“Torontonamo Bay”

Toronto just finished hosting the G20 Summit, which literally lasted about eight hours in our city. The meeting got started at around 9am on Sunday and by 5pm leaders were already on their way out of town. An eight-hour meeting sure cost a whole lot and wreaked a whole lot of havoc.

I was glued to live news coverage on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday I skipped out on plans and watched the news from about 5pm until midnight. On Sunday, after participating in the completely peaceful, happy, and fun bike rally protest for a couple of hours, I was glued to the TV again from about 5:30pm until 11pm. I want to say that CP24 did an amazing job…for those two days…covering the vandalizing and police standoffs. It would have been nice if they had also provided wall-to-wall, commercial-free coverage of the demonstrations that took place all week—thousands of people in the days before the summit peacefully demonstrating on the streets of Toronto, getting their message out. That wasn’t so interesting, you see, because there were no assholes lighting police cars on fire.

Where were the media for the “Shout Out For Global Justice,” which took place at Massey Hall and featured Naomi Klein, Amy Goodman, and Maude Barlow (among others)? And when Naomi Klein led the entire audience on a peaceful walk to the temporary “tent city” at Allen Gardens in solidarity with the homeless, where were the media? And when Allen Gardens became a peaceful dance party? That wasn’t so interesting to the media since there were no assholes smashing store windows.

What occurred this past weekend in Toronto was nothing short of a clusterfuck. These meetings should not be held in densely populated urban settings. They should not cost, for two days, what the United Nations spends in an entire year. They should be held in places that are already fortified and secure enough to protect the heads of state that reside in them—the White House, Parliament Hill, Downing Street, the Palace…or the freakin’ UN! And they should not pick the pockets of cities, small-business owners, and residents when it’s the federal government making the decisions.

There’s a lot to say about the G20, the politics, and what happened in Toronto on the weekend. There is a vast echo chamber now and there’s little chance I’ll say something that hasn’t already been said. Except for one thing.

Yesterday there was another demonstration, an extremely peaceful and massive “jail solidarity” demo for the 900+ people who were arrested and detained in the makeshift detention centre. I heard two or three people who were interviewed on the news refer to the detainment facility as “Torontonamo Bay.” And today I read the report of Cameron Fenton, a 24-year-old who was arrested and detained for 17 hours; he referred to the detention centre as “tantamount to torture.”

No one is denying that the conditions at the detention facility were bad—they probably were terrible. I would have been miserable if I had had to stay there for even 3 hours, let alone 24. I would likely be complaining about it to anyone who would listen. I might even be seeking legal representation. But let’s be reasonable and respectful. There are innocent people at Guantanamo Bay and other detention facilities overseas who have been held—without charges, without lawyers, without habeas corpus—for many, many years. There are innocent people in these facilities (and some who are likely not innocent) who have been tortured. Truly tortured. To compare your treatment for 12, 17, or 24 hours at a makeshift detainment facility in Toronto, Ontario, Canada to a military-run torture centre that exists in a legal no-man’s land is completely ignorant. It’s akin to comparing Barack Obama, Stephen Harper, or anyone besides Hitler, to Hitler. It’s like Gretchen Carlson comparing her job as a talk-show host to that of the President of the United States.

People who have been held in a legal abyss and who have truly been tortured would likely have a thing or two to say about your experience versus theirs. So no more of this “Torontonamo Bay” and “tantamount to torture” bullshit. If you want to have your issues taken seriously, then be serious.

Do as I say, not as I do

There is mounting and unequivocal evidence that the United States participated in torture. And by “participated in” I mean performed.

In February 2007, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was granted access to 14 “high-value detainees” being held in the Guantanamo Bay prison. Among them were Abu Zubaydah and Khaled Shaik Mohammed, whom you’ve probably heard of.

The ICRC is the only international organization that is granted such privileges. It produces reports that are meant solely for the authorities for whom they are written. It is on the grounds that these reports will never be made public nor discussed publicly that access is granted.

Recently, the February 2007 report the ICRC prepared for the CIA was leaked. Entitled “ICRC Report On the Treatment of Fourteen ‘High Value Detainees’ in CIA Custody,” the report details—and I mean details—what it refers to as “torture and/or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.”

Since the report has been made public by an unknown source, one can only speculate as to who may have leaked it. Perhaps a member of the U.S. government or a member of the ICRC who felt this information was vital for the public to know.

And it is vital.

There is no denying anymore that the U.S. tortured people. It has been confirmed by far too many legitimate sources, from judges to military insiders to the ICRC. It doesn’t matter why or in the name of what the U.S. perpetrated torture; what matters is that they knowingly, continually, and secretively broke international laws and treaties, including the Geneva Conventions.

We know that if this were done by another country, the United States would at least speak out against it, and at most participate in an international court proceeding to bring the offenders to justice. In fact, they have done so in the past.

Just last week Barack Obama said of North Korea’s most recent failed attempt to launch a missile: “North Korea broke the rules…. Rules must be binding. Violations must be punished. Words must mean something.”

Am I the only one who finds this hypocritical? I guess it only applies to other countries.

It is time, really, to make an extremely important statement to the world that violations of rules will not be tolerated—regardless of who the violators are. The United States can no longer get away with, “Do as I say, not as I do.” No one should be above the law.

The fact that no one in the U.S. is willing to touch this—yet—is disturbing. Clearly politics is more important than justice.

I urge you to read the International Committee of the Red Cross’s report here. It’s not that long, and it’s very readable.

Keep in mind as you read that it was not only these “high-value detainees” who were treated this way, but most of the hundreds of people they swept up and made prisoners indefinitely. Also keep in mind that, guilty or not, these people should have had charges laid against them, access to legal counsel, and trials to determine their guilt or innocence. They received none of these things. No charges were laid. No access to the outside world was granted. No trials were held. And the prisoners’ loved ones were not even made aware of what had happened to them.

Spread the word, especially if you happen to be American. Your country is working hard to clean up its reputation and standing in the world; Barack Obama is doing a great job of that. But as long as you continue to sheepishly ignore these most egregious abuses by your former administration, you will only be known as a hypocritical country, and you will never be able to claim the moral high ground again.

How to be Bill-free

It was announced recently that a lawyer in Madrid, Spain prepared a case to seek criminal investigation into violations of international law by six former high-level Bush administration officials.

No, not Dick Cheney (more on that later), but former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales (the guy who “can’t recall remembering” much of anything), former Justice Department lawyer John Yoo (the guy who wrote the legal memos stating that the president had the authority to essentially ignore the Geneva Conventions), another former Justice Department lawyer Jay Bybee (Yoo’s former boss), former Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff and legal adviser David Addington, former Department of Defense counsel William Haynes, and former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith.

The charges against these folks are based on the Geneva Conventions and the 1984 Convention Against Torture. The 145 signing countries have the authority—and, some would argue, the obligation—to investigate torture cases. Of course the stakes are somewhat higher when a country’s own citizens have been abused, as five Spanish citizens held at Guantanamo Bay were.

Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, and the others are said to have violated international laws by providing the legal framework (read: ass-covering) for torture, including waterboarding.

The National Court in Madrid sent the case for review by none other than Baltasar Garzon—the judge who ordered the arrest of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (who was nabbed in Britain, but never stood trial).

Spain is the first country to take seemingly serious action on this, but certainly not the first to be talking about it. Canadian lawyers got in on the act, and there were hopes that they would pounce on Bush himself when he made an appearance here in March. But it turned out to be just talk. Or at least much more complicated than simply slapping the cuffs on him and dragging him away.

Though prosecutions in cases like this are extremely rare, if Spain were successful in this, it could clear a direct path to Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush.

Enter Bill O’Reilly.

An endless source of amusement, O’Reilly has threatened Spain, saying the following in his Fox “News” television show:

“Here’s the deal, Spain—if this goes forward, you’ll be insulting America. Unless this action is condemned by Spanish Prime Minister Zapatero, then I am not going to that country.”

Shortly after this aired, Spain released a statement in response:

“Oooooh, we’re scared.”

The following countries have since hurriedly announced that they too would be seeking criminal prosecutions against former Bush administration officials:

  • Afghanistan
  • Albania
  • Angola
  • Argentina
  • Armenia
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Bangladesh
  • Barbados
  • Belgium
  • Belize
  • Bermuda
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Bulgaria
  • Cambodia
  • Canada
  • Chad
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Croatia
  • Cuba
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ghana
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Guyana
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Jordan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Luxembourg
  • Madagascar
  • Malawi
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Moldova
  • Morocco
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nepal
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Nigeria
  • Norway
  • Pakistan
  • Peru
  • Philippines
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Senegal
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Somalia
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Syria
  • Taiwan
  • Thailand
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turkey
  • Uganda
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • United Kingdom
  • Uruguay
  • Venezuela
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen
  • Zambia

and

  • Zimbabwe

…so far.