Tuesday, May 1, 2007

I Dreamt I was a Ghost

Last night I dreamt I was a ghost. It felt so real that when I woke up it took a minute to realize which was the dream and which was reality. I don't believe in ghosts, so I called up my husband (out of town on business) and he immediately started singing El Fantasma de Canterville by Sui Generis with Charly García (The ghost of Canterville - a classic of Argentine Rock):
Pero siempre fui un tonto But I alway was an idiot
que creyo en la legalidad That believed in the law
Ahora que estoy afuera Now that I'm outside
ya se lo que es la libertad. I know what liberty is.

I realized this described how I have been feeling; perhaps it is what my subconscious was trying to tell me. But, let me back up. Saturday, I switched on the radio in the late afternoon looking for some music to fill the empty house. Instead the voice of Joe Margulies of the University of Chicago jumped out at me:

"… his client, a middle-aged gentleman with five children who is a London businessman, was picked up in the Gambia, and he wasn’t getting any mail from his family. And he couldn’t understand it because he felt abandoned and alone from his five children. And the lawyer had the presence of mind to ask what was the matter was and he discovered that 16 letters were in the military’s possession (that) they had refused to deliver. And when they did finally deliver them, someone had actually taken the time to redact out the words from the children: “We miss you, Daddy. We love you, Daddy. We’re thinking of you.” That is apparently not right, because it disrupts the sense of isolation and despair that they are trying to cultivate."

What? Who would do such a thing? Forget music, I was hooked. I had no idea, though, what a profound effect this program would have on me. It turns out that it is our own government, "by the people, for the people" which has decided that:

"the global war on terror… is a different kind of war, with different rules. The battlefield isn’t a jungle in Asia, or a beach in France. It’s everywhere.Soldiers aren’t guys in uniform, they could be anybody. And prisoners of war are different, too. So dangerous, we’re told, that we keep them in an offshore facility, in as close to total secrecy as possible, to interrogate whenever we want, however long we want, using methods we have never approved for other wars."

Interviewer Ira Glass spoke on during this weekend's airing of This American Life entitled "Habeas Schmabeas". I highly recommend everyone, except kids, listen to this program. (It is temporarily free to download the transcript or mp3.) If you already heard it you know that it was an incredibly emotional telling of the situation at Guantanamo. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to believe that this treatment is reserved only for the most dangerous, most guilty criminals, but that is, sadly, not true. The fact is that many imprisioned at Guantanamo have already been proven innocent, but have yet to be released. Scarier still, are the signs pointing to American citizens facing the possibility of ending up in similar situations.

Originally uploaded by gehmflor.
Let's look briefly at each of these dominoes I see looming down on the "American Dream." First is the Patriot act. Read the following excerpt from the


“Since the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001, the Department of Justice’s highest priority has been to protect Americans by preventing acts of terrorism. I applaud Congress for reauthorizing each and every expiring provision of the USA PATRIOT Act ...The reauthorization bill makes permanent vital provisions -- including those that helped dismantle the ‘wall’ between intelligence and law enforcement -- and also adds dozens of civil liberties safeguards. "

Among other things the Patriot act, "Enhanced a number of conspiracy penalties, including for arson, killings in federal facilities, attacking communications systems, material support to terrorists, sabotage of nuclear facilities, and interference with flight crew members. Under previous law, many terrorism statutes did not specifically prohibit engaging in conspiracies to commit the underlying offenses. In such cases, the government could only bring prosecutions under the general federal conspiracy provision, which carries a maximum penalty of only five years in prison."

Okay, so now we can punish people for thinking about and planning, not actually doing, bad things…Okay, you say, but they are thinking about BAD things! Now look at this definition from the Military Commissions Act:

WRONGFULLY AIDING THE ENEMY.—Any person subject to this chapter who, in breach of an allegiance or duty to the United States, knowingly and intentionally aids an enemy of the United States, or one of the co-belligerents of the enemy, shall be punished as a military commission under this chapter may direct.

I'm not a lawyer - but it raises questions about the claim the Military Commissions Act only effects foreigners. As far as I know only citizens have an allegiance or duty to the United States. To read more reactions to this Act, check out the well written pieces by Rachel Haimowitz - Move Along Lady Liberty and also Turning bad policy into bad law - by Amnesty International

So what about the final domino? An article in the local Tri City Harald says:

" Congress needs to roll back a "hastily conceived and ill-advised" provision in last year's defense bill that gave President Bush expanded authority to federalize the National Guard, Washington state's top military official testified Tuesday…. it gives the president sweeping power to take control of the Guard in a domestic situation without approval of a governor."

I am not alone in my worries. It goes on to quote:"As with so much else this administration has done, this is a raw expansion of presidential power," Leahy said in his opening statement. The power of the President is a responsibility I would not want, and I know many sincere people voted for our current president specifically because of his proclaimed trust in God. They believed he would seek God's help in wielding this power. As a Christian myself this "sounds" good, but history has shown the outcome is not usually what one would hope.

Let's go back to what my conscience (and apparently sub-conscience) has been wrestling with. The program about Guantanamo, although fascinating from the start, did not immediately surprise me. It was only after I heard " We tried out many of our new interrogation techniques on Jumah Al Dossari." That I stopped behind my living room couch, grabbing the back like a ballerina at a bar to steady my self. I won't quote the rest of the paragraph here, but when it reached the end...

"we smeared this blood [not his] on his face. We kissed the cross around our neck and said “This is a gift from Christ for you Muslims.”

I lost my grip on the couch and collapsed on the floor. This is being done in the name of Christ? "No, no, no!" I sobbed! This is not the government, nor the religion I want to be associated with! So, what can I do in response? Stay with the statis quo for fear of the consequenses? Move away? Take action? I choose to act! This is why I called my friends and family, this is why I write! And what does our elected government choose to do in response to the problem of Guantanamo?

Guantanamo lawyers predict more suicides...if the U.S. Justice Department succeeds in severely restricting access to detainees by defense attorneys, virtually the only contact inmates have with the outside world. "If we cannot come in, the only news getting out of here will be the government's carefully crafted version," Katznelson[one of the attorneys] said in an e-mail Saturday.

Will you join me in taking action? A bipartisan effort to rescind the provision in last years Defense Bill has been launched by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo. Let's write our representatives and let them know we support this effort! That would at least be a place to start. Remember, it doesn't matter who is in office. If these laws stand, anyone in power could knock over the first domino! And then I'm afraid my sister's words would ring truer still. "It sounds like the Spanish Inquisition!"


Look up your representatives at: http://capwiz.com/narla/megavote//
then use the links to send e-mails, better yet send some postcards (maybe with some original art?), or call.

Or you can always call the Capitol switchboard at 202/224-3121 and ask to be connected to your member of Congress.

I also found The ACLU's plan of action which included a letter to congress (that you can sign) asking them to:

1. Restore habeas corpus and due process.
2. Pass the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007.
3. End torture and abuse in secret prisons.

4. Stop extraordinary rendition: secretly kidnapping people and sending them to
countries that torture.
5. Close the detention center at Guantánamo Bay and
give those held there access to justice.
6. Investigate wrongdoing and
ensure those who broke the law are held accountable.
7. Restore American
values and the rule of law.

So, take your pick, take action, tell your friends!

Don't sit around like an invisible ghost.


staygraphic said...

Hey girl! I am impressed! I will pass this onto others and hopefully they will be able to respond. You have done your homework...creating your own blog and researching all the info you cast out into cyberspace. You write very well, I was caught up in a bunch of stuff tonight but had to get back and click on your links which of course led me to more...I get caught up in the narrative at all sites beyond in my own head at times...but I am back and wanted you to know how I appreciate all the time you put into this effort! Education is the key to turning this tide to awaken those sleepyheaded Americans.

Heather Ann said...

Thank you for the compliments, Staygraphic! It is nice to know you following the links, that is really what I was hoping!

Anonymous said...

Heather I've felt the same way, be quiet and go with the flow, or be an oddball and move...

...i always was the oddball...

love ya!