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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Who is Andrew H. Card?

Speaking tonight at Loyola University, Former Chief of Staff 2000-2006 Andrew H. Card Jr., when asked whether U.S. intelligence going into the Iraq War was faulty responded "Intelligence is not fact. Intelligence is analysis for policy makers." Perhaps Kairos missed an opportunity to protest and illuminate the real Card.

Let's recall that in Dec. 2003 Wolf Blitzer interviewed Card on CNN 'Late Edition'.
"BLITZER: Was U.S. intelligence going into the war faulty?

CARD: Well, intelligence -- I think, first of all, there was plenty of justification to go to war. He had stiffed the United Nations many, many times. He was a threat to his own people and a threat to the region. He was a threat to our interests. And we had called for -- as a country, we had called for regime change under the previous administration.

"But when you go there today and you see some of the mass graves that are there, where he murdered his own people, you just can't help but think that we are much better off with Saddam there. So, I think that's a moot point."
Correct, he called the question of intelligence for going to war a "moot point."

He has a reputation for lip service. Laughed at in an interview with "Morning Joe", he called a time line to end the Iraq War dangerous, while condoning a necessary 'time horizon'. In his own words tonight, "I am an analogue" proud of his speaking abilities. In John Woodward's Book covering the Administration State of Denial he says of himself, "I was frequently the person trying to take sand out of people’s underwear, which is a very difficult task if it’s not your underwear.”

Not always is he a fan favorite. Booed off the commencement stage at UMass in 2006, Andrew Card was received by a subdued Loyola audience. He treated the crowd to an opening on the meaning of being a citizen, comparing the long wait endured by a naturalized citizen to what, presumably, the rest of us take for granted.

Advertised as a commentary on Obama's first 100 days, Card would draw largely from the transition year of 2000. When some still questioned the verdict of the vote, Card would say that "Every president who takes the oath arrives smarter than he was when he received the right to take office." Certainly, George W. Bush had a plan "We had a script for the first 100 days."

He opposed Obama's stimulus plan: "I wish that he had something like the discipline of needs." Though lamenting its packaging of "pork barrel," his definition of needs appears not to include Healthcare. Card was quoted by USATODAY March 10 of this month calling Healthcare neither a right, nor a need.

He approved of the indication by the Obama administration to leave the revised Patriot Act intact. But, though emphasizing the need for an Administrations speedy access to information, he made no acknowlegement of failures to protect that information during his tenure. In regard to a White House leak that endangered covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson, Congressional Oversight Committee convened April 23, 2007, calling him for testimony. The letter to Card cited a failure to safeguard classified information at the White House, during and after his tenure as the White House Chief of Staff. The disclosure by White House officials of the officers covert status was, according to Chief Security Officer at the White House, James Knodell, neither 1) internally investigated 2) "correctively prevented" nor 3) "sanctioned or reprimanded". He said to Andrea Mitchell of Morning Joe "I consider the public's discussion of this as cheeting the President's ability to consider lots of good information before making a decision."

Gee, so much for tonight's pitch about the crucial importance of the First Amendment. As you said, it really does defend your right to say what you want about the government.

When he resigned in 2006 Sen. Dick Durbin said "You could trust Andy Card." Currently he serves as director of Union Pacific, a Forbes fortune 400 company. In contrast, colleagues such as John Woo, who drafted legal briefs to justify torture, currently face charges in Spain for war crimes.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Urge Guatemalan Authorities

Urge Guatemalan Authorities to Investigate the Kidnapping and Torture of Guatemalan Lawyer Gladys Monterroso

Gladys Monterroso lawyer, University Professor, and Secretary General of the Encuentro por Guatemala party, and wife of Sergio Morales, Human Rights Ombudsman was kidnapped March 25, 7am-8pm. After 13 hours she was turned over without ransom and later found to have burns from cigarettes in different bodily areas.

This occurred the morning after Mr. Morales released the first ever report to connect Guatemalan National Police to the atrocities of the 1960-1996 war. It provided evidence linking police members to death squads and led to the first detainment of police officers in over 47,000 cases of forced disappearances.

Action supported by: GHRCUSA (Guatemala Human Rights Commission/USA) UDEFEGUA (Unit for the Defense of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala), CALDH (Academic Legal Center for Human Rights), CIIDH (International Center for Research on Human Rights), GAM (Mutual Support Group), SEDEM (Association for the Study and Promotion of Democratic Security), IECCEG (Institute for Comparative Studies and Criminal Sciences in Guatemala) and ODHAG (Human Rights Office of the Archbishop of Guatemala)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

by Luke Hansen, SJ


March 24, 2009


In her theological and moral reflection, Maryann Cusimano Love (“Accounting for Torture,” 3/30) has “hit the mark.” We are disciples of a tortured God, and this means that we have strong moral obligations to never torture, to investigate and prosecute such violations, and to stand in solidarity with torture victims.

However, she assumes too easily that President Obama has returned us to full compliance with the Geneva Conventions. Several realities challenge this assumption. President Obama decided not to extend habeas rights to detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, so over 600 men continue to be held there illegally without charges or trial. At Guantánamo, instead of allowing independent human rights organizations to review conditions and the treatment of prisoners, President Obama curiously assigned this task to the Department of Defense—the department responsible for operating the facility. Should we trust the architects and perpetrators of torture to investigate themselves? And finally, the illegal and immoral practice of force-feeding continues under the Obama administration. Currently, there are at least 30 hunger striking prisoners at Guantánamo, 25 of which are being force-fed—a practice that “definitely amounted to torture” when reviewed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in 2006.

One of these torture victims is Ahmed Zaid Salim Zuhair, a Saudi Arabian national who enters his eighth year at Guantánamo despite being cleared for release by the U.S. government in December 2008. In 2005, Zuhair began a hunger strike (that continues today) to protest his indefinite detention without charges or trial. As a result of being force-fed, Zuhair has experienced intense stomach pain, repeated vomiting, and the related side effect of chronic malnutrition. Lasting wounds have been inflicted on Ahmed Zuhair’s humanity. As disciples of a tortured God, how are we called to respond to this? Will our debates about accountability continue to exclusively focus on past abuses, national reputation and policy, or will we also address these present realities—with a special attentiveness to the victims’ stories and their demand for justice?

Friday, March 20, 2009

Friday's Vigil

We held vigil from 11:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. today near the Shuttle stop and Damen Hall. We handed out 700 fliers to students, faculty, and staff who walked by. Some students expressed an interest in joining us in the future. Many seemed to receive the fliers with a genuine interest in our presence. The experience was quite different from our daily vigils in front of the White House. The students seemed much friendlier and more interested in what we were doing. See the attached photo.

Our message was: "17 Chinese Uighurs. Sold to the United States. They are NOT 'enemy combatants.' 2,511 days...still in Guantanamo. President Obama, release the Uighurs! 202-456-1111." We also had signs that said, "The fast the Lord desires: release those bound unjustly." -Isaiah 58:6, and "Bagram Air Base = the new Guantanamo." THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO PARTICIPATED!

Tomorrow morning, a couple of us will be interviewed on WLUW 88.7 FM at 9:00 a.m. They have a show that's hosted at the Heartland Cafe. Tune in if you have the opportunity.

Also, the Loyola Phoenix ran an op-ed piece by Chris Spicer and Anna Springer. You can read it here online or grab a copy of the 3/18/09 issue, which also includes the Senate hearing photo.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

One Week in D.C. for a Lifetime in Guantanamo

A Reflection from My Brief Time with the 100 Days Campaign to Shut Down Guantanamo and End Torture.

I am drawn to the work of Witness Against Torture for many reasons. I think their discipline and commitment reflects a seriousness that recognizes the severity of living in a global emergency where thousands die insidious deaths out of neglect and lack of compassion while millions of livelihoods are threatened by structures of poverty, violence, and dehumanization. Yet a certain light-heartedness is retained among all the despair because of the privileges we are afforded by our skin color, our birthplace, our families, our educations. I can do nothing else but engage systems of oppression that have granted me countless opportunities to prosperity and wealth but indefinitely imprison, torture, and kill others on my behalf, all the while telling me that it is necessary for my freedom and my religion.

My God calls me to fasting, to prayers, to make peace and practice the works of mercy. Do not feed me the lies of patriotism and idolatry. I am comforted by this community of prophets, humbled by the humiliations suffered from public witness and a calling of countenance to those who spill the blood of innocents. Even when the poor are hidden from our white-washed halls of power and glory, their cries are heard in the silence offered by the black hood. Through a glass darkly I see an in-breaking of God, offering, inviting me to repentance for what my country does, for what my church does, for what I do. Do I dare answer the call and pick up my cross that leads where my God went? A way of liberation passes through fire, says Jim Douglass – in what furnaces will my life and soul be forged?

I am grateful for the martyrs and examples of the great peacemakers of the past and those that have entered my life – Gandhi, Dr. King, Dorothy Day, Dan Berrigan, Kathy Kelly – and wonder what lies ahead in my journey. But do not worry about the future, are there not enough anxieties to worry about today? Each day, each moment, I am called to go deeper and deeper into nonviolence and compassion. And yet I fail, I fail, and I fail. I become more aware of my own brokenness and violence and fall into a despair that all is meaningless and lost. But still, a glimmer of hope remains, a light in the darkness that redemption and forgiveness can be mine for all the sins and missed marks in my life. Oh freedom, oh freedom, over me, over me. Does the Lord here the cry of my brother in GTMO? Can God be found in the barrel of an Abrams tank or in the pen of a president?

The work continues. Not because justice and peace cannot be found through executive order or a congressional bill – on rare occasion even the powerful give space for the Spirit of God to work the mighty wonders of the Lord. The work continues because it is my work. It is written on my heart that this is what I shall do: love tenderly, act justly, and walk humbly with my God. It is my call to practice these works of mercy, corporal and spiritual. To give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger, visit the imprisoned, visit for the sick and bury the dead. To instruct the ignorant, bear wrongs patiently, comfort the afflicted, counsel the doubtful, admonish the sinner, forgive offenses willingly and pray for the living and the dead. So I try to find the ways, the simple ways, to do this in my own home and life. Build community and see where the spirit leads. Read and write and learn so that I can teach. Pray for my own misgivings and seek reconciliation with those I’ve harmed. Carry water into the desert and make soup and do the dishes. Plant tomatoes and pull our potatoes. Get my hands dirty in the cool, moist soil of our life-giving earth. Protest the wrongdoings but work hard to propose and create the alternative, even if it means admonishments and arrest. I pray for those who suffer in my name without my consent. I pray for those who hold the key to the lives of these men. I pray that my meager presence and actions may be a sign of hope for those who have no reason left to hope.

Yet the fact remains that unjustly imprisoned men remain 60 miles off my shore and what am I going to do about it. I return to my “normal” life of work, school, community, family, and friends. Have I done enough? Does my week in Washington relieve me of the responsibility that I bear for this heinous injustice and complete and utter disregard for human rights and sanctity of life? My mind and body are in despair and desolation. My heart is heavy with grief and guilt. All I am left with is the simple question: “Why can’t we love each other” and a dumbfoundedness at my own incredulity – this is not the way of the world….But, quietly and in a whisper, my spirit recoils. “No,” it says, and urges me on to a greater love of my neighbor and enemy – even though I do not know what this means or how to do it. Creativity spurs inside of me: What will it take to free these 17 innocent men whose lives have been destroyed? What will it take to get writs of habeas corpus for all those imprisoned indefinitely? What will it take to close Guantanamo and not add on to Bagram? What will it take to free ourselves by setting the truth free, as if we can even continue to pretend that we can bind it with secret memos and classified documents? What will it take to do away with prisons? What will it take for our first recourse to violence be forgiveness rather than retaliation? What will it take for the nonviolent coming of God to be welcomed among us? The imagination stirs, hope finds a home again in my heart and the small, flickering flame in the darkness begins to light other fires.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reflection: Ash Wednesday Action to End Torture

Letter Sent to the Phoenix
by Chris Spicer

(from Wednesday February 25)

As large numbers of students attended Ash Wednesday services, 10 members of the Loyola community expressed their faith in an alternative way- a creative street theater presentation condemning the horrors of Guantánamo Bay force-feeding.

Demonstrators enacted torture outside of CFSU Wednesday, one month after President Obama issued an order to close the Guantánamo detention center. The action highlighted a current hunger strike by Guantánamo detainees that has been interrupted by what the students call inhumane and illegal forced-feeding. They protested the violations of habeas corpus—the right to challenge the legality of detention—and called for resettlement of the prisoners, as refugees.

Wearing orange jump suits, they acted as Guantánamo detainees. The street theater simulated how guards violently insert a tube through a man’s nose into his stomach to pump in protein shakes twice a day. Force-feeding is done without anesthetic and often without sanitation.

Numbers of hunger strikers have grown in the last month. Last month Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith said that 25 hunger strikers were being force-fed. According to Navy Cmdr. Pauline Storum, as of Feb. 11, 41 of the 245 prisoners were on strike and 35 were being fed forcibly.

In a report released this week, the Pentagon says that the Guantánamo prison meets the Geneva Conventions for humane treatment. Similarly, On February 11, a federal judge sided with the Pentagon’s argument that their action is humane. “Respondents are acting out of a need to preserve the life of the petitioners rather than letting them die from their hunger strikes,” wrote Judge Gladys Kessler. The student activists, however, argue that force feeding, along with many of the other tactics still being used at Guantánamo, are cruel and coercive and amount to torture. The ACLU Program Director, Jamil Dakwar, wrote President Obama last month saying the force-feeding violates international agreements, including The Convention Against Torture ratified by the United States in 1994.

The new administration has sent mixed signals related to intelligence gathering practices. President Obama has issued an executive order to stop “harsh interrogation techniques.” He elected not to prohibit the use of extraordinary rendition, a practice of transferring captives from one country to another for intelligence purposes.

The student activists contrasted the simulated force-feeding with a communal banquet. They intended a message of universal welcome that was symbolic of a Jewish Seder meal.
“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.”

Narrators told the story of Hozaifa Parhat, one of seventeen Chinese Muslims who remains imprisoned. In September 2008, U.S. judge Ricardo Urbina ruled the detention of these Chinese men unconstitutional. He ordered their release into the care of communities in the D.C area and Tallahassee, Florida, which had prepared for their resettlement. Then an appeal of the decision put the kibosh on plans. Because the prisoners belong to a group persecuted in China, the Uighurs (WEE-gurs), the administration reasoned that if the group were returned then they would be killed.

According to U.N. Conventions, the Guantánamo prisoners now meet the definition of refugee status.

Ten of the Loyola students involved in Wednesday’s demonstration traveled to Washington, D.C. February 28 (to March 7) to participate in the 100 Days Campaign to Shut Down Guantánamo and End Torture. [For more information: http://www.100dayscampaign.org/.]

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Day 43 @ 100 Days Campaign

We've been busy here in D.C. between the daily vigil outside the White House from 11a-1p, meeting with our representatives to encourage closing Guantanamo a fact in reality, and attending and participating in films and discussions.

Today we had particularly good press at the Senate Judiciary hearing on what a truth commission might look like for an inquiry into what has happened over the past eight years that made torture American foreign policy. Check out today's events over at the 100 Days website.

In fact, we've been so busy it has been difficult to find time to reflect on our actions and experiences. The folks here in D.C. this week include locals from the D.C. area, WAT organizers (mostly East Coast Catholic Workers), students from John Carroll University in Cleveland and ourselves. We did get a chance to spend some time tonight over at Dorothy Day Catholic Worker reflecting on torture, recommitting ourselves to working to end torture and shut down Guantanamo - particularly in our own communities at home.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Kairos Community in D.C.

We made it into D.C. Saturday night after driving all day. We spent Sunday morning at Jonah House celebrating liturgy, reflecting on our baptismal vows as we begin this Lenten journey and what that means for our call to be peacemakers and practice nonviolence, and enjoying a wonderful brunch prepared for us by the community in Baltimore. Later that afternoon we went to the Holocaust Museum. It was a very powerful day with emotional and spiritual ups and downs. We are still wrestling with what to make of it all. Then the snows began to fall.

The plan for this morning was to join the D.C. Catholic Workers at their weekly vigil for peace at the Pentagon, but because D.C. was dumped on with snow overnight we decided against it. We head off to the White House for the Witness Against Torture vigil at the White House in a few hours as part of the 100 Days Campaign.