2003 Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) President’s Reception Speech – PDF

2003 President’s Reception CCR Speech

On behalf of the Center for Constitutional Rights I want to welcome all of you. This reception is our way of saying “thank you” for your support of the Center and your partnership with us in the fight for a better world.

We are in difficult times. A small band of villainous people is running our government. They are destroying democracy. They stole the election. They are using the awful attack of 9/11 as a justification for draconian cut backs of our rights at home and for war abroad. We are all aware of how appalling the situation is: phoenix-like, those convicted of, or involved in, the Iran-contragate scandal are back in government. Spying on all of us has become the order of the day whether carried out by Ashcroft’s FBI, Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program, or by the CIA. Roundups of immigrants are occurring with too little news coverage and protest. When non-citizens in California recently went to register with INS, 700 were jailed. It should have been the front page of the Times; it was relegated to page nine. Wiretapping and searches carried out without following the strictures of the Fourth Amendment are justified by this “war on terror.” The jailings in Guantanamo, and here in the U.S., of non-citizens and citizens alike without charges, lawyers or court review, is a serious threat to our freedom. It undercuts a 400 year struggle against arbitrary detentions; detentions that the U.S., in the past, heavily criticized.

We all know that the Bush Administration is the most war mongering in memory. War in the form of preemptive strikes is high on its agenda and not just with regard to Iraq. The administration ignores, intimidates or bribes the UN, breaks treaty commitments and refuses to ratify international agreements that can make this world cleaner and safer. The Bush administration has launched a major attack on our human rights work, particularly our cases challenging multinational oil companies allegedly involved in slave labor, torture and murder.

It is not a pretty picture. However, we at CCR are neither pessimistic nor without hope. We are not giving up, but are fighting back. The nationwide and worldwide opposition to the war with Iraq is significant. CCR has aided that opposition with legal analysis, speaking and legal initiatives. We have been out front in the defense of our rights. Two of our major cases attack the Guantanamo detentions and those of the non­citizens held after 9/11. These cases go to the core of the attack on rights in this country, but we do not only litigate. We write; we educate; we speak out and protest. Through all this, we do not forget other inequalities in our society—those of race, class and gender that still need to be remedied.

I have never been prouder of the Center and its staff, doing so much with so little. This is possible because we have many partners like you who are here this evening. The Center is an exciting place to work and is really making a difference. We go forward into this next year with the belief that the tide is turning, that resistance to the Bush administration is on the rise and that together we can win.