Monday, March 24, 2008


March 19th was the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war. People had their say on the streets of Washington, D.C., Syracuse, N.Y., and other places. And March 21st was the anniversary of the day last year that I self-surrendered to the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, to begin my six-month sentence for crossing the fence at Fort Benning, to say no to torture and assassination and yes to human rights and to life. I marked these anniversaries quietly and sadly, but with a little bit of hope for the first time in a long time.
After so many years of feeling horror when listening to and watching news of war, torture, and violence, I am looking forward to a future in which human rights may once again be respected. Although I did not support Barack Obama when he announced his candidacy, I now feel that he may be the best hope that this country has of ending that disastrous and pointless Iraq war. I have hopes that he will use the presidency to say no to torture, assassination, and war and yes to human rights and to life.
Of the three candidates who are left in the race, I see Barack Obama as the best choice. The candidate whom I had supported at the start of the campaign, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, has also thrown his support behind Barack Obama.
I am hoping that a president Barack Obama will work hard for human rights throughout the world... in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Darfur and Tibet, in Burma and Colombia, and right here in the United States. Implementing Amnesty International's 2002 recommendation for Congress to suspend operations of the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation and appoint an independent commission to investigate the school and its alleged connections to human rights abuses in Latin America. These human rights abuses include massacres, assassinations, and torture.
These things have no place in a civilized society. Yet they seem to be the topic of today's discourse. We have a president who gave the message that torture may be necessary to protect us against terrorists and rogue governments that harbor weapons of mass destruction. Ugh! Might that have been something that Vlad Dracula would have said? There is a story that, back in the 1400s, Vlad Dracula invited all of the beggars into his castle for a meal. After the beggars had enjoyed their food, Dracula then burned down the castle so there would be no more poor people in his realm. We're supposed to be more civilized than that. We're supposed to leave that sort of barbarity in the past.
But have we?
Our government has vast stockpiles of nuclear weapons, stashed all over the country. Yet we have a president who started a war against Iraq because it supposedly had "weapons of mass destruction," despite the fact that the weapons inspectors couldn't locate them. Our government refuses to have normal diplomatic relations with Cuba because it says that Cuba does not honor human rights. Ironically enough, the chief symbol of the U.S. government's lack of regard for human rights, Guantanamo Bay, is located on the island of Cuba.
Will an Obama administration do better?
I believe that it will.