Wednesday, April 27, 2005

BORDC Press Release
Eugene (OR) and Amherst (MA) Take Strong Stands
Against U.S. Use of Torture

April 12, 2005FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEEugene (OR) and Amherst (MA) Take Strong Stands Against U.S. Use of Torture
Contact: Nancy Talanian, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, Director, 413-582-0110Hope Marston, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, West Region, 541-683-1604Jessie Baugher, Bill of Rights Defense Committee, East Region, 413-582-0110
Eugene, OR, and Amherst, MA—On Monday evening, the Town of Amherst’s Select Board voted unanimously to sign on to a letter rejecting U.S. use of torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners, drafted by the Bill of Rights Defense Committee. That same evening, by a vote of 7-1, Eugene’s City Council approved a resolution based on the letter. Many more communities are expected to join Eugene and Amherst in the coming weeks, as the BORDC’s grassroots coalition seeks to challenge the Bush Administration’s tacit approval of torture and rendition post 9/11.
The letter asks the United States government to affirm that it will not through its own actions, or through others acting on its behalf, engage in any acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment anywhere in the world. The BORDC asks local government bodies, veterans groups, retired military officers, and national organizations to sign on to its letter because U.S. use of torture places U.S. and allied military forces at greater risk of similar treatment if they are captured. The BORDC plans to deliver the letter to President Bush and all members of Congress in early May.
Nancy Foster, Amherst community member and longtime civil liberties supporter, introduced the letter to the Amherst Select Board. The five-member Board praised Foster and offered their unanimous support for the letter. They plan to send their own copies of the letter to Amherst's Congressional representatives, in addition to endorsing BORDC's letter.
Initially, the Eugene resolution faced a hurdle common among issues of national or international significance. Hope Marston, a local organizer for the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, reminded the council that “when each of you was sworn into office, you promised to defend the United States Constitution.” She went on to describe the many ways in which the U.S. Constitution is clear in its rejection of torture and its commitment to human rights. “We cannot violate our principles just because torture is happening in a far away country to citizens of other countries. Our own principles must be upheld for all the world to see,” she said.
Former Attorney Karl Sorg of Eugene, who argued before the Supreme Court in the 1950s, was among the local residents who spoke in favor of the city resolution. Recalling his Army days in Nazi Germany, Sorg said, “I was frightened by fascism then, and now I see our own country engaging in terrorism.”
Gordie Albi, founder of Eugene’s Amigos de Los Sobrevivientes (Friends of the Survivors), told the councilors that torture is a local issue because Eugene is home to the first U.S. center that cares for survivors of torture.
Three councilors who initially opposed the resolution eventually found the issue of torture important enough to make an exception, and voted in favor. Other councilors, like Andrea Ortiz were grateful for the opportunity to vote against the use of torture. She said, “If we as leaders of the community can’t make a statement about war crimes, I don’t know what we can make a statement about.” Councilors Betty Taylor and David Kelly echoed her sentiment and gave the resolution their strong support.
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee invites people nationwide who are outraged that U.S. personnel have engaged in torture to urge their local governments, human rights commissions, and veterans’ groups to sign on to its letter opposing torture, and to gather signatures on an anti-torture petition it has cosponsored with the Center for Constitutional Rights. According to BORDC director Nancy Talanian, “The American people are frustrated by the lack of action from both President Bush and Congress in stopping this obvious wrongdoing. We hope our letter and petition together will generate more than a million signatures. People clearly need an outlet for expressing their outrage at U.S. support for and complicity in torture.”
Press advisory:
Information on BORDC’s campaign against torture, including the anti-torture petition:
Web site of Center for Constitutional Rights:
The Bill of Rights Defense Committee is a nonprofit civil liberties group based in Northampton, MA, that develops tools and strategies for communities to uphold their civil rights and liberties locally and to join together in a national debate about threats to liberties. The organization was the impetus behind the national movement in which 378 communities and states have passed resolutions upholding the Bill of Rights, in opposition to parts of the USA PATRIOT Act and other laws and policies enacted since September 11, 2001.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Lessons from Cambodia

from the April 14, 2005 edition -
Lessons from killing fields of Cambodia - 30 years on
By Alex Hinton

NEWARK, N.J. - When the Khmer Rouge victoriously entered Phnom Penh 30 years ago, many people greeted the rebels with a cautious optimism, weary from five years of civil war that had torn apart their lives and killed hundreds of thousands of Cambodians. All of the city dwellers were sent to live and work in the countryside, joining the peasantry in one of the most radical revolutions in history.
During the nearly four years following that day - April 17, 1975 - Cambodia was radically transformed. Economic production and consumption were collectivized, as Pol Pot and his circle mobilized the entire population to launch a "super great leap forward." The labor demanded was backbreaking, monotonous, and unceasing.

Everyday freedoms were abolished. Buddhism and other forms of religious worship were banned. Money, markets, and media disappeared. Travel, public gatherings, and communication were restricted. Contact with the outside world vanished. And the state set out to control what people ate and did each day, whom they married, how they spoke, what they thought, and who would live and die. "To keep you is no gain," the Khmer Rouge warned, "To destroy you is no loss."
In the end, more than 1.7 million of Cambodia's 8 million inhabitants perished from disease, starvation, overwork, or outright execution in a notorious genocide.

Now, 30 years after the Khmer Rouge came to power in a time of war and terror, we - who also live in a time of war and terror - would do well to consider what lessons can be learned from the Cambodian genocide. I offer four suggestions in the spirit of George Santayana's oft-cited words "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

• The vision thing: Pol Pot and his fellow ideologues believed that the "science" of Marxism-Leninism had provided them with the tools to eliminate capitalist and imperialist oppression. The "all-knowing" Party would catapult Cambodia toward communist utopia. Like that of other genocidal ideologues, the Khmer Rouge path to this future was strewn with the bodies of those who did not fit this vision.
Today, in an era of new fanaticisms, the Khmer Rouge remind us that vision needs to be tempered with humility and toleration of the sort that inspired people like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and, perhaps now in Iraq, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

• The enemy within: For the Khmer Rouge, grandiose and unrealistic visions led to failures, failures suggested subversion, perceived subversion fueled paranoia, and paranoia sparked purges and the "purification" of the masses.
After Pol Pot's clique ordered the eradication of "hidden enemies burrowing from within," terror and death became commonplace. Sometimes suspected enemies were executed in public; often they simply vanished. "Be quiet," people whispered; "bodies disappear."
In our age of terrorist fear, as suspect Arabs and Muslims vanish, are tortured, or held without trial, the Khmer Rouge period cautions us about the dangers of political paranoia. The enemy within, too often, turns out to be ourselves as - driven by fear - we violate the rights of others.

• Torture: The Khmer Rouge established an elaborate security apparatus to identify and eradicate the "impure elements" threatening the purity of the revolution.
Some of these class enemies were killed immediately; others were imprisoned and tortured. Arrest presupposed guilt, so interrogators sought to force prisoners to reveal their treason. "Why did you betray the Party?" they would ask. "Who else belongs to your secret network?" The Khmer Rouge utilized a wide range of torture techniques - electric shocks, asphyxiation, immersion in water, forcing the consumption of feces and urine, stringing prisoners up in the air, and prolonged bodily stress - that have echoes today. These brutal methods got results: Most prisoners were eventually willing to confess to almost anything.
Now, as we learn more about Bagram, Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo, and sites of rendition, the violent practices of the Khmer Rouge warn us that the information extracted through torture is highly unreliable and that those who turn down this dark path start to resemble the evil they are pursuing.

• Through a glass darkly: One of the most startling aspects of meeting perpetrators of genocide is how ordinary they often are. In their path to evil we catch reflections of ourselves. Most of us have, at some point, used stereotypes and euphemisms, displaced responsibility, followed instructions better questioned, succumbed to peer pressure, disparaged others, become desensitized to the suffering of others, and turned a blind eye to what our government should not be doing. These sorts of things are going on right now in the war on terror.
Thirty years later, the Khmer Rouge teach us difficult lessons about ourselves and the world in which we live. Such understanding can help us become more self-aware, humble, tolerant, and let's hope, willing to act in the face of evil.

Alexander Hinton, author of 'Why Did They Kill? Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide,' is an associate professor of anthropology at Rutgers University.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Ghost Houses Criminals on the UN Wanted List

The Sudanese Intifada:
A Great Contribution to the World

Activists,Twenty years ago the Sudanese people went out to the streets of the major cities of Sudan and continued their strong acts of civil disobedience until they forced down one of the strongest Reagan administrations’ allies in Africa.

The dictator Nemeiri’s regime ruled the country from 1969-1985 with a strong support from the Nixon and Reagan administrations. The term ‘Intifada’ (the Arabic word for up-rise) become then known in the media of East/North Africa for the first time however, it did not fly globally until the Palestinian intifada borrowed it two years later…

The success of the Intifada depended mainly on the strong heritage of grassroots organizing that the Sudanese people excelled and used before in toppling down another US-supported military regime (1958-1964) which is known as the October Revolution, the first successful African civil disobedience.The 10-day intifada methodology had depended on creating different under-cover ‘revolution centers’ that mainly operated its organizing work, of next day rallies, after dark (the labor and power engineer unions shut off the electricity in most of the country’s cities). In my middle class neighborhood there were three Centers, while in the neighboring Burri (poor/lower middle class) there were at least ten Centers.

The current military regime stupidly thought that activists will use the same methodology in defeating them. They did not know how genius is the resistance and human rights movement. While the Intifada become an ongoing action since 1989 in Sudan (many martyrs paid their lives to keep this ongoing intifada on the streets, at check points or in the Ghost Houses) but there was a new methodology has been developed and added up to the heritage of the Sudanese revolution.The mass exile of Sudanese people to neighboring countries (Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Egypt, and later Chad) has become another weapon in the hands of the grassroots leadership of the new Intifada.

The Sudanese activists in exile learned how to use the international human and civil rights conventions and treaties to besiege the religious-right regime of Khartoum. With strong support from and ally with human rights orgs and activists, they managed to pass the UN Resolution of the Security Council 1593 that made it a global responsibility to bring the Darfur genocide masterminds to the International Criminal Court.

These 51 names on the Wanted List of the UN are the same masterminds of the Ghost Houses (the first mass torture system created and admitted by a Government) where thousands of brave community organizers were systematically tortured and maimed, physically and mentally. I hope you would show your support and celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the African Intifda and take action.Please write a letter to your newspaper and request more pressure on the Bush administration to stand strong with the UN to bring the Genocide and Ghost Houses perpetrators to the ICC.

It’s one way to show apology to the Sudabnese people based on the fact that number of these 'defendants' on the UN List were trained in the School of the Americas, directly or indirectly.

Mohamed Elgadi