Category Archives: Editorials & Position Statements
We were pleasantly surprised by President Obama’s commutation of Chelsea Manning’s sentence on January 17, just days before he left office. In a statement released to the press, NLG also noted that the sentence of Puerto Rican political prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera was also commuted.
In the statement, MLTF Executive Director Kathleen Gilberd was quoted:
While Chelsea’s freedom is long-overdue, we are gratified that she has been afforded some measure of delayed justice. There is no doubt that the tremendous outpouring of public support and organizing for commuting the sentence contributed to this outcome. Still, we remain critical of a government that seems more intent on prosecuting those who expose war crimes than those who commit them.
The NLG MLTF sent the following letter to President Obama on December 16.
NLG Military Law Task Force to Obama: Pardon Chelsea Manning/Commute Sentence to Time Served
President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
December 16, 2016
Dear President Obama:
The National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force joins more than 102,000 people who have called on you to pardon Chelsea Manning or, at the very least, commute the remainder of her sentence. You are well aware of the fact that her actions revealed serious incidents and addressed important issues that, despite your administration’s promises of transparency, were kept from the American public. Whatever one may think of her choice of means, there is no doubt that her actions were prompted by a deep moral sense that is all too often lacking in US policy and among US leaders.
As you should know, Ms. Manning’s incarceration has been far more difficult than that of most prisoners because of her issues around her gender identity. Your administration has recently expressed its support for non-gender conforming members of our society. At least, Attorney General Lynch assured them that the Department of Justice has their backs.
No good can be served by extending Ms. Manning’s confinement. There is no possibility that she will repeat her offense, her punishment has already been severe and sufficient to serve whatever preventive purpose could have been accomplished by her prosecution. All that is left is retribution.
Our criminal system places excessive emphasis on punishment and has done so in this case. Justice requires that punishment be tempered with mercy in appropriate circumstances. This is one such circumstance and you would be remiss not to exercise it.
The National Lawyers Guild is the country’s oldest and largest human rights bar organization and was the first integrated national bar association. It has a proud history of defending and advancing human rights in the US and around the world. Its Military Law Task Force has defended the rights of our service members for decades and we stand in full support of PVT Manning.
Military Law Task Force
By Bill Galvin and Maria Santelli, Center on Conscience & War
This article was first published first publishing on Feb. 24, 2016 at worldbeyondwar.org. It was re-published with permission in the Spring 2016 issue of On Watch.
With the combat restriction for women in the US Armed Forces now lifted, discussion of draft registration is back in the news, the courts, and the halls of congress. But the problems with Selective Service System (SSS) Registration go much deeper than gender equality. There is little political interest in bringing back the draft. Yet draft registration remains a burden upon our nation’s young men – and now, potentially our young women, as well.
By MLTF member Marjorie Cohn
Reprinted with permission from Truthout.org
Reading the 499-page torture report just released by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence was a disgusting experience. Even after many years of writing books and articles about the Bush torture policy, I was unprepared for the atrocious pattern of crimes our government committed against other human beings in our name.
One of the most hideous techniques the CIA plied on detainees was called “rectal rehydration” or “rectal feeding” without medical necessity – a sanitized description of rape by a foreign object. A concoction of pureed “hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins” was forced into the rectum of one detainee. Another was subjected to “rectal rehydration” to establish the interrogator’s “total control over the detainee.” This constitutes illegal, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and a humiliating outrage upon personal dignity.
Several detainees were waterboarded, a technique whereby water is poured into the nose and mouth to cause the victim to think he’s drowning. One detainee in CIA custody was tortured on the waterboard 183 times; another was waterboarded 83 times. Waterboarding has long been considered torture, which is a war crime. Indeed, the United States hung Japanese military leaders for the war crime of torture after World War II.
Other “enhanced interrogation techniques” (EIT) included being slammed into walls, hung from the ceiling, kept in total darkness, deprived of sleep – sometimes with forced standing – for up to seven and one-half days, forced to stand on broken limbs for hours on end, threatened with mock executions, confined in a coffin-like box for 11 days, bathed in ice water, dressed in diapers. One detainee “literally looked like a dog that had been kenneled.”
The executive summary of the torture report was made public, but the 6,700-page report remains classified. The summary depicts the CIA at best, as keystone cops, at worst, as pathological, lying, sadistic war criminals. The CIA lied repeatedly about the effectiveness of the torture and cruel treatment. Interrogations of detainees were much more brutal than the CIA represented to government officials and the American public.
After the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white cop, in the middle of a street in broad daylight — and the unexpected global outrage it provoked – the subsequent disproportional response by local law enforcement has made militarization of the police a hot topic that even the most tepid news organizations are recognizing.
Following decades of hyped “wars” on drugs and terror, the federal government got the ingenious idea of equipping local police departments with surplus weapons from the armed forces — presumably because they weren’t using them fast enough around the world and they were offered even more and better weapons by “defense” contractors. Surely, they reasoned, local constabularies could assist in protecting the citizenry from the twin scourges of drugs and terror with which we are at “war.” While this transfer of military equipment has been going on for many years now, the over-the-top police response to protests in Ferguson has shone a light on it and prompted questions about the wisdom of providing police departments with tanks, drones and other implements of (mass) destruction used for fighting actual wars.
Of course, there are a few examples of this mentality that pre-dates “the war on terror.” Even as far back as 1985, the Philadelphia police bombed the home of a local organization, MOVE, which may have presaged some of the problems that could arise with excessive weaponry. MOVE was not especially popular among the populace, but all united in outrage at the bombing.
But it’s only now that most news analysts and policymakers are noticing the rather predictable repercussions of arming local cops like a commando squad in a war zone: Departments with some very powerful new toys will find excuses to use them, because after all, once you are given a hammer, everything is a nail. But one reality about police use of heavy military equipment has gone largely undiscussed. It’s been cloaked by propagandistic news reports and almost universal glib praise for the skill and professionalism of America’s armed forces, but it’s something the MLTF and other groups have always known.