December 14, 2014
Dear President Obama
During your 2008 campaign for president, you said you would close Guantanamo, but you did not. You said you were against torture, yet you continue to employ a CIA Director who defends torture and wants us to “put aside this debate and move on to issues that are relevant to our current national security challenges.” How is it possible that John Brennan, a defender of torture, can still be the Director of the CIA? There should be a no tolerance policy for the tolerance of torture. You criticized warrantlless wiretaps, yet your administration continued intrusive surveillance practices and vilified the person who brought your administration’s surveillance abuses to light. After the release of the Senate Torture Report that details some of the worst atrocities committed by the United States in my lifetime, you tell us that “it’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious in retrospect about the tough job that those folks had.” What the nation needed to hear was an unequivocal rejection of and repentance from torture. Police departments have become increasingly militarized during your administration, and you have done very little to address police brutality from the federal level. You have dramatically increased the use of drone attacks, leading to the death of hundreds of innocent people – people’s wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, husbands, fathers, brothers, sons, beloved relatives, and beloved friends; yet you continue to defend these strikes. You may have killed Osama Bin Laden, but one of his most enduring victories is that he created a context of fear in which we lost our way into believing that torture is morally acceptable and that we could justify drone strikes that kill so many innocent people.
The international community is rightly alarmed that the United States has committed a two-fold violation of the United Nations Convention against Torture, a treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory. First, our government tortured people; and second, we have failed to prosecute those who used torture or allow them to be extradited according to the universal jurisdiction of the Convention. The international community is rightly alarmed about police brutality and violence and the fact that they are so disproportionately committed against persons who are minorities. The international community is rightly alarmed that our criminal justice system is clearly unjust in its treatment of persons who are minorities. We are a nation of unjust incarceration. The international community is rightly alarmed that we continue to use the death penalty, especially given the injustices within our criminal justice system. The international community is rightly alarmed by our continued use of drone attacks killing many hundreds of innocents. President Obama, during your administration, we are continuing the dramatic loss of our moral standing in the world.
This is not what you were inspiring a nation for in your first campaign for president. These are all things that you could have addressed and still can address directly as President of the United States. You cannot blame a recalcitrant Congress for any of these decisions. You have two years to try bring some real hope and real change to this nation and to the world of which we all are a part. I pray that you will find a spark of the hope and change that you called for and renew it within your spirit and within our nation.
Still hoping for change,