CALL TO ACTION:
Join Witness Against Torture January 11-22, 2010 in a Fast and Vigil to Shut Down Guantanamo, End Torture and Build Justice
“I believe strongly that torture is not moral, legal or effective.” Guantanamo is “a damaging symbol to the world… a rallying cry for terrorist recruitment and harmful to our national security, so closing it is important for our national security.” Admiral Dennis Blair. January 2009.
On January 22, 2009, after signing the Executive Order to close Guantanamo, President Obama said "This is me following through ... on an understanding that dates back to our founding fathers, that we are willing to observe core standards of conduct not just when it's easy but also when it's hard."
Obama committed his administration to closing the prison—long a symbol of U.S. terror and lawlessness—within a year. Since that time, the process of releasing or relocating or prosecuting the 200 plus men still detained at Guantanamo has become mired in bureaucratic machinations, Congressional grandstanding and fear-mongering, and legal foot-dragging. In the meantime, the president seems to have lost interest in the issue altogether.
And what of the imprisoned men themselves - those still detained, still separated from their families after six, seven, eight years? More than 60 of them have been cleared for released, innocent men caught in an indiscriminate sweep that landed them at Guantanamo, isolated and tortured. The government has acknowledged it has no evidence on most if not all of them, yet still they languish. Only a few men have been released since the Executive Order was signed in January.
Barack Obama’s historic election, the end of the Bush administration, the new tone and tenor of politics in Washington, an executive order, rhetoric about core standards of conduct, human rights and democracy - all of this is hollow and meaningless if not accompanied by actions that lead to justice, freedom and accountability. Closing Guantanamo, breaking with Bush-era policies, ending torture, rendition and indefinite detention is hard, but it must be done. It is taking too long.
January 11, 2010 will mark eight years since the Bush administration turned the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba into a “enemy combatant” detention facility, re-commissioning it as a torture chamber and legal black hole they hoped no one would notice and from which they hoped none would emerge.
Witness Against Torture did notice, and along with many other groups, we have been working to challenge this detention and torture apparatus, to ensure legal representation for the men there, and justice and release for the vast majority—most of whom were swept up in raids in the early days of the U.S. occupation in Afghanistan or are the victims of false condemnation by people eager to collect hefty bounties for “terrorists.”
When President Obama signed the Executive Order calling for Guantanamo's closure, we felt as though we had won - that the long years of arguing against torture (of all things), of demonstrating, of railing, were over. We dared to believe that a new day had dawned. Soon, however, our optimism faded to feelings of frustration and betrayal. The administration has dragged its feet and continued to trample on the lives of the men - real people, not merely abstract "others" - at Guantanamo.
In all, the Obama administration's handling of detainee issues-- from the reluctance to investigate and prosecute systematic torture, to its defense of indefinite detention—has fallen far short of the soaring rhetoric of his campaign. And now, and as the administration expands the war in Afghanistan and expands operations at the U.S. prison in Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan-- we see more clearly than ever the need for consistent, principled, nonviolent action and witness.
But, more than mark this miserable anniversary, we intend to call attention to President Obama's political bankruptcy. As such we have committed to a fast and daily vigil from January 11 through January 22-- the day by which the president said Guantanamo would be closed.
So, it is with resolute-- but heavy-- hearts that we in Witness Against Torture once again turn our attention to the sad business of marking January 11, 2010 and the eighth year of torture, abuse and detention at Guantanamo.
As we fast and vigil and spend time with one another, we will build towards and plan a day of action for that day-- January 22 - when we hope to call the world's attention to both the administration's record of broken human rights promises and the shattered lives of the men at Guantanamo and their families.
We have always tried to orient our actions with questions asked and answered in community. The question that brought 25 of us to Guantanamo in 2005: how do we resist the war on terror, and care for its victims? Out of fasting, vigiling, community building and focused intention, what new questions can emerge for us to ask and answer?