Tribunal Indicts Bush
Jan. 20-22: International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration
Revolution #33, February 5, 2006, posted at revcom.us
Hundreds of people came together in New York City on the weekend of January 20-22 for a historic tribunal indicting the Bush administration for crimes against humanity. This event opened Friday evening at the Riverside Church, where Harry Belafonte gave a riveting speech that brought the audience to their feet.
Among the witnesses, experts, and judges giving and listening to testimony about Bush's crimes were Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, former head of the Abu Ghraib prison; Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan; Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector, and Ann Wright, former U.S. diplomat and retired U.S. Army Reserve Colonel
The International Commission has brought five indictments against the Bush regime:
- Wars of Aggression
- Torture and Indefinite Detention
- Destruction of the Global Environment
- Attacks on Global Public Health
- Hurricane Katrina
The first session of the Tribunal, in October 2005, heard searing testimony on each of these indictments--and the second and concluding session on Jan. 20-22 continued this crucial work. According to a Commission Press release: "The panel of jurists is currently deliberating and receiving further evidence. Preliminary findings will be made public at a news conference scheduled for February 2nd at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, 9:30am."
As this session of the Tribunal began, Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights sharply laid out the aims of the Tribunal, and the urgency of the times: "We are putting the Bush administration on trial. We investigate in order to expose. We document in order to indict. We arouse consciousness in order to create mass resistance. We want this trial to be a step in the building of mass resistance to war, to torture, to the destruction of our earth and its people. It's a serious moment. Our country and our world are tipping--tipping toward permanent war, the end of human rights, and the impoverishment and death of millions. We still have a chance, an opportunity to stop this slide into chaos. But it is up to us. We must not sit with our arms folded. We must be as radical as the reality we are facing. The witnesses you will hear over the next few days are the truth-tellers--the witnesses to the carnage this country and this administration has wrought. This truth challenges us all to act."
In this issue, Revolution newspaper is presenting excerpts from two Tribunal witnesses. We will have further reportage and interviews from the Tribunal in future issues. (See revcom.us for testimony excerpts in Revolution #32)
For complete information on the sessions of the Tribunal and the judges and participants, as well as updates on the work of the Bush Crimes Commission, go online to bushcommission.org.
Barbara Olshansky, Center for Constitutional Rights:
There are people [in Guantánamo Prison] that have been determined to be innocent by the Department of Defense. Recently this was recognized by a federal court in Washington DC and the court actually issued a decision in which it said yes, I find these people to be innocent, I find no basis for their detention by the United States, I find that they should not be imprisoned. And then the judge concluded by saying, "However I do not think I have the authority to order their release." And so they remain in Guantánamo. There are many other people in that category. I don't think the world widely knows that, but they are still all housed at Guantánamo.
There is a hunger strike that has been going on for some time and that hunger strike, despite the press releases from the Department of Defense, has entered a new and very dangerous phase. The military's response from the hunger strike has evolved from what was sort of a sensible effort to negotiate with the prisoners to punishing prisoners who assert their right to participate in this nonviolent protest. The prisoners, as a result of the changing Department of Defense responses, have been forced to change their demands. In July of 2005, of couse, their initial demand was asking for fair trials, the right that they won in the Russell Case in the U.S. Supreme Court--just give us the trial that we're due, that's all. Then they wanted to change some of the conditions in the camp. They wanted those who were found innocent to be released. And they didn't want juvenile prisoners to be in isolation. And third, they wanted to change some of the other conditions in the camp like inadequate medical care.
Because the military has refused to negotiate with them or discuss any changes whatsoever, everyone that is participating is now in agreement that they would like to have a trial that they are guaranteed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision. And if they they do not get that basic justice, they are committed to dying. Our estimation is that there are 250 people participating. The Department of Defense changes the numbers every day by changing the definition of who participates in the hunger strike. We know from going down to the base and from all the attorneys that go to visit their clients that there are a great many people participating.
The Department of Defense has taken it upon themselves to initiate forced feeding of people on the base. This means the forcible insertion of nasal-gastic tubes without anesthesia in unsanitary environments. In fact, the military intelligence and military police in Guantánamo have created a specific isolation camp where each person is separated from the other, no one may be spoken to, and they are all being force fed. No attorneys, no senators, no press. No one is entitled to access to those individuals.
What happens is an immediate penalty after an individual decides to join the hunger strike. And joining the hunger strike means three individual meals are refused. When the meals are refused people are punished by having all of their comfort items taken away except for the shirt on their backs. They are put in isolation. They are deprived of all contact. Some of them are beaten. We've seen this. And yet they continue to participate.
We know that more than 30 have been force fed for a very long time. They started their hunger strike in August of 2005 and a number of them are very close to death.
Larry McBride, who was in prison in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit land:
My name is Larry McBride and I was in prison [Templeton II] at the time the storm came. They told us like this, that some of us would be released and some won't, or some of us would be moved to higher ground. But none of this happened. So what we did as prisoners, we wasn't trying to escape, we was trying to save our own lives so we won't drown. Because they had water shooting up out the toilets that high, up to your knees--piss, shit and water, coming up. Once it got to where it was reaching to my waist, a couple of us broke the racks off the bed and broke the windows so we could get out and go up to higher ground.
So when we did run into some of the National Guards that came and took over the prison after the guards (who was there, who was supposed to be in charge with their families that they had boarded there) had left because the water started coming into the prison.They left us to die in there. They took their family out of the prison. And they know that the prison was flooding up with water. When we ran into them guards they went to beating us, saying we was trying to escape. We started telling them we are not trying to escape, we are trying to get to higher ground. So when we got up to the third level, up in the cell, it got stuffy up in there. We couldn't breathe there. They cut the air conditioning off, they cut the TV off, they cut the phones off from us. We can't reach nobody on the outside to find out what's going on in there. So they left us there.
So when they [National Guard] went to beating us and stuff--yeah, we going to protecting ourself and try to save ourself, saving as we was doing. They said we was trying to escape. And lord as my witness, I wasn't trying to escape and didn't run and I told them I wasn't running. So they put us, left us there for three or four days. We didn't have nothing to eat, no water, no nothing. When we did get to the top of the bridge [prisoners were left on a bridge during the aftermath of the storm], after we got out of the jail, we asked them, "Look man, give us some water, give us something to eat." No! That was they words. They hadn't said we gonna try to get ya'll something, they said NO! Then they took all they families--and the National Guards out there on the bridge, they already got guns on us on the bridge--they families got water, they family had food. But they never did feed us.
Everybody talking about Katrina. Katrina didn't hurt New Orleans... I can speak like I want? It was the mutha fuckers who blew the fucking levee up what hurt New Orleans. That's what hurt New Orleans. That's what killed my nephew from not being able to get his insulin. Eight days without him taking his fucking medicine. Yeah, he died. Then my uncle, he drowned trying to save his family. His wife said he went under the first time. Then when he went back under the second time, she said she didn't see him no more.