Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship Acceptance – Speech Notes – PDF

2007 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship Acceptance Speech Notes

Thank Perry, Gladys–the entire Rosenstein family– and the Puffin Foundation Incredibly politically committed and generous—-

Thank Victor, Katrina, Ham, and the Nation-they have been impt. allies for a very a very long time—–

Acknowledge my family and  esp my cousin Albert Ratner-family glue–

Jeremy Scahill—-one of my heroes—

First met him years ago when he and Amy Goodman came to me for legal advice–­ Permanently barred from a military base-

For some reason military brass had connected them with protestors–­

but by then Jeremy was a journalist— and we won—

I say by then Jeremy was a journalist because I found out at the time–

Arrested by the age of 30-30 times—I don’t think it’s a contradiction to say Jeremy was a militant catholic pacifist—

And now—Jeremy has done pioneering work on one of the greatest threats to our liberty­ Private armies—mercenary armies—Blackwater—-

His work led to Center for const rights lawsuit-against Blackwater—-

We represent the victims of the recent nisoor massacre—17 killed-including a mother shot while cradling here 17 year old murdered son—

I am also here with another of my heroes: naomi klein -the shock doctrine—

I think her message about Blackwater would be—that Nisoor massacre was not chance, not negligence—but exactly what Blackwater was hired to do—

Spread terror in Iraq—that is how, at least the Bush administration believes you control an  unwilling population-

And that is also the message I take from Naomi about torture and about Gtimo

Naomi-given us a context-for events, actions that otherwise appear to make no sense– In accepting this remarkable award I do not stand here alone—

I stand with the generations that have gone before—those particularly at Center for constitutional rights that have always been willing to upend the status quo, take personal and political risks, and fight for what is right and principled —

I stand especially on the shoulders of our founders of 40 years ago-bill k, morty s, Arthur k, ben smith–

And one, of almost that generation, PW-is here tonight -the architect of our efforts to bring Rumsfeld and other admin criminals to justice in Europe-making the world smaller for our domestic torturers—

I also stand here with current and future generations as well—the people of CCR –led now  by  Vince  Warren-our  Exec Director-

Some are here–Stand up-

-they are doing the most difficult work—at Gitmo-and around the world-


In some ways my greatest achievement at CCR- is the confidence I have that they are-­ and will remain–as Alexander Cockburn said of my CCR generation—-

A Splendid Band of Tigerish People–

Over the  last few years I have become acquainted with Henri Alleg, a French Algerian, in his 80’s who was water tortured—or as this admin say-water boarded–by the French during the Algerian war for independence—

Here is how he described his water torture-a practice that goes back to the inquisition—

“The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. … I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs as long as I could. But I couldn’t hold on for more than a few moments. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me.”

Think about Henri Alleg — when you hear the CIA talk about “enhanced interrogation techniques”—or think about– a terrible agony, that of death itself,- taking over you-­ when you hear our new AG refuse to condemn water boarding for what it is, or when you hear that some of our democratic leaders in 2002 were briefed—and made not a peep of objection—

Let there be no doubt– the Bush administration tortures; it disappears people; it holds people forever in off shore penal colonies like Guantanamo, it renders them to be tortured in other countries-this is what was done to CCR’s client Maher Arar who was rendered to Syria for torture—-

And sadly a majority of our congress, our courts and our media have given Bush a free hand, and in fact, worse, have been the handmaidens of the torture and detention program

But it has not been given a free hand by us at CCR —-

Today we are today in the middle of a pitched battle—a pitched battle to put this country back —at least ostensibly–on the page fundamental rights and moral decency——

The battle is difficult and the road is long and hard— I on occasion get pessimistic–­ Sometimes I and my colleagues feel like Sisyphus —

Twice we pushed the rock up the hill and won rights for gitmo detainees in SCT- and

Twice—the rock was rolled back down by cong- Yes a repub cong but too many dems went along-

So we pushed back up again—5 days ago we were in the s. ct for the third time—-­ More difficult because the justices have changed—4 are antedeluvians—lost forever to humanity—

But we have had our victories

1.We have gotten lawyers to Gitmo, and stopped the most overt torture, and freed half the Gitmo detainees—over 300—

2.. A few days ago 3 brits at gitmo were told they wld be returned to UK by Christmas–­

I bring that to your attention because we have with us today Vanessa Redgrave –­ Vanessa and brother Corin have been instrumental in starting the gitmo human rights campaign—a grass roots effort in the UK that forced the British govt to demand release of its citizens and residents–(yesterday read gitmo poems)

  1. We have gotten Maher Arar out of Syria; Canada has apologized, and said he was an innocent man, but he remains on the US terror list—

We have slowed, but not yet stopped, a remarkable grab for authoritarian power—

I don’t lose hope because I think about the early days of the Gitmo cases-

At first we were few-but now we are many-

At first when ccr began we were the lonely warriors—taking on the Bush administration at Gitmo—we were a handful—

Few would join us in late November 2001—-

We went ahead with the recognition that depriving people of fundamental rights–­ Even if they were what Rumsfeld labeled the worst of the worst-

Threatened us all-

And threatened the entire principle of a government under law—-

Now we are many—now we, just on gitmo alone, are over 600 lawyers­ Most from major firms; of every political stripe–

Understanding what is at stake—liberty itself—

This struggle will be seen as one of the great chapter in legal and political history—–

Today, War, torture, disappearances, murder, surround us like plagues— Most of this country goes on its way-oblivious—

Some don’t want to know, and are like ostriches Some want to justify it all—

Some want to make compromises—-

But be warned–We are at a tipping point—a tipping point into lawlessness and medievalism—

We have our work to do–

For each of us—the time for talking is long over—

This is no time for compromise or political calculation–­ As Howard Zinn admonishes us:

“It is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners-”

The Puffin/Nation Prize reminds us all– that the job for each of us is— Not to be on the side of the  executioners-

Thank you all—-

Perry Gladys Miller-Rosenstein Judith Kitrick -Carl Rosenstein  – Neal  Rosenstein