We meet the 1st and 3rd Thursdays at St. Gertrude's Ministry Center
(6214 N. Glenwood), beginning at 8:00 p.m. Folks are welcome to join us at anytime.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Obama Administration Upholding Bush Policies

Indefinite Detention, Torture, and Extraordinary Rendition, and “State Secrets”

“No” to holding prisoners without charges or trials!

On February 20th, the Obama Administration told a federal court that it “will maintain the Bush administration’s position that battlefield detainees held without charges by the U.S. in Afghanistan are not entitled to constitutional rights to challenge their detention.”

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Boumediene v. Bush (2008) affirmed that “enemy combatants” imprisoned at Guantánamo have “the constitutional privilege of habeas corpus,” the right to challenge their legal detention in court. The decision, however, did not address those prisoners held at other U.S.-sponsored detention facilities.

Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan currently houses between 600 and 650 detainees, while several thousand prisoners are held in Iraq. The prisoners are asking for a U.S. judge to review the evidence being used to detain them, and if appropriate, to order their release.



“No” to interrogation technique “exceptions”

In President Obama’s executive order to ban torture—limiting the CIA to those interrogation techniques that are explicitly identified in the Army Field Manual—a Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies has been commissioned to review previously used “enhanced interrogation techniques” and to determine whether any of these nonpublic interrogation techniques could be used by the CIA in the future.

“We believe this would undo all of the good that an Executive Order on this issue is intended to achieve. In order to recommit to our country’s value that each person has inherent worth and dignity, the Executive Order banning torture must be issued without exceptions, without any secret options. It must be government-wide, unequivocal and not subject to interpretation. Anything less would defeat its purpose and cause grave concern throughout the world. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture urges the President-elect to reject the addition of any classified annex.”

-Statement from the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT)

NRCAT recommendations:

    (1) the "Golden Rule" - any technique approved for use by a U.S. agency be one we would consider both moral and legal if used upon a captured American;

    (2) all U.S. agencies be required to follow one transparent national standard for interrogations - secret guidelines lead to the type of abuse we've seen in recent years;

    (3) modification or removal of Appendix M from the Army Field Manual, so as to ensure that techniques like prolonged isolation are not misused to torture detainees.



“No” to invoking the “State Secrets Privilege” to block justice!

The Bush Administration set up an “Extraordinary Rendition” Program to transport “terror suspects” to countries like Egypt, Syria or Morocco, to be interrogated. In these countries, “harsh interrogation techniques,” which constitute torture, are routinely used.

While detained at a CIA facility in Morocco, according to Court Papers, Binyam Mohamed, a 30-year-old Ethiopian native, “was routinely beaten, suffering broken bones and, on occasion, loss of consciousness. His clothes were cut off with a scalpel and the same scalpel was then used to make incisions on his body, including his penis. A hot stinging liquid was then poured into open wounds on his penis where he had been cut. He was frequently threatened with rape, electrocution and death.” [Binyam Mohamed was released from Guantánamo on February 23…the first release under Pres. Obama!]

The program has been challenged in court, but the Bush Administration has claimed that even discussing case details in court would threaten national security and our relationships with other nations. This became known as the “state secrets privilege.”

On February 9th in federal court, the Obama Administration took the same position as the Bush Administration. Attorney General Eric Holder previously announced that the privilege would be invoked “only when necessary and in the most appropriate cases.”

Articles on Binyam Mohamed’s case




PBS Frontline Special on Extraordinary Rendition


Monday, February 23, 2009

Ash Wednesday Nonviolent Action


We'll mark Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent on WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25TH, by protesting the indefinite detention and inhumane treatment of prisoners at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp and other U.S.-sponsored detention facilities. We are members of Kairos Chicago, an Edgewater-based nonviolent community of faith and resistance. We'll be holding vigil, distributing fliers, and engaging in creative, nonviolent street theater in between classes.

TIME: Wednesday, February 25: 9:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
LOCATION: Outside CFSU near the Ash Tray

“The season of Lent is an opportunity for Christians to repent of their participation in sin—both personal and social,” said Luke Hansen, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic and graduate student at Loyola University. “What we have done at Guantánamo is illegal, immoral, and unjust.”

Even though President Obama has issued Executive Orders to close Guantánamo and to end “harsh interrogation techniques,” the indefinite detention of over 200 men at Guantánamo, 600 men at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and thousands more in Iraq continues to this day. So does the practice of force-feeding prisoners, a cruel and coercive treatment that amounts to torture. The students’ street theater will involve both denunciation and annunciation. On one side, students will demonstrate force-feeding—inside a “Guantánamo cage,” as a narrator reads prisoners’ testimonies. On the other side, students will share a great banquet—signifying the Kingdom of God and “the beloved community”—while a narrator reads from Hebrew Scriptures, Christian Scriptures, and other religious texts.

“When we gather and build community with each other at the banquet table, we experience a call to find ourselves in others—to realize that we are the detainees and the interrogators,” said Jerica Arents, a graduate student at Loyola University. “We are one humanity, one body. We cannot sit complacently as men continue to be tortured.”

Kairos Chicago, a nonviolent community of faith, resistance, and Gandhian “experiments with truth,” meets twice each month in the Edgewater/Rogers Park neighborhood. An intergenerational community, Kairos Chicago brings women and men together to celebrate Good News, identify signs of hope in our communities, and to pray, study and act in resistance to the violence and injustice in our world. Its members are committed to faith and conscience, learning and scripture study, and nonviolent direct action.

FROM FEBRUARY 28TH TO MARCH 7TH, TEN MEMBERS OF KAIROS CHICAGO WILL TRAVEL TO WASHINGTON, D.C. to participate in the 100 Days Campaign to Shut Down Guantánamo and End Torture. More information on this campaign can be found at http://www.100dayscampaign.org/.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Video of 100 days campaign

If anyone is interested in "meeting" some of the members of 100 days group or seeing a few of their vigils/actions, they have started a youtube channel with interviews, media clips, documentation, etc.

For those who are headed to DC, there is a great clip of the space in front of the White House where we will be doing our action AND it includes an interview with our friend Lydia Wylie Kellerman. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Closing Guantanamo


Call President Obama and Attorney General Holder and tell them:
1. You support the Executive Order to Shut Down Guantanamo.

2. You request that, as a first and immediate step, the Obama administration should drop the Bush administration's appeal of Judge Urbina's order to release the 17 Uighurs into the United States.

White House: 202-456-1111
Attorney General: 202-514-2001
The Uighurs are members of an intensely persecuted minority in western China and were sold to U.S. forces by bounty hunters. Most of them were cleared by the military of any offense in 2003. In September 2008, the U.S. government formally acknowledged that none of them is an enemy combatant. At present, all three branches of the government have acknowledged that the Uighurs should be released. All 17 have been exonerated by both military and habeas courts, and members of Congress have called for their release to the only place they can go: the United States.

Holding that their continued imprisonment was unlawful, U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ruled in October 2008 that they should be present in his court for release into the United States with appropriate conditions. Detailed arrangements to welcome and support the seventeen men had by then been made by religious and refugee organizations. Further commitment of support has been provided by the Uighur community of well established U.S. citizens in the D.C. area.


The Bush administration appealed Judge Urbina's ruling to prevent any release into the U.S. "on their watch." But there was not then, and is not now, any legal basis, any security condition, much less any moral or humane reason, for extending the baseless imprisonment of the Uighurs even a day longer.

Read Amnesty International's Action Alert
Read a letter from the Uighurs Attorneys
Learn more about the Uighurs


It is not surprising that some of the men still held at Guantanamo would be treated with extreme suspicion if they were returned to their home nations-persecuted, imprisoned, tortured, even executed. Alternative homes for men persistently described for years as "the worst of the worst" have understandably been very difficult to find.

5 uighursWhile publicly alleging that it was eager to find suitable places to take in prisoners cleared for release from Guantanamo Bay, the Bush Administration kept suggesting behind the scenes that they were very dangerous persons. No wonder no nation stepped forward to receive them! Moreover, the Chinese Government has forcefully pressured nations strong and weak to deny refuge to these prisoners, who were already vigorously persecuted in China before their detention. So it is exceedingly unlikely that any nation other than the U.S. will accept them.

For the U.S. to welcome these wrongfully detained persons will set an important precedent in this nation and present a significant example for the rest of the world; other nations would then be much more likely to accept prisoners against whom no evidence of wrong-doing has been presented after years of confinement.

obama image
"It is in the interests of the United States that the executive branch conduct a prompt and thorough review of the circumstances of the individuals currently detained at Guantanamo..."

— President Barack Obama Executive Order, January 22, 2008

PLEASE CALL TODAY to urge the immediate release of the Uighurs in accord with Judge Urbina's ruling - in particular by urging the Obama Administration and Attorney General Eric Holder to dismiss the appeal and vacate the stay preventing the settlement of the Uighurs in the U.S. Call the White House at 202.456.1111 and Attorney General Holder 202.514.2001 right now.

These national call-in days are being organized by a coalition of human rights, and peace & justice groups, including Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, Defending Dissent Foundation, United for Peace & Justice, Network of Spiritual Progressives, Pax Christi USA, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, The Constitution Project, Peace Action, Washington Peace Center, War Resisters League, Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, Afterdowningstreet, World Can't Wait, School of the Americas Watch, Granny Peace Brigade, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Voices for Creative Nonviolence, CodePink, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Pace Bene Nonviolence Center and others.

100 days logoWitness Against Torture invites you to come join the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture, which includes a sustained presence at the White House as well as screenings, lectures, community meetings, and creative actions across the U.S. Organize an event in your community or come to D.C. - we will provide food, housing, and a Monday thru Friday schedule designed to keep the pressure on to close Guantanamo with all due haste!

Help us continue to do this critical work: MAKE a donation or SUBSCRIBE to our announcement list.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Skydiving for Justice

Among works for justice and peace, "thrill-seeking" activities don't always come to mind. However, that is exactly what came to mind last term in a discussion on social action. I was reminded of my skydiving experience a few summers ago: the rush, the sights, and the helplessness as we fell from 12,000 feet. And although works for justice and peace differ, for reasons beyond the one-piece pajama-like outfit, there is definite correlation.

Unaware, we begin our day of skydiving/justice. The true experience we prepare to endure lies beyond any of our assumptions. No expectation will live up to the actual playing-out of the events. Desire and fear lurch back and forth in a tug-of-war both encouraging and challenging us. With our intentions for company, we sit in a room of “training.” We hear this relates to an experience of prayer, tips bombarding us on best how to perform, how to maintain safety, even when control is relative. We are informed, though, that there will be help, a tandem guide, a "savior" of sorts who will be with us all along the way. We put on our suits and our glasses, much like "putting on the armor of Christ." We board the plane and we take off. Airborne, we repeat introductions to our tandem guides, now a bit more personally, as we ascend closer to our true departure. We discover ourselves amidst people who do this all day long, other people with similar thrill experiences, and some who never landed. We strap together and tarantula toward the door...the abyss stares back…and we are out of control. By straps we remain connected to control. It comes from behind...a real, invisible presence. We stand on the brink of an infinity of possibilities, the mind reels with fractions of error and miscues, absurd hilarity, vertigo, angelic views, and nerve-wracking realities. And before we can abort, we feel lurched out of the plane. The only response to whirling through molecules of air with terminal velocity is to BE...to LIVE. How? We can shut our eyelids in fear, or we can open them, take it all in, respond in loving prayer, and take that experience to the depths of our being.

Much like skydiving, when we actively and responsibly work for justice, we are bound to Christ in an inseparable way. He takes us to the brink of where we begin, where we soar through experiences like falling from the sky, and we respond in many ways. I have faith that God intends us to experience open-eyed, and just BE...LIVE. The worry whether our "parachute” will open is everything. The fear of losing control cannot hinder us from work for justice and peace. To take peace seriously begins with letting go. In the words of my tandem partner: JUMP!!!
-by Zach K.