launch party and panel discussion entitled, “Fighting the Hostile Takeover in America’s Red States” Speakers include Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D), author Thomas Frank, columnist Harold Meyerson, David Sirota and, ah…well me. I’ll be joining the panel to talk about how MoveOn members make a difference across the country.
You are invited. Here are the details.
What: “Fighting the Hostile Takeover in America’s Red States” panel discussion and book party.
Who: Special guests include Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer (D), author Thomas Frank, columnist Harold Meyerson, David Sirota and MoveOn’s Tom Matzzie.
When: Tonight: Tuesday, May 9, 2006 at 7:00 PM.
Where: AFL-CIO Building, 815 16th Street N.W., Washington, D.C
(Metro: Red Line Farragut North or Blue/Orange Line McPherson Square)
Books will be made available for purchase at the event by Politics & Prose bookstore.
The book explores how corruption is supported in Congress and takes a critical look at the dealings of politicians in both parties. It is a useful reference book. For example, when you hear an issue discussed — like energy — you can look up all of the big ideas progressives have for dealing with energy issues. At the same time it provides the facts for de-bunking the right-wing spin. […]
6:30 - 8:00 PM (Langston Room) Two Authors/One Event! — Sasha Abramsky and Marc Mauer — In his revised edition of his seminal book on race, class, and the criminal justice system, Race to Incarcerate, Marc Mauer, executive director of one of the United States’ leading criminal justice reform organizations, offers the most up-to-date look available at three decades of prison expansion in America. The book tells the tragic story of runaway growth in the number of prisons and jails and the over reliance on imprisonment to stem problems of economic and social development. Race to Incarcerate documents the enormous financial and human toll of the “get tough” movement, and argues for more humane and productive alternatives.
In his new book Conned: How Millions Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House, Abramsky takes us on a journey through disenfranchised America, detailing the revival of antidemocratic laws that came of age in the post-Civil War segregationist South, and profiling Americans who are fighting to regain the right to vote. Sasha Abramsky is a freelance journalist. His work has appeared in The Nation, The Atlantic Monthly, New York magazine, The Village Voice, and Rolling Stone. This event is free and open to the public.
Saturday, May 13, 1 p.m.
LAPDOGS (Free Press, $25)
Boehlert, a former Salon.com journalist, has written an extended indictment of the mainstream media in their coverage of the Bush administration. Rather than performing the role of watchdogs, such media giants as the New York Times, CNN, and CBS, he contends, have committed journalistic malpractice with their soft coverage and failure to challenge President Bush.
Being out of touch with “mainstream America” is unpleasant in today’s United States, but I believe it’s better to walk on a path that both my mind and my heart have convinced me is correct, that to listen to voices that lie to me with every breath. It is better to look for the rocks in the path with my eyes, rather than with my nose stuck in any one of a number of books devoted to someone else’s dogma. I know from painful experience that it’s better to remember the past, than to pretend it never happened.
I want to be an American, in America.
What does that mean? I look to a few critical pieces of writing in our history, informed by the events that surrounded them to answer that question. The documents cited below are made by human beings, and therefore flawed - in some cases critically. But it gives me hope, because there is proof that mistakes can be corrected, which we’ll get to. To begin, the words of Jefferson are instructive.
Of all the damage the Bush administration has done to our country, I think the worst is the stain of torture. Just a few years ago, representatives of the United States government could talk about human rights and condemn torture anywhere in the world. Sure, our reputation wasn’t perfect, and people might bring up the death penalty or the size of our prison population, but they weren’t snickering behind or backs, or to our faces. Today we no longer have any credibility on that subject. We have a Vice President for Torture, the president openly admits that he doesn’t intend to obey congressional prohibitions on prisoner abuse, and repeated instances of torture by members of the military are written off as unrelated incidents, with only the lowest-ranking people involved receiving any significant punishment (the latest example being an interrogator who got off with a reprimand for torturing a prisoner of war and then suffocating him). It will take a long, long time to remove the stain.
Amnesty International USA has launched a campaign called “Tell the Truth about Torture,
Mr. President”. At the site you can sign a petition, find out more about torture and what Amnesty is doing about it, and donate toward putting a billboard truck with the message in DC for five days, in time for the State of the Union.
Al Gore is speaking at noon Monday, January 16 (MLK Day), at DAR Constitution Hall, 1776 D Street NW, on “Unchecked Presidential Power”:
The speech will specifically point to domestic wiretapping and torture as examples of the Administration’s assertion of executive power in disregard of Congress and the courts.
The speech is sponsored by the Liberty Coalition and the American Constitution Society. See libertyspeeches.org for more information and to reserve free tickets (which will go fast).
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