Last month, as I reported extensively at the time, I traveled to Berkeley to take part in “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, an exciting series of events focused in and around Boalt Hall, the home of UC Berkeley School of Law, where torture lawyer John Yoo teaches, when he is not hiding out from lawyers and activists seeking his prosecution for knowingly breaking domestic and international law by redefining torture so that it could be used by US personnel in the Bush administration’s “War on Terror.”
As I explained in Part Five of my six-part series of reports about the week’s events, on Thursday October 14, I took part in a “Forum on Torture and the Law, Torture and Human Rights,” moderated by peace activist and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, which also featured Marjorie Cohn, author, law professor and former president of the National Lawyers Guild, Debra Sweet, national director of the World Can’t Wait, and Shahid Buttar, the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.
As I also explained, although I was, by then, “punch-drunk from my punishing itinerary, I nevertheless managed to summon up a last burst of energy to join the debate, as Marjorie laid out the case for prosecution, and Shahid and Debra weighed in, and after a lively discussion I even managed to maintain my composure when, during our closing remarks, I had to follow Shahid, who decided to deliver a powerful rap about torture as some sort of lyrical gauntlet.”
I’m pleased to report that videos of the event are now available, and are posted below via YouTube. Although Shahid’s rap is not included (or my follow-up), many of the evening’s key elements are contained in these five videos. Part One features Marjorie, Part Two features Shahid and me (although I’m sorry to say that my comments about the importance of the Guantanamo prisoners’ habeas corpus petitions, which have been proceeding through the US courts for the last two years, were largely edited out, although an archive of relevant documents can be found here). In Part Three, Debra delivered her thoughts, and in Parts Four and Five the panel responded to questions from the audience.
I hope these videos provide some useful information, and that they will also contribute to a movement to raise torture — and accountability for those who authorized it — as a crucial issue for campaigners in the coming year, as the whole question of torture remains central to the ongoing struggle for the soul of America.
With his losses in the mid-term elections, President Obama needs to understand that, to win back support from those who propelled him to power in 2008, he must now find the spine to reshape America’s foreign policy and national security objectives — tackling the military-industrial complex and thoroughly repudiating the dreadful legacy of the Bush years, on the basis that maintaining his current path is financially ruinous, morally corrosive and counter-productive — if he is to have a chance of winning in 2012.
Part One: Marjorie Cohn
Part Two: Shahid Buttar and Andy Worthington
Part Three: Debra Sweet
Part Four: Q&A
Part Five: Q&A
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.
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