More on Amnesty

I’m supporting Amnesty because I’m sick of being spun, because we need some proportion in our lives, and because I can’t contain my anger any more. I’m supporting Amnesty because Amnesty is the true no spin zone. Amnesty supports human rights, what’s right and human–REGARDLESS of politics.

Here is Kerry Kennedy at the EDLC (Amnesty Executive Directors Leadership Council), talking to Tim Aiken, Legislative Director for Congressman James Moran of Virginia, about the URGENT need of the UN-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) : “There’s genocide, and we can’t get 20 damned helicopters!”

We’re spending $5000 a second in Iraq and we can’t find a few helicoptors to save the people of Darfur?

Here is the charismatic Democratic Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia, addressing the Amnesty Delegation on the Bush Administration outrage known as Gitmo, where people are being held for YEARS without charges, without even knowing why they’re being held:”These detainees were brought to Guantanamo Bay in 2002 to avoid United States laws and public scrutiny. Most are innocent of any crime, and were captured by the Pakistanis when the US was giving cash rewards.”

Cash rewards? I’d bet my life that we could fill a Guantanamo exclusively with Americans prisoners if the US government offered Americans cash rewards of, say, $5000, to turn people in. Then maybe then we’ll set up a concentration camp to hold these people indefinitely and without charges. Maybe we should build it in Topaz, Utah, the place where Japanese Americans were held during the hysteria that followed Pearl Harbor.

Hysteria? You bet I’m hysterical. Who are we, and what way of life are we defending if America holds people without charges and tortures people like the torturers all over the world do?

Public scrutiny? Are we even a public any more? Or are we sheep, consuming and entertaining ourselves to death?

Who is going to be held accountable for all this? Are we so spun that we actually believe that wearing a flag pin has more to do with patriotism than exercising our right to speak out about outrages being committed in our name?

And here is Congressman Jim Moran on Gitmo detainees: “More have committed suicide than have been brought up on charges.”

And Congressman Bill Delahunt of Massachusetts on the issue of how America is viewed in the world, and on the broadening anti-American sentiment being a threat to American security: “We’re in trouble, folks.”

White-haired white men speaking truth.

And just in case you think I forgot what I said before about the non-partisan nature of Amnesty’s work, here’s a grim-faced Chris Shays, who happens to be my Connecticut Congressman, speaking about the last eight years: “There’s no excuse for the arrogance of Cheney and Rumsfield… We ALL think Gitmo should be closed.”

I did, of course, notice that he didn’t mention Bush along with Cheney and Rumsfield, but still……….. If you ALL think Gitmo should be closed, why isn’t it closed?

Chris Shays: “We should have no secret prisons and we should send (these people) back to their home countries.”

Bill Delahunt: We can’t send people back to their home countries. They’ll be tortured.”


Yes, let’s do talk about grief. This is grief unbound.

Live from DC: The Amnesty International Leadership Council

The D.C. skies were clear and bright over the weekend, but in the St. Gregory hotel, the pall of grief was thick in the air. Over the course of an extraordinary weekend, Amnesty International human rights activists, along with witness after witness, spoke to an audience of about fifty committed supporters on the Executive Director’s Leadership Council. It was unspeakably depressing to listen to these human rights activists speak of the unbelievable abuses of human rights by the United States government, in violation of the rule of law–complicity in torture, extraordinary rendition, denial of the right of Habeas Corpus, and so much more. And it was terribly disturbing to hear these people of conscience recount the sad statistics about the state of human rights in the world—4 million affected in the Darfur genocide, one out of every three women in the world a victim of sexual violence, four million Iraqis displaced. But it was the first hand witnesses who moved me to tears.

Among them were the amazing Betty Makoni, Director and Founder of the Girl Child Network in Zimbabwe, a rape survivor herself, who volunteers her life to save others, who helps women come up with strategies of how to protect themselves from systematic rape and abuse that they confront every day in their villages and communities, who tells us that rape is a death sentence for women because of Aids, who bears witness to victims like the two year old girl who came to her office bleeding, her genitals destroyed by rape. Little girl bleeding. What can one say to such a thing?

And Sarah Deer, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, a victim advocate and legal specialist, whose words speak of a culture of abuse where Native American women, victims of sexual violence, have no access to even the most basic protections like forensic (rape) kits to help in prosecution for those who have the courage to report these crimes:

My grandmother was raped.

My mother was raped

I was raped.

My daughter was raped.

My daughter has just given birth

I do this work because I want to protect that child

And Garelnabi Abbas Abusikin, refugee from the Darfur genocide, whose father, brother, younger sister, grandmother, uncle and more than 60 friends and fellow Zaghawa tribesmen were killed by government-backed Janjawid forces, bearing witness with his extraordinary photographs.

And General Jose Gallardo, who was jailed for more than eight years for publishing a Master’s thesis that accused the Mexican army of corruption and human rights violations, who spoke through a translator. “They have tried to silence me,” he said, “but human rights are non-negotiable.” General Gallardo is one of THOUSANDS of prisoners of conscience across the globe.

I’ll blog more about these extraordinary people and the many others I heard, and the crucial work Amnesty is doing in my next post. I need time to process such suffering and courage.

On a happier note, I enjoyed time with fellow conference attendee, the great film director, raconteur, and human rights activist, Paul Mazursky, who was in his glory regaling us with tales of old Hollywood, complete with spot-on impressions of Orson Wells, Sidney Portier, Charlton Heston and Peter Sellers.

More on all this tomorrow. It was a long drive back from D.C.