WESPAC Foundation Awards Dinner – Speech Notes – PDF

2008 WESPAC Speech Notes

Sunday April 12 08 Wespac speech final

I. I am proud to stand here among the activists of Wespac—Front lines for a long time—

Special relationship —Connie Hogarth for a long time—

Dottie Zellner—-

Old acquaintance—called me Yoram Gelman—-cleve his sister—talma

Current exec director—Nada Khader—may 2001—

Impressed part with willingness to take on the struggle of the Palestinians to end the occupation—and have full rights—

CCR—not an easy issue in this country—corrie family—(april 18 cooper union)

Honorees—parents—courage—Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez (greg)

Al Surya Peterson

Vietnam—Ben chitty

II. As a political lawyer—radical lawyer —understanding of activism and relationship to our work at ccr—

We win when there is a people’s movement on our side—

We often lose when there is not-palmer v t-74—Kunstler Westchester—-

In a period where not is much about moving forward-

–why I went to ccr—law and social movements to move forward

But today about holding on to what we thought was fundamental—habeas corpus—or right to free from torture—secret detention—and not seeing the erasure of gains we had won—race—women –social security–

III. take hope when I think about some of the struggles we have won in very bad times

2008 40th anniversary—1968 of incredible barbarism by this country—not forget—but also of incredible light back—activism

My Lai—not unique—phoenix—millions of Vietnamese —-almost 60k US

Agent orange—jones griffiths—case—

Tet offensive—(basra)

Murder of MLK april 4—picture—

Taken a year off—in Baltimore—

Of protests at Democ Convention—(bill)

Feb 68 So. Carolina state univ orangeburg massacre

And for me personally —in a few days—Columbia—-night sent vicious cops on campus—beatings and 700 arrested—

(Committed me—clerk cbm—ccr—and 71—attica)–

Yes they were years of incredible barbarism—brutality—murder–

But also of amazing activism—

And hope—-

And victories—played a part in ending war—

And certainly many gains—lasting—race (south—dottie) women gays —

Black and a woman—

Many in this room involved in those struggles—shows power —can be done—

–not forget that lesson today —-

I wish I could say that was then—that it was done with—that war, that torture, that racism, that barbarism was in the past—

–and then it would only be a question of remembrance—and repair—

(we did have a moment of imperialism pulling back–of caution because of a defeat of Vietnam—that was carter—76-80—good or weak—wpr; restrictions on spying; talked about human rights; in one of our cases—torture—revolutionary situation in the central America—not chance nica 79; Salvador—grenada–)

By 81—open ugliness of the rulers of this country was again apparent—

Reagan and mandate for change—shocked I was—we all were—

War again—all over central america—death spread—like a plague–linder

crockett—first and high water mark—14 cases—

Reagan—Unbridled capitalism—-dismantling of social network—cont by clinton

Race—dismantling of aff action—-

that barbarism continues—-and with a vengeance—-

It is all around us—in Iraq in Afghanistan in abu in bagram in gitmo

In our prisons in our impoverished neighborhoods and schools–­The lessons of the past are unlearned—

IV. War—stop loss—nyt Clinton packer all of them—That overreaching—afraid war with us for a long time—

post new wpr—jules—

V. (Elections—-young people more active—)

be wary —false hope—congress—-not a serious hearing; no habeas; no money cutoff—

my own experience—Clinton and Haiti—
no substitute for a peoples movement

VI. I want to talk to you today about some of the legal political struggles we at ccr and other waging to protect rights —rights which we felt were fundamental—a lot of fightback–

looked at with amazement the post 9/11 scenario—where we stand—-

the attacks on Muslims and the Muslim community—immediate aftermath—and continuing; roundups; false prosecutions; Fahad Hashmi—Mayfield Yoo

detentions without trial or habeas—whether here —padilla—al marri—gitmo or bagram or Abu Ghraib

torture—we are a country of torture—and with it rendition—
special courts—military commissions –evid of torture
broad surveillance; outside the constitution—FISA
and cld go on and on—

Many themes that underly these denial of rights—

3 themes—

Underlying—assaults— Use of war paradigm—9/11—aumf—-

Rather than a criminal paradigm which guarantees rights—limits power

War paradigm —

presidency with no boundaries—and lawyers—making sure of that—authority above the law and not under the law—exec power—

Signing statements—yoo—others—

Declining empire—competition out there—message—military—and we will kill you; or torture you—

Let’s go back to just after 9/11—

Building blocks of a police state—actions and law—action—93k—

Immigration fbi spec registration

A lot of law—patriot act; aumf;

Nov 13 military order number one—gitmo bagram secret sites–

Waking up—coup d’etat in America—

Question in a lawful country—

Provisions—any non-citizen held forever military comm. No habeas

(ultimately just can do it citizen or not)

Ccr decision—difficulty—

(what I went into law for)

Funding hate precedent

Worst of worst

Central park jogger

What was at risk—was so great

Abe Osheroff If you need a victory, you aren’t a fighter; you’re an opportunist.

Other lawyers

Gitmo in Haiti times—

First clients—to gitmo

Hicks tipton

Not see them—incommunicado



Restore faith in America—— right to a hearing—

Number of threads—narratives

  1. Getting lawyers—stopped torture; hope; cases–­Great legal chapter—
  2. Who was there—not the worst of the worst—seton hall—numbers—

Who captured bribes over half

Getting people out—775—refugees—

  1. Legal thread—Sisyphus—dta hamdan mca boumedienne—Await that but continuing—europe yemen
  2. Personal Stories murat kurnaz—name of book- five years of my life: an innocent man in Gitmo
  3. Congress—repubs dems—they have not shut it down and could—
  4. the presidential race—what candidates have said—
    That is gitmo —all 3—but slight variations—pr
    Secret sites—clinton not address; obama yes
  5. but what of bagram Other sites—secret sites; bagram etc—

Second area of barbarism—or architecture of a police state—

I. Torture— michael what is new

yes we have tortured before–

Experience from guant to Chicago police stations to ny—-but denied—or said an aberration and should not have happened


Post 9/11—legalize it; insure no prosecution; memos—ness to our safety

(some denial—but with a wink—we do it and we are tough—)

–publicly announce it—method of terror—want the world to know dark side dunk in the water enhanced interrogation techniques-Pundits went along—dershowitz to 24 to others—soften us up

II. The law—-anti torture stat war crimes stat treaties and const—

III. My own experience

  1. At first not really suspicious enough despite secret detention
  2. Tipton—prior to abu—-
  3. S ct argument—abu
  4. Hundreds of stories—

Ccr representation—maq mk

Abu—al mccoy etc


IV. the legal architecture

A. Earliest memos—

  1. avoiding prosecution—Gonzalez—Geneva—war crimes—jan 2002
  2. august 2002—narrow def Pinochet defense
  3. the new memo—march 14 2003—if criminal laws apply—conflict with commander in chief power;

IV. Recent revelations—dozens of top secret meetings to approve specific torture details of so those so called HVD in secret CIA custody—white house

National sec principles committee—vp cheney rice Rumsfeld powell tenet and ashcroft

V. Program continues—mukasey and water board–­2 memos in 2005; president

VII. Congress and afire—and recent vetoed legislation—mccain viii—Presidential candidates—obama absolute Hilary exception but will it be everywhere—

VIII. Wd about torture and why used—-

Why use it if it does not work—hear what torturer wants to hear–­Others work better—

Seek other explanations for its use—

  1. Depth of my understanding—not a slogan to end or stop–
  2. Naomi Klein –shock doctrine—blinders of human rights–look at as human rights abuses—rather than as tools that serve clear political and economic ends—

Can you get involved in human rights and not politics—not aberrational—impose a system that is opposed; occupation cannot be done humanely

  1. Marnia Lazreg — torture and the twilight of empire—from Algeria to Baghdad

Crisis—-claimed crisis—

Avowedly demo state reaches into reserve or pure power —pre democratic mode-­and breaks loose from restraints on capacity to eliminate resistance—

Ideology of freedom and individual—while measures that deny both—[Algeria—after dien bein phu—]

Kurnaz       not about info—context—

Strung up elector shock sexual humiliation—

You’re terrorists they shouted

We’re Americans! You’re terrorists. We’ve got you! We’re strong!

And we will give it to you!

They never ceased screaming

“You fuckers”

Failure to acknowledge that we are nation of torture—steer us away

Third Area of Barbarism—

The trials—part of military order—6 years—

Not one trial

Special trials—military commission

Initially–6 years later—now congress in mca

use of torture evidence—secret—
-not allowed—but coerced is—-
Death penalty maq


Fourth Fifth and Sixth and ones we don’t know about Roundups prosecutions searches without 4th amend No warrants for wiretap—the list is long—one area—-

impt lesson I learned about civil rights—human rights—from marina Lazreg book-

torture and the decline of empire

how we think of civil rights–and their denial—

Surrendering the means by which to control the state—civil liberties—(restraints against the state)–when give those up–for control of auth slip to police state–

  1. Legal fight back—Criminal and civil liability—
    Civil cases—state secrets —a lot of them—one left
    Within the scope —indiv protected


Criminal—bad apples—
Not realistic


Universal—germany france spain

–lousie arbour; Sullivan; phillipe sands

Worried—3 cases—-

  1. Activist fight back—witness against torture—
  2. Congressional—-
  3. President—exec order—-

Close not hopeless at all—these struggles are long and hard

We are on the verge of a change—

But will not happen automatically—because of a change in the White House or the congress—

Every one of you—and all of us—will need to keep getting out on the front lines

Like those you have honored—

Ending the war—most difficult

It will not be easy to put an end to off all of shore detentions —but we will

Torture—at least —in its current visible form —I have some confidence in eliminating—

I could go on and on—

But our struggle is not just about victory—

Abe Osheroff — If you need a victory, you aren’t a fighter; you’re an opportunist.

And we are all fighters—

Only really repeat what one of our heroic founders—a Westchester lawyer said:

every generation has its time to struggle—

Every person has a moment in life when they are challenged to act