Speech by Terry Rockefeller at Amnesty International and ACLU Vigil
by Terry Rockefeller
January 14th, 2009
Hello, and thank you everyone for coming out to this important vigil on this terribly cold winter day. My name is Terry Rockefeller and I am a member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows. On September 11th 2001, my sister Laura went to work at a two-day, freelance job helping to run a seminar on information technology. When the first plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center, Laura was on the 106th floor.
In the weeks that followed as my family struggled to come to grips with our devastating personal loss, what I expected from my government was a commitment to discovering the truth about all those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the assurance that those responsible would be brought to justice. TRUTH and JUSTICE. It didn’t seem to be asking too much in response to one of the worse and cruelest criminal acts in human history.
I joined September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows to add my voice to other like-minded 9/11 family members; to oppose needless violence and revenge in our loved one names. Peaceful Tomorrows members have consistently spoken out against open-ended war that has produced tens of thousands of new civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq. And, as we opposed war, we continued to demand efforts to bring those responsible for the 9/11 attacks to justice in accordance with the principles of international law.
Over the nearly 7 tragic years of the War on Terror, this has led Peaceful Tomorrows to oppose the disgraceful lack of due process and respect for international law that Guantanamo has come to symbolize. And along with Guantanamo, we condemn all the other prisons – Abu Ghraib in Iraq, Bagram in Afghanistan, and the countless other, unnamed “black sites” where justice was never a goal.
After 7 years, we have a legacy of extraordinary renditions and torture that may make it impossible for those responsible for the 9/11 attacks to ever be brought to justice. And at the same time, many falsely accused, innocent people have been swept up in this corrupt and malignant system, detained without due process, denied fair trials, their lives ruined in ways from which they may never recover.
Today, I and all the members of Peaceful Tomorrows are proud to be working in partnership with many other organizations – especially Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the ACLU and Amnesty International – to see that Guantanamo and all that it stands for ends within the first 100 days of the next Administration. And today we truly have a great deal to celebrate. Things are moving, at last, in the right direction.
President-elect Obama has made clear his intention to deliver on his campaign promise to close Guantanamo. We should celebrate this as a victory for all those organizations and individuals who have worked to make this happen. It is a victory for the commitment they kept alive to principles of international law, to our constitution, to justice. It is a victory, because the world will be safer. And it is a victory for America, whose image in the world has been so tarnished by all that the Bush Administration has done in response to 9/11.
I would like to single out for special thanks and honor today the military attorneys and the volunteer civilian attorneys who have been defending the Guantanamo detainees. I had the privilege of meeting some of them last month at a gathering organized by the ACLU. There I learned something of how difficult their work has been. Often criticized and disrespected by other members of the military and the legal profession, hated by many of their clients, their work misunderstood by the public at large – these men and women are my heroes, for they toiled from within a horribly, broken system to keep justice alive. They have risked their careers to criticize the system, and they have pledged to see it ended. We cannot thank them enough.
So in their honor, in this moment of celebration, let us not settle for a symbolic victory of merely shutting down Guantanamo and allowing the evils it represents to be moved elsewhere. Let all of us who have worked for this moment pledge to continue our work until all detainees, everywhere receive due process and the legal protections that are their right under international law. Let us pledge to end torture, all torture, everywhere. Let us work to see that our nation never again resorts to the shameful practices of the last 7 _ years.
Because of those practices, their may never be JUSTICE for the 9/11 attacks. But let us seek the TRUTH about all that has happened: truth about where torture and other violations of international and constitutional law occurred, truth about who authorized it, who were the victims, and how we will finally end the abuses. We need that information and knowledge to ensure that this is a chapter in American history that we do not repeat. That truth would be, I believe, a fitting, final legacy for those who died on 9/11