|They Got Me!|
From the Buffalo Alt Press
February 1, 2005 ? My trial is over, and I?ve been sentenced to the six-month statutory maximum, plus a $500 fine. I still don?t think that I actually succeeded in crossing that fence at Fort Benning, Georgia, in violation of a standing ban and bar letter... but, well, Judge Faircloth disagrees with my assessment of the situation. Hence the sentence.
I posted a $250 self-report bond and went home to ice-cold Buffalo, New York.
At some point in the future, I?ll be in prison, somewhere. I will have to deliver myself to my... um... new home. And I will have to serve every day of that six-month sentence. There is no such thing as ?good time? in the federal system for people whose sentences are twelve months or shorter. Keeping me in federal prison for every day of that six-month sentence is an expensive business, far more expensive than a sentence consisting of probation, community service, and a fine. The average annual cost for keeping someone in prison is $25,341, and that could be a low estimate, but it?s the estimate that I?ve read. Quite a few folks have to be hired to babysit me, ensure that I work at my ?job,? and make sure that I don?t keel over while I?m in the pokey? correctional officers, perimeter guards, counselors, case managers, unit managers, lieutenants, captains, physician assistants, foremen, dentists, nurses, wardens, etc., etc. They all need to be paid salaries and benefits. Locking people up doesn?t come cheap but, well, I suppose that it does mean that a lot of people get good government jobs with benefits, instead of McJobs (?do you want fries with that??).
Well, now that I?ve dispensed with the rules and expenses concerning my future, I?ll switch to another topic, uncertainty. This is an issue that people face after they have posted their self-report bonds and have gone home. When will that dreaded letter appear in the mailbox? Or even worse, will that dreaded letter appear at all? If the dreaded letter does not appear, how do people know when and where they are to go to serve their sentences? You do want to make sure that you arrive at your new home on schedule. After all, having the U.S. marshals come to your house to remove you and deliver you to your designated prison via U.S. marshal-mobile (or? eeek? con-air) can be rather embarrassing and it can cause your neighbors to gossip for years. Not everyone wishes to be the focal point of such a dramatic display.
Most of us prefer our dramatic displays to be on television or in the movie theater, not at our houses.
The dramatic display in the movie theater was ?Hotel Rwanda.? It?s the true story of a hotel manager, Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle), who managed to save the lives of approximately 1,200 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. The movie is shocking and sad, yet it offers hope. There is hope because people such as Paul Rusesabagina (a Hutu married to a Tutsi) exist... to save lives and to point out injustice. He said, after the foreign troops removed the tourists from the hotel and then departed, to the Rwandans left behind, ?We are going to shame them into helping us.? Indeed they did. Approximately one million human beings were killed before the genocide came to an end.
Another view of the violence that people seem to be constantly perpetrating against one another can be found on television. This dramatic display is the series, ?24.? It?s sort of like a comic book format, but with live performers. It features government types versus terrorists. Both sides are very committed to winning in the terrible struggle, and they are willing to win at any cost. Ordering one?s own son to be killed or tortured is a small price to pay for the victory of the cause. The good guys seem to be quite bad and the bad guys seem to be quite bad. Certainly, they are very bad dads. Kiefer Sutherland plays Jack Bauer, an agent busily trying to save the day. His boss, Erin Driscoll (Alberta Watson), doesn?t like that and is trying to stymie his attempt to save the day so that she can save the day first and get the credit (and not get upstaged by the upstart agent). The day, however, is still young. It must be early in the day because not a single one of the characters has had any sort of need to eat or use the restroom facilities. It?s just as well because the one character who gave in to the urge to indulge in a beverage is now deceased as a result of having consuming a glassful of poisoned tea, served up by her boyfriend?s (terrorist) mommy dearest. The end of each episode leaves all of the characters... and indeed the entire United States... in terrible peril.
Of course, our fearless leader, namely George W. Bush (played by himself), would have us believe that the United States is perpetually in terrible peril, which is why he couldn?t be dumped after four years of wreaking havoc. John Kerry (also played by himself) was too big of a flip flopper to wreak havoc in the expert style of George W. Bush. Besides, John Kerry was completely incapable of Bushian election stealing, resulting in his suffering an ignominious defeat (colored red) in the state of Ohio and elsewhere. Besides, Bush is a war president and defeating him would be a victory for? well, we won?t go there... yes, that?s ?war president,? not ?warped president.?
No, I didn?t get sentenced to prison on a charge of being obnoxious and insulting the fearless leader of the free world. That?s annoying, not illegal. I got sentenced for ?illegal re-entry onto a United States military reservation,? which is sort of like crashing a party, except, instead of getting greeted by nice folks bearing champagne and hors d?oeuvres who are too embarrassed to admit that they have forgotten your name (they never knew it), you get greeted by military police bearing handcuffs. The whole idea for crashing the Fort Benning party is to tell the party hosts to evict the badly behaved guests, known as the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly called the School of the Americas). The badly behaved guests are quite out of control, training their students (Latin American military types) in unpleasant subjects (torture and assassination), under the guise of ?counter insurgency training.?
I objected most strenuously to the instruction in unpleasant subjects. I also objected to being arrested for objecting to the instruction in unpleasant subjects. I objected even more to being arrested pre-emptively, before I actually found myself on the grounds of Fort Benning. I?m not sure that litigation is done on that particular issue, so I will change the subject.
What can I say about a School of Assassins that hasn?t already been said by people who are more analytical than I of the issues involved with the continued operation of such a school? I think that Amnesty International said it all, in its November 2002 report, ?Unmatched Principles, Unmet Power.? Suspend operations of the school, pending an independent investigation by a truth and reconciliation commission. Require public apologies for those responsible for the training and torture manuals, expect reparations to the victims, levy appropriate punishments for those who taught torture and assassination. If you?d like to read the Amnesty International report, take a look at the SOA Watch website (soaw.org), where you can find the appropriate link.
So what can you do to support Alice? Well, when you do stuff to try to close the School of the Assassins, you are supporting Alice. I wanted to cross that fence to say no to torture and assassination and yes to human rights and to life. That was my intention. Each letter that you write to Congress, each phone call that you make to a reporter, each petition that you sign, etc., etc., is helping me to say no to torture and assassination and yes to human rights and to life. It is spreading the word that, as a nation, we can do better. Please write, fax, or call your representative in Congress to ask them to co-sponsor the new bill that will come out soon as the successor to HR 1258. It will be sponsored by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). In future installments, I will be able to give you a bill number, when it becomes available.
There may be other things that you can do to support Alice more directly, and I (or my support people) will let you know about those, too.
For now, I am here, in Buffalo... and am available to speak to groups about the School for Assassins!
Until next time!
5525 Illinois Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20011
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Madeleine Breen of the Dominican Sisters of Peace