September 27th, 2015

Below is the press release of World Can’t Wait about Shaker.

World Can’t Wait Calls for Immediate Release of Shaker Aamer

Not One More Day of Torture for Last British Resident of Guantanamo Bay Prison Camp

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter’s notice of intent to repatriate the illegally detained “terror suspect” – Mr. Aamer has never been charged with a crime – is a welcome development.

It would be premature to celebrate the prisoner’s release, as this is hardly a done deal, but we call on people of conscience to seize the moment to redouble efforts to free Shaker Aamer and all 113 remaining survivors of extrajudicial incarceration.

We condemn the 30-day waiting period for Congressional deliberation, and hold that the delay constitutes unconscionable punishment on top of the 13 year disruption of his life. Mr. Aamer has yet to meet his youngest son, born after his detention.

It is up to us to “walk the talk” to see that President Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo becomes a reality. We will celebrate Shaker Aamer’s repatriation when he boards a plane for London. We will not rest until he’s free and all the prisoners are free and those responsible for this crime of indefinite detention and torture are brought to justice.


That statement from World Can’t Wait is one with which I agree.  I, too, condemn the 30 day waiting period.  I also call for freeing all the remaining 113 prisoners and have called repeatedly for the release of all the prisoners at that torture center. I too think it is up to us to do what we can to see that Obama closes the torture center and frees all the remaining prisoners.

And, I applaud World Can’t Wait and agree with them in calling for those responsible for the atrocities committed against these prisoners to be brought to justice.


September 25th, 2015

I have just had work that Shaker Aamer, the last remaining British subject in the prison at Guantanamo, may have been released.  Pope Francis is currently in the United States and may have had something to do with this.  Let us hope that Shaker is indeed released and on his way home to his family, including a child who was born after his capture and whom he has never seen.


And, let us hope that all the remaining prisoners are soon released as well.


September 13th, 2015

Though this post is not about war and torture, it is not unrelated to the depredations of the US and can be seen even to have some influence on the military in this country.

I read today about US student debt–which is astronomical.  I want to remind readers that education in the developed world and even in many “third world” countries, though in the latter it may not be widely available, is virtually free for those who qualify for it.

In my university years in France, I paid about the equivalent at the time of twenty-five US dollars for a registration fee.  That was the only cost for any student.  One presented the appropriate academic credentials and was admitted upon the payment of that small fee.

la sorbonne

La Sorbonne

As one of many scholarship students, in addition I was actually paid to go to university.  That scholarship had required a more complex application beforehand, but with it I received a monthly stipend that allowed me to have very decent housing, incredibly low cost meals at the university restaurants, and to meet all my basic expenses.  I could even afford a season of symphony concerts, which certainly enriched my life and brought me great joy, in addition to occasional theater tickets.  I could afford a trip to Rome during a vacation break and another trip to Germany.

By contrast, my 1960’s US college tuition alone was some $10,000.00 per year–which has mushroomed to several times that now.  And that was just tuition and did not include other necessities.  Furthermore, because my family had means, I did not qualify for tuition payment for the “scholarship” that I was awarded; I only got to list the prestigious title of it among my credentials.  Merit got me the scholarship, but “need” would have had to be proven for financial payment of it.  I was, therefore, very dependent on my family and somewhat infantilized as a result.

In most developed countries, there is education for everyone.  The entire society invests in the education of its citizens and all are given the first levels of school.  Not everyone qualifies for higher education, but those who do receive it at virtually no cost.  Education at all levels is of high quality, not dependent on the capacity of local communities to pay for it, but funded by the national government.

There is some of the best education in the world for some people in the US, but the quality of education generally is low.  Not surprisingly, many people here are stunningly ignorant, to the astonishment of Europeans who have occasion to be here and see “average” Americans.

Another aspect of the woeful educational situation here, and of the exorbitant cost of it, is related to the US military.  Since enlistment can mean higher education for some people, there are numerous young people who join one of the service branches in order to get a university education which they would not otherwise be able to afford.  I think that price, too, is far too high for our young people to pay, especially when I know that their peers in other countries do not have to resort to such measures.


Florida State University

Will the US ever join the developed world in providing education, instead of just talking as though it does?


August 13th, 2015

Glenn Greenwald, the constitutional lawyer turned journalist, reminds readers at the online site The Intercept that “Obama repeatedly and eloquently railed against the core, defining evil of Guantánamo: indefinite detention,” while campaigning for president.  Yet, seven years later, the torture camp remains open.



Prisoners at Guantanamo

Greenwald says Obama actually has demanded the “right to continue to imprison Guantánamo detainees without charges or trial”. And according to Greenwald  this is because he considers that the prisoners “cannot be tried but  [are] too dangerous to release.”  That latter expression is what Greenwald calls “the hideous new phrase”.

Greenwald continues:

“In other words, Obama never sought to close Guantánamo in any meaningful sense but rather wanted to relocate it to a less symbolically upsetting location, with its defining injustice fully intact and, worse, institutionalized domestically.”

You can read the complete article here.

The US, having tortured these men and boys before they left their sites of capture has never been in a position to present them for trial in international courts.  These prisoners remain a serious case of crimes against humanity by the United States.  I continue to say that the only just solution is to release all the prisoners now.


August 12th, 2015



I am fortunate to speak a number of languages and I have never been where I do not speak the language.  I would not like having to depend on a translator.  There are, even in the best of circumstances, many things that do not translate well even among the European languages I speak.  The thought of being a foreign prisoner in the US and unable to speak English is terrifying, especially since the translators would be engaged by the US and of dubious objectivity at best.

I read recently that the prisoners are telling their lawyers that the translator was at the black sites (where they were not only interrogated but tortured).

Surely it must be possible to have translators whose impartiality is unquestionable.  One from the black sites, employed at the time by the US which was also the agent of the torture of these men and boys, would certainly not likely inspire their confidence at the very least.  At worst, of course, the translator, who knows on which side his proverbial bread is buttered, could misrepresent what the prisoners say.

The US must let these prisoners free.  There is no other just recourse.




August 11th, 2015

Shaker Aamer, the last British subject held by the US in its torture camp at Guantnamo, is very ill.  Long since cleared for release, he remains there for reasons never explained.   There have  been several posts about Shaker, a few of which you can read here, here, and here.


Shaker with his children

Andy Worthington, the British authority on the prisoners at Guantanamo, urges us to contact David Cameron, prime minister of the UK and Obama, US president, demanding Shaker’s release.  I post below the facebook page url where there is information.

There are links on that post to send letters to both Obama and Cameron.  The one for Cameron worked.  Below is a better one for Obama.  [You will need to copy and paste this address into your browser because the link does not work.]

Please do read about Shaker and write to Cameron and Obama.

And please do comment on this post or post things related to this issue yourself. If you prefer, send things to me and we will load them on the blog for you.

“Together we can do this”.


Nuclear Weapons

August 9th, 2015

This being the 70th anniversary of the nuclear bombing of Japan, the issue of nuclear weapons is in the news.  Since the bombing was only a few months before I was born, I have lived my life in the shadow of nuclear war.  Below are images of the destruction:

atomic bomb1


atomic bomb2


The  Japanese people and their government have had a policy of refusing to wage war since these horrific events.  May they continue in that resolution and continue, as they are doing, to work for the end of nuclear arms.



June 3rd, 2015

A statement by Anthony J. Russo, an employee of the RAND Corporation who was dispatched to Viet Nam to interrogate prisoners there during the US war in that country in the late 60’s, could have been made by US employees who work in Afghanistan and the Middle East now and in the very recent past.

Russo reported in detail the kind of torture and abuse that prisoners he interrogated had endured.  The CIA was putting into practice the methods of torture that exist to this day and that include being suspended by the thumbs or the feet, beatings, rape, electric shock–especially to the genitals–confinement in dark and dirty cells, waterboarding.

Anthony Russo

This brave man documented every instance of these atrocities and crimes against humanity that he encountered,  He wrote about the torture of the people he interviewed in the reports he had to file and argued with his superiors who wanted him to suppress that information, which was ultimately removed from the reports by those who controlled the final drafts.

Eventually, he helped Daniel Ellsburg who exposed the “Pentagon Papers” that revealed what the US wanted hidden about the war in Viet Nam.  As Ellsburg was, he was indicted for complicity in that matter.  The Ellsburg trial had huge implications for the war and the early resignation of Richard Nixon in disgrace.  It was another step on the path to the ignominious end of that disastrous war.

Though not so well known as Ellsbrug, Russo was as courageous and acted on principle.  Ellsburg always said that Russo was the first person who recorded the torture of the Vietnamese.  This is not well known largely because the RAND Corporation buried that information quite successfully.

The US has a history of torture.  What can we do now to stop it and ensure that torture will not be used in the future?


June 3rd, 2015

Below is the  Van Ness translation of an article about the important decisions prompted by the work of Edward Snowden  from LeMonde online on 2 June.

Edward Snowden solicitó asilo a otros seis países, según WikiLeaks

It will have taken two years for the electroshock set off by Edward Snowden’s revelations to produce their first tangible political and legal effects.

On June 5th 2013, an article appeared on the Guardian website revealing a vast program of telephone surveillance put into place by the National Security Agency (NSA). The first of a long series of revelations. Their source? An impression number of documents, furnished by Edward Snowden, a former contractor of the agency who was shocked by the liberties taken with the right to privacy by his country.

Two years later, nearly to the day, Tuesday, June 2nd, the Senate just placed limits on the program of telephone surveillance. By adopting the USA Freedom Act, the US legislature is undertaking the first major reform in the US programs of surveillance since the beginning of the Snowden revelations.

This legislation calls for the telephone data to be stored by the phone companies, and no longer vacuumed up directly by the NSA, and that requests by the authorities be more targeted. Fruit of a serious series of negotiations, the text of the legislation had support from the White House and from the surveillance community. And, with reason: with this bill, they have traded the reform of the Patriot Act that applies to telephone surveillance for the continuation of other areas of surveillance.

But, even if the government still preserves the means of obtaining telephone data, it has definitely lost the unlimited access that it used to have to the personal data of hundreds of millions of its citizens. It will now need to keep its hands clean and target its requests. Exit mass surveillance.

This volt face seems modest, but it is a matter of the first time that the US powers of surveillance have been cut back since September 11th. Due to the absolute secrecy that surrounds the activities of the NSA, such a debate and such a change were unthinkable before the Snowden revelations. The author of the Patriot Act himself fell out of his chair when he discovered how his bill had been interpreted, in secret, by the surveillance services. Whatever the result, the recent events at the Congress are definitely a positive recognition of the whistle blower.

The latter has stressed on numerous occasions for two years that he made the decision to leak the secret documents in the hope of finally bringing about a huge debate on surveillance. For this young man who has never hidden his patriotism nor his desire to sew up with the needles of the law the gaping holes inflicted on the Constitution of his country by the huge ears of the NSA, the transformation of this debate into reform is an enormous victory.

The question of the massive interception of digital data had been brought up a few weeks before by a federal appeals court, led to make a judgment on this same program of telephone surveillance. Its judgment had been very clear: this program, by its incredible liberties taken with the Patriot Act, was purely and simply not legal.

Yes, the judges explained, the collection of megadata—who calls whom, when, how often—was a threat to the private life and liberty of citizens. No, the struggle necessary for the safety of the nation and against terrorism does not give the government carte blanche to twist the spirit of the laws of the country as it has done since September 11. Yes, the massive collection and storage of data, even by computer, are forms of surveillance.

These surveillance programs had remained hidden from US news media until these events. Last autumn the ACLU lawyer of whistle blower Ben Wizner, reported how, for years, he had failed to get the surveillance agencies to take responsibility before the courts because of failure to prove that the rights of his organization had been abridged. Several times, the secret that surrounds the US spying apparatus had barred his way to the courts.

“Edward Snowden gave us a ticket to the courts. One of the first things he said to me was, ‘Are you interested in acting now?’ He had followed the preceding cases,” the lawyer confided. Thus, it is very logical that Mr. Snowden has emphasized the “importance” of the decision by the justice system that will have “an impact not only on the program of telephone surveillance, but also on all the other US programs of mass surveillance.”

Fundamentally, the Court has leaned on a whole part of the intellectual and judicial basis of post September 11th domestic spying. And this inventory, begun thanks to the Snowden documents proving the existence and the scope of the surveillance programs, is not finished: this case could clear a path all the way to the Supreme Court, which has demonstrated in recent decisions that it was interested in rethinking the relationship between security and fundamental rights in the digital age.

In France, the study by the Parliament of the law on surveillance should have been the occasion for an inventory of our own system of spying. It was skillfully and expediently evaded. The Snowden documents proved the superiority of the US in the field of mass surveillance. These last weeks show that it could also have superiority in the matter of reform.

 Read the original article by Martin Untersinger here. 


May 28th, 2015

Below is a link to an article with excerpts of a Canadian documentary about Omar Khadr, one of the children who were captured in Afghanistan and tortured before being sent to the torture center at Guantanamo.  He was tortured there as well, of course.

Click here to go to the article.

Omar Khadr, former child prisoner at Guantanamo

Now released and back in Canada, he has told his story.

My tax money paid for these atrocities and others that continue at Guantanamo to this day and in black sites unknown to me around the world.  Let us not deceive ourselves that the torture has stopped.
I will be more confident that the US does not torture when there are arrests of US torturers up to the highest levels of government, trials, and serious prison sentences for those found guilty.