Tonight I heard Rana Elmir of the ACLU speak on the Military Commissions Act of 2006. This was the torture bill that Debbie Stabenow voted for a few months back (you can even buy a Stabenow Voted for Torture bumper sticker). Somehow I ended up on Stabenow’s email list in the months leading up to the 2006 election, and I usually just ignored or deleted her campaign messages because I generally don’t support the Democrats. But after I heard this I replied and asked to be removed from her email list because I was so disgusted. I wrote to her, “Please remove me from this list. I’m not interested in having anything to do with a candidate that voted for torture.”
The bill states in part that “the President has the authority for the United States to interpret the meaning and application of the Geneva Conventions.” Basically it legalizes torture carried out by the US government.
As if the bill itself wasn’t disturbing enough, at the event they also showed the film “Outlawed: Extraordinary Rendition, Torture and Disappearances in the ‘War on Terror.” This really was an intense film to watch. It tells the story of two men, Khaled El-Masri and Binyam Mohamed, who are survivors of US rendition, secret detention, and torture. They describe how they were abducted, tortured, blindfolded, and flown to and from secret prisons all across Europe. When they were done with El-Masri they dumped him in a forest. He made his way back to his home in Germany to find that his family had moved back to Lebanon because they did not know where he was and ran out of money. He was the one on film telling his own story, which was very powerful to watch. Mohamed is still at Guantanamo, where he participated in the hunger strike that went on there earlier this year. His family read from his diary but their faces were obscured at their request.
I think I knew some things about extraordinary rendition and the secret prisons that the CIA has, but it really didn’t click for me until I saw this film. It’s just insane that the US is putting bags over innocent people’s heads and flying them halfway across the world to be tortured, what’s more insane is that it’s all done totally in secret, and what’s even more insane is that there isn’t a huge public outcry or movement to stop this activity. These actions are being carried out in the name of the US and that makes all Americans complicit to some extent.
The movie is available online and I also posted it here.