[pjw] REPORT BACK/FACTS: Guantanamo 18 Years Later event
Peace and Justice Works
pjw at pjw.info
Sat Jan 11 13:32:23 EST 2020
Supporters of peace and justice:
Last night about 15 of us stayed out in the on-and-off rain to let the
people of Portland know it is time to shut Guantanamo Bay prison. The
Tower of Peace was adorned with our banners saying "Close Gitmo Now- Stop
(We don't have photos yet from last night but here's the tower with that
banner on one side at the 9/11 event from last year:
We got a lot of thumbs up and honking horns, but my favorite story is that
folks from Amnesty International Group 48 (one of the cosponsors) had a
long talk with a military veteran who, through dialogue about our action,
came to agree that keeping Guantanamo open was not in the interests of the
US. This is why we protest.
There were also a few young Iraqis who had questions about what we were
doing and were too young to have heard about the US torture at Abu Ghraib
prison in Iraq... and this is why we educate.
We handed out close to 100 informational fact sheets, the substance of
which you can find pasted in below or on our website (laid out with
graphics) at http://www.pjw.info/Guantanamo18ylfacts.pdf .
Before taking off on a march, short speeches from Portland Peaceful
Response, Amnesty and me representing Peace and Justice Works focused
mostly on Guantanamo's awful legacy. I also mentioned the latest from Iran
and Iraq including the real possibility that US troops will have to leave
Iraq. I was able to announce our action coming up on March 20, which is
now titled "17 Years Since the Iraq Invasion: Time to End All US Wars" and
has a flyer / calendar listing posted on our site as well:
We acknowledged the death of a PPRC stalwart, Marilyn Pike, who passed
away on Sunday after cancer took her down quickly between December and
January. Marilyn was at just about any rally or march you can think of.
When we chanted "No boots on the ground! No bombs in the air! US out of
everywhere!" PPRC remembered Marilyn's sign as seen in this photo from the
9/11 event last year: http://www.pjw.info/images/911_18yltower3.jpg .
As mentioned in our pre-publicity, this was PPRC's 950th consecutive rally
at the Square. Such a shame, then, after we've had the tower on that
corner at least four times during those years that a security guard
decided to try forcing us to leave for "erecting a structure." Because the
tower was on wheels, it is merely a very large protest sign-- if it was in
anyone's way we could move it in a couple of seconds. The guard called the
Portland Police, who actually showed up in two cars (!!!) and were
extremely polite and apologetic (!!!) saying they didn't want to have to
keep coming back down if the guard called them again and asked if we could
move the tower across the street to the south. I told them I would
like to argue it out in court but wasn't interested in being arrested. A
large number of us who were there discussed the idea and we rolled the
tower to that southwest corner of the intersection. It actually was kind
of cool because the sun went down and the street light illuminated the
banners there so you could see it from even farther away.
The last person we talked to before heading out was an African American
man who saw us packing up the tower and asked if we were the ones who
wanted to shut Guantanamo. When we replied yes, he said "I thought that
Obama shut that down." I broke the news to him that no, Obama said he
would shut it down but it never happened. This is why we persist.
Anyway, all in all a good action, even though we got pretty wet and no
mainstream or even alternative media showed up to cover it.
In our announcements we also acknowledged CODEPINK which endorsed just a
few days ago, but as noted in the fact sheet is in the middle of their own
action right now in Washington DC about Guantanamo and torture.
Thanks to all who helped with this sadly repeating annual event.
peace and justice works iraq affinity group
PS I just discovered that the word "January" is misspelled on the
bottom of the .pdf of the fact sheet where we announced our upcoming
meeting on Monday the 13th. *Sigh.* I fixed it in the text below.
18 YEARS AND 8 CONVICTIONS:
Time to Shut Guantanamo
January 10, 2020
January 11 marks exactly 18 years since the U.S. opened its notorious
detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba in 2002. At one point, roughly
770 prisoners were held there. In 2020, 40 people remain in indefinite
detention. In those 18 years, only eight people were ever convicted, of
crimes-- and three of those convictions were overturned (ACLU.org, May
Nearly all of the original detainees have been released, often after
spending more than a decade in the detention facility, due to there being
little to no evidence that they posed a threat or were linked with
terrorism. About two thirds of those remaining are so-called "forever
prisoners": the U.S. doesn't have enough evidence to bring them to court,
but still considers them too dangerous to release. Some of these cases
would fall apart at trial because much of the evidence against them was
obtained in part through torture (NPR, November 14), which continued at
Guantanamo in the form of the force feeding of hunger strikers. Nearly two
thirds of those remaining (26 people) are considered "forever prisoners,"
which means most have de facto life sentences without having faced trial
(Washington Post, 12/21/17). Five of the 40 have been cleared for release,
but President Donald Trump refuses to allow it (ABC, August 2). Nine
detainees have died in custody (Reprieve.org, 8/19/18).
Many of the torture techniques were confirmed in the 2014 Senate report on
post-9/11 CIA "interrogations." On December 4, the New York Times
published drawings by inmate Abu Zubaydah showing violence inflicted upon
him including waterboarding (which he was subjected to 83 times), having
his head bashed against a wall (to "disorient" him), being handcuffed so
he had to stand on his tip toes, being deprived of sleep and being put
into cramped boxes. An art show at John Jay College in New York featuring
paintings and other art by detainees at Guantanamo made headlines in 2017.
Once the paintings became internationally recognized, the US declared no
more art would be shared, and the detainees no longer legally owned them
(NY Times, 11/27/17). Zubaydah's drawings made it out as "legal
Reprieve notes: "The vast majority of detainees in Guantanamo (86%) were
not captured by US forces. Instead the Government filled the prison with
people they bought for bounties. The US flew planes over parts of
Afghanistan and Pakistan offering $5,000 for any .suspicious person.' This
amounted to approximately seven years' average salary for most people in
the area, encouraging them to turn over innocent men in exchange for a
life-changing amount of money. Since then, it has turned out they got it
wrong most of the time. It didn't even take long for those in charge to
see their mistake-- as early as 2002, Guantanamo's operational commander
complained that he was being sent too many .Mickey Mouse' detainees."
Guantanamo has been referred to as "the most expensive prison on earth."
The Miami Herald reported in 2011 that it then cost $800,000 per year per
inmate, with that rate reported as $13 million per person by the NY Times
in 2019 (September 16). The Times says that in 2012 the per-prisoner cost
at a "SuperMax" prison in Colorado was $78,000 a year., and estimates
running Guantanamo has cost $7 billion since it opened. While this is a
drop in the bucket of the $6.4 trillion that the "War on Terror" has cost
since 2001 (Common Dreams, November 13), it is a waste of taxpayer money
and a blight on a country that claims to believe in the rule of law.
Amnesty International (AI), the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),
and others continue to call for the prison to be shut down, with CCR
noting in 2014 that the (supposed) end of combat operations in Afghanistan
"should guide the closing of the prison and bring a swift end to years of
indefinite detention without charge or trial."
Tomorrow (Jan. 11, 2020) in Washington DC, Witness Against Torture, AI,
CCR, CodePINK, and others are holding an early afternoon rally as part of
a six-day long set of actions (facebook.com/witnessagainsttorture).
The US has only brought one prisoner from Guantanamo to the US for trial
(the Guardian, 7/10/18). All the other inmates are being held indefinitely
in an off-shore prison without prosecution. Holding detainees indefinitely
without charge or trial at the detention facility is an unacceptable
violation of human rights and only serves to inspire backlash against the
United States in acts of so-called "terrorism." Keeping the prison open is
making us less safe, not more secure. It is far past time to shut
This flyer was prepared in January, 2020 by the
Peace and Justice Works Iraq Affinity Group
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
iraq at pjw.info
Contact us about our meetings!
Meetings usually 2nd Mondays, 7 PM; next one is January 13.
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