Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Free Djamel

CCR client Djamel Ameziane, one of the first men interred at Guantanamo Bay, has been sent from Guantánamo to Algeria against his will and in violation of international law. He is now being held in secret detention and is at risk. Djamel is an innocent man who has suffered detention at Guantánamo for over a decade, despite having been cleared by both President Bush and President Obama.

On Friday, December 6, in front of the Algerian embassy in NYC, representatives from CCR, Witness Against Torture, and World Can't Wait demonstrated to call on the Algerian government to release Djamel immediately, and to respect and protect his human rights.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Tension Between “Never Forget” and “Looking Forward, not Backwards”

It is reported that this year the commemorations for 9-11 will be “low key”. The names of the dead will be read. Bells will toll. Moments of silence will be observed. I didn’t lose a friend or a family member on 9-11. I imagine it is a rare day that goes by when a loved one doesn’t remember that dreadful day. I imagine life is never “low key”.

The same mourning is played out across the globe. For every person lost in the attack on the twin towers there have been thousands of deaths around the world. The brunt of America’s retribution fell on Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the attacks of 9-11. America’s attack on Iraq was based on lies and fabrications. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions have died. Millions are refugees, their families dispersed on the wind. Babies are born each day with horrendous birth defects. Children die from cancers and diseases unheard of prior to America’s attack. President Obama often claims credit for ending the war in Iraq and bringing the troops home. Yet the war is not ended for those who served. Every day 22 veterans and service members kill themselves in the United States. Suicide is at epidemic levels, the death toll surpassing those killed on 9-11. No one claims credit for this. And Iraq is in chaos. Car bombs and suicide bombers kill dozens on a nearly daily basis. One thousand people died in July alone. The war is not over, though America has moved on.

Those responsible for the illegal war on Iraq remain free. Their lies have been exposed. Their crimes are obvious. Rather prosecute these men and women, Obama said he believed “We need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” There is expediency in looking forward, especially when your administration will take up the policies of your predecessor and continue to act in unlawful and immoral ways. Drone attacks now kill in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Somalia. The President reviews a “kill list” on a weekly basis. Targeted assassination is the norm. Innocent men remain imprisoned in Guantánamo. Libya is decimated after our humanitarian intervention.

Syria, already in shattered from war, is now under threat of an American attack. After two years of watching the carnage unfold, an American red line has finally been surpassed. In the lead up to bombing, there has been little looking ahead and many calls to never forget. Hitler has been conjured by Kerry, Clinton, Obama and the media pundits, as usual, when America wants to demonize a “brutal dictator” like Ahmadinejad, like Hussein, like Gaddafi and now Assad. Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons (supplied by the United States) against Iran has also been called upon as evidence of Assad’s depravity. There has been no mention of America’s use of chemicals. No mention of dropping Agent Orange on Vietnam and the ongoing health crisis in that country four decades later. No mention of napalm (for this John Kerry should hang his head in shame). No mention of the chemicals sprayed over wide swaths of Latin America in our endless “War on Drugs”. No mention of white phosphorus used on civilians in Fallujah. Our “never forgetting” has its limits, you see, as does our “not looking backwards”. Quoting Kerry, “Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity.” Unfortunately our morality has its limits as well.

President Obama claims our ideals, principles, and “world leadership” are at stake in Syria.

Laying out his moral justification for a cruise missile attack, on the eve of Sept 11th, Obama had the audacity to claim, “America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death, and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act. That’s what makes America different. That’s what makes us exceptional. With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.”

With humility and resolve Americans should deal honestly with our past, with our present, and with our dire future. With modest effort and risk we can make the future safer for all children. We can do this by simply demanding accountability of our leaders and recognizing the only thing that is exceptional about America is our inability to see other’s lives as valuable as our own.

No one forgets the loss of loved ones at the hands of their oppressors. No one forgets their child’s (or their parent’s) suicide when they return from war. Loved one’s memories are long and children inherit the stories. Looking forward does not erase the past, except perhaps in the “victor’s” history books.

In time, Hilary Clinton, John Kerry and Obama will find their places in history alongside Rumsfeld, Rice, Cheney, and Bush. Each and every one of them are hypocrites, liars, and war criminals. And as the world has paid for the criminal acts of 9-11, we Americans will one day pay for our countries crimes.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Hunger Strike Song

Day 96 of a Hunger Strike at Guantanamo. The vast majority of the prisoners are participating. Many are being force fed. Contact your Congress people, contact the White house. Demand action. Close Guantanamo. Free all the men who are cleared for release. Share this song. Stand and sing!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I've Seen Them Before

i haven’t looked at the images from Boston. i’ve seen them before. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and myriad other places.

i haven’t read the stories emanating out of Boston. i’ve heard them before. Roz Mohammed, whose brother was killed in a drone attack in rural Afghanistan; little Ayoub, who was blown to pieces under the lemon tree in the family garden in Gaza City, his mother holding a blood splattered lemon as she spoke of her little boy, kissing her goodbye and running outside to go to school; eight year old Fares, the “generator” of the family decapitated as he slept in the family home in Beit Hanoun. These stories are commonplace in the world where American foreign policy is at work. And i am tired of hearing them. i am tired of mourning tents and mother's tears. My heart has been carved into little pieces. In this butcher shop of a world i begin again.

The mistake is the belief that there is a difference between here and there. There is not.

People, all of us, have been paying in endless death and dismemberment. If you woke up angry and vengeful this morning, take a very careful look in the mirror. Go beyond this blemish or that, and look in those angry eyes. Delve deep and see how tarnished and hard our hearts have become. If you do not recognize that the children killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, are as very precious as your children or the children injured and killed in Boston, you are gravely mistaken, you have been blinded.

We Americans, each and every one of us, are killers. We are supporters of terrorism. Each and every time a child is killed by a drone, a tank shell, a bomb (errant or not), machine gun fire, we hold the trigger. We are the terrorists we have been searching for.

There is no "just war". There is no "legal bombing". There is only hatred and ignorance or love. Until we recognize our place as perpetrators in this terrible cycle, hate and ignorance will out.

i choose love.

These stories resonate in light of Boston. It is beyond the time to find a new course in the world.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Land Day is Everyday, Everywhere

In the end they will take it.
Why not surrender?
Relent . Give up.
Decades of struggle.
Stones vs. tanks.
Like arrows vs. Gatling guns.
It’s silly.
Undeniable as well.

They want it all.
Every last hectare.
Did they tell you?
There is no place for you.
Did they tell you?
Your children will die.

Manifest destiny.
Propaganda to propagate
colonizers on native land.
Judea and Samaria.
Propaganda to propagate
colonizers on Palestinian land.

Land day is everyday, everywhere.
It is not a nostalgic look back.
It is a possibility
of what yet might be.
A possibility to recover
what was lost.
Stolen .

A possibility to stop
the theft happening now, 
in front of you.
You don't see it? 
You think 
it's ancient history?
You are trapped.
In your settler mind.
In your colonizer comforts.
i know. 
i too live on stolen land.

Land day is everyday, everywhere.
A possibility to resurrect
a way of life.
A possibility to
recover your heart.

Surrender is not an option.
Collaboration is a crime.
The savages are the civilized.
The terrorists are the state.
The fight will continue
Until the very last stone.
Until the very last drop of blood.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

In Honor of Mahmud Zagout

Thirty-seven years after the first Land Day demonstrations, Israel continues its expropriation and colonization of Palestinian land. Israel continues to expand its illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, forcing Palestinians from their land. Palestinians also face dispossession and displacement inside Israel.

Last year i was at Erez crossing as Palestinian youth threw stones and attempted to plant the Palestinian flag on the closed gate. Dozens were shot, one was killed by a shot to the neck. Mahmoud Zagout would be 21 years old this spring. His cousin, who was with him that day and carried his limp body from the front, said to me, "Mahmoud could not place the flag at the gate. I will. Or my children will. We will continue to resist until we win our rights. Mahmoud’s blood will not be wasted. Hundreds will take his place. We will fight for our rights, for our children, we will fight until we get our land back.”

“The occupiers want us to forget about our land, and about Jerusalem, by turning our focus on our troubles- no jobs, no cooking fuel, no power, no gasoline, but we will not forget. My family is a family of resistance. My uncles have been killed, they’ve been to prison. They died for Jerusalem. Everyone around you here may die for Jerusalem. We are proud to do this.”

Today is Land Day in Palestine. 37 years and youth are still being killed as they fight for freedom. How many youth will die today, resisting to live?

Mahmoud's cousin, Nazir

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Third Day of Spring, 2013 (#2)

This morning in the news, there is a photo of a man set on fire in Egypt and an entire neighborhood in Burma burning. Man's inhumanity is neverending. As the sun rose a mourning dove perched on the fire escape and sang to me. The whole world is burning. i am beyond talking about winning and victory. What we all need, each and every one, is the ability to surrender. Surrender into our brother’s arms and declare, "i wish to live in peace."

The Third Day of Spring, 2013

Tragedy everywhere, ongoing thru time. In the moment, peace arises. On the fire escape a mourning dove coos. The sun, a fiery orange, illuminates the street. A man is set on fire in Egypt. A community burns in Burma. Ashes to ashes, but by my brother’s hand? Screams of all the victims echo across the universe, they settle in my heart. i've heard said, "My religion is kindness." To live that, in the mayhem of this life, means it is time for me to begin work. (It is always time for me to begin this work, and i begin again.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

10 Years on i Remember

10 years on.

i remember peaceful people failed to stop the crime perpetrated on the Iraqi people by my government. One day justice will be served on those who lied and manipulated us into war.


i wrote this 10 years ago today, just 1 mo after returning from Iraq with Voices and CPT. In the ensuing years, millions marched to no avail. i often wonder about the hotel clerk, and i dread to think of the life he has led over these 10 terrible years.

March 19, 2003

The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. Two overwhelming powers approach
from opposite sides. Like an animal in a steel trap, they gnaw at their own
leg, hoping somehow for freedom, even at the cost of a limb. They watch as
the smiling hunter approaches, singing songs of freedom, singing songs of
righteousness. They hear the words, "In God we trust," and "God bless

The clerk looks up and welcomes me "home" with graciousness and a smile
each time I enter the hotel. Since we have arrived in Baghdad, this man
has been kind to me, patient with my inability to speak Arabic, concerned
whether I had a good day or a bad day. He has a deep and abiding sadness
in his eyes.

Tonight, he asks, "John, what do you think about this war?" I explain that I
think it is immoral and a tragedy of enormous proportions. "Why did you
come?" he asks. I tell him I want to support my Iraqi friends and stand in
opposition to my government. I came to Iraq because he is not my enemy, but
my brother. He says, "You are better even than us. We do nothing. You come
here to help. We can do nothing, do you understand?"

"My family is here in Baghdad. My father, my brothers. Do you know I go home
each night and I just sit. I only think of one thing: 'What am I to do? War
is coming, What am I to do?' That's it. Tomorrow, the next day, I can do
nothing. I just sit. My brothers, my father, the same."

I look deeply into his eyes. Days, months, years, in this trap. "Why this
war?" he asks. I cannot answer. I want to console him, but I cannot. I want
to hold him like my child, and tell him it will be all right, but it will
not be all right.

"Thank you and your friends for being here, you have good hearts", he says.
He puts his hand over his heart--a common gesture here in Iraq. It is a
reminder for me. For a moment we stand across from each other, holding our
hearts, holding our anguish. We both begin to cry. When I can bear it no
longer, I turn and head for the lift.

The people of Iraq are caught in a trap. They watch as the smiling hunter
approaches, singing songs of freedom, and singing songs of righteousness.
Then they notice the look in the eye. The smile is not for them. The hunter
merely appreciates the prey. He is thinking he will end it quickly and go
home with his prize. The songs are not for them. In the eyes of the
approaching power freedom, democracy, and security is only for a select
group. As the prey looks up in a final plea for mercy, this truth becomes
self evident.

Among the Date Trees

On the anniversary of the start of the Iraq bombing and invasion, i dug out a piece i wrote 10 years ago when i was in Iraq with CPT and Voices.

Feb 7, 2003 -- Sitting in the shade of the palm trees, drinking fresh orange
juice, our hosts encourage us to eat more, drink more, enjoy the sun, enjoy
the company. The children are curious, our hosts relaxed. As the threat of
war looms like a firestorm on the horizon, here on this small fruit farm
the threat seems distant. The feeling is surreal. One of the boys sits next
to me and rests his head on my thigh. I love this child, who honors me with
his trust. More dates arrive, and cakes. But where, I wonder, are my
enemies here beneath the date trees? I feel no divisions here. Looking at
the table, an orange sits next to a grapefruit. Our host points out that
the skin is the same but for the color. Inside the fruit is so different,
but equally nourishing. "This is the greatness of God", he explains. I look
at his hand as he holds the orange, and I look at my hand too.

We take a brief tour of the farm, walking along a narrow path among the
orange, tangerine, and pomegranate trees, the date palms towering above us
swaying gently in the breeze. A boy no more than four picks dandelions as
he tags along (remember picking dandelions when you were just a child? It
has been too long since I have held that innocence, though it is a joy to
behold.) Our host picks oranges and insists that we eat. No is not an
answer, only yes,yes,yes. I recall the soldiers in the West Bank,
destroying olive groves under the guise of security. Where are my enemies?
Are they here amongst the silent trees?

We are invited inside to enjoy a bountiful meal. Our hosts stand behind us,
pulling tender lamb meat from the bones, and filling our bowls. The bowls
are piled high, a feast for guests who come in peace. (The skin is the
same, but for the color. The fruit inside so different, yet equally
nourishing, this is the greatness of God!)

Our leave taking is bittersweet. We place our hands on our hearts, and bow
our heads. We drive off with waves and shouts. Filled and smiling, the
truth is clear. There are no enemies here, just friends, just family. Will
we meet again? Inshallah (God willing), we will meet again, and peace will
fill the air as the date palms gently rock in the breeze.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Watch the News

Broken hearted i watch the news.
Arafat Jaradat is dead.
Thirty years old.
A son, a husband,
and a father--2 young kids.
His jailers claim a heart attack.
Broken bones in the arms, legs, neck, and back.
Tortured by the occupier he died a brutal death.
i sit at home. i watch the news.
Prisoners in the occupiers jails refuse their food.
The streets rise up, stones rain down.
Black smoke and tear gas choke the air.
i watch the news.

i want to be on a plane to beloved Palestine.
i hear the call. INTIFADA!
The Occupiers stamp in my passport
covers an entire page.
In bold black letters it reads:

Monday, January 28, 2013


Can you imagine fleeing your home in terror?

Can you imagine fleeing your home in terror and consoling your children, who have fled in their bare feet, that it is just for a short while, soon you will return home.

Can you imagine finding yourself in a refugee camp with nothing.

Can you imagine your son shot on the "border" by the same forces that occupy your land until this day? Can you imagine they dare call your son "terrorist".

Can you imagine dreaming all these years later of the olive groves you planted as a child?

Can you imagine 65 years later, as you lay dying, handing the key to your home to your grand children and telling them, "One day you will return home. One day you will be free!"