Vaginas and Lives Mutilated in the Congo: Thoughts from the Writer of The Vagina Monologues

18 05 2009

Eve Ensler, who authored the play “The Vagina Monologues,” wrote today about the horrors of what women in the Democratic Republic of Congo are experiencing. I tried to explain  to my  mother about what Eve wrote about and she said her system can only take so much and she couldn’t hear any more. I get that. It’s hard to hear. But we must have courage and acknowledge the horrors. Only by acknowledging and spreading the word to others who will also acknowledge what is happening can the proper light be shed on this tragedy and solutions will follow. Here’s Eve’s article. All that follows was posted on Huffington Post today.

“War on Women in Congo” by Eve Ensler, posted 5/18/09 on Huffington Post

I write today on behalf of countless V-Day activists worldwide, and in solidarity with my many Congolese sisters and brothers who demand justice and an end to rape and war.

It is my hope that these words and those of others will break the silence and break open a sea of action to move Congolese women toward peace, safety and freedom.

My play, The Vagina Monologues, opened my eyes to the world inside this world. Everywhere I traveled with it scores of women lined up to tell me of their rapes, incest, beatings, mutilations. It was because of this that over 11 years ago we launched V-Day, a worldwide movement to end violence against women and girls.

The movement has spread like wildfire to 130 countries, raising $70 million. I have visited and revisited the rape mines of the world, from defined war zones like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti to the domestic battlegrounds in colleges and communities throughout North America, Europe and the world. My in-box — and heart — have been jammed with stories every hour of every day for over a decade.

Nothing I have heard or seen compares with what is going on in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where corporate greed, fueled by capitalist consumption, and the rape of women have merged into a single nightmare. Femicide, the systematic and planned destruction of the female population, is being used as a tactic of war to clear villages, pillage mines and destroy the fabric of Congolese society.

In 12 years, there have been 6 million dead men and women in Congo and 1.4 million people displaced. Hundreds and thousands of women and girls have been raped and tortured. Babies as young as 6 months, women as old as 80, their insides torn apart. What I witnessed in Congo has shattered and changed me forever. I will never be the same. None of us should ever be the same.

I think of Beatrice, shot in her vagina, who now has tubes instead of organs. Honorata, raped by gangs as she was tied upside down to a wheel. Noella, who is my heart — an 8-year-old girl who was held for 2 weeks as groups of grown men raped her over and over. Now she has a fistula, causing her to urinate and defecate on herself. Now she lives in humiliation.

I was in Bosnia during the war in 1994 when it was discovered there were rape camps where white women were being raped. Within two years there was adequate intervention. Yet, in Congo, femicide has continued for 12 years. Why? Is it that coltan, the mineral that keeps our cell phones and computers in play, is more important than Congolese girls?

Is it flat-out racism, the world’s utter indifference and disregard for black people and black women in particular? Is it simply that the UN and most governments are run by men who have never known what it feels like to be raped?

What is happening in Congo is the most brutal and rampant violence toward women in the world. If it continues to go unchecked, if there continues to be complete impunity, it sets a precedent, it expands the boundaries of what is permissible to do to women’s bodies in the name of exploitation and greed everywhere. It’s cheap warfare.

The women in Congo are some of the most resilient women in the world. They need our protection and support. Western governments, like the United States, should fund a training program for female Congolese police officers.

They should address our role in plundering minerals and demand that companies trace the routes of these minerals. Make sure they are making and selling rape-free-products. Supply funds for women’s medical and psychological care and seed their economic empowerment. Put pressure on Rwanda, Congo, Uganda and other countries in the Great Lakes region to sit down with all the militias involved in this conflict to find a political solution.

Military solutions are no longer an option and will only bring about more rape. Most of all, we must support the women. Because women are at the center of this horror, they must be at the center of the solutions and peace negotiations. Women are the future of Congo. They are its greatest resource.

Sadly, we are not the first to testify about these atrocities in Congo. I stand in a line of many who have described this horror. Still, in Eastern Congo, 1,100 women a month are raped, according to the United Nations’ most recent report. What will the United States government, what will all of you reading this, do to stop it?

Let Congo be the place where we ended femicide, the trend that is madly eviscerating this planet — from the floggings in Pakistan, the new rape laws in Afghanistan, the ongoing rapes in Haiti, Darfur, Zimbabwe, the daily battering, incest, harassing, trafficking, enslaving, genital cutting and honor killing. Let Congo be the place where women were finally cherished and life affirmed, where the humiliation and subjugation ended, where women took their rightful agency over their bodies and land.

Note: Eve Ensler is the playwright of “The Vagina Monologues” and the founder of V-Day, a global movement to end violence against women and girls. V-Day has funded over 10,000 community-based anti-violence programs and launched safe houses in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Kenya, South Dakota, Egypt and Iraq. V-Day has launched a joint global campaign with UNICEF – STOP RAPING OUR GREATEST RESOURCE: Power to the Women and Girls of the DRC. (http://www.vday.org) This commentary was originally adapted for CNN.com from remarks Ensler made Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs and the Subcommittee on International Operations and Organizations, Human Rights, Democracy and Global Women’s Issues.





LGBT (Gay) in Iraq: A Horrible Way to Die

28 04 2009

Captured, mutilated with a glue applied to seal the buttocks and then fed a powerful laxative. The result: a horrible way to die.

Credit: CNN

Credit: CNN

That’s the way an article starts about what is being done by Iraqi militias to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgendered (LGBT) people in Iraq after a fatweh was issued against them there.

Several LGBT people have been found dead in Iraq and it is reported that there is a movement to wipe out LGBT people in Iraq altogether. I wrote about the danger for them there in my post entitled LGBT (Gay) in America…LGBT in Iraq.

Read the whole article about this horrific sexual cleansing and torture.

I hope you’ll take the time to sign online the Protect Iraqi LGBT petition to ask President Obama to get involved to stem the killing and torture of LGBT people in Iraq.

This is horrendous. Spread the word. Sign the petition or go to www.whitehouse.gov and ask the White House to speak out about this. It’s bad enough how gay people are treated in the United States. This is worse.





Waking Up from a Tortured Past

26 04 2009

King Leopold II of Belgium was responsible for the deaths of 10 – 15 million people in the Congo between 1885 and 1908…twice the number that Hitler had killed. Have you even heard of him? I hadn’t until I read the unbelievable book King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild.

King Leopold II

King Leopold II

Leopold could not convince Belgium to get involved in colonization so he developed his own private company…the International African Society…and laid claim to the area he called the Congo Free State, which is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). He cloaked his takeover of this land and the ivory and rubber trades as doing philanthropic work.

Wikipedia says: ” With a complex scheme of political intrigue, corruption and propaganda, he wins the assistance of one of the greatest explorers of the time, Henry Morton Stanley, as well as that of public opinion and of powerful states.”

It took decades for people outside the Congo Free State to know the absolute reign of terror he held over those people, his ruthlessness, and the massacre of over half the population. Outsiders believed he was liberating the Congo people and helping them.

The world has amnesia or ignorance of this monster and the mass killings and maiming he ordered and caused. This reign of terror that King Leopold II started seems to be imprinted in the psyche of the people in the DRC.

Millions of people are still being killed on the same land…today the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Second Congo War…the “African World War”…which started in 1998 and on paper ended in 2003 (but still continues) has resulted in 5.4 million deaths.

Child Soldiers in the DRC

Child Soldiers in the DRC - Credit: Reuters

Horrendous rapes and other sexual violence committed there as a tool of war are the worst in the world. Children are seized by the armies to serve as soldiers and sexual slaves. Over half of the victims of sexual violence are children. Girls and women are raped and their insides are then torn apart with butts of rifles, burned, or other horrors. I wrote a post Women Suffer Atrocities Silently in the Congo about this.

So what does this have to do with you and me? We have just lived through eight years of a monarch who appeared on the surface…as did King Leopold II…to be beneficent. Horrible atrocities were being committed, though, and justified under the guise of keeping us safe.

Yoga science defines samskara as “…an imprint from past experience in the unconscious mind, which later creates our experiences by causing a person to automatically behave a certain way.”

How does one…or a nation…heal from samskaras? By becoming aware of these imprints, deciding we are not going to just react like a Pavlovian dog, and by choosing different and healthier responses.

We must wake up from this 9/11 terror-induced coma we have been living in and acknowledge what was being done and hold people accountable for their atrocities. Otherwise we, like the people in the Congo, will hold torture in our psyches and will not be able to move on to being a more enlightened, awake, ethical, and peaceful people.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” — Poet and Philosopher George Santayana

A further sign of health is that we don’t become undone by fear and trembling, but we take it as a message that it’s time to stop struggling and look directly at what’s threatening us.” –Buddhist Nun Pema Chodron

UPDATE 4/29/09: Human Rights Watch issued an alert today as reported on Reuters:

More than 100,000 displaced civilians in Lubero territory in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo desperately need protection from further attacks by Rwandan militias and Congolese forces, Human Rights Watch said today. Human Rights Watch called on the United Nations peacekeeping force and humanitarian agencies to take urgent steps to increase protection and assistance to the civilians at risk.

You can read the full report on Reuters here.





Run for Congo Women – Women for Women

11 04 2009

run-for-congo-women2A story on Oprah about the plight of Congo women and what Women for Women International is doing to help them spurred Lisa Shannon of Portland, Oregon to take action. She organized Run for Congo Women to raise money to help the women there and today bloggers are uniting to bring attention to this cause.

I wrote about the incredible HBO documentary The Greatest Silence: Rape in the Congo in a November post. Women and children continue to suffer greatly there. The 3/27/09 United Nations Security Council report of the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) reports the following:

  • As of January, there were an estimated 1.4 million displaced people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) with 707,000 of those being in the northern area of the province of Kivu.
  • Attacks on humanitarian workers, human rights, and the socio-economic and financial situation there have worsened “significantly” even since the start of 2009.
  • Members of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC), the Congolese National Police, and other armed groups have committed egregious human rights abuses such as arbitrary executions, torture, extortion, abduction and disappearance of citizens, and rapes.
  • Sexual and gender-based violence continues with 11,00 rapes being reported each month. Varying from area to area, 35% to 50% of the victims are between 10  and 17 years old and 10% were younger than 10 years old.

Lisa Shannon is one person who decided to do something to make a difference. Below is a 2008 video of her speaking about Run for Congo Women. Another video from Women for Women follows that talks about how we can change the lives of women there by sponsoring a Congolese woman or donating to the organization. Go to http://www.womenforwomen.org to find out more or make a donation.





Human Rights Activists on Twitter

8 04 2009

Here are some Human Rights activists I follow on Twitter. I am so twitterappreciative of the work they do and what I learn from them. You might want to check them out too if you’re a Twitter fan.

GENERAL

http://twitter.com/HumanRightsNews – News headlines on human rights

http://twitter.com/hrcberkeley – Human Rights Center UC Berkeley

http://twitter.com/susanneure – Web editor for Amnesty Intl in Canada

http://twitter.com/AmnestyIntl – Amnesty Intl

http://twitter.com/AmnestyUK – Amnesty Intl in UK

http://twitter.com/AmnestyOnline – International Secretariat of Amnesty International

http://twitter.com/phrTweets – Physicians for Human Rights

http://twitter.com/The_Advocates – The Advocates for Human Rights

http://twitter.com/ladu – human rights activist

http://twitter.com/rtsadvocate – human rights activist

HOMELESS/REFUGEES

http://twitter.com/MLFNOW – helping the homeless

http://twitter.com/wrcommission – Women’s Refugee Commission working to improve the lives and protect the rights of refugee women and children.

http://twitter.com/theIRC – The International Rescue Committee goes to crisis zones to rescue and rebuild. We lead refugees from harm to home.

WOMEN’S RIGHTS

http://twitter.com/HumanFolly – editor of Change.org Women’s Rights blog

GENDER VIOLENCE

http://twitter.com/sinbysilence – documentary on stopping violence against women

http://twitter.com/FGFoundation – working to end gender violence

http://twitter.com/WRC_DOD – White Ribbon Campaign to end violence against women

CHILDREN’S RIGHTS

http://twitter.com/childrensrights – working to reform child welfare systems

TORTURE
http://twitter.com/notorture – healing torture survivors

http://twitter.com/IStandVsTorture – an umbrella campaign for a U.S. Commission to Investigate Torture

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO

http://twitter.com/StopConflict – working to stop conflict in the Congo

HUMAN TRAFFICKING

http://twitter.com/AaronCohen777 – rescuing victims of child trafficking

http://twitter.com/TheA21Campaign – abolishing the injustice of human trafficking in the 21st century

 

http://twitter.com/VisionAbolition – dedicated to prevention, rescue, and restoration of sexually exploited and trafficked children

http://twitter.com/RichLeger – human trafficking activist with Abolish Slavery Coalition

http://twitter.com/slaverymap – online repository of human trafficking incidences

http://twitter.com/EBain – author of Season of Light blog on child trafficking

http://twitter.com/BuckUpCampaign – building shelters for sex trafficking victims by asking people to donate $1

http://twitter.com/endingslavery – writer of One Voice to End Slavery blog

http://twitter.com/FredDouglassSon – Frederick Douglas Family Foundation fighting modern day slavery

Here are additional abolitionists (people who fight slavery and human trafficking) from Diana Scimone:

@Freeallslaves
@freedomday
@IJMcampaigns
@IJMHQ
@ijminstitute
@innocentjustice
@Justicecrazy
@lovejustice
@nowhere2hide

@nosilencenow

@Polaris_Project

@advancnonprofit

@AmberGlattSmith

@antitrafficking

@BeverlyHogue
@brandedphx

@cfpdx
@charlestlee

@cortneyr
@dhepburn

@ElCuso12

@fisher_david

@just4one
@LaLaLives
@lwood15
@MaeSotShane

@maryhooke
@mathewhulbert
@MatthewBarnett

@mgjack

@missdeneen
@monicabrand

@mrskutcher
@NatalieGrant
@northernchick
@NYTimesKristof
@respres

@sethjohnson78

@ProjectExodus
@RedLightCC
@ROBLOVE146

@RunForFreedom
@socialheart
@thesoldproject

@Traffickfree
@trafficksucks

In addition to the above, this is a wonderful list from Emily at the Season of Light blog on ending child trafficking on people who twitter on human trafficking:

Individuals:

Diana Scimone, Born2Fly: @DianaScimone

Brandi, Social Heart Blog: @socialheart

Carol Fenton:@cfpdx

Greg Darley: @gregdarley

Nicholas Kristof, New York Times reporter: @nytimeskristof

Somaly Mam, The Somaly Mam Foundation: @somalymam

Seth Johnson, Transitions Global: @sethjohnson78

Stef, Nowhere2Hide: @nowhere2hide

Laura: @LaLaLives

Mae Potter: @maepotter

Amanda Kloer, Change.org blog: @endhumantraffic

Organizations

ECPATUSA: @ecpatUSA

FreeChains: @freechains

IJM: @IJMHQ

Not for Sale: @not_for_sale

Redlight Children: @redlightcc

SheDances: @shedances

The SOLD Project: @thesoldproject

Transitions Global: @transitions_g





The Tortured Gitmo 14: Americans Unknowingly Paid for This

6 04 2009

Stripped naked for weeks. Deprived of food. Chained with hands above the head while standing for days on end. Denied sleep for days. Beaten brutally.

Credit: Antiwar.com

Credit: Antiwar.com

Kept in solitary confinment for months and years with no knowledge of where they were, no contact with anyone except their masked interrogators, and no news of the outside world. Denied access to a toilet. Suffocated by water.

Repeatedly slung against a wall with the collar they were forced to wear. Threatened with being infected with HIV…or the arrest and rape of their families…or of being sodomized…or of being electrically shocked…or of being brought close to death. Doctors monitoring the torture and even participating in it.

This and more is what happened to 14 “high value” detainees that the International Red Cross was allowed to visit at Guantanamo and interview in October and December of 2006. The complete February 2007 “Strictly Confidential” report of what they saw and heard entitled ICRC REPORT ON THE ON THE TREATMENT OF FOURTEEN “HIGH VALUE DETAINEES” IN CIA CUSTODY was published today online on the New York Review of Books website by Mark Danner, a long-time contributor to the Review and author of the book Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.

If you want to know more, I wrote about Mr. Danner’s article with more details of the Red Cross report in the post (with the same name as the article) U.S. Torture: Voices from the Black Sites.

Why were Bush and his cronies allowed to stay in office when it was so clear that they lied when they said they weren’t torturing, broke the law, spit on the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, and egregiously took away human rights of detainees? Read the International Red Cross report. The Bush Administration is guilty of torture. It is time that Americans demand that Bush, Cheney, Gonzales, Yoo, Addington, Rumsfeld, etc. be brought to justice. They need to be held accountable so the world can begin to heal from the harm they did.

I urge you to contact Attorney General Eric Holder and ask him to take action on this. You can contact him at AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.





U.S. Torture: Voices from the Black Sites

15 03 2009

Chilling. In the tortureds’ own words. US Torture: Voices from the Black Sites is the name of the cover article in the April 9 issue of the New York Review of Books. This is a must-read article by Mark Danner, a long-time contributor to the Review and the author of the book Torture and Truth: America, Abu Ghraib, and the War on Terror.

Mark Danner - Source: NYBooks.com

Mark Danner - Source: NYBooks.com

Mark Danner contributed an OpEd to the 3/14/09 New York Times about the article. He talks of how on September 6, 2006 President Bush first “…informed the world that the United States had created a dark and secret universe to hold and interrogate captured terrorists. He says that President Bush’s remarks included the following:

“In addition to the terrorists held at Guantánamo, a small number of suspected terrorist leaders and operatives captured during the war have been held and questioned outside the United States, in a separate program operated by the Central Intelligence Agency. At these places, the C.I.A. used an alternative set of procedures. These procedures were designed to be safe, to comply with our laws, our Constitution and our treaty obligations. The Department of Justice reviewed the authorized methods extensively and determined them to be lawful.”

In that speech, Bush also said that 14 “high-value detainees” would be transferred from overseas Black Sites to Guantanamo and that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) would have the opportunity to meet with them.

In the Review article are excerpts from a secret ICRC report that details how the U.S. tortured prisoners at the Black Sites. The press release for this article includes this description of the kind of torture that was authorized by President Bush:

This “alternative set of procedures,” as President Bush characterized them in a White House speech, including extended “sleep deprivation,” prolonged forced nudity, bombarding detainees with noise and light, repeated immersion in cold water, prolonged standing, sometimes for many days, beatings of various kinds, and “waterboarding” – or as the report’s authors phrase it, “suffocation by water.” These interrogations are described in chilling first-person accounts gathered confidentially by ICRC investigators and made public here for the first time.

You can hear a podcast of Mark Danner speaking on this at the New York Review of Books website.

Danner’s article backs up what Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has also written about in her excellent book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.”  I heard Jane speak about this book at the Texas Book Festival on 11/2/08 and read her excellent book. It is eye-opening.

I believe that every American should educate themselves on the crimes that Bush, Cheney, Addington, Woo, Rumsfeld, and others committed during the Bush Administration. These people were authorizing and justifying (with bogus legal documents) torture in secret while denying it in public. Senator Patrick Leahy is urging Americans to join him in calling for a commission to investigate abuses during the Bush/Cheney admninistration. Please visit the website at http://www.bushtruthcommission.com and sign the petition. No one should be allowed to so denigrate the office of the Presidency and Vice-Presidency, the United States, the Constitution, the Geneva Conventions, and the honor of the American people and totally walk away without any consequences. No one.





Bashmilah: Innocent Yet Disappeared, Held Captive, Tortured

20 02 2009

Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah was disappeared by the U.S., held captive for 19 months, and tortured. He writes a chilling tale about it in an article on the Huffington Post.

Bashmilla

Bashmilah

According to the short bio there, he is “…a citizen of Yemen, is a client of the International Human Rights Clinic at NYU School of Law, which represents him in his quest for truth and justice.” He starts his article with these words:

“From October 2003 until May 2005, I was illegally detained by the U.S. government and held in CIA-run “black sites” with no contact with the outside world. On May 5, 2005, without explanation, my American captors removed me from my cell and cuffed, hooded, and bundled me onto a plane that delivered me to Sana’a, Yemen. I was transferred into the custody of my own government, which held me — apparently at the behest of the United States — until March 27, 2006, when I was finally released, never once having faced any terrorism-related charges. Since my release, the U.S. government has never explained why I was detained and has blocked all attempts to find out more about my detention.”

I encourage you to read the rest of the post. This program of capturing people who may or may not be terrorists and renditioning them…disappearing them…to another country where they are then tortured was practiced secretly by President Bush. Surprisingly to me, according to the HuffPo article, this practice has been going on for decades and was alledgedly practiced by President Clinton 80 times. The difference, according to Panetta, is whether the prisoner is sent to another country for prosecution or torture.

Bush sent detainees to other countries for torture. He wanted them off U.S. soil so illegal torture could be done to them outside our country’s watch. Senator Patrick Leahy is calling for a commission to investigate abuses during the Bush/Cheney administration. I urge you to sign the petition to urge Congress to create this commission by going to http://www.bushtruthcommission.com.





Renditions and Torture: Outlawed

26 01 2009

A powerful 26 minute film that every American should watch. Go to this link to see it: http://hub.witness.org/node/8109. A description from the website is included below:

Human rights groups and several public inquiries in Europe have found the U.S. government, with the complicity of numerous governments worldwide, to be engaged in the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, secret detention, and torture. The U.S. government-sponsored program of renditions is an unlawful practice in which numerous persons have been illegally detained and secretly flown to third countries, where they have suffered additional human rights abuses including torture and enforced disappearance. No one knows the exact number of persons affected, due to the secrecy under which the operations are carried out.

Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the ‘War on Terror’ corroborates these findings through the harrowing stories of Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, two men who have suffered as a result of the U.S. government’s disregard of the international legal instruments dealing with respect for fundamental rights. The film features commentary from Louise Arbour, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michael Scheuer, the chief architect of the rendition program and former head of the Osama Bin Laden unit at the CIA, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. President George W. Bush.

OUTLAWED is a 27-minute WITNESS production in association with 14 production and distribution partners worldwide, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); Amnesty International; Breakthrough (US/India); the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law; the Center for Constitutional Rights; the Center for Human Rights & Global Justice at New York University School of Law; Freedom House; Human Rights First; Human Rights Watch; the International Commission of Jurists (Switzerland); Liberty (UK); the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA; Redress (UK); and Reprieve (UK).





Bush Tortured Democracy and Detainees

25 01 2009

The Bush administration authorized and used torture. Period. “Torturing Democracy” is a documentary on their lies and insistence that “The U.S. does not torture” while they were practicing it. 

The New York Times reported on 10/16/08 that PBS was holding this documentary until January 21, 2009, the first day they said they could find on their schedule to air it, and noncoincidentally, the day after Bush and Cheney left office. It is suspected that PBS was pressured by the Bush administration and thus held showing the documentary.

Jane Mayer, a consultant for the program, wrote the incredibly elucidating and damning book  “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals.” I heard Jane speak in Austin the weekend before the election and was stunned by what I heard.

I immediately bought her book and read it in shock at what Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Addington, Woo and others did in the name of keeping America safe. They assumed, and justified, absolute power after 9/11, declaring that not even Congress could keep them from doing whatever they felt was necessary.

The United Nations human rights chief on 1/22/09 called for an investigation into torture at Guantanamo Bay. Will Bush and others be charged and prosecuted? They have violated the Geneva Conventions and defied and defiled the Constitution of the United States. Why should they be above the law? People discovered what they were doing. Why were they not impeached? They have held and tortured detainees who were shepherds and never shown to be terrorists. They have harmed the United States beyond measure with their dictatorial use of authority. Their use of torture served as a technique to recruit terrorists, which led to thousands of U.S. deaths.

In his first week in office, President Obama signed authorizations to stop the use of torture and close down Guantanamo Bay within one year. The Bush administration’s horrific and secretive practices have stopped.

“Torturing Democracy” is now being shown in select cities on PBS and is available to see online at http://www.TorturingDemocracy.org. After the film is shown, a leading panel of experts discuss the film. Watch and see what your former President, Vice President, and others did. Form your own opinion. Personally, I believe they should be prosecuted and jailed. They broke U.S. laws and international laws about the humane treatment of people, including prisoners of war. They caused American deaths. No one is above the law. NO ONE.





Finally…Moral Leadership and NO MORE TORTURE

22 01 2009

Finally. An ethical President. When we hear “The U.S. does not torture,” this time it will not be a lie. Today President Obama (I love the sound of that!) issued an executive order that orders that any prisoner being held at Guantanamo must be be treated humanely in accordance with the Geneva Conventions (which Bush totally ignored). He also ordered the closing of Guantanamo no later than one year from today. Some prisoners have been held there as long as 7 years without a trial.

Obama with Retired Generals Signing Order on 1/22/09 to Close Guantanamo

Obama with Retired Generals Signing Order on 1/22/09 to Close Guantanamo

 One of the retired generals accompanying President Obama as he signed the orders was Retired Major General Paul D. Eaton. He was interviewed by Keith Olbermann and Eaton had this to say about today: “It’s been a blockbuster day. The performance of our President was nothing less than terrific…great courage. It was a wonderful, wonderful session with him.” He also said that he and other retired generals and admirals  have been working with Human Rights First on how to restore our moral standing in the world. He said a critical component of that is how you handle your detainees.

Eaton also said that the Bush Administration “…allowed Guantanamo to become a recruiting poster for Al Qaeda.” This statement is similar to one made by “Matthew Alexander” (an assumed name) who is a former U.S. interrogator. I wrote about him in this post and his assertion that as many Americans have died because of the U.S. practice of torture as died in 9/11.

Obama also signed today an executive order to establish an interagency task force on detainee disposition to “… identify lawful options for the disposition of individuals captured or apprehended in connection with armed conflicts and counterterrorism operations.”

A third executive order President Obama signed was “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations.” He revoked previous regulations issued to or by the CIA from 9/11/01 to 1/20/09, which gave them power to ignore the Geneva Conventions and other U.S. laws regarding treatment of prisoners and torture. The executive order asserted that detainees are not to be tortured and are to be interrogated using the Army Field Manual guidelines.

Yesterday President Obama ordered that military prosecutors halt all Guantanamo war crimes tribunals for 120 days so that the cases can be reviewed. The military had been serving as judge and jury in these cases.

I have written several blogs about torture after hearing New Yorker writer Jane Mayer speak in Austin and then reading her riveting book “The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals.” I had a recent conversation with my mother about how Bush and Cheney had personally authorized torture and she seemed to be totally unaware this was going on. I’m sure there are millions of other Americans who have been blissfully unaware. They are most likely the same people who voted for Bush for president again in 2004…the same year the photos of the abuse at Abu Ghraib came out.

President Obama is a different man. He is caring, compassionate, has a strong moral compass, and believes there are other ways to deal with our enemies rather than torture them to partial or complete death or to bomb them and go to war on false pretenses.

Finally the U.S. can begin to assume our position as the leader in human rights and equal rights for all people. It’s about time.





Bush Legacy in 8 Minutes

16 01 2009

Sobering. The two men most responsible for authorizing the United States’ use of torture will receive pensions of $196,700 (Bush) and $132,451 (Cheney) per year – both adjusted for inflation. How does that make you feel to know that your hard-earned money is going to two men who crippled our country, egregiously broke the law, and decided they were above abiding by the Geneva Conventions? Watch and be reminded of why our country is in the shape it is.





Going Out in a Blaze of Revisionism, Denial, Blaming

14 01 2009

Bush, Cheney, and Palin are all on their I-didnt-do-it-it’s-those-people’s-fault 2009 Revisionism, Denial, and Blaming Tour. One wonders how they keep a straight face when being interviewed. The words that come out of their mouths are so surreal when compared to the facts of what actually happened.

Cheney still denies that waterboarding is torture and flatly asserts that torture and Guantanamo Bay were and are necessary. He believes that he participated in an administration that accomplished a lot and he’s proud of what he’s done. He may just be one of the most dangerous people who has ever served in an administration. He says that the torture, detention, and renditions that he personally authorized were done legally. Of course, his chief of staff David Addington was the person who was in charge of getting Gonzales, Yoo, and others to pen whatever legal chicanery they could to cover their asses.

And Bush…this man is probably the most unaware person I have ever observed. He seems to have no conscience at all. He led us into a war on false pretenses, but maintains it was necessary. He asks in a press conference what else could he have done to help out during Katrina and says he couldn’t land his helicopter there because that would’ve taken resources away from rescuing people…as if that was his only choice for what to do. He, too, insists that torture was necessary and finally…after many years of denying it…admits that he did authorize torture of the master mind of 9/11.

And then there’s Palin. She blames the McCain people for keeping her quiet during the election (there’s a reason for that as has become quite evident). She whines that bloggers were smearing her and the media was biased against her due to class issues. She looks for any opportunity to be in the national spotlight while many of her own people in Alaska are having to choose between heating their homes or eating due to the high cost of heating oil…and she does nothing. At least John McCain has the decency to not blame others and has kept quiet. Palin could learn a thing or two from him.

So what’s the message we get from Cheney, Bush, and Palin? It’s okay to do whatever you want to do and you don’t have to listen to or consider the people you serve. Lie if it will save your ass. You can treat people however you want as long as you smile and wave the flag of being a good Christian or family values person. Intelligence is overrated. Manipulation is underrated.

Barack Obama is a breath of fresh air. He tells us the truth…even when it’s painful to hear. He gives us hope. He gathers the smartest people he can to advise him and help him govern…he values intelligence and is incredibly intelligent himself. He has real family values…the affection he has for his wife and children is undeniable. During the election and after he takes office he has made it a policy that those working with him need to take time off to be with their families. He denounces torture and will reverse that policy and many others that Bush and Cheney have put in place…ones that have destroyed the respect that so many people have had for the United States. Obama will get things done to lift us up rather than destroying our country as Bush and Cheney have.

Human rights will once again be important in the U.S. and for those we touch. Bush and Cheney assumed absolute power and took away so much of our freedom in the name of keeping us safe.

Cheney, Bush, and Palin, your time on the national stage is over. You have done enough damage. Let our country heal now under the leadership of Barack Obama. Yes we can…have hope and honest and intelligent leadership…finally.





U.S. Torture Has Caused As Many U.S. Soldier Deaths as 9/11

3 12 2008

They got it all wrong. Bush, Cheney, Addington, Rumsfield, and Gonzales authorized torture to “keep us safe” after 9/11. I wrote about this in a 11/16/08 blog.

Today Keith Olbermann interviewed “Matthew Alexander” on torture. “Matthew” (not his real name) served 14 years in the U.S. Air Force and is still in the Reserves (thus the assumed name). He has written a book called “How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq.”

Alexander went to Iraq in March, 2006 for a 5-month stint as a senior interrogator. He witnessed the U.S. using torture to try and elicit information from terrorist suspects. He conducted 300 interrogations and supervised 1,000 interrogations, and refused to use those methods. Instead, he built a rapport with the suspects, showed an understanding of their culture, and used criminal investigation techqniues to elicit the information he sought. His interrogation methods gathered information that led to the bombing and killing of Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

“Matthew” says that torture is “extremely ineffective and is counter-productive to what we are trying to accomplish.” He says that you get unreliable information from torture and that al-Qaeda uses the fact that we torture people to recruit new members. He says we need to outlaw torture immediately when Obama takes office.

In a 11/30/08 Washington Post article he wrote, which was entitled “I’m Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq,” Alexander says that:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners.

He also makes this startling declaration:

The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.

LET THAT SINK IN FOR A SECOND. We have lost as many soldiers due to torture as we did in 9/11. We are supposedly FIGHTING a war on terror. Instead, we have CREATED terror with our torture policies…terror for our own soldiers and terror produced by new recruits who came to fight directly because of our torturing suspected terrorists.

Here’s Keith Olbermann interviewing “Matthew Alexander” on “Countdown” today:

Alexander is hopeful since Obama has said he will outlaw torture. Obama’s top legal advisors met today with 12 retired generals to talk about banning torture. Torture is just so unnecessary…and IT HAS TO STOP.





Bush: Remained True to His Values – And Authorized Torture

28 11 2008

Bush, who authorized torture, wants to be remembered for remaining faithful to his values. He says that he “…did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the  political process,” according to CNN.

Jane Mayer, who writes for The New Yorker, wrote a book about how the Bush Administration used 9/11 to justify absolute authority to do whatever they pleased in a book called The Dark Side:  The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. I heard Jane speak in Austin at the Texas Book Festival and bought and read this book. It is shocking and eye-opening.  

PBS is holding a documentary called “Torturing Democracy,” about the Bush Administration ordering coercive interrogation techniques and torture in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib in Iraq. They say they cannot find a place on their schedule for it until January 21st, 2009, the day after Bush leaves office.

Watch for yourself at http://www.torturingdemocracy.org and ask yourself if you ordered what is depicted in this documentary, if these are values you’d be proud of. Here is a clip from the documentary.

 





Obama Will End the Bush Administration’s Sanction of Torture

16 11 2008

We’ve had 7 long and shameful years of torture instituted and sanctioned by George Bush and Dick Cheney. Obama said on 60 Minutes tonight that he will close Guantanamo Bay and ban torture in order to “regain America’s moral stature in the world.” Most people have heard about Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and know that we have held terrorist suspects there, but most – myself included – haven’t known the extent to which Bush and Cheney have gone to take away human rights in the name of keeping our country safe.
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