Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Human Rights Day March & Rally Dec 11, 2010, Seattle

Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture is proud to support this Human Rights Day event!


Saturday December 11, 2010, rain or shine!

gather 11:30 am at Hing Hay Park, Maynard Ave S at S Jackson St, International District, Seattle

Human Rights Day rally and march 2010 Theme: "Imagine Human Rights" initiated by PUSO (Philippine-United States Solidarity Organization) which has organized successful events around International Day of Human Rights in Seattle for several years. Take a Stand Against Human Rights Abuse and Work Together to Imagine a World Where Human Rights are Valued!

March starting noon through downtown for 1 pm (approximate time) rally at Victor Steinbrueck Park just north of Pike Place Market.

Endorsed by many peace and justice groups including
Amnesty International,
Anak Bayan Seattle,
Arts Kollective,
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA),
Backbone Campaign,
Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites,
Community Alliance for Global Justice,
Evergreen Peace & Justice Community,
Interfaith Network of Concern for the People of Iraq,
International Action Center,
Philippine-United States Solidarity Organization (PUSO),
Pinay sa Seattle,
Pride at Work,
Seattle Chapter Fellowship of Reconciliation,
Seattle CISPES
SNOW (Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War),
United Nations Association - Seattle,
Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture,
Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation.



Sat Dec 4, 10 am - 3 pm, at Filipino Community Center, 5740 MLK Jr. Way South, Seattle; Work Party, bring poster making materials and ideas, or just bring yourself!

Tues Dec 7, 6 - 8 pm, at Seattle University, Hunthausen 160. Planning meeting including discussion of security and training

Fri Dec 10, 6 - 8 pm, at Seattle University, Casey Room 517, Planning meeting includes discussion of logistics for the next day

Monday, August 16, 2010

Founder of National Religious Campaign Against Torture in Seattle Oct 16 & 17

Mark your calendar for 2 presentations!

Sat Oct 16, 7:30 pm, at Town Hall Seattle, 1119 8th Ave at Seneca, downstairs, enter on Seneca St, Seattle; Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture presents a talk by Presbyterian theologian and activist George Hunsinger, co-founder of National Religious Campaign Against Torture, on "Unfinished Business: Ending U.S. Torture Forever." Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary's Hazel Thompson McCord Professor of Systematic Theology, is the recipient of the 2010 Karl Barth prize to be conferred in 2011 by the Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany. Co-sponsored by National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Pax Christi Pacific Northwest, Seattle Chapter Fellowship of Rconciliation, Western Washington Fellowship of Rconciliation, and others to be added. Dr. Hunsinger will sign copies of his books after his presentation. Doors open 6:30 pm. Tickets $5 at or 800-838-3006, and at the door beginning at 6:30 pm. Nobody turned away for lack of funds. info or

Sun Oct 17, 10 a.m., at Plymouth Church-United Church of Christ, 1217 6th Ave, Seattle; Plymouth's Adult Forum and Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture present Presbyterian theologian and activist George Hunsinger, co-founder of National Religious Campaign Against Torture, on "Violence Finds Refuge in Falsehood". Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary's Hazel Thompson McCord Professor of Systematic Theology, is the recipient of the 2010 Karl Barth prize to be conferred in 2011 by the Union of Evangelical Churches in Germany. info

Monday, May 31, 2010

Torture Awareness Month

We encourage all congregations and individuals to participate in Torture Awareness Month. In fact, we are working to make it Torture Awareness summer.

WSRCAT supports the National Religious Campaign Against Torture's call for access to all US held prisoners by the International Committee of the Red Cross. We are collecting signatures on postcards to members of Congress, and we hope to deliver the cards in face-to-face meetings with our Washington State elected officials. See for information or download postcards at

Both WSRCAT and NRCAT call for a Commission of Inquiry to look into crimes committed since 2001, and we call on Attorney General Eric Holder to appoint a Special Prosecutor to hold accountable those responsible for US torture.
See NRCAT's petition calling for a Commission of Inquiry at or or sign on individually via the web at

WSRCAT is circulating a petition to Attorney General Eric Holder calling for a Special Prosecutor, with this wording:
"We urge you to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate ALL violations of federal law related to torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners since 2001. Those who authorized illegal policies as well as those who carried them out must be prosecuted. We believe that in order to prevent future torture and abuse, there must be full accountability."
Please contact us for postcards or petitions!

Monday, May 10, 2010

2 talks by Torture Opponent Matthew Alexander

Fri May 21, 7 - 8:30 pm, at University of Washington, Kane Hall Room #120, Seattle. Amnesty International, Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture, and the UW Law, Societies & Justice Program present Torture opponent Matthew Alexander in "A Chair, A Brain, and A Heart: An Interrogator's Mission to Return America to the Rule of Law." He has written a book and spoken out about the moral and practical objections to torture. Matthew Alexander, a former senior military interrogator in Iraq and the author of "How to Break a Terrorist: The U.S. Interrogators Who Used Brains, Not Brutality, to Take Down the Deadliest Man in Iraq." Matthew Alexander led an interrogation team that refused to use coercive interrogation methods on detainees and gathered the intelligence that directly led to the successful airstrike on Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, who was the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and mastermind of the suicide bombing campaign that helped plunge Iraq into civil war. Followed by reception with light refreshments. Free and open to the public. Event co-sponsors include American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Washington, UW American Constitution Society, UW Center for Human Rights, UW International Law Society, and Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation. info or 206-463-5653 or or

Sat May 22, 7:30 pm, at Blessed Sacrament Church, 5043 9th Ave NE, in Seattle's University District; Matthew Alexander on How To Break A Terrorist. Matthew Alexander is an outspoken opponent of torture. He refutes torture's effectiveness, citing its negative long term effects - such as recruiting for Al Qaida - and argues that torture is contrary to the American principles of freedom, liberty, and justice. His book, How to Break A Terrorist, provides an inside look at the non-coercive interrogation techniques which lead to the whereabouts and targeting of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the notorious Al Qaida leader. Matthew Alexander served fourteen years in the US Air Force, and is a former criminal investigator and interrogator for the US military. He has conducted missions in over thirty countries, and has personally conducted more than three hundred interrogations, supervising more than a thousand. He was awarded the Bronze Star for his achievements in Iraq. Sponsors include the Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture - WSRCAT, Amnesty International, and the Blessed Sacrament Peace and Justice Committee. Free and open to the public. info Nina Butorac 206-732-7351 or

Friday, February 26, 2010

quick action needed - phone Sen. Cantwell

Sen. Lindsay Graham of South Carolina has introduced a bill, S. 2977, which prohibits the Dept. Of Justice from using funds to prosecute 9-11 planners or conspirators in Federal Courts. This means that suspected terrorists would be tried in the untested and legally shaky Military Commissions system.

Under Military Commissions, innocent people would not have their rights, and guilty people might have convictions overturned later. Our courts have worked well for over 200 years. Attorney General Holder has called our justice system "one of the most effective weapons available to our government for both incapacitating terrorists and collecting intelligence from them." He called removing the courts foolish and dangerous.

PLEASE CONTACT SENATOR MARIA CANTWELL, today if possible, to OPPOSE S. 2977. She has a mixed record on this issue. Please ask for a response.

CONTACT INFO: DC phone 202-224-3441, DC fax 202-228-0514, email via, Seattle phone 206-220-6400, Seattle Fax 206-220-6404, toll-free (Seattle office) 1-888-648-7328

p.s. At 12:30 pm (Seattle time) on 2/26/10, a staff person said that Sen. Cantwell has not made up her mind yet.

Feb. 27 event Accountability for Torture

Sat Feb 27, 4 pm, at SGI-USA Seattle Culture Center, 3438 S. 148th St., Tukwila;
Culture of Peace Distinguished Speaker Series What do we do now? VALUES, DIALOGUE AND ACCOUNTABILITY IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TORTURE.

A talk by Rob Crawford, Ph.D., Professor, Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences, University of Washington, Tacoma.

Sponsored by Soka Gakkai International-USA Free and open to the public. Free parking. info

Rob Crawford is one of thirteen founding faculty of UW Tacoma and is a recipient of UWT’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He is a member of the core faculty of the IAS Master’s program, teaches in UWT’s Global Honors program, and served as Chair of the Faculty Assembly. He is also a Faculty Associate at the University of Washington Center for Human Rights. He currently teaches an undergraduate course on Torture and Human Rights and a graduate course on Torture and Ideology. In 2007, Dr. Crawford co-founded the Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture (WSRCAT), a multi-faith and secular organization committed to ending U.S. torture.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feb 17 Amnesty Intl film event cosponsored by WSRCAT

Wednesday February 17, 6:30 pm, in Johnson Hall #102, University of Washington, Seattle, map at ; Amnesty International presents a Screening of "The Response," an award-winning courtroom drama exploring the trial of a suspected enemy combatant, based on actual transcripts of the Guantanamo Bay military tribunals. This powerful film has not yet been released to the general public. Besides the 30-minute film screening, a panel of speakers will discuss the issues, including Arsalan Bukhari, the Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Washington, and Joseph McMillan, from the Perkins Coie legal defense team for Salim Ahmed Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's personal driver. Co-sponsors include Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture (WSRCAT), and the Veterans for Peace - Tacoma chapter. info on the film

Take Action! Hold US accountable for rendition and torture

MAHAR ARAR CASE. Mr. Arar is a Canadian who was apprehended by the US at JFK airport in New York where he was changing planes. The U.S. sent him to Syria where he was held for 10 months and tortured. He has never been charged with any crime. He has sued the US, and the latest court action by the US was an Appeals Court denying him the right to sue. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) is trying to get the case heard by the Supreme Court.

Please see the CCR website for more information and an easy-to-use web form to send a message to Attorney General Eric Holder to get justice for Mr. Arar.
Or you can write, phone, fax, or email directly:

Attorney General Eric Holder
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Phone 202-353-1555
Fax 202-307-6777

Monday, January 18, 2010

“Torture: Morality and Accountability” sermon by Tom Ewell

"Torture: Morality and Accountability"
Sermon at the Unitarian-Universalist Meeting House, January 10, 2010 by Tom Ewell

"Do not do unto others what you would not want done to yourself." – The Golden Rule

"Remember them that are in prison, as if you were imprisoned with them; and them that are being tortured…" Hebrews 13:3

I want to begin by thanking you all for the somewhat courageous invitation to ask me to talk to you about the unsavory topic of torture. And I want to thank each of you who actually showed up this morning. This is a difficult topic. It is a tale of immorality and illegality. And I want you to know that I speak with you this morning with my own sense of trepidation and humility as I explore with you a dark side of our human species.

Let me begin with a bit of personal history. How did I get involved and committed to the study and prevention of torture?

Like many of you I grew up in the 1950s during the Korean War that we generally considered was part of a wider war with China. And one of the often-repeated pieces of propaganda about why we were fighting that war is that "those people" didn’t care about life, and they tortured people by running bamboo under your fingernails. This made a very strong impression on me at age 9 or 10, and I thought that torture must be the most awful thing that could happen to you, and "those people" must be very awful people indeed to commit such things. Could I ever stand to be tortured myself? Do you remember any of this, those of you old enough to remember?

Now jump ahead to the photographs and disclosures of torture committed by U.S. soldiers in Abu Ghraib. During that time I was having lunch each week with one of my primary mentors at my work with the Maine Council of Churches. Charles Arbuthnot was then well into his eighties and not well. He had retired to Maine after working many years with the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva. Charles had been a Presbyterian chaplain in WWII and had accompanied the troops in the landing in Italy, and he was one of the few chaplains who survived that disastrous invasion. He went on to work with the WCC and he represented them at the Geneva Conventions. He told me that he had a special interest in the topic of preventing torture because he had argued so many times with the soldiers in the field that no matter what the temptation, they were never to torture a prisoner. That one of the main reasons we were fighting this war was because we were fighting to establish a sense of human decency on the earth where human life was respected, even the lives of our mortal enemies.

The news of Abu Ghraib was devastating to Charles. As he took in the travesty of Abu Ghraib he said he simply couldn’t believe it was true, and if it weren’t for the photos he still wouldn’t believe it. It felt like such a personal, spiritual, and national betrayal. My response to his distress was to assure him that I would take up on his behalf my own effort to confront our use of torture and try to secure the laws of the Geneva Convention against torture that he had help to establish. Charles died two months later.

So here I am trying to abolish torture in 2010. To do so I have joined cause with a number of others. I am a regular member of Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture which, in turn, is an affiliate of the national, DC based, National Religious Campaign Against Torture. And I am also on the Executive Committee of the Friends Committee on National Legislation, also based in DC, and we helped initiate the NRCAT organization. And even beyond that I work with our Quaker organization specifically dedicated to ending US torture, the Quaker Initiative to End Torture or QUIT. All of these organizations work with a network of other organizations also trying to end torture: Amnesty International, the ACLU, the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Human Rights Watch among many others.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

It has been said that even thinking about torture runs chills down most peoples’ spines, and it also freezes the ability to act. The crime is too big, too secretive, to heinous, too gruesome to contemplate let alone try to address.

That’s why I like to begin by thinking in more general terms about the wider spectrum of violence which I define, in the succinct mode of the ten second sound bite, as "any force that inflicts or threatens uninvited harm." Torture, of course, is at the brutal end of that spectrum of violence, beyond murder, even perhaps beyond war, I think, because it involves a prolonged, personal engagement with another person while causing them unbearable pain and suffering, either as punishment or to hear confessions or attempt to retrieve by force information which the tormentor assumes the person being tormented possesses.

The basic morality regulating any level of violence is summarized in one of the only teachings that is referenced in all of the 21 major religious of the world, the "Ethic of Reciprocity," or, as it is commonly called in Christian teaching, the Golden Rule. You all know it. We begin teaching it to our children when they were tiny babies: A baby bites you. You yelp out of pain and to let the baby know it hurts. When the baby is old enough you explain that biting is wrong because it hurts - and you don’t want to hurt someone because you don’t want to be hurt. At a universal level the Hebrew text says it succinctly: "What is hateful to you, do not to others. This is the law: all the rest is commentary. (Talmud, Shabbat, 31a) Or "Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you." This is repeated time and again in all major religious teachings.

So if it is so universally wrong to bite and inflict all sorts of abuse and harm on others because we don’t like that sort of treatment done to ourselves, and if torture is the absolute dregs of this violation of the Ethic of Reciprocity, if it is such a basic wrong, so universally condemned, why am I standing here in 2010 trying to get my own government and people throughout the world to stop it? How could we have justified torture as a U.S. policy? And how did it come to be done in our name within our so-called "god-fearing country?" And how is that there are still those who defend it, allow it, condone it, and rationalize it, yes, even after Obama has declared that we not longer allow torture?

The simple answer is, with all acts of violence, we humans have the ability to place ourselves sufficiently beyond or outside "the other" that we can justify abusing "the other" because we are "bigger, stronger, more righteous or simply meaner," or because we simply don’t consider "the other" worthy of our respect as a human being.

I am now reading the Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Known World, by Edward Jones that chronicles the culture of slavery in a fictitious small town in Virginia in the 1830s and 40s. Slaves were most often referred to not even as slaves but as simply "property." And as such they need not to be treated as human beings. They could be whipped, separated from their families, sold or hung with impunity because they were not just "the other" as human beings, but in a whole category that defined "the other" as non-human "property." One way of avoiding the Golden Rule, then, is simply to disregard the humanity in "the other." Disconnect. Rationalize. When we think of "the other" as property, as unequal, undeserving, unworthy, threatening subhumans, we can do awful things to them. Over history people have been able to say, "I have a right to do violence even to my spouse, my child, my employee, my neighbor, and especially ‘my enemy’ because they are below me, less than, held in utter contempt, despised and hated."

To be able to torture someone you have to disconnect from the other person, to disassociate yourself. As you inflict pain, however, you also need to disconnect and disassociate from yourself. To abuse someone, especially to torture them, does terrible violence to your own humanity because torture is a bedrock violation of a bedrock moral principle. Those who have studied torture say that a disproportionate number of people who commit torture also commit suicide; they can not live with the memories of their inhumanity to another person and apparently their own sense of inhumanity. And most are not able to function in normal relationships when they return to society.

Although members of the Bush administration and their minions – and now the it seems, unfortunately, some members of the Obama administration as well - who develop and support torture policy never have to face those they cause to be tortured. But their efforts to legally justify torture is actually the greatest crime of all because it gives permission and direction for those who actually carry it out. And perhaps even worst of all, all Americans are now implicated in this crime, and continue to pay a price in terms of our sense of shame and our loss of our moral bearings, individually, as a nation, and in the eyes of the world. It is not unlike the lingering sense of moral complicity and shame felt by many Germans who lived during the Nazi regime.

[I need to interject at this point that the other end of the spectrum from violence is non-violence. The principles of nonviolence, in contrast, emphasize connection and unity with "the other," with empathy, compassion, and kindness. It is to honor, as Quakers and others say, "that there is that of God in each of us." For many of us, this is the basis of our peace testimony: we refuse to commit violence against another human being who is also seen as carrying the image of God, even if they are our enemy.]

So back to our topic of torture and the moral disconnect. I have tried to convince you – if you even needed convincing – that torture is essentially a moral issue, an issue of the spirit and the heart, and to commit torture is an egregious assault on our hearts and our moral bearings.

Here we are on January 10, 2010, trying to figure out how we can prevent and abolish this practice of torture in our own nation and throughout the planet. Astonishingly we find it is hard work. The United States has been taken prisoner by such a terrible immoral "Tar Baby" of governmentally sanctioned torture that we can’t seem to figure out how to get away from it.

Here are some facts:

1.) No matter how our government tries to rename it ("enhanced interrogation," for example), we have committed, as a sanctioned part of our national policy, acts of torture. This has now been documented and confirmed in various testimonies and research and photos. It has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt that we have committed torture. We have committed, as a nation, a crime against humanity.

2.) The Obama administration declared in the second day of the administration that the U.S. will not conduct acts of torture. But there are reports that acts of torture continue in places like the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and our country continues the practice of rendition, of sending prisoners to other countries where torture is likely to occur.

3.) These acts of torture are in direct violation of international law that that the US has ratified. The prohibition against torture is among the most firmly anchored principles of human rights law, codified in more than ten international treaties. In 1966 the torture prohibition was given prominence in the cornerstone postwar human rights treaty, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that was ratified by some 160 countries and clearly stipulates that the prohibition against torture cannot be attenuated or suspended, even in times of public emergency. [A terrorist attack against the U.S., for example.] The most well known document against torture is included in the Geneva Conventions but it refers only to the conduct of war. The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the CAT Agreement), however, organized in 1984 and signed by President Reagan in 1988, extends to all political circumstances, including war, and explicitly applies to what is arguably the most threatening situation for people worldwide – imprisonment, abuse and torture by their own governments.

4.) It is very difficult to enforce these laws. As with the U.S. right now, and other countries like Chile in the past, national governments do not want to expose their own sinister complicity in illegal and inhuman acts such as torture. Those most likely to be prosecuted, moreover, may continue to personally hold great power within the government, or governmental agencies such as the CIA may totally resist a trial or Commission of Inquiry because of the information and the culpability it would undoubtedly expose. Unfortunately e have yet to establish the necessary international court and enforcement system that is capable of trying, convicting and punishing those who commit torture.

5.) Failure to prosecute the illegal and immoral policies and implementation of torture, however, establishes a precedent that normalizes the use of torture and puts our nation apparently above the law. Without accountability, it will be easier to commit and justify torture in the future. Any government that can operate with impunity and disregard of the law establishes the basis of tyranny and a police state. What is most at stake in the debate about torture, then, is whether we as a nation are outside the law, and if so, are we then not becoming a police state subject to despotic tyranny and lawlessness?

6.) So, my final point – my final fact - is that we have to do something, don’t we, if we don’t want to end up in a police state? Can we find the courage and political will to abide by and enforce such a basic code of law such as the prohibition of torture or will we allow ourselves to slide into a worsening condition of tyranny, lawlessness and a police state?

What recourse do we have within our democratic system that will help us address this crucial question of stopping the immoral and illegal practice of torture?

o - The first thing we recommend is that you help bring the topic out of the closet. Talk about what is at stake in our social circles and at work. We suggest writing letters, either personally or collectively, to our congressional reps – Larsen, Cantwell, and Murray – expressing our concern about the U.S. sponsored torture and accountability for it, pressing them to support anti-torture legislation and other means of accountability, stating your expectation that they will work personally to abolish torture; specifically we encourage you to write AG Holder and ask him to appoint an independent Commission of Inquiry which you can also learn more about at the NRCAT website.

o - In terms of continuing to learn about torture, we suggest a 20 minute video and study guide, "Ending U.S. Sponsored Torture: A Study Guide for People of Faith," produced by the National Religious Campaign Against Torture which available to download at their website, I also have a copy of the full length documentary, Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, to loan to those interested

o - Another suggestion is that you support one of the organizations working to prevent torture. Our own organization, WSRCAT or our national affiliate, NRCAT, of course, but the ACLU and Amnesty International among other organizations are equally active. Or even closer to home, inquire how your own denomination is addressing this issue at a national level.

o - Continue to pay attention to the continuing saga of disclosures about U.S. sponsored torture and the ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute those responsible.

o - Write your thoughts about U.S. sponsored torture in a letter to the editor, a personal blog, Facebook, or other sources of social communication.

o - Another suggestion, closer to home, is to write a prisoner in Monroe prison. Although this prisoner is hopefully not being tortured, this personal contact would engage the correspondent in the life of not only the individual prisoner, but with all those who are incarcerated throughout the world.

o - A final suggestion – the most challenging of all – would be to form a small working group to continue to address the issue of torture within your congregation if there were sufficient interest to do so.

Again, I thank you for this opportunity for me to share this concern with you and for your attentiveness to this extremely difficult topic.

I would like to close in a spirit of prayer for all those who have been subjected to torture; for those who have planned, justified, and committed the torture; and for all of us who have been implicated in this crime. May we all find a way to abolish torture from the face of the earth.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jan 18, 2010, workshop on Torture in US Prisons

Workshop "Torture in US Prisons" organized by Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture (WSRCAT) at Seattle's MLK Day celebration:

Mon Jan 18, 9:30 am, starts at Garfield High School, 400 23rd Ave at East Jefferson, Seattle; annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally and March, theme "Justice Now! Healthcare, Housing, Jobs & Education" 9:30 am workshops, 11 am rally with speakers, music; noon march, destination Federal Building, 2nd & Madison, downtown Seattle; We honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his work toward racial equality and toward economic justice for all people, for his commitment to nonviolence, and for his stand against war and militarism. one of the largest MLK Day events in the country. info or Larry Gossett 206-296-1002 or Eddie Rye, Jr., 206-786-2763