Remember John Yoo, the smug, shameless apologist for unfettered executive power who once claimed that, if he so desired, the President of the United States could crush a child’s testicles and there was nothing that anyone could do about it?
It was John Yoo, a follower of former Vice President Dick Cheney, who took a position with the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (which is charged with objectively interpreting the law as it applies to the Executive branch), and then, in 2002, wrote two blatantly subjective, unprofessional and politically motivated memos — forever known as the “torture memos” — which purported to redefine torture and told the government and the CIA that it was OK to torture Abu Zubaydah (the “high-value detainee” who turned out to be no such thing, despite being waterboarded 83 times), and any other Muslim that the President regarded as a terrorist.
And when a four-year internal investigation caught up with John Yoo, and he and his boss, Jay S. Bybee (now a judge in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals), were confirmed to have been responsible for “professional misconduct” in writing and approving the “torture memos,” both men were fortunate that Attorney General Eric Holder had taken on board President Obama’s promise to look forward and not back, and allowed David Margolis, a Justice Department expert in the dark art of the whitewash, to write a memo refuting the conclusions of the investigation, which only reprimanded them for having exercised “poor judgment.”
Although much of America has been brainwashed into thinking that torture is fine, or that resistance is futile, others remain dedicated to holding accountable their former leaders and their advisors — including Yoo and Bybee, and, of course, former President George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, former defense Donald Rumsfeld and many others — for their illegal and unconstitutional activities in the so-called “War on Terror.”
Some of these activists live in Berkeley, California, where John Yoo is a professor of law at UC Berkeley (Boalt Hall), and over the last few months the World Can’t Wait, the National Lawyers Guild (San Francisco), Progressive Democrats of America, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, National Accountability Action Network, Code Pink, FireJohnYoo.org, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee and the Rev. Kurt Kuhwald came together to plan a week of events — “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week — which was approved by Berkeley City Council on September 21, when the Council adopted a Resolution to hold a week of public educational events to educate the community about torture.
I’m delighted to announce that, with the invaluable support of the World Can’t Wait, I’ll be taking part in this important week of events. A list of events is below, but please visit the official website for updates, and for further information. Also see the Facebook page here.
Sunday October 10, 2010, 7 pm: Author Readings and Discussion with Andy Worthington and Justine Sharrock.
Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley.
Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things, read from their books and discuss Guantánamo, the “War on Terror” and the corrosive effect of torture on US soldiers as well as the Bush administration’s victims. Also see the Facebook page here.
Monday October 11, 7 pm: Screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Followed by Q&A with Andy Worthington.
Fellowship Hall, 1924 Cedar Street (at Bonita Avenue), Berkeley.
Andy Worthington, the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” described by Time Out as “a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy,” attends the screening, and will talk and answer questions afterwards.
This event is sponsored by Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee.
Tuesday October 12, 11 am: Protest action against John Yoo.
UC Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall), on Bancroft at College Avenue.
Protest at the location where John Yoo teaches constitutional law and a second class every Tuesday.
Tuesday October 12, 6.30 to 8 pm: The Giant John Yoo Debate.
UC Berkeley campus.
Join the World Can’t Wait, lawyers, law students, and other surprise guests for a real debate about John Yoo’s theories and legal work defending torture.
Wednesday October 13, 2010, 4:30 pm: Defying Torture: The Art of Dissent.
UC Berkeley Art Museum Theater, 2621 Durant Avenue, Berkeley.
A conversation with Peter Selz, art historian and Professor Emeritus of Art History at UC Berkeley, and political artist Clinton Fein, famous for his series, “Torture,” based on the Abu Ghraib photos.
Wednesday October 13, 2010, 7 pm: Roundtable – Writers on Torture: Barry Eisler, Andy Worthington, Justine Sharrock and Rita Maran.
University Lutheran Church, 2425 College Ave., Berkeley.
Barry Eisler, best-selling thriller writer and author of the new rendition- and torture-based novel Inside Out joins Andy Worthington, Justine Sharrock and Rita Maran (author of Torture: The Role of Ideology in the French-Algerian War ) to discuss fact, fiction, the crimes of the “War on Terror,” and approaches to writing about these topics and disseminating them to the public. Moderated by Shahid Buttar (Bill of Rights Defense Committee).
Thursday October 14, 2010, 7 pm: Forum on Torture and the Law, Torture and Human Rights, with Marjorie Cohn, Andy Worthington, Shahid Buttar and Debra Sweet. Moderated by Ray McGovern.
Boalt Hall, UC Berkeley Law, Rm 105, 2778 Bancroft Way.
Marjorie Cohn (author and past President of the National Lawyers Guild), Andy Worthington (journalist, author and filmmaker), Shahid Buttar (Bill of Rights Defense Committee), and Debra Sweet (National Director, the World Can’t Wait) discuss torture, human rights and the law, in a panel discussion moderated by peace activist Ray McGovern.
Friday October 15, 2010, 1.30 to 3 pm: Torture, Human Experimentation, and the Department of Defense, with Jason Leopold and Jeffrey Kaye.
Booth Auditorium, UC Berkeley Law, 2778 Bancroft Way (at Piedmont).
Jason Leopold of Truthout interviews psychologist, blogger and activist Jeffrey Kaye.
Friday October 15, 2010, 3-4.30 pm: Panel: Psychologists and Torture.
UC Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall) campus, Booth Auditorium.
With anti-torture psychologists Adrianne Aron, Ruth Fallenbaum, Pierre LaBossiere and Patricia Isasa. See Psychologists for an Ethical APA for more information on psychologists’ opposition to the torture program implemented by the Bush administration.
This event is co-sponsored by School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) East Bay/SF.
Friday October 15, 2010, 7 pm: Reckoning with Torture: An Evening of Conscience with Andy Worthington, Marjorie Cohn, Ray McGovern, Ann Wright, Mimi Kennedy, devorah major, Jeffrey Kaye, Fr. Louis Vitale, Renee Saucedo, Jason Leopold, Kathy Roberts, Abdi Soltani and more.
UC Berkeley Law (Boalt Hall) campus, Booth Auditorium.
“Reckoning with Torture: An Evening of Conscience” contains a powerful script, originated by the ACLU and American PEN Center, based on memos and testimonies from the “War on Terror,” which has been produced in New York and Washington, D.C., but has never before been performed on the West Coast. Guests including peace activists Ray McGovern and Ann Wright, Mimi Kennedy, devorah major, Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold of Truthout will be joining “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week regulars Andy Worthington and Marjorie Cohn to read these powerful texts.
This event is sponsored by the Boalt Alliance to Abolish Torture (BAAT) and the National Lawyers Guild, Boalt Chapter (NLG-Boalt), and the performance will be followed by a reception with the readers and audience. For ticket sales/reservations please email.
Note: For press inquiries about the week, please contact Linda Jacobs on 415-410-4484, or by email.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
Wow, I wish I could be in the Bay for this. I hope the fall weather is its usual fantastic, because you’ll need a break from the utter depravity recounted. Stay sane.
Question, I put up a post on Roxana Saberi comparing Iranian and US detainees. (click name for link) I want to make a claim about international pressure effecting the US. What is the most influential thing another country has done to influence the fate of a detainee? I’m putting David Hicks down for now, but that really shouldn’t count.
Yes, I wish you could be there too.
As for your question, I don’t suppose David Hicks is too great an example, as the deal to secure his return was only negotiated between Cheney and Howard in an attempt to improve Howard’s chances of reelection. I actually think that Angela Merkel deserves credit for securing Murat Kurnaz’s return to Germany in 2006, after years of obstruction by the previous government, and I think that Turkey, Sudan and Tajikistan did well to secure the return of some prisoners in 2004, followed by Kuwait, Bahrain, Belgium, Denmark and the Maldives in 2005. Pretty much everyone else was either implicated in abuses in the “War on Terror” in the first place (the UK and Sweden, for example), or wanted to put ex-prisoners on trial (France, Spain, Morocco) or, like Afghanistan and Pakistan, got most of their nationals back because of their central role.
Thanks. I take your comment to mean that only governments have successfully pressured / negotiated the release of detainees. Would you say no general international human rights pressure affected a release decision?
Oh, I see …
Yes, international pressure was important — criticisms by renowned international organizations etc. Plus the sort of campaigns organized by members of the public in the UK, for example.
All that helped create the climate in which the US Supreme Court granted the prisoners habeas corpus rights in June 2004, which was the major trigger for telling the Bush administration that its indefinite detention project was unsustainable. However, that decision was also based, fundamentally, on an interpretation of the law (although, in “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo,” the film I co-directed with Polly Nash), Clive Stafford Smith noted that the Abu Ghraib scandal also played a part).
Just re-read the two part Circuit Appeals series from July. Wow. The mosaic theory utterly screws detention up. What’s striking to me is that the executive preempted a rational detention regime right from start, and then fought a rear-guard action in the courts to retain it. Then the next executive fully endorsed the previous actions by not looking back and adopting (and even advancing!) some of the same exact executive power decisions. Now, certain courts and judges are allowing the regime to remain intact, and a very few are pushing beyond the executive’s already broad assertion of power, but in general the executive is driving the bus from the first handcuffs all the way to the Supreme Court, which is the only force that can stop it.
As opposed to Iran, where it seems the over-reaching judiciary is detaining and imprisoning people on trumped up charges. Then the executive steps forward for leniency. Now, I’m not endorsing Iranian detention and I don’t believe everything Mr. Ahmadinejad does is for good. But the contrast is striking.
Great analysis. Thanks. And my short message: Repeal the AUMF (the Authorization for Military Force). That underpins it all.
I have written a piece on torture on our planet as seen through the eyes of a reporter from a sister planet. The reporter’s earth name is Zy Uzip.
This is Zy Uzip’s background in her own words: I am a reporter from a planet in a neighboring star system. That makes me an alien on planet Earth, known as Planet-Uzat1479 back home. I am in disguise as a human female in her late fifties for my stay on Earth. That way my presence and conduct, while somewhat eccentric, may be less noticeable and less threatening in a male dominated planet. I have observed that there are some eccentric middle-aged women on the planet. So I fit in. My assignment is to report back to my planet on the goings-on on sister planet Earth. I plan to make reports regularly, until I am recalled, or given another assignment. My report on torture on planet earth is presented at URL: http://thethinkingpost-ajm.blogspot.com/.
Some of your associates may have an interest in my perspective.
Thanks for taking the time to read this email and the piece on torture.
Arnold J. Meagher
Thanks, Arnold. An interesting perspective indeed!
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