A Letter From Me to the Reader.

A Letter.
From me to the reader.

In 2004, I had a web blog (web log?), called Left USA, on which I criticized the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
I saw plainly that the USA had made a terrible mistake, in electing a man, George W. Bush, who was more than ready to become a “war President”, and then by allowing these wars to take place. There were massive protests, yes. But it would be several years before many in the media would arrive at the same conclusion I had reached in 2004. The following is an excerpt:
Now, I find myself in the only country in the world that is currently expanding our sphere of influence in the world by invading and taking over other countries. And the recent history proves that these occupied nations are in every way worse off after our invasion. There is more opium production than ever in Afghanistan.
Iraq is a total mess, by our own admission. The only victory we can claim is the recent elections, if it be a victory at all. The pro-American slate did not win the election. The Sunnis boycotted the elections. Now, we keep our fingers crossed, hoping to avoid sectarian violence. The Kurds want autonomy. The Sunnis want a say in government (which the Shia are quick to agree to at present, but wait until “push comes to shove”). In this time following the election, violence has not abated.
Fears are that the insurgency will even grow worse. If the US forces withdraw, chaos could be the result. If they stay, the resistance will be energized.

All of this because we elected a man who said he would fight “the forces of evil”, by removing from office a man who was supposedly an “imminent threat” to the world. We deposed the Taliban from power in Afghanistan. All of this was supposed to be somehow to avenge ourselves of the attack upon the World Trade Center. We have since discovered that Iran and Afghanistan had nothing to do with the attack. We were duped by our own leadership.

So one must re-examine our former ideas about the inherent goodness of the United States of America.
But we need not hang around to watch it all go down the tube. I suggest
to all who are like-minded to consider emigrating to a more civil country.
One doesn’t need to go far. Canada is a lovely country, quite
accessible, and their west coast is beautiful (and the rest, as well).
South America has some nice places. Cuba has its good points.
The cost of living in some of these places is much lower than in the
States. And if things keep going the same here, what with the patriot
act and all, you’ll probably have more freedom of speech over there, and
feel much less threatened in your new foreign home.
[End]
As you can see, even then I was considering leaving the USA. There were other things in my life at that time that made me think of foreign travel. For over a decade I had been a sign painter and designer. I specialized in painting big, high billboards on location, hanging a walkway by ropes. This entire industry underwent a sudden change in the early 2000s. Now almost none of them are hand-painted. They are printed on gigantic printing machines, onto vinyl, and stretched over the face of the sign. My trade had become obsolete.
Additionally, I had injured myself badly, by falling from a sign. My ankle was permanently deformed, as a result, and now one leg is longer than the other. My climbing and painting days were over, for two big reasons, you see. So I felt it would be good to go into teaching English overseas. This I did, in Slovakia and in the Czech Republic from 2002 to 2010. At the time of the Left USA post above, I had been to Slovakia, and then returned for a year or so, before going to Czech.
Even then, I felt pretty pessimistic about the possibility of progressive change in America. But since then, day by day, I have grown even less hopeful about the country. After being back for five years now, I have determined to leave again. This time, I want to go to Cuba, to personally protest the presence of the Guantanamo torture gulag, and to demand, alongside the Cuban people, that the military base there be dismantled, and returned to the rightful owner.
The final last straw, for me, was my disappointment in the fact that Gitmo has not been closed down, despite the promise of the President to do so. He has been strongly resisted, of course, by the Republicans, who vow to keep the damned thing open forever. I think there will be enough of these savages in government to succeed in doing just that.
Still, I must go, and be a witness against my own country, come what may. There are people there now, held illegally in permanent detention, with no rights at all. In fact, that is the reason they were taken there; to establish a “no-human-rights zone”, outside of the USA. I contend that military bases ARE part of the country, and so it is impossible to have such a place that is outside of the jurisdiction of the Constitution.
Here is an article about one of the Gitmo detainees: he wrote:
“Freedom should be much more precious for the human being than all the desires on earth. And we should never give it up regardless of how expensive the price may be.” – Tariq Ba Odah, Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, 2013
Witness Against Torture is calling for an emergency fast to highlight the case of Guantánamo prisoner, Tariq Ba Odah, a Yemeni man who has been detained at the prison without charge since 2002 and cleared for release in 2009. According to his attorneys, Tariq, who at 74 pounds—56% of his ideal body weight– is on the brink of death according to three health officials. Please consider fasting on Friday, September 18, 2015 in solidarity with Tariq Ba Odah and the remaining 115 Guantánamo prisoners.
The following is an excerpt from an article by Amy Goodman:
http://www.truthdig.com/report/print/close_guantanamo_–_then_give_it_back_to_cuba_20150107
Posted on Jan 7, 2015
This week marks the 13th anniversary of the arrival of the first post-9/11 prisoners to Guantanamo Bay, the most notorious prison on the planet. This grim anniversary, and the beginning of normalization of diplomatic relations between the U.S and Cuba, serves as a reminder that we need to permanently close the prison and return the land to its rightful owners, the Cuban people. It is time to put an end to this dark chapter of United States history.
“The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered by this order shall be closed as soon as practicable,” President Barack Obama wrote nearly six years ago, in one of his first executive orders, on Jan. 22, 2009. Despite this, the prison remains open, with 127 prisoners left there after Kazakhstan accepted five who were released on Dec. 30. There have been 779 prisoners known to have been held at the base since 2002, many for more than 10 years without charge or trial. Thanks to WikiLeaks and its alleged source, Chelsea Manning, we know most of their names.
Col. Morris Davis was the chief prosecutor in Guantanamo from 2005 to 2007. He resigned, after an appointee of George W. Bush overrode his decision forbidding the use of evidence collected under torture. Davis later told me, “I was convinced we weren’t committed to having full, fair and open trials, and this was going to be more political theater than it was going to be justice.” Obama did create a special envoy for Guantanamo closure, although the person who most recently held the position, Cliff Sloan, abruptly resigned at the end of December without giving a reason. In a just-published opinion piece in The New York Times, Sloan wrote, “As a high-ranking security official from one of our staunchest allies on counterterrorism (not from Europe) once told me, ‘The greatest single action the United States can take to fight terrorism is to close Guantanamo.’”
[End]
Guantanamo, and our ‘black sites’, where torture is still carried out, are indeed the greatest recruiting tools for ISIS, and Al Qaeda. The following are excerpts from a fine commentary on the ongoing USA torture program:
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
>http://truth-out.org/buzzflash/commentary/the-united-states-must-stop-perpetuating-an-ever-changing-enemy?tmpl=component&print=1
“The existence of the approximately 14,000 photographs will probably cause yet another delay in the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as attorneys for the defendants demand that all the images be turned over and the government wades through the material to decide what it thinks is relevant to the proceedings.”
This was the Washington Post a few days ago, informing us wearily that the torture thing isn’t dead yet. The bureaucracy convulses, the wheels of justice grind. So much moral relativism to evaluate.
What more can we learn that we don’t already know?
“On Nov. 20, 2002, (Gul) Rahman was found dead in his unheated cell. He was naked from the waist down and had been chained to a concrete floor. An autopsy concluded that he probably froze to death.”
So the Los Angeles Times informed us in December, in an article about two psychologists, Bruce Jessen and James Mitchell, who were serving their country in the early days of the War on Terror by developing the CIA’s torture methodology.
“When he was left alone,” the article reported, describing another detainee’s experience, “(Abu) Zubaydah ‘was placed in a stress position, left on a waterboard with a cloth over his face, or locked in one of two confinement boxes.’
“In all, he spent 266 hours — 11 days and two hours — locked in the pitch-dark coffin, and 29 hours in a much smaller box. In response, he ‘cried,’ ‘begged,’ ‘whimpered’ and grew so distressed that ‘he was unable to effectively communicate,’ the interrogation team reported.
“The escalating torment, especially the waterboarding, affected some on the CIA team. ‘It is visually and psychologically very uncomfortable,’ one wrote. Several days later, another added, ‘Several on the team profoundly affected . . . some to the point of tears and choking up.’”
And a few weeks ago, The (U.K.) Telegraph, quoting from the Senate Intelligence Committee Report, described the experience of Majid Khan, who “was raped while in CIA custody (‘rectal feeding’). He was sexually assaulted in other ways as well, including by having his ‘private parts’ touched while he was hung naked from the ceiling. . . .
“‘Majid had an uncovered bucket for a toilet, no toilet paper, a sleeping mat and no light. . . . For much of 2003 he lived in total darkness.’”
And the awkward part of all this, for defenders of the military bureaucracy, is that these torture procedures produced no information of any value. We sold our soul to the devil and got nothing at all in return. Bad deal.
[End]
And now, even recently, you see Brennan and Cheney, and people of high office, saying that we can’t completely give up on the torture tactics. They justify those who were involved. The moral compass of our country has become de-evolved into a testosterone-stoked beating on the chest, of being “tough on terror”.
And so, I am pessimistic about the future of the country. I believe that dissent, which is already criminalized, will be tolerated less and less, until honest journalists will not be able to live state-side. They will be harassed and spied-upon, arrested, and marginalized more and more. And it’s getting worse fast. If, God forbid, a Republican gets into the white house, (and I don’t think it’s possible), but IF other candidates divide against each other, resulting in a Republican government, of course things will get worse immediately. I don’t think I would be safe if I stayed here, and continued to strongly criticize the USA government.
My problem IS with the government, you see, and not with the American people, most of whom have no idea what their government is doing. Which is a good reason to continue speaking out, strongly enough to make a difference, and to affect change.
But I believe I would be better-off in Cuba, which is a government that has, historically, not co-operated with the USA, though I know that no human on earth is beyond the reach of the American special forces.
So I’m making plans to go. I envision something like a tent, beside the road to Guantanamo Naval base, with big signs and banners, protesting daily. I know, it sounds simplistic, idealistic. It is. And I know there’ll be troubled times in this kind of mission. But I have made the decision to become a revolutionary. Chris Hedges described the revolutionary mind in this way:
I think that sublime madness — James Baldwin writes it’s not so much that [revolutionaries] have a vision, it’s that they are possessed by it. I think that’s right. They are often difficult, eccentric personalities by nature, because they are stepping out front to confront a system of power [in a way that is] almost a kind of a form of suicide. But in moments of extremity, these rebels are absolutely key; and that you can’t pull off seismic change without them.
Yet you rebel not only for what you can achieve, but for who you become. In the end, those who rebel require faith — not a formal or necessarily Christian, Jewish or Muslim orthodoxy, but a faith that the good draws to it the good. That we are called to carry out the good insofar as we can determine what the good is; and then we let it go. The Buddhists call it karma, but faith is the belief that it goes somewhere. By standing up, you keep alive another narrative. It’s one of the ironic points of life. That, for me, is what provides hope; and if you are not there, there is no hope at all.
[End quote.]
Well, I started out writing about my pessimism, and ended up with brother Hedges’ quote about hope. But I’m not pessimistic about everything. For my future, I see an exciting time, during which I’ll, no doubt, confront many challenges and problems. There will be set-backs, delays, and so-forth. But just to know that I am doing all I can, day in and day out, for a cause that I strongly believe in, this will give me enormous satisfaction. Also, I’m sure I’ll meet a lot of nice Cuban people, and have a lot of interesting conversations. And, not least, but lastly, I do have my faith in God, as a liberal Christian, and I know that He (/She) will go with me anywhere.
Thank you for being a reader.
Thomas Ashez

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