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“What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers.”—Karl Marx
gregory_a_k » Posts for tag 'Abu Ghraib'

Challenge from an Iraq Veteran: “Get in the streets on March 19th!”

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Justice For Rakeem Nance

Justice For Rakeem

On the night of July 2, 2009, a Chicago Police Department “Mobile Strike Force” cornered 16-year-old Rakeem Nance in a dark alley on the West Side. Chicago’s Mobile Strike Force is a paramilitary unit lead by a Marine Lieutenant who commanded “counterinsurgency” operations in Fallujah, Iraq and is part of a militarized “surge” of police repression and intimidation in Chicago’s oppressed communities. Bringing home the bitter taste of what U.S. imperialism shoves down the throats of people from Iraq and Afghanistan to the streets of Chicago, Rakeem was shot in the back and executed in that West Side alley on that summer night.

Police allege that Rakeem was involved in breaking into a home, and that he supposedly aimed a gun at a police officer. Chicago PD Superintendent Jody Weiss claimed, “If you point a weapon at someone, they’re probably going to try to take his life,” and that Rakeem’s murder was justified. Following that logic, the people of Chicago being targeted by this paramilitary police urban warfare campaign would be fully justified in defending themselves with deadly force whenever the police come into their neighborhoods with weapons drawn; somehow I doubt that Mr. Weiss and the State’s Attorney would allow his justification to stand in such circumstances.

Rakeem’s funeral was held just down the street from where Chicago police murdered 18-year-old Aaron Harrison two summers ago.  Just last summer the Chicago police shot 12, and killed 6, people in a four week period. Along a boarded-up wall next to the funeral home, we placed posters of Rakeem and numerous other victims of the Chicago police from the last couple years.

Justice For Rakeem

After the funeral, standing before the faces of far-too-many youth gunned down by the Chicago police, I spoke to several of Rakeem’s high school teachers. They adamantly wanted me and the world to know that Rakeem was nothing like he has been viciously portrayed by the police (and the media that think “journalism” involves unquestioningly parroting police propaganda). Rakeem always asked the most challenging questions, he enjoyed writing music and wanted to be a rapper, five of his friends had been killed and he was compelled to try to look out for his friends…

Rakeem was another promising young life brutally snuffed out by the enforcers of this capitalist system. Even if he was involved in some kind of break in (and claims of him pointing a gun at police while carrying armloads of items supposedly taken from a house they broke into is even more dubious), none of that justifies his execution by the police. What kind of system do we live in that upholds the value of private property over the lives of human beings? The same system that ordered police in New Orleans to “shoot to kill” anyone who attempted to take food and supplies to survive during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The same system that sends armed “surges” into the communities and homes of people from Fallujah to Chicago, to drop bombs on people’s homes from Kabul to Philadelphia, to execute the youth from Oakland to Baghdad, to snatch people off the streets in handcuffs and torture them from Abu Ghraib to John Burge’s precinct.

This whole damn system is guilty as hell.

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Karl Rove – War Criminal!

May 28th Rove Chicago Theater

On Thursday, May 28th, the National Day of Resistance to U.S Torture, World Can’t Wait and others held protests across the country. We were out at the Chicago Theater demanding that Karl Rove be prosecuted for his war crimes.

War criminals must be confronted and opposed whenever they show their face in public. We were out in force, with banners, signs, huge versions of Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib series of paintings, orange jumpsuits and black hoods and the latest issue of Revolution newspaper challenging people to stand up and oppose torture and other war crimes being committed in their names. The police forced us to shut off our sound system after it was said that it could be heard all the way inside the Chicago Theater, so after that we chanted nearly non-stop for an end to torture and the prosecution of war criminals like Karl Rove and all the others in the former Bush regime and the current Obama regime.

May 28th National Day of Resistance to US Torture Chicago

Several comrades made it inside the theater and unfurled a large orange banner reading “Torture=War Crime – Prosecute” and shouted “Torture is a war crime! Prosecute war criminals! Rove is a war criminal!” during the program. After they were forced out of the theater, two other comrades confronted Rove during the event inside the theater, yelling “Waterboarding is torture! You’re a war criminal!”

May 28th banner from inside Chicago Theater

Many people thanked us for being out there, a few even tried to justify the use of torture, but no one there could turn a blind eye to reality and say that they don’t know that people have been and continue to be tortured by the U.S. government in their names. Silence equals complicity. Demand prosecution of war criminals! Demand an end to torture, indefinite detention, rendition, warrantless surveillance, and wars for empire!

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Little Village Multicultural Arts School Torture Workshop

On May 21, World Can’t Wait Chicago held torture workshops at the “We Are Everywhere” Youth Summit at the Multicultural Arts School in Little Village – a high school that was built after fierce struggle in the community, including a group of Latina mothers waging a nineteen-day hunger strike demanding a new school for their children.

MAS WCW Torture Workshop

We started off the workshops by asking the students: “Are American lives more valuable than the lives of people around the world?” Resoundingly the students responded “no,” though many thought that the reality was that people around the world were treated as if they were worth less. This led directly into the topic of torture. Showing the video I produced for the May 28th National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture, the students were shocked to see the images from Abu Ghraib, which many of them had not seen before and did not know about.

We then got into the question of how do people like those in the video end up there. Some though that it was because they committed crimes, or did something wrong. In order to show a direct example of how people were really rounded up and ended up in places like Abu Ghraib or Guantánamo, we asked the students if they would point out someone in the room who was in a gang. Some refused to point anyone out, even after being offered $500. But once one of the students was picked out and put into an orange jumpsuit and hood, they quickly named the name of someone else in the workshop, who was also brought before the class and put into a jumpsuit and hood.

We then explained how people like them were rounded up for bounties in Afghanistan, or picked up off the streets, or had the doors of their homes kicked open by soldiers with guns shouting in a language that they couldn’t understand, and placed in these same jumpsuits and hoods. How they were then chained to the floor of a military transport plane in diapers and flown to some unknown destination, while their families had no idea what had happened to them. And once they got off the plane, they would be subjected to various types of torture that the Bush regime ordered committed. We asked if any of the students had heard of waterboarding, and one replied, “Isn’t that like where they drip water on your forehead?” And we explained that unfortunately no, it was far more vicious than that—that people were tied down to a board, a towel placed over their face, and water continuously poured over them till they began to choke, and that medical personnel were standing nearby to cut open their throats and shove a tube into their windpipe to keep them alive for further torture. And nearly 100 people were documented to have died in U.S. custody during the war of terror carried out in the wake of 9/11.

After explaining some of the methods of torture used by the U.S., we had the kids take off their hoods and jumpsuits and explain how that experience made them feel. Most replied that it made them scared and sad. One compared it to feeling like being a slave. And that even that brief experience in a classroom was nothing compared to what people who were actually being tortured experienced. We then went on to discuss what should happened to people who committed torture. At first many of them said that the people who did it should also be tortured. But after discussing if its ever right to torture someone, they thought that the people who ordered and committed torture should be put in jail.

We then discussed the lies that military recruiters use to get people—including high school students like themselves—to join the military, and why it is that the U.S is waging imperialist wars and using torture around the world. Obama has refused to prosecute anyone for these crimes, he has refused to release the torture photos, he continues to keep Guantanamo open and recently expanded Bagram prison facilities, and continues to use military commissions and indefinite detention. We discussed why it is imperative that people get in the streets on May 28th to oppose torture being committed in their names and to demand prosecution of the war criminals in the Bush regime that ordered and carried out torture.

After the workshops, there were a number of great performances by the students, including hip-hop, spoken word, and dance. It was really a great opportunity to talk with the kids, and the teachers at the school were amazing as well. Very inspiring.

MAS breakdancing

MAS breakdancing 2

MAS dancer

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The Modern Art of Torture

A torturous tableau of naked, bloodied and bound prisoners writhing in agony on the floor of a cell at Abu Ghraib prison hangs from the neck of a hooded figure in an orange jumpsuit—this is how world-renowned Colombian artist Fernando Botero’s Abu Ghraib series of paintings made their debut at the opening ceremony of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Modern Wing. Organized by the Chicago Chapter of The World Can’t Wait, Botero’s acclaimed works—which most major art museums in America, including the Art Institute of Chicago, refused to show—displayed on the streets of Chicago viscerally encapsulated the horrific crimes committed by the U.S. in furtherance of its imperialist agenda of global domination and the urgent need for people in this country to stand up and oppose these crimes.

WCW Art Institute of Chicago Botero Demo painting

Calling on people in the streets to refuse to allow the perpetrators and architects of torture in the Bush regime to remain unpunished for their crimes against humanity—and to stop the continuation of torture and escalation of war for empire under Obama—we struggled with people over the mic not to turn a blind eye to the torture being committed in their names. As I stood in an orange jumpsuit I explained to them that many of those being held and tortured for years by the U.S. government were simply out walking on the streets of cities around the world just like they were, when they were snatched off the street, a black hood shoved over their head, chained, and put on an airplane to Guantánamo or some unknown black site.

We took up the challenge put forth in Revolution newspaper (The Torture Memos) to “challenge people and wage sharp struggle with those who have been silent or indifferent to not turn their heads away when confronted with the horrible reality of what their government is responsible for.” I reminded people of the complicity of the German people to the crimes of the Nazis, and urged them not to be “Good Americans” and to confront and oppose these monstrous crimes that have been—and continue to be—committed in furtherance of U.S. imperialism. And I thought of my comrades still caged in the hellholes of the American prison system, and that tens of thousands of people right within this country are being subjected to the same kinds of torture that the ruling class of the U.S. has been exporting across the globe.

The world does not have to be this way! Humanity needs revolution and communism, and we must stand up and take up the challenge to emancipate humanity and get beyond all oppressive and exploitive relations and ideas.

Stand up on May 28th – National Day of Resistance to U.S. Torture

WCW Art Institute of Chicago Botero Demo sign

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