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Crunch Time on Torture

Don’t Disappear Into a Black Hole

by ANDREW WIMMER

This is a simple appeal addressed to anyone who has read about United States secret detention and torture in the past year and thought, "This has got to stop." Over the course of the next 48 hours we all need to show up at the offices of our Senators and Representatives so that other human beings don’t disappear.

Without our intervention, the United States Congress, before it recesses on Friday, is poised to hand George W. Bush dictatorial powers to apprehend and secretly detain anyone, anywhere in the world. In essence, disappearing them into a black hole from which they will have no legal recourse. And the law contains no provision for expiration.
On September 6 Bush admitted the existence of a CIA program of extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture. He called on Congress to authorize the program’s continuation and to pass legislation that would indemnify those who had already participated against being charged with war crimes. On September 15 he reiterated that call and issued an ultimatum:

"I have one test for this legislation. I’m going to ask one question, as this legislation proceeds, and it’s this: The intelligence community must be able to tell me that the bill Congress sends to my desk will allow this vital program to continue. That’s what I’m going to ask."

And what does the program include? The apprehension and detention of human beings anywhere in the world at the discretion of the President.

The ability to hold them secretly and without charge indefinitely, and, by denying them habeas corpus rights, the ability to use whatever means of interrogation and punishment the Administration deems necessary during their imprisonment.

"So Congress has got a decision to make," Bush said. "You want the program to go forward or not? I strongly recommend that this program go forward in order for us to be able to protect America."

On September 20, after a week of negotiating with John McCain and others, Bush announced that he was happy with the "compromise" that had been reached. "The agreement clears the way to do what the American people expect us to do: to capture terrorists, to detain terrorists, to question terrorists and then to try them."

Sometime today, tomorrow or Friday, the United States Congress will vote on whether to give George W. Bush authority to continue his program. As he says, they’ve got their decision to make. And we have ours. We need to show up to tell our legislators that what we, the American people, expect is something quite other than what Bush demands. We expect them to put an end to the practice of extraordinary rendition, to ensure that the Writ of Habeas Corpus is upheld for everyone, and that the United States firmly renounces the use of torture.

We have spent enough time on the sidelines. As Bush defiantly claims the right to disappear human beings at will, we must now appear in person to denounce his actions and demand that his administration be stopped.

During the next 48 hours, set aside business as usual. Gather your friends and colleagues and present yourself at the local office of your US Representative or Senator. Refuse to leave until you are satisfied. If need be, get arrested. Send another group later in the day. And another. And Thursday and Friday likewise.

Over the past year powerful testimonies have accumulated. We’ve heard of the involvement of doctors and other medical professionals in the torture of detainees. Many legal scholars have painstakingly exposed the ways in which this administration has perverted US and international law. Men and women in the military have blown the whistle on practices that demean their profession. Ethicists and theologians have decried the perversion of our most deeply held beliefs.

Today and tomorrow people from all these walks of life-doctors, nurses, judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, students, soldiers, ministers-and more need to show up and make their voices heard. Urge them to join you. Let us disrupt business as usual, even risking arrest, for the sake of those who would disappear.

By Friday evening, if Congress has passed this odious legislation, we will have allowed our own fears to drive us to embrace the very things we claim to despise. We will have sanctioned the relegating to a black hole any man or woman George W. Bush so chooses. We will have set the seal on the change that was begun on September 11, 2001, affirming to ourselves and the world that everything really did change that day.

Don’t disappear. For 48 hours stop all the fine things that you normally do and show up. Don’t be a bystander to the disappearing of human beings, our rights and our voice.

We are starting our actions this morning in St. Louis. We will post pictures, videos, and whatever else we have about our actions to a website, DONTDISAPPEAR.ORG.

Send us your accounts and pictures and we will add them as well.

ANDREW WIMMER offers this on behalf of the members of the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in Saint Louis and our Stop Torture Now campaign. He can be reached at: awimmer@newcommunities.net