Friday, October 06, 2006

this travesty called guantanamo

yesterday morning in the terrace room of USF's law school i learned more about the travesty called guantanamo. the program was the university of san francisco's contribution to Guantanamo: How Should We Respond?, a national teach-in originating from seton hall law school (some background). between office hours, a new faculty luncheon, and class, yesterday was a busy day but i was able to catch the morning event featuring two lawyers - bernard j. casey and james p. walsh - who represent guantanamo bay detainees.

jeffrey brand, dean of the law school, welcomed a packed room of between 80-100 people, mostly (i think) USF law students. dean brand's welcome was great. paraphrased: it is truly heartening to see so many people here and to see so many law students here. this is a teach-in on the travesty that is guantanamo bay. these kinds of events reflect the mission of our university and its pursuit of excellence in social justice. it is possible that once i am here at USF for a few years, i will get used to, or grow tired of, stuff like this. but for now, having a dean equate a teach in on the horrors of guantanamo bay to the mission of the university is nothing short of inspiring.

bud casey and james walsh were terrific speakers. mr casey (pictured above) is representing at least three detainees at guantanamo bay and he recounted how it has taken him more than ten months of filing papers with the government to reach national security clearance. he is now preparing to go to guantanamo (i believe shortly, like within weeks) to meet and represent his clients. at one point, bud casey projectd to a large screen the names of his clients - as well as the numbers the US government assigns them - and sort of just let them speak for themselves:
    Ghanim Abdulrahman al-Harbi (#516)

    Zainulabiden Merozhev (#1095)

    Ravil Mingazov (#702)
later, he showed a slide that said:
    habeas corpus: "the only effective means for the vast majority of detainees to challenge the lawfulness of the captivity is through habeas corpus"
it was odd to read that slide, to really soak in its meaning, especially in a room full of law students. mr casey concluded by saying that last week's torture bill gives the bush administration the right to suspend habeas corpus for anyone they say is a bad guy. i think it was casey, or perhaps peter honigsberg, who said to the students something like: this bill created a lot of work for tomorrow's attorneys.

james walsh followed with an excellent overview of what we, as thinking people, face with guantanamo. he spoke - with elegance and humor - of the legal process of the detainees. he spoke on a range of legal issues that i believe were quite relevant to the law students. that was one of the best things about this event: the speakers completely understood who their audience was and spoke accordingly. near the beginning of walsh's talk, the president of the university, stephen privett, SJ, arrived - not as a speaker but as a partipant. a university president concerned with violations of human rights: excellent.

later in the day, i received an email from john gregorek, a law student at seton hall law school, titled "Thoughts on the Seton Hall Guantanamo Teach In." with john's permission, here are his insights of the event that took place at his school:
Today, at the National Teach-in hosted by my law school, Seton Hall, I listened to attorney Julia Tarver Mason share stories from her client, a detainee at Guantánamo, regarding force feeding. She pointed out that at first, when she heard that he was being force fed, she was partly relieved. After all, she did not want her client, detainee Abdul-Rahman Shalabi, to die. Yet upon hearing Shalabi's recount of exactly what occurred during his force feeding session, she was not exactly comforted of the news of his nutrition. The irony is hard to ignore.

Shalabi described tubes bigger than his fingers forced into his nose until he passed out, a Navy doctor who inserted a tube with such violence that he started throwing up blood, and the sharing of tubes covered in blood and stomach bile for use with different detainees.

According to Ms. Mason, Shalabi said in an interview at Guantánamo that "These [detainees] are young. They are innocent. The United States thought they had information. These people don't have information. Now the situation is more severe. It has been four years now. . . . There is no law here, only injustice."

Another panelist described that Guantánamo Bay has actually held 2 children- aged 10 and 12. After listening to the teach in, and questioning whether we even have the right people (terrorists), I am very troubled by stories of force feeding and abuse. I have never proclaimed that all the men of Guantánamo are innocent, but surely some of them are. It's bad enough that many captured are the wrong people, it's laughable that we captured children (according to the panelists).

And now we are going to remove Habeas access for these people? What exactly are we doing?
(wait: "Guantánamo Bay has actually held 2 children- aged 10 and 12." what?)

it was difficult to hear yesterday's talks. it was difficult to hear about such sad, torturous, and inhumane treatment of human beings. it was difficult to hear what our american leaders are doing in the name of freedom, democracy, and national insecurity. it was difficult to hear about the masssive illegality that is my country.

at the same time, it felt good to be there. it felt good to meet peter honigsberg, the organizer of this extraordinary event and a professor of law at USF. it felt good to see so many engaged law students - if half of the future lawyers in the terrace room work for human rights not military might the world will be a better place. and it felt good to meet, via email, people like john gregorek (above), mark denbeaux (a law professor at seton hall and one of the main organizers of the national teach-in), and ann bartow (who blogged about the teach-in at feminist law professors and sivacracy). and it felt good, again, to be reminded that college campuses can be powerful spheres of debate and dissent.

1 comment:

Ryan Turner said...

Great to hear you're inspired by the USF environment, David. When I was a student down the peninsula at SCU, I didn't get as engaged as I should have with the university's social justice activities--here's hoping you can pass along your inspiration and attention, and willingness to say out loud what matters, to your students.