Archive on resisting torture
June through October, 2005
More recent items >>
Why the Torture Abuse Scandal Matters
George Hunsinger, the McCord Professor of Systematic Theology at Princeton
Seminary, gathers a variety of reports of the continuing American use of
torture and the Administration’s refusal to limit it significantly. He calls
for four steps to challenge this, saying that "Nothing less is at stake in
the torture crisis than the soul of our nation."
|Time to speak to Congress against
The Washington Office issued an action alert yesterday, urging people to
contact their representatives if they are on the Defense Appropriations
Subcommittee. Staff for a House-Senate conference committee is meeting now
to consider legislation curbing the use of torture of detainees by U.S.
personnel – the "McCain amendment."
California: Randy Cunningham (CA-50th)
Florida: Bill Young (FL-10th)
Georgia: Jack Kingston (GA-1st)
Indiana: Peter Visclosky (IN-1st)
Kansas: Todd Tiahrt (KS-4th)
Minnesota: Martin Sabo (MN-5th)
Mississippi: Roger Wicker (MS-1st)
New Jersey: Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11th)
Ohio: David Hobson (OH-7th), Marcy Kaptur (OH-9th)
Pennsylvania: John Murtha (PA-12th)
Texas: Kay Granger (TX-12th), Henry Bonilla (TX-23rd)
Virginia: James Moran (VA-8th)
Washington: Norman Dicks (WA-6th)
The notice includes more information on the legislation,
talking points on the issue, and more.
full notice >>
church approves overture opposing torture [10-19-05]
The Session of Calvary Presbyterian Church of San Francisco
has approved an overture to the General Assembly on the torture issue.
church’s web site contains the overture itself, a summary of where they
are the process of getting it to the General Assembly, and a memorandum with
links to some very helpful sources.
from Robert H. Laws, San Francisco,
looks at torture [10-19-05]
of knowledgeable people are urging that we all pay attention to this
in-depth look at the meaning torture in our world today.
You can see it --
or read transcripts -- on the PBS website >>
Peter Sulyok, former Coordinator of the Advisory
Committee on Social Witness Policy, offers this comment:
It was well done and made the factual
connections detailing how much direct orchestration came from on high,
especially fellow Presbyterian Don Rumsfeld, and the torture/abuse did not
appear to be the isolated creations of MPs without guidance. To the extent
that the program had access to experts, it appears that besides being
against international law and therefore criminal activity, torture simply
doesn't produce trustworthy testimony to warrant its cruelty and inhumane
I'm glad it is available on line as well. I
recommend it even more now that I've seen it.
Torture: A Human Rights Perspective
A new book
edited by Kenneth Roth and Minky Worden
A timely and provocative new anthology, Torture
is the first book to critically assess torture from a global human rights
viewpoint. International law has categorically outlawed the practice, yet
the global debate around torture—the legality of its use, the extent of its
use, its effectiveness—has intensified in the aftermath of the terrorist
attacks of September 11, 2001. Revelations of torture and degradation at Abu
Ghraib and other detention facilities have galvanized both proponents and
opponents of torture, and underscored how imperative it is to tackle the
Sixteen original essays from leading commentators take an
unflinching look at one of the most urgent issues of our day.
Read the review from Human Rights Watch
|Religious leaders strangely
silent on torture [10-3-05]
McGovern, a co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity who
now works for Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of
the Saviour in Washington, DC, asks "Where do American religious leaders
stand on torture? Their deafening silence evokes memories of the
unconscionable behavior of German church leaders in the 1930s and early
We are happy to note, though, that the Presbyterian
General Assembly in 2004 issued a strong statement condemning the use of
torture, and calling for "efforts ... to ensure that such torture and abuse
do not occur in the future."
And one group of Presbyterians has established an e-list,
No2Torture, for the
purpose of providing more information on the problem.
Bush moves to
block amendments to ban torture [10-3-05]
The White House on Friday threatened to veto a $440.2 billion
defense spending bill in the Senate because it wasn't enough money for the
Pentagon and also warned lawmakers not to add any amendments to regulate the
treatment of detainees or set up a commission to probe abuse.
More on the proposed
|What’s happening in our
society when torture is a matter open for debate?
In a sense, for human rights, we can
gauge the progress of our society by assessing what has been settled and
what is in open dispute. So, today, what are we to make of the fact that
torture is controversial?
So asks Norman Solomon, author of the new book War Made
Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.
More on the book >>
Read his essay >>
What do you think?
Please send a
note with your comments!
From the Presbyterian Washington Office:
seeks to prohibit inhumane treatment of prisoners
Now’s the time to give support!
[posted here 9-28-05]
There are reports that either the Defense Appropriations bill or the Defense
Authorization bill will be brought to the Senate floor as early as this week
or possibly next week.
When last seen on the Senate floor on July 26, there were
a slew of amendments pending or introduced. A few had already been
A listing of amendments having to do with torture or
treatment or treatment of prisoners is below.
If the Defense Appropriations bill is brought up, some of
these amendments could instead be offered to that bill.
If the Defense Authorization bill is brought up, there may
be a shortened list of 10 - 12 amendments offered by Democrats and
Please call your senators and ask them to support any
amendment to prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
of persons under the custody or control of the United States Government.
Interrogation of prisoners
Sens. Graham (R SC) and McCain (R AZ) modified amendment No. 1505 to
authorize the President to utilize the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and
Annual Review Board to determine the status of detainees held at Guantanamo
Interrogation of prisoners
Sens. McCain (R AZ), Warner (R-VA), Graham (R-SC) and Collins (R-ME)
modified amendment No. 1556 to prohibit cruel, inhuman, or degrading
treatment or punishment of persons under the custody or control of the
United States Government.
Interrogation of prisoners
Sen. McCain (R AZ), Warner (R-VA), Graham (R-SC), Collins (R-ME) and
Levin (D-MI) modified amendment No. 1557 to provide for uniform standards
for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the Department of
Interrogation of prisoners
Sen. Warner (R VA): amendment No. 1566 to provide for uniform standards
and procedures for the interrogation of persons under the detention of the
Department of Defense.
Interrogation of prisoners
Sen. Levin (D MI), Kennedy (D-MA), Rockefeller (D-MA), Reed (D-RI):
amendment No. 1494 to establish a national commission on policies and
practices on the treatment of detainees since September 11, 2001.
Sen. Durbin's (D-IL) amendment No. 1570 to bar any person in the custody
or under the physical control of the U.S. from being subjected to torture or
cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment that is prohibited by
the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States, while leaving
intact the protections of the Geneva Conventions. A similar Durbin amendment
was adopted as part of last year's bill in the Senate.
Sen. Leahy (D VT): amendment No. 1460 to bar renditions (transfers) of
prisoners in U.S. custody to countries where the prisoners may be tortured.
Sens. Nelson (D NE) and Wyden (D OR): amendment No. 1569 requiring the
President to treat each enemy combatant in accordance with all the terms of
the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.
|Act to end
This comes to us from the Education for Peace in Iraq Center.
On Saturday, Human Rights Watch released a new
report based on the firsthand accounts of three former members of the
Army's 82nd Airborne Division. The soldiers report that in 2003 and 2004 at
Forward Operating Base Mercury (FOB Mercury) men in their battalion
routinely beat and abused prisoners to help gather intelligence on the
insurgency and to "relieve stress."
As this report and others, including the military's own internal
investigations, have revealed, the documented torture at Abu Ghraib was only
part of a "broad pattern" of unlawful abuses at U.S.-run detention
facilities. In the year and a half since the photos of torture appeared in
the press, only one commanding officer, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski,
has been held accountable. She was demoted by one grade.
U.S. failure to respect human rights has increased anti-American
violence, put U.S. soldiers in further danger, and harmed our nation's
credibility on issues related to human rights and international law. Here at
the Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC), we are determined to reverse
these trends and to defend the rights of all Iraqis.
That's why EPIC is joining Veterans for Common Sense as well as Human
Rights First in calling for the establishment of an independent commission
to fully investigate the torture and abuse of detainees held in U.S.
custody. Show your support by signing our Open Letter demanding an
Independent Commission on Torture.
In coming weeks, EPIC and its partners plan to run the open letter as an
ad in a major publication that reaches every Member of Congress. Help us
make that happen.
SIGN THE OPEN LETTER for an INDEPENDENT COMMISSION on TORTURE today!
Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC)
Education for Peace in Iraq Center
1101 Pennsylvania Ave, SE
Washington, DC 20003
McCain advocates legislation
to prohibit military use of torture [9-26-05]
Sen. John McCain, decrying new allegations of prisoner
abuse in Iraq by U.S. soldiers, on Sunday backed an amendment to force the
American military to live up to its international obligations under the
Geneva Convention and "not engage in torture" of detainees in Iraq and
McCain (R-Ariz.) was responding to complaints by Army
Capt. Ian Fishback and two sergeants, who all served with the 82nd Airborne
Division. Their description of routine harsh treatment of captives in Iraq
parallels the abuse caught in photographs at the Abu Ghraib prison outside
Baghdad and was contained in a Human Rights Watch report issued Friday by
the advocacy group.
He said he and Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of
the Armed Services Committee, along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.),
another committee member, were proposing an amendment to a defense bill,
which would require the military abstain from torture in accordance with the
Read the report
Or find it on
Washington Office calls for action
The Presbyterian Washington Office has sent out a brief
and helpful call to support McCain’s bills to end the US military’s use of
Check it out >>
|You may want to join in
Three Days of Actions
for Peace & Justice in D.C.
Saturday, September 24
Massive March, Rally & Anti-war Fair
Gather 11 AM at the Washington Monument
|Sat., Sept. 24 - Operation Ceasefire Concert|
|Sun., Sept. 25 - Interfaith Service, Grassroots Training|
|Mon., Sept. 26 - Congressional Education Day and Mass Nonviolent
Direct Action and Civil Disobedience, Linking Anti-war and Global Justice
Within the three days of actions in D.C.
there will be a special series of events dedicated to ...
Stop Torture! [8-22-05]
|New reports surface about
Mistreatment was routine, soldiers say
Post reports that two soldiers and an officer with the Army's 82nd
Airborne Division have told Human Rights Watch of systemic detainee abuse
and human rights violations at U.S. bases in Afghanistan and Iraq,
recounting beatings, forced physical exertion and psychological torture of
prisoners, the group said.
The organization’s 30-page report describes an Army
captain's 17-month effort to gain clear understanding of how U.S. soldiers
were supposed to treat detainees, and depicts his frustration with what he
saw as widespread abuse that the military's leadership failed to address.
The Army officer made clear that he believes low-ranking soldiers have been
held responsible for abuse to cover for officers who condoned it.
The soldiers described violence against detainees held at
Forward Operating Base Mercury, outside Fallujah, shortly before the
notorious abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison began. These abuses included
putting detainees in stress positions, exercising them to the point of total
exhaustion, and sleep deprivation. And like soldiers accused at Abu Ghraib,
these troops said that military intelligence interrogators encouraged their
actions, telling them to make sure the detainees did not sleep or were
physically exhausted so as to get them to talk.
|The Rights of Detainees: Who
Is Protecting Whom From What?
Princeton theologian George Hunsinger
summarizes much of the concern being expressed about continuing U.S.
detention and mistreatment of "suspected terrorists." This behavior clearly
contravenes U.S. and international law, and is becoming an increasing
concern among conservatives as well as moderate and liberal citizens.
He concludes: "Are we still looking at a ‘few bad apples’?
Or at the cover-up of a hidden culture (or subculture) of torture? As the
Pew Research Center poll suggests, an increasing number of Americans are
beginning to ask: Who is protecting whom from what?"
|Presbyterians say No to
A grassroots group
of Presbyterians, concerned about the treatment of prisoners captured and
held by the US and our allies since the 9/11 attacks, has established a
Yahoo Group to facilitate communication and information sharing. Learn more
In introducing this Yahoo group "No2Torture," the
"This Yahoo group is the result of a grassroots
groundswell that began at the 2005 Presbyterian Peacemaking Conference at
Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. Over 50 people came together to begin to organize
as advocates for humane treatment of prisoners captured and held by the
United States and our allies since the 9/11 attacks. We are motivated by
love of God and our country, and by concern for captive and captors alike.
To this end, we have decided to work, study and pray together and to take
such action as we deem necessary to promote peace, justice and compassion.
All who wish to join us are welcome. It is important to note that, while
those who initiate this conversation are Presbyterian, motivated by the
traditions and statements of our church, including the
2005 General Assembly Statement Against Torture and Abuse, we do not
speak for the church."
on Our Hands
minister Byron Bangert sees America’s use of torture as not surprising given
our history. But it’s all the more important, then, for Christians to oppose
it, and to make clear our moral outrage.
|Howling about Sen. Durbin’s
Your WebWeaver recently grumbled
about the pressure on Senator Durbin to apologize for speaking the truth
about America’s use of torture. If you’d like something a little livelier,
check out the full-scale rant by Vietnam veteran John Cory, who opens with
the elegant line, "Sometimes I get so angry I could just spit."
But he offers three things the hapless Democrats might do
to regain his trust and support – and that of many others. And he closes
with a somewhat irreverent but very relevant version of the Lord’s Prayer.
Read it >>
So who’s apologizing?
OK, let’s get this
straight. The United States, through various agencies including the armed
forces, the FBI, and various intelligence agencies, has for a year or two
used torture on many of the people it has detained for alleged involvement
in terrorism. U.S. Senator Richard Durbin, of Illinois, has had the gall –
or the guts – to say that’s what we’ve been doing. And he has been pressured
to apologize. Even many of his Democratic colleagues have joined in the cry
for an apology.
And the administration that has concealed, condoned,
justified, and quite possibly encouraged the torture ... Apologies? Not
likely. Indeed, their technique seems to work just fine: When you’re accused
of something serious, blame the accuser – for rudeness if nothing worse. The
focus shifts to the faults of the accuser, and you’re clear once again.
The ancient Hebrews had a similar technique for dealing
with sins: Find a goat, place the burden of all your sin and guilt on the
goat, and slaughter it. The scapegoat. Many Jewish teachers, including
Jesus, said that wasn’t a sufficient way to deal with sin. There had to be
repentance and change on the part of the sinner. Of course many followers of
Jesus got tired of that, and started placing Jesus himself in the role of
scapegoat, who "died for our sins."
That still works for lots of folks. Including, apparently,
some folks in High Places in Washington.
For earlier reports on the issue
of military recruiting, and how parents are resisting it ... >>
|Torture: We Are All Complicit
- But What Can We Do About It?
Robert Fisk has written: "We
are all complicit in these vile acts of torture - but what can we do about
it? If our government uses information drained out of these creatures, it is
we who are holding the whips." [6-22-05]
The whole story from The Independent (UK), on
On resisting ...
Problem for Military Recruiters: Parents
The New York Times reports that "Two years into the
war in Iraq, as the Army and Marines struggle to refill their ranks, parents
have become boulders of opposition that recruiters cannot move." No Child
Left Behind, which requires schools to turn over students' home phone
numbers and addresses to recruiters unless parents opt out, often serves as
"the spark that ignites parental resistance."
Parents are organizing to opt out for their children from
the schools’ providing of personal information to the military. In some
cases they are pressing school districts to do that for all their students,
though they then face the loss of significant federal aid. And they are
helping their children to understand the deceptive recruiting ploys that are
being used, and to understand the reasons why the parents themselves oppose
the whole idea of this war, and of war in general.
and how difficult resisting can be ...
When Marine recruiters get out of hand
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports on one
mother’s struggle to rescue her son from the very high-pressure tactics of
Marine recruiters, including deception, emotional appeals, and what looks a
lot like bribery and kidnapping.
|More resources on
our concern for torture and the abuse of human rights
Thanks to readers/visitors/friends who have provided these items:
Amnesty International provides a number of reports on US betrayal of
human rights, including specific reports on Guantánamo, and AI’s response to
Pres. Bush’s dismissal of their criticisms.
Fox News interviews Amnesty's U.S. chief, William
Read the report by the
Thomas L. Friedman says of
Guantánamo, "just shut it down."
Shut it down. Just shut it down. I am talking about the
war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay. Just shut it down and then
plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced
that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison
open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it
Carter Urges Closing Of Guantanamo Prison
Reported by the Washington Post, June 08, 2005
Former president Jimmy Carter called Tuesday for the United States to close
its detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The Carter Center and Human Rights First offer
"promoting human rights and human security"
And ideas for action ...
From the Rev. Betty Hale of Roxboro, NC
1. I think a groundswell of support for an independent commission
is developing. We can follow that story (e.g. Carter Center report below)
and write our congresspeople.
Congress to Establish an Independent Commission on Torture"
Also check the home page of Human Rights First
2. We can support Amnesty International financially.
3. We can
subscribe to Sojourners' "SoJomail" and
action alerts such as the earlier "open letter to Attorney General
nominee Alberto R. Gonzalez, asking him 'to denounce the use of torture
under any circumstances.' " (did not seem to have the desired effect....
though maybe it did help get the earlier extreme interrogation memo
substituted just before his confirmation hearing)
4. I'm very interested to see developments & recommendations on this
site! Thanks so much!
So there's an invitation!
What ideas can you add -- resources, actions, opinions ...
just send a
note to be shared here!
recent postings on the terrible issue of torture >>
ratified (or not) by the presbyteries
A number of the most important actions of the 219th
General Assembly are now being sent to the presbyteries for their
action, to confirm or reject them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book
We're providing resources to help inform the
reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.
Our three areas of primary interest are:
which would remove the current ban on
lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as
possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.|
which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of
10-1, which would adopt the new Form of Government
that was approved by the Assembly. |
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Some blogs worth visiting
Mitch Trigger, PVJ's
Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where
Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and
views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both
personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!
You can post your own news and views,
or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.
Voices of Sophia blog
Heather Reichgott, who has created
this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:
After fifteen years of scholarship
and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the
voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy,
students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers
and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God
in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God
through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through
articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and
John Harris’ Summit to
Theological and philosophical
reflections on everything between summit to shore, including
kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology,
politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New
York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive
New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the
Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian
Church in Flushing, NY.
John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive
A Presbyterian minister, currently
serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton,
Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized
and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and
Got more blogs to recommend?
send a note, and we'll see what we can do!