WAT marked 20 years of Guantanamo with rallies around the country

Fast for Justice 2022 // Film

A warm hello, Witness Against Torture Community,
We have our work cut out for us, since President Biden appears to be immobilized when it comes to Guantanamo.  But we still resisted and we hope you enjoy these photos of WAT witness actions across the country on January 11, watch the videos of events you missed, and gear up for a year of raising our voices to demand that this administration close Guantanamo.   In peace and solidarity,
WAT Organizing Team 


On January 11 we were in the streets from coast to coast
….and witnessing in Tiffin, OH, Los Angeles, CA, Raleigh, NC, Greenfield, MA, Asheville, NC, Orcas Island, WA, New York City, Augusta, ME, Boston, MA, and at the White House.  Check out WAT’s post-J11 Facebook posts of photos and our 2022 Fast for Justice photoset on our website. Here is a sampling…


News stories about local rallies

J11 videos to watch if you missed the events


WAT Book Group to discuss Maha Hilal’s new book

Dr. Maha Hilal, one of our WAT organizers, has just published her book Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience since 9/11 Maha’s hot off-the-press book analyzes the past 20 years of the War on Terror and how the US government’s narrative justified the creation of a sprawling apparatus of state violence rooted in Islamophobia.  

WAT Book Group 
What:   Reading and discussing Dr. Maha Hilal’s book together. (In December we discussed Mansoor Adayfi’s book Don’t Forget Us Here.)   

When: Tuesdays, February 1, 8, 5 and 22 at 7 pm ET
To  join us, Email witnesstorture@gmail.com with subject “Maha Hilal Book Group.”  We have complementary copies to send to the first two people who sign up.

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January 2022: Events marking 20 years of Guantanamo

Fast for Justice 2022 // Film

Close Guantanamo Rallies at the White House and virtual

• At noon local residents will stand with the men in Guantanamo, reading their names, singing, and calling out President Biden to give them justice (livestream on our Facebook page)

• At a 2 pm virtual rally we’ll hear a former Guantanamo prisoner, legal experts and activists speak about the the terrible human costs of these past 20 years. Register here.

White House Rally for local residents

President Biden: Why is Guantanamo still open?
20 Years Later and Still No Justice

Tuesday January 11, 2022
Noon to 1 pm ET

*People are being encouraged not to come to DC from out of town because of the Omicron surge. The rally will be livestreamed on our Facebook page.
*Local residents will gather at 11:30 am ET in Lafayette Park; the rally begins on Pennsylvania Ave at noon.
*Please be vaccinated and wear a mask to participate.
*Bring your orange jump suit and hood if you have one; if not, we’ll have one for you.

20th Anniversary 2 pm Virtual Rally


What: Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo 
Register here.
When: January 11, 2022 at 2 pm ET.


WAT Stay-at-home Fast for Justice with two Zoom gatherings


When: We will fast from Friday January 7 through Monday Jan 10.  We’ll meet by Zoom on Friday and on Monday, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, both nights.  To join us, email witnesstorture@gmail.com with subject line “Fast Jan 2022” to get more information and the Zoom link.
What: We have WAT stalwarts in our midst who have fasted every Friday for years, in a Ramadan-style fast, not eating from before sundown until after sunset.  However, for most of us this will be a liquids-only fast. Choose what’s best for you, in this year when we are each fasting alone. (And this is a WAT fast:  you don’t have to fast to join us!)

A conversation between Mansoor Adayfi and James Yee

What: Remembering Guantanamo: Reflections from a Former Muslim Prisoner & the Former Muslim Chaplain, moderated by Dr. Maha Hilal
When: Sunday January 9 at 4 pm ET, 10 pm Serbia time. 
 

Other vigils around the country

Boston, MA
Boston Rally at Park St Station
Jan. 11, 1-2pm.
Will distribute stash of Close Guantánamo t-shirts, signs, orange jumpsuits and black hoods. 
Expected to be very cold (around 10 degrees) so dress accordingly.  
Come prepared to speak if you like.  

Augusta, Maine (Date change)

What: Maine says “Shut it down”  —Vigil and walk to mark the 20th year since the opening of the Guantánamo Bay
Who: Pax Christi Maine
When: Tuesday, January 15, 2022 at noon ET
Where: We will vigil in front of the Augusta National Guard Armory, at the intersection of Route 202 and Armory Street, and then process to the Capitol.

Tiffin, Ohio
What: Close Guantanamo Rally: 20 years – Still No Justice
When: Friday, Jan. 7, 2022 at 3 to 4 pm ET
Where: Seneca County Courthouse, 103 E. Market St., Tiffin, OH 44883
Who: Tiffin Area Pax Christi

Los Angeles, CA (2 events)
What: Annual Close Guantanamo Now Rally
In-person event, streamed live on Facebook. Speakers include Mohammad Tajsar of the ACLU of Southern California, Jim Lafferty of the National Lawyers Guild, Carley Towne of Code Pink, Shane Que Hee of Out Against War, Shakeel Syed of American Muslims for Palestine, Estee Chandler of Jewish Voice for Peace
Who: Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), co-sponsored by WAT
When: Tuesday Jan 11 at noon PT
Where: Downtown Los Angeles Federal Building at 300 N. Los Angeles St. 90012 (in front of the building)
What: Online panel discussion featuring, among others, film maker Philippe Diaz, member of the Guantanamo Bar Michael Rapkin, and Marcy Winograd of Code Pink
When: Tuesday Jan 11 at 5 pm PT

Greenfield, MA
Two events hosted by No More Guantanamos and local WAT activists
Saturday, January 8, 11 a.m. to 12:00 noon
stand out on Greenfield Town Common with signs

Tuesday, January 11, starting at noon, meet at the common with signs (and instruments if you have them).  We plan to walk up and down Main Street.  Those with orange jumpsuits will wear them.

Northampton, MA
Radio talk show:
On Jan. 10 and 11, tune in to WHMP radio from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. for Buz Eisenberg’s afternoon show, “Afternoon Buz.” Buz is devoting both shows to Guantanamo. Next Monday, he will host special guest Ramzi Kassem, who with his students at the City University of New York, has represented 15 Guantanamo prisoners. On Tuesday, Buz will talk with Pioneer Valley activists.

Asheville, North Carolina
Join WAT and Veterans for Peace, Asheville Chapter #099, as they vigil at Asheville Pack Square on January 11, 4:30-5:30 pm.

Raleigh, North Carolina
What: Close Guantanamo Vigil to commemorate 20 years since the opening of Guantánamo prison
Who: North Carolina Stop Torture Now
When: Tuesday, January 11, 2022, 1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
Where: The Federal Building at New Bern Avenue and Person Street in Raleigh: Please bring a mask to wear.  If you have a black hood, that’s even better.  Orange jumpsuits are also very welcome.  Please come and bring family and friends

Orcas Island, Washington
What: Activists in a remote town on Orcas Island, a stones-throw from Canada, will witness in orange jump suits against the injustice of Guantanamo.  
When: January 11, 2022
Where: Eastsound WA, on the roadside, in synch with ferry arrival traffic, or at the main street intersection.

Online
20th Anniversary 2 pm Virtual Rally
What: Disrupt, Confront, and Close Guantánamo 
Register here.
When: January 11, 2022 at 2 pm ET 

New York City
Close Guantanamo Now! 20 Years Too Long!

What: Join us January 11 to demand Close Guantanamo Now 
Who: The World Can’t Wait
When: Tuesday January 11, 2022 from 4 to 6 pm ET
Where: New York Public Library steps, 5th Avenue @ 41st Street

Cleveland, OH
Witness to Close Guantanamo
When: Tuesday, Jan 11th, 3 pm to 4 pm (Gather at 2:45)
Where: Cleveland Federal Building (at E. 9th & Lakeside)

Who: Cleveland Catholic Worker


And many more Events in January

CAGE invites you to join what is set to be one of the LARGEST GATHERINGS OF FORMER GUANTANAMO PRISONERS.  Join men who have not only survived Guantanamo but also continue to embody faith and resilience and have tirelessly worked towards its closure. 
When: 8th January 6:30pm GMT – 1:30pm EST
REGISTER TO JOIN > event.cage.ngo   

 

Reparations Now and Onwards: Voices of Survivors, Advocates, and Next Steps
What:
Online panel on Guantanamo as an extra-legal prison
When:  Sat, January 8, 2022 from noon to 2 pm ET
Who: DePaul Art Museum with The Tea Project observes 20 years of Guantánamo as an extra-legal prison and the 7 years since the passage of the Jon Burge reparations ordinance, the first and only of its kind in the United States. Survivors of Chicago police torture have received reparations inChicago; reparations for Guantanamo torture survivors will be discussed on this panel. 

Exhibition at DePaul Art Museum
What: Tea, Torture, & Reparations/Chicago to Guantanamo
The exhibition highlights connections between policing and incarceration in Chicago and the human rights violations of the “Global War on Terror.” It celebrates the struggle for survival, justice, and reparations by imprisoned people, activists, and artists.  Exhibition catalogue will include testimony from CCR and photos from WAT events.
When: March 10–August 7, 2022

Amnesty International Multiple Educational and Action Events 
What: Action Guide: Outreach to members, especially youth: Call/message to the White House; Poster contest for youth; Quiz for young people
When: Tuesday Jan 11, 2022

DC Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Clarification of Thought
What: The Crime of Guantanamo: Session by Attorney Mark Maher, who works with Reprieve, is counsel to 6 men in Guantanamo Prison, and worked on Reprieve US’s death penalty casework.
When: Fri Jan 7 at 7:30 pm ET
Where: 503 Rock Creek Church Rd NW, Washington DC 20010, 202 882 9649

European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) Webinar
What: Rupture and Reckoning: 20 years of Guantánamo Anthology and Digital Art Exhibition Launch
Panelists: Mohamedou Ould Slahi, former Guantánamo detainee; Katherine Gallagher, CCR; Wolfgang Kaleck, ECCHR.  ECCHR will be launching a digital art exhibition and anthology, which includes contributions from current and former detainees, lawyers, advocates, and artists.
When: Tuesday Jan 11, 11 am to 1 pm ET 

Center for Constitutional Rights Webinar
What: Guantánamo, Off the Record: 20 Years in the Fight
Speakers: Aliya Hussain, Advocacy Program Manager; Katherine Gallagher, Omar Farah, and Wells Dixon, Senior Staff Attorneys;  Moderated by Vincent Warren, Executive Director.  Candid reflections on two decades of work: Lawyers and advocates will share stories that didn’t always make the headlines, but that helped define the ongoing struggle to close the forever prison.
When: Wednesday, Jan 12, 3 to 4:30 pm ET

National Religious Campaign Against Torture Webinar
What: Guantanamo 20 Years on: A Religious Perspective
Hosted by The Episcopal Church and National Religious Campaign Against Torture 
Speakers: Dr. Shaun Casey, Georgetown University; The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church; Matt Hawthorne, NRCAT
When: Tuesday Jan 11, 3 pm ET

Book Launch: Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience since 9/11
What: Join Dr. Maha Hilal for the official launch of her book “Innocent Until Proven Muslim: Islamophobia, the War on Terror, and the Muslim Experience since 9/11.
When: Tuesday, Jan. 25th, 2022 at 7 pm ET
Where: Gov Hub 
RSVP http://bit.ly/mahahilalbooklaunch
Pre-order the book bit.ly/InnocentUntilProvenMuslim
In “Innocent until Proven Muslim,” scholar and organizer Dr.Maha Hilal tells the powerful story of two decades of the War on Terror, exploring how the official narrative has justified the creation of a sprawling apparatus of state violence rooted in Islamophobia and excused its worst abuses. Hilal offers not only an overview of the many iterations of the War on Terror in law and policy, but also examines how Muslim Americans have internalized oppression, how some influential Muslim Americans have perpetuated collective responsibility, and how the lived experiences of Muslim Americans reflect what it means to live as part of a “suspect” community. Along the way, this marginalized community gives voice to lessons that we can all learn from their experiences, and to what it would take to create a better future.
Twenty years after the tragic events of 9/11, we must look at its full legacy in order to move toward a United States that is truly inclusive and unified.
#InnocentUntilProvenMuslim #EndIslamophobia #WarOnTerror 

 

 

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WAT Fast during June Torture Awareness Week

In Focus - Front Page // Film

 

We invite you to join WAT’s Torture Awareness Week Fast (June 21-26).  We will be fasting in our homes in deference to the still unvanquished pandemic. Fast for a day or two or for all five days, and meet with us on Zoom for mutual support on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday morning.  Our purpose is to use our own bodies to deepen our understanding of the U.S. use of torture, especially against the Muslim men locked in Guantanamo. Read our Thoughts on Fasting.

If you would like to join us, please send an email to witnesstorture@gmail.com with “RSVP for Fast” in the subject line: you’ll receive the Zoom link and tips on fasting safely.  Below are actions to take and other Torture Awareness Week events.

Press release: Torture Awareness Week — WAT June 2021 Press Release

Menu of Actions to Take During the Week

Choose the actions that are meaningful to you. Even if you decide not to fast, you can still join in taking concrete actions to oppose torture and support torture survivors. Keep checking back for details: list is in progress!

-Write to the men in Guantanamo: Names and instructions are here.

-Email/call Congresspersons:  This week, call or email your representative and Senators telling them you’re concerned about the men in Guantanamo, and why.  Urge them to press the administration to clear and release detainees and close Guantanamo. Find your members: House, Senate

-Email/call President Biden: Tell President Biden why you’re concerned about the men in Guantanamo and urge him to act more quickly to empty the prison and close it. Email: www.whitehouse.gov/contact/  Call: 202-456-1111

-Vigil in your home town:  Make a sign stating your own demand and stand on a busy street corner for an hour.  Ask your friends to join you, but even a one-person vigil can have an impact.  

-Write a letter to your home town paper: Use your own words or draw on some of the ideas in this Sample Letter to the Editor . Draw on the stark facts as reasons to close Guantanamo. Your viewpoint counts, especially in your own community!  

Watch The Mauritanian, the film about former Guantanamo prisoner Mohamedou Ould Salahi, starring Jodie Foster and Tahar Rahim.  Now available online for only $5.99.  Watch it yourself, or organize a group of friends to view it together!  

Events

Keep checking back for what other groups are doing: the list is in progress!
(And send us your local anti-torture and close Guantanamo actions and events to post.)

–WAT Fast

Monday, June 21 – WAT Fast Begins: Zoom circle at 8 pm ET (Send email to witnesstorture@gmail.com with “RSVP to fast” in subject line for Zoom link)

Wednesday, June 23 – WAT Fast Zoom circle at 8 pm ET

Saturday, June 26 – 11 am WAT Fast Zoom circle and breaking of fast

–TASSC online conference – The Asylum Crisis in the US

Wednesday, June 23 –  Info and Zoom sign-up here.

–Close Guantanamo Vigil Livestream 

Saturday, June 26, 2 pm – We will livestream a WAT Close Guantanamo Vigil in Lafayette Park, Washington DC. 

Torture Awareness Week is the lead-up to June 26, the International UN Day of Support for Victims of Torture — a day that WAT has traditionally observed in conjunction with TASSC: Torture Abolition and  Survivors Support Coalition.  TASSC was founded in 1998 by Sister Dianna Ortiz after she was captured and brutally tortured while teaching in the highlands of Guatemala.  Upon her return to the U.S. she fasted in front of the White House demanding information about U.S. involvement in her torture.  Tragically, this courageous woman, who not only survived kidnapping and torture but used the experience to become a voice for torture victims everywhere  died of cancer February 19 at the age  of 62.  We miss her greatly.  Dianna, Presente!

In the early years of WAT we gathered in June to vigil in solidarity with torture survivors at the TASSC vigil in Lafayette Square, donning orange jump suits and protesting nonviolently.

This year a small group of WAT and other local activists will hold a vigil in Lafayette Square at 2 pm Saturday June 26, to read the names of the 40 Muslim men in Guantanamo.  Watch it live-streamed at facebook.com/rehumanizeintl.

–Buffalo, NY
Silent Vigil for UN “International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.”

Saturday, June 26, 2021 from 6 to 7 pm at University Presbyterian Church, at the intersection of Main Street and Niagara Falls Boulevard, Buffalo (across from UB Main Street Campus).
All are welcome to bear living witness to Micah 6:8 through peaceful action.

–Starvin’ for Justice Anti-death Penalty Events

June 29 – July 2, Supreme Court Washington, DC

Starvin’ for Justice Anti-death Penalty Fast and Vigil   
Death penalty abolitionists from around the country will gather for the 28th year at the steps of the Supreme Court to call for an end to capital punishment in the United States.


Donate

–Online donations: Click here.

–By check:  Please make your check out to Witness Against Torture and send it to:

New York Catholic Worker
Attn: Witness Against Torture
55 East Third Street
New York, NY 10003

 

 

 

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Lobby Congress about Guantanamo

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

We encourage you to contact your Congress members on or around the anniversary of Guantanamo on January 11 to encourage them to:

·      close Guantanamo in a just and quick manner,

·      charge or release remaining prisoners,

·      allow for transfers to US for trial or medical needs,

·      reopen the State Dept. resettlement office.

Check if your member of Congress is a member of one of these committees. If not, you may contact the chair of each committee. Find membership and contact info at the following links. House Armed Services: Chair-Adam Smith House Foreign Affairs: Chair-Gregory Meeks Senate Foreign Relations: Ranking Dem-Robert Menendez Senate Armed Services: Ranking Dem-Jack Reed

Find the contact information for your members of Congress at the following links:

https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative

https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Background reading: Toward a New Approach to National and Human Security: Close Guantanamo and End Indefinite Detention

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Block Torture Apologists from Top National Security Posts

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

Jan. 6, 2021

Join Us to Block Torture Apologists from Top National Security Posts

It worked! In December, human rights groups helped to block torture apologist Mike Morell from being nominated to lead the CIA. The groups circulated this letter detailing Morell’s lies about torture and contempt for the rule of law. The letter was signed by many torture survivors, including former Guantanamo detainees Mohamedou Slahi, Mozzam Begg, and Djamel Ameziane.

Now we are working to prevent Avril Haines from being appointed as Director of National Intelligence. We need you to take action!

Action Alert: NO on Haines for Director of National Intelligence

Please join CODEPINK, Witness Against Torture, Progressive Democrats of America, Roots Action and World Beyond War in urging Senators to VOTE NO on torture apologist and drone strike authorizer Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence.  

Haines, Deputy Director of the CIA under Obama, signed off on drone murders and co-wrote the guidelines that blurred the difference between enemy combatants and civilians. She also redacted the Senate report on torture from 6,000 pages to a 500-page summary, covering up the CIA’s crimes. In addition, she overruled the CIA Inspector General in failing to discipline CIA agents who hacked into the computers of Senate investigators. So we’re calling Senators to insist that they vote no on Haines.

See the script and contact information below:

Script

Hi, my name is ____________ and I’m calling from zip code ___________ to urge Senator __________ to vote NO on the nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. Haines signed off on drone strikes that made us less safe, suppressed evidence of CIA torture and failed to discipline agents who hacked into the computers of investigators. 

No on Haines!  Thank you.

Contact Info for all US Senators (Write your senator, too.)
https://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Call and leave a message for Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader

(202) 224-6542

Senate Intelligence Committee Members

Democrats & Independent

Mark Warner (D-VA, Ranking Member)

202-224-2023

Angus King (I-Maine)

202-224-5344

Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

202-224-5521

Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

310-934-7100

Michael Bennet

202-224-5852

Kamala Harris (D-CA, urge her to let Biden know that activists are calling members of the Senate Intell Committee to publicly object to Morell for CIA)

202-224-3553

Republicans

Marco Rubio(R-FL, Ranking Member)

202-224-3041

Richard Burr (R-NC)

202-224-3154

James Risch (R-ID)

202-224-3154

Susan Collins (R-Maine)

207-780-3575

Roy Blunt (R-Missouri)

202-224-5721 (only takes calls during business hours)

Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska)

202-224-4224

Tom Cotton (R-AK)

202-224-2353

John Cornyn (R-TX)

202-224-2934

For more on Haines see:

“Senators Must Reject Haines for National Intelligence”

by Medea Benjamin and Marcy Winograd 

https://www.salon.com/2020/12/30/bidens-pick-for-intelligence-chief-avril-haines-is-tainted-by-drones-and-torture/

“The Dark Past of Biden’s Nominee for National Intelligence Director”

by John Kiriakou 

https://consortiumnews.com/2020/12/29/john-kiriakou-the-dark-past-of-bidens-nominee-for-national-intelligence-director/
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2021 Fast for Justice: Join us from home

Fast for Justice 2021 // Film

2021 Week of Action: January 11 – 15
19 Years of Guantanamo. Shut it down!

See the week’s schedule below. RSVP for these virtual events, gatherings, and actions from wherever you are!

Let’s renew our commitment to the 40 Muslim men still imprisoned in Guantanamo and the hundreds of others who suffered years of torture and abuse behind the prison’s walls.


January 11 anniversary events


Fast for Justice Circles: Monday – Friday

  • January 11-15: Zoom Circles at 8 pm ET each night to support us in our fasting and/or action. Fasting is a personal choice.
    RSVP to receive the Zoom link.

    Circles will be like our gatherings in DC: opening with centering music, a reflection, a topic or theme, checking in with each other and sharing around the circle.

    Monday, J11: WAT history – Discussion with Frida Berrigan and Matt Daloisio
    Tuesday, J12: The US “War on Terror” – Discussion and video with Maha Hilal
    Wednesday, J13: Executions and State/Police Violence – Discussion with Art Laffin
    Thursday, J14: Witnessing Against Atrocities – Discussion with Mark Colville, Kings Bay Plowshares 7
    Friday, J15: Celebrating Our Community Resilience – Celebration with Peace Poets (Lumi and LuAya)


Daily Solidarity Action Menu

Local Vigils Nationwide

In addition to these vigils, check your local happenings (let us know about others to add: witnesstorture@gmail.com):  
  • January 11: Upper NY Veterans for Peace/ Western Massachusetts Peace Action. 
  • January 11 at 10 AM PT: Interfaith Community for Justice and Peace webinar in Los Angeles: http://www.icujp.org/close_guantanamo_2021.
  • January 11 at noon to 1 PM ET: No More Guantanamos vigil, Commons, Greenfield MA.
  • January 11 at 1:30-2:30 PM: No More Guantanamos vigil, Downtown Northampton, MA.
  • January 11 at 4:00 PM: Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace vigil, corner of Delaware and Kenwood Avenues (the five corners) in Delmar.
  • January 15 at noon: Schenectady Neighbors for Peace vigil, corner of State Street and Erie Boulevard in Schenectady.

Last but not least, here are some Fasting Tips 2020!

Please join us!

In peace and solidarity, 
Helen, Josie, Maha, Jeremy and Richard for the WAT Organizing Team
 


 

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Torture Victims & Their Advocates Oppose Morell & Haines for National Security Positions in the Biden Administration

In Focus - Front Page // Film

For Immediate Release 
MONDAY, DECEMBER 21

CONTACTS
Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK, Medea.benjamin@gmail.com, 415-235-6517
Marcy Winograd, Progressive Democrats of America, winogradteach@gmail.com, 424-443-9338
Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture, jvaron@aol.com ,732-979-3119

Torture Victims & Their Advocates Oppose Morell & Haines for National Security Positions in the Biden Administration.

WASHINGTON, D.C.Today, torture survivors and their advocates released an Open Letter urging President-Elect Biden not to nominate torture defender Mike Morell for CIA Director and asking the Senate not to approve Biden’s nominee Avril Haines, a torture enabler, as Director of National Intelligence. The letter was also delivered this morning to members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, as well as President-Elect Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris.

Signatories include: Mansoor Adayfi, a writer from Yemen imprisoned for 14 years without charge at Guantanamo Bay, where he was force fed for two years; Moazzam Begg, a British-Pakistani ex-Guantanamo detainee and Outreach Director for CAGE, a service organization for torture survivors and communities impacted by the War on Terror; Sister Dianna Ortiz, a US missionary tortured by members of the CIA-funded Guatemalan army; Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Whistleblower and Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell; John Kiriakou, former CIA officer imprisoned after exposing CIA waterboarding; and musician Roger Waters (formerly with Pink Floyd), whose song “Each Small Candle” is a tribute to torture victims.

The organizers of the letter, Marcy Winograd of Progressive Democrats of America, Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK, and Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture, have been lobbying against the inclusion of torture apologists in the Biden administration since the August Democratic National Convention, Their efforts include a letter to Biden from 450 DNC delegates, a CODEPINK petition signed by over 4,000, and calls to the offices of the Senators on the Intelligence Committee. “When we started this campaign,” says 2020 DNC Delegate Marcy Winograd, “Morell was considered the frontrunner, but opposition to his disgraceful defense of torture has cast a pall on his nomination. We want to make sure his nomination is off the table, and that Biden and the Senate also understand we reject Avril Haines for her complicity in suppressing evidence of CIA torture,”. 

Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, has defended the agency’s “enhanced interrogation” program, objecting to use of the word “torture” to characterize waterboarding, sleep deprivation, starvation diets, sexual humiliation, hypothermia and painful bodily contortions. Morrell also falsely claimed that torture “worked” in foiling terrorists plots. In addition, Morell defended the CIA’s destruction of nearly 90 videotapes documenting brutal interrogations at CIA black site prisons.

As CIA Deputy Director from 2013-2014, Avril Haines overruled the CIA Inspector General in choosing not to punish agency personnel accused of hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture. She was also part of the team that suppressed evidence of CIA torture by redacting the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark torture report, reducing a 6,000 page document to 500 pages.

Both Morell and Haines supported Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel to CIA Director — a nomination that then-Senator Kamala Harris, other prominent Democrats, and Senator John McCain opposed. Haspel supervised a black site prison in Thailand and authorized a memo authorizing the destruction of CIA videotapes documenting torture.

Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture:
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris promised to restore transparency, integrity, and respect for the rule of law to government. So how can their National Security team be led by people who endorsed, or tried to cover up, the clear crime of torture? It makes no sense.”

Djamel Ameziane, Former Guantanamo Prisoner (2002-2013):
“Elevating torture apologists to a leadership position within the Biden administration will damage the USA’s standing and give the world’s dictators succor and comfort.”

Jeffrey Kaye, Author, “Cover-Up at Guantanamo:
“Morell and Haines have put loyalty to CIA torturers above adherence to US treaties and domestic law, as well as basic morality. To allow them to serve in government would send a message to all that accountability for torture is passé, and that war crimes will always be dismissed with a wink from those in high office.” 

John Kiriakou, Former CIA officer who blew the whistle on agency torture:
“Morell has disingenuously said that he was unaware of the CIA’s torture program at the same time that he was the Agency’s fourth-ranking officer. As deputy CIA Director and Acting CIA Director, he oversaw illegal activities around the world.  I can’t believe that any sane person could or would consider Mike Morell as a serious candidate for CIA Director.” 

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK:
“We can’t allow the new Biden administration to include people who have been involved–in any way–in heinous acts of torture. That’s why we are part of a groundswell of opposition to both Mike Morell and Avril Haines for key intelligence positions. No torture apologists should be allowed to serve in this administration. Period.” 

Torture Survivor Mansoor Adayfi on Morell’s assertion that torture is effective: “In Guantanamo, when they put you under very bad circumstances—like 72 hours under very cold air conditioning, and you are tied to the ground and someone comes and pours cold water on you—you are going to tell them whatever they want you to say. I will sign anything, I will admit anything!,” says Dayfi.

Torture Survivor Moazzem Begg on his treatment at Bagram Air Base before arriving at Guantanamo: “They tied me up with my hands behind my back to my legs, kicked me in the head, kicked me in the back, threatened to take me to Egypt to be tortured, to be raped, to be electrocuted. They had a woman screaming in the next room whom I believed at that time was my wife. They bought pictures of my children and told me I would never see them again.” 

Colonel Larry Wilkerson, torture whistleblower: “Kidnapping, torture and assassination have no place in a democracy and turn the CIA into a secret police …Abuses of the kind documented in the Senate’s report could happen again.”

James Dorsey, attorney for released Guantanamo detainee Ahcene Zemiri. “As a Marine Corps veteran, I have always understood that when our servicemen have been captured and tortured in the past, a real source of strength for them has been knowing that their country would never engage in such conduct. “ 

Also available for interviews:

James Dorsey, Attorney, represented released Guantanamo Detainee Ahcene Zemiri 
651.762.2837 (h)
612.492.7079 (o)
jdorsey@fredlaw.com  

*******
Letter Below
*********

Open Letter to President-Elect Biden & U.S. Senate:
From: Torture Victims and their Advocates Opposed to Mike Morell for CIA and Avril Haines for National Intelligence

Say NO to Morell; Say NO to Haines.

As survivors of torture and their advocates, we urge President-elect Biden not to nominate Mike Morell for CIA Director and ask the Senate not to approve Biden’s nominee Avril Haine as Director of National Intelligence.   

Both Morell and Haines have troubling records on torture — a form of violence with lingering effects: anxiety, stress, physical and psychological trauma. We know because we have lived this nightmare, either personally or as advocates of survivors forever haunted by past torture.  

We believe that the record of Morell and Haines disqualifies them from directing intelligence agencies. Their appointment would undermine the rule of law and U.S. credibility around the world. It would be a callous rebuke to people like ourselves and all those who care about human rights and the protection of basic dignity. 

Morell, a CIA analyst under Bush and both Deputy and Acting CIA Director under Obama, has defended the Agency’s “enhanced interrogation” practices. These included waterboarding, physical beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions, and sexual humiliation. These practices have commonly, and rightly, been denounced as torture. In July 2014, President Obama plainly admitted, “We tortured some folks.”  

That same year, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued the 500-page summary of its “Torture Report.” Drawing on millions of pages of internal CIA documents, the report denounced CIA torture as both inhumane and ineffective. It concluded that the Agency’s use of torture was far more frequent and gruesome than previously acknowleged. Senate investigators also documented that the CIA had lied to Congress, the President, and the American people by falsely insisting that its “enhanced interrogations” had forced detainees to reveal critical information, and thereby thwarted terrorists plots.

Yet in his 2015 memoir, Morell asserted without evidence that torture was effective. As the Military Times reported, Senate intelligence committee staffers were so troubled by Morell’s claims that they issued a lengthy rebuttal in a special report. Referencing the CIA’s own documents, the report blasted Morell’s numerous errors and misrepresentation of established facts. 

In addition, Morell defended the CIA’s destruction in 2005 of nearly 90 videotapes of the brutal interrogation of Abu Zubaydah and other detainees in CIA black sites. Sought by congress, the courts, and attorneys, the tapes doubtless depicted troubling US conduct. Their destruction came in the wake of the Abu Ghraib abuse revelations, just as the country was vigorously debating the lawfulness and morality of the treatment of detainees. 

To defend the elimination of the tapes, as Morell has done, is unconscionable. It defies the transparency our democracy needs to function, while serving to shield from accountability those potentially guilty of grave crimes. 

The claim that “torture works” is the great lie used by tormentors throughout history to justify their abuses. When repeated by high-ranking officials to defend post-9/11 torture, it serves to excuse the inexcusable.  

Morell has no place in a Biden-Harris administration. His nomination would send a chilling message to torture survivors and other victims of grave injustice that the United States government, including the Biden administration, does not uphold its own stated principles. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) from the Senate Intelligence Committee has said about Morell: “No torture apologist can be confirmed as CIA director. It’s a nonstarter.” We agree and urge the President-elect not to nominate Morell.

We also oppose Avril Haines, another toture apologist, as Director of National Intelligence. Since she has already been nominated, we ask Senators to oppose her confirmation.

As CIA Deputy Director from 2013-2014, Haines overruled the CIA Inspector General by chosing not to punish agency personnel accused of hacking into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers during their investigation into the CIA’s use of torture. In addition, Haines was part of the team that redacted the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark 6,000-page report on torture, reducing the public portion to a 500-page summary. The full report has been sought by attorneys, human rights advocates, legislators, and scholars seeking a full account of the United States’s troubling conduct.

Haines also supported Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel for CIA director. Supervising a CIA black site in Thailand in 2002, Haspel was directly implicated in CIA torture. She later drafted the memo authorizing the destruction of the CIA videotapes. 

Like Morell, Haines has worked both to defend torture and surpress evidence of it. She too, is incompatible with the stated aim of the Biden-Harris administration to restore integrity and respect for the rule of law to government.

The new administration must show the American people and the world that it acknowledges past disturbing U.S. conduct and will ensure that such abuses never recur. To do that, it needs intelligence leaders who have neither condoned torture nor whitewashed the CIA’s ugly record of using torture. We need intelligence leaders who understand that torture is illegal under international law; that is inhumane; that it is ineffective; that it puts at risk U.S. military personnel, should they be captured by adversaries; and that it violates the restoration of trust in American decency central to Biden’s vision for his presidency. 

That is why we urge President-Elect Biden not to nominate Mike Morell for Director of the CIA and the Senate to reject the nomination of Avril Haines for Director of National Intelligence. The people of the United States and the world deserve better.

 Signed (partial list):

Moazzem Begg, Torture Survivor, former Guantanamo prisoner, CAGE, UK; signed confession under torture; while in US custody subjected to sleep deprivation, stress positions, hog tied with hood over head

Djamen Ameziane, Algerian, former Guantanamo detainee, torture survivor imprisoned without charge from 2002-2013, in solitary confinement for a decade, suffered vision loss

Maher Arar, Canadian torture and rendition survivor; whipped with an electrical chord and forced to confess while in US custody in Syria 

Mohamedou Ould Salahi, tortured prisoner at Guantanamo; held without charge for 14 years; beaten, force fed, deprived of sleep; released in 2016, author, Guantánamo Diary

Mansoor Adayfi, Released Guantanamo prisoner sold to US forces in Afghanistan for bounty money; imprisoned at Guantanamo without charge for 14 years, seven in isolation; torture surivor; resettled in Serbia; award-winning writer

Lakhdar Boumediene,  Algerian-born citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay from 2002-2009, force fed for two years; lead plaintiff in Boumediene v. Bush, a 2008 US Supreme Court decision that Guantanamo detainees have the right to habeas corpus in US federal courts

Carlos Mauricio, College professor kidnapped and tortured by US-backed right-wing death squads in El Salvador; Executive Director: Stop Impunity Project

Hector Aristizabal, Psychologist and theater artist; torture surivor from Colombia, CoCreator of Reconectando; Theater of the Oppressed

Sister Dianna Ortiz, US missionary teaching Mayan children, tortured in 1989 by members of the US supported Guatemalan Army

Jean Marie Kalonji, Congolese youth leader tortured by the police and military, Coordinator of the Fourth Way

Mario Avila, a Guatemalan torture survivor kidnapped in 1969 and again in 1976 and tortured in clandestine jails under the directives of the U.S. government; Colectivo Guatemalteco Los AngelesTorture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Gloria Avila, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Frankie Flores, Torture Survivor from El Salvador; Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Jennifer Harbury, Atty, wife of deceased Guatemalan torture victim Efraín Bámaca Velásquez; author, “Truth, Torture and the American Way,” which documents the CIA’s historical use of torture

Major Todd Pierce (U.S. Army, Retired), Judge Advocate General attorney on the defense teams for Guantánamo military commissions defendants

Buz Eisenberg, Attorney for Guantanamo detainee

Jim Dorsey, Attorney for released Guantanamo detainee

Colonel Larry Wilkerson, Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell

Bill Binney, Retired National Security Agency official and whistleblower

Elizabth Murray, Retired Deputy National Intelligence Office/Near East

Colonel Ann Wright, US Army Colonel (retired) and former US Diplomat

Ray McGovern, Retired CIA officer, Member of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity

Philip M. Giraldi, former CIA Operations Officer, Executive Director, Council for the National Interest

John Kiriakou, Former CIA officer imprisoned after whistleblowing re CIA torture

Coleen Rowley, former FBI special agent and whistleblower 

Greg Thielmann, retired intelligence official, U.S. State Department

Valerie Lucznikowska, September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows

Roy Bourgeois, School of the Americas Watch

Dr. Maha Hilal, Justice for Muslims Collective

Kathy Kelly, Voices for Creative Nonviolence

Marcy Winograd, Progressive Democrats of America; 2020 DNC Delegate, Author of Open Letter to Joe Biden: Hire New Foreign Policy Advisors, signed by 450 Delegates opposed to torture whitewashing

Adrienne Kinne, President, Veterans For Peace

Garett Reppenhagen, Executive Director, Veterans For Peace

Jeremy Varon, Witness Against Torture and Professor of History at The New School

Medea Benjamin, CODEPINK Women for Peace

Andy Worthington, Director, CloseGuantanamo.org

Roger Waters, musician, songwriter, “Each Small Candle”- tribute to a torture victim

Frank Goldsmith and Robin Kirk, Co-chairs, North Carolina Commission of Inquiry on Torture

Nancy Talanian, No More Guantanamos

Johnny Zokovitch, Executive Director, Pax Christi USA

Rev. Emma Jordan-Simpson, Executive Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation

Sue Udry, Executive Director, Defending Rights and Dissent

David Swanson, Executive Director, World Beyond War; author, “Torture is Foreplay for War”

Alfred W. McCoy, author, A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror

Marjorie Cohen, Atty, author The United States And Torture: Interrogation, Incarceration, And Abuse

Rebecca Gordon, author, Mainstreaming Torture

Jeffrey S. Kaye, author, Cover-Up at Guantanamo

Norman Solomon, Author, War Made Easy

Matthew W. Daloisio, Atty, Witness Against Torture

Helen Sklar, Certified Specialist in Immigration Law, represented torture victims from all over the world in asylum proceedings

Angela Edman, Esq, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC)

Art Laffin, Catholic Worker House

Bogdan Dzakovic, Son of WWII torture victim

Sandra and Ulis Williams, Activists, School of the Americas Watch

Martin Melkonian, Teachers for Human Rights

Uwe Jacobs, Psychologist, Survivors International

David Segal, Executive Director, Demand Progress

Linda Lewis, Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence

Dr. Mary Helen White, Physicians for Human Rights, works with torture victims

C. Peter Dougherty, Co Founder, Meta Peace Team

Sara Olson, Women Against Military Madness, Tackling Torture Committee

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WAT’s letter to President-Elect Joe Biden

Uncategorized // Film

October 2020

Dear Vice-President Biden, Senator Harris, and the Biden/Harris Campaign,

We are Witness Against Torture (WAT), a group founded in 2005 with the goal of closing the prison camp at Guantanamo and ending U.S. torture.  We are writing to urge you — in the event of the Biden/Harris victory we all seek — to make good on your campaign pledge to at last close the prison.

For years, we have fasted, demonstrated, lobbied, written letters, and been jailed for non-violent Civil Disobedience, in the best tradition of John Lewis and Dr. King. On two occasions some of us physically went to Cuba to protest the U.S. prison at its edge. We have made, in short, “good trouble” on behalf of a worthy goal you share.

Like us, countless other Americans passionately believe that Guantanamo must close and that the Muslim victims of horrific American abuses must receive some measure of justice.

Guantanamo is a stain on the nation’s soul, an ongoing threat to America’s security, and a place of the enduring abuse of Muslim men, many of whom have never been charged with crimes. We are heartened by your pledge to revive the efforts of the Obama/Biden administration to shutter the prison. We are especially grateful for the leading role Senator Biden has taken, even before becoming Vice President, in condemning the prison and urging its closure.

But we are also painfully aware of the catastrophic failure of the Obama administration to make good on its “day one” Executive Order to close Guantanamo. Yes, Republicans in Congress vigorously opposed Obama’s efforts. Yet a lack of political will was the ultimate culprit.

The Obama administration did not work hard enough to secure its own goal; as a result, dozens of men had years more of their lives stolen, sometimes suffering brutal forced-feedings as they protested their detention through hunger strikes.  Moreover, the Department of Justice under Obama repeatedly appealed habeas rulings, until the habeas process had no meaning; it retained the unjust and unworkable Military Commissions; and it resisted legal efforts to hold individuals who authorized or committed torture to account. 

We cannot repeat this policy fiasco and moral disaster. President Biden will have the awesome task of purging the United States of the corruption the Trump administration has visited upon its institutions, norms, and values. But Guantanamo is itself a profound corruption. Its very existence threatens to render meaningless America’s commitment to human rights, the rule of law, and basic ideas of fairness.

Hopefully, Americans will resoundingly elect Biden and Harris to restore decency to the United States. We hope — and will make every effort to ensure — that closing Guantanamo is an essential part of that effort.

Do what you urgently must in these last days before the election. After celebrating victory, start on the hard work you were put in office to do. Close Guantanamo.

Sincerely,

Witness Against Torture

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The pandemic has exposed the need to focus on inequity and injustice

Uncategorized // Film

Buffalo News | October 25, 2020

The pandemic has exposed the need to focus on inequity and injustice

By Tom Casey

The coronavirus pandemic, Black Lives Matter, police violence, protester violence and fires in California and Australia have exposed our and humankind’s vulnerabilities, interdependence and injustices. What can we, the most powerful nation in history, do to reduce the suffering from future inevitable calamities and from how we treat one another? Can we take Rabbi Waskow’s advice on the day after the shock and pain of 9/11, “… only in a world where we all realize our vulnerabilities can we become a world where all communities feel responsible to all other communities..

We, whose ancestors emigrated from Europe, have been blessed with the moral foundation established in our Constitution. Those who have been excluded based their just demands for inclusion on their “unalienable rights” of “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” as Martin Luther King Jr.’s words at the Lincoln Memorial made so morally clear. Our Dr. Khalid Qazi of the Muslim Public Affairs Council was inspired by our country’s motto in giving a talk at the Chautauqua Institute Interfaith Lecture Series titled, “E Pluribus Unum” (out of many, one). From this foundation and the land’s abundant resources we have created the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.

Buffalo’s Interfaith Peace Network believes these blessings give us a responsibility to fulfill our potential to lead the world in reducing suffering at home and abroad because God has “…made of one blood all nations,” (Acts 17:26) and in the words of Geronimo, “We are all the children of one God.” The interfaith movement has shown significant change can occur where it was once thought impossible.

We can reduce suffering by more fully committing to live core precepts of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Indigenous Native American principles. It is the Golden Rule. Each faith tradition very strongly conveys it with different words but with the exact same meaning: Treat others as you wish to be treated. Essential will be the humility to accept and acknowledge our failings, a bedrock of all the major faith traditions. A virtue that is opposite our perceived exceptionalism. While religions have very unfortunately been misused to foment and justify violence at times, they have often provided direction and a spiritual source of strength and community as evidenced by Martin Luther King Jr.

To reduce suffering today, Rabbi Jonathan Freirich of Temple Beth Zion noted, “In Jewish traditions the Hebrew phrase, pikuach nefesh, ‘preservation of life,’ serves as the guiding principle for individuals and communities. As we make our way through the tragedies of this terrible pandemic, Jewish communities have forged ahead by placing the preservation of life as our highest priority in decision-making.”

We must understand and feel the suffering of those who fear violence because of their skin color or as they worship God, Allah or the Great Spirit (also Great Mystery) in their temples, synagogues, churches and sacred gatherings. We can choose to better realize Chief Crazy Horse’s vision, “I see a time of Seven Generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the Sacred Tree of Life and the whole earth will become One Circle again.”

We must lead in the essential dialogue necessary to achieve “a world where all communities feel responsible to all other communities” by following the Quran’s directive that Dr. Qazi pointed to – that mankind was created “… from a single (pair); of a male and a female [Adam and Eve], And made you into nations and tribes, so you may come to know each other.”

We all have perpetuated violence in different ways or allowed it to happen by our silence. We need to follow Jesus’s direction to Peter to put down his sword and Isaiah’s admonition for nations to “beat their swords into ploughshares.” It becomes more evident daily in the actions of some police and some protesters that violence only begets violence in a futile and destructive cycle, sometimes exacerbating the problem it was perceived to resolve.

The pandemic has exposed extreme inequity and injustice. Many essential workers are receiving less than a family-supporting wage with no health insurance while working in contagious environments such as EMTs and health care providers. We could not survive long without those stocking our supermarket shelves, which would be mostly empty without the long, grinding physical labor of family farmers and immigrants (legal and undocumented).

The new, just normal will require real sacrifice by those of us more fortunate. This must result in some combination of a higher minimum wage, universal health care, subsidized job re-training, a tax increase for some and/or an increased Earned Income Tax Credit. If the top 50% of earners were to share in this sacrifice, their disposable income would have to decrease to varying degrees. For a two-person household, this is those earning or receiving more than $63,000 per year. Abroad, we must change our abysmally unjust track record of failing to require labor-supporting trade principles in order to more justly pay for the resources and labor we benefit greatly from and also to better protect our workers, many of whom have suffered significantly from unfair competition.

For all the world’s children, we must lead in reversing our violence to Mother Earth. The Native American Proverb says it all, “Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our Ancestors; we borrow it from our Children… We must provide shelter for more refugees and immigrants living in conditions we cannot imagine, some caused by our country’s unnecessary wars, political/economic interventionism to keep wages low, sanctions and support of brutal dictatorships in other countries. Reliable estimates for sanction-caused deaths in Iraq from 1990 to 2003 are over 700,000 children and 800,000 adults. Unknown numbers have died due to ongoing sanctions in Iran, Venezuela and North Korea.

Ending our excessive use of war, the present source of millions of refugees, must be achieved just as the once thought impossibilities of ending slavery and women voting have occurred. We must stop spending immense resources on the armaments of the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower said “…signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.. Four percent of our military budget could end starvation and provide clean water for the entire world. Matthew 25:35-36 and the Quran, 76:8-9, make clear our responsibility. The United States, once the bread basket for the world, is now the arms basket, exporting 80% of the world’s traded weapons, some to countries gripped in horrible violence.

Will we again fail to respond to God’s grace as we did after 9/11 and so far, are doing with the pandemic? We had the world’s sympathy, including a march for us in Tehran after 9/11. We had a golden opportunity to lead, strengthening the essential cooperation of many diverse countries, from Europe to Indonesia, to fight terrorism. Instead we started two clearly unnecessary wars that have taken at least 1 million lives, mostly children and women.

It is clear prayer alone will not meet our responsibility to create a new more just normal, and to give new meaning to the song “God Bless America” and the words “God shed His grace on thee” in “America the Beautiful.” To fulfill our county’s promise, Abraham Lincoln said, “We shall nobly save or meanly lose, the last best, hope for mankind (our country) …. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just – a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever Bless. Our children’s and humankind’s futures will be deeply affected by our choices.

Tom Casey is a member of the Interfaith Peace Network of Buffalo and an organizer with Witness Against Torture

Copyright (c)2020 Buffalo News, Edition 10/25/2020

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