Close Guantanamo in the First 100 Days

Witness Against Torture Rally
by Valerie Lucznikowska
January 11th, 2009

I really don’t want to be here: I’m here because my nephew was killed along with thousands of others in the World Trade Center where he worked on 9/11, 2001.

After that happened I wanted two things – justice and safety. I often see news quotes from family members, many visiting Guantanamo prison under the aegis of Bush’s Office of Military Commissions, who lost loved ones and want revenge. Revenge to me is as barbaric as murder. Like other violent human emotions, it must be controlled and channeled to maintain a civilized society. In any event, those looking for revenge are doomed to life-long frustration: the men who killed their loved ones died in the same pile of rubble.

So what do I want? I wanted and continue to urge our government to find and legally try those responsible for sending the suicide-murderers on their mission. I want to stop others who might copy the actions of 9/11. And I want to be safe from further attacks. Justice and safety – that’s what I want from my government.

Justice has not been served by the existence of Guantanamo prison, nor the jiggered Military Tribunals dreamed up to meet the winner-take-all ideology of a failed presidency.
And we are not safer. Guantanamo and the imprisonment of men held without charges, the building and use of black sites to detain and torture prisoners in other countries, “rendition” that peculiar word that describes body-snatching live people and disappearing them to other countries to be tortured…. and the use of torture itself,…have not served to make us safer. These practices have disgusted people all over the world and turned them away from us. Worse, they have energized deep-seated resentments and created new dangers.

Torture doesn’t work, by any name. Of the perhaps 270 still held at Guantanamo, after years of torture, only a handful have been charged. Those who confessed under torture, like the infamous Khalid Sheik Mohammed, have confessed to many highly dubious acts, throwing the confessions into serious doubt. Many at Guantanamo have been exonerated, but are held because there is nowhere to send them. This canker called Guantanamo must be finally eradicated, along with its partners, torture, black sites and rendition.

President-elect Obama has stated, quite unequivocally, “Under my administration the United States does not torture. We will abide by the Geneva Conventions…we will uphold our highest values and ideals.”

I admit that I was engulfed with despair for our way of life in the past few years. Now, these words of President-elect Obama have given me hope that the American ideals I grew up with – justice, fairness, equality under the law and much more — will be reinstated… after the roiling secrecy and darkness of these long eight years. And that hope is reflected around the world.

There is so much for him and his administration to make right in the first days after inauguration. But with a few presidential signings, he can sign back into reality our national self-esteem, and sign out of existence these moral and political festering sores on our nation.

It won’t be easy – it will be complicated. How do we now legally try prisoners who have been tortured, some of whom are probably guilty? Where do we send them when Guantanamo is closed? What do we do with, and for, those who are no longer competent to stand trial? What do we owe them for their excruciating pain and the horrors their families suffered? And what about those who have been released and continue to suffer trauma as a result of their treatment?

The new administration is faced with an economic crisis unmatched in decades. There are wars on multiple fronts. We must stand behind the promises of Obama to close Guantanamo and end the associated programs. I am now offering my voice to the new administration in support of President-Elect’s promises. We ALL must now extend our hands and voices to support his words and help him realize them with immediate deeds.

YouTube video available here.

Filed in: Guantanamo & Military Commissions, Rule of Law: Guantanamo and Civil Liberties, Valerie Lucznikowska, Voices of Peaceful Tomorrows

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