NORMAN SOLOMON – As candidates and in office, the last two Democratic presidents have been young, dynamic and often progressive-sounding, while largely serving the interests of Wall Street, big banks, military contractors and the like. Do we need to make it three in a row?
HOWARD ZINN – It would be naive to depend on the Supreme Court to defend the rights of poor people, women, people of color, dissenters of all kinds. Those rights only come alive when citizens organize, protest, demonstrate, strike, boycott, rebel, and violate the law in order to uphold justice.
MEL GURTOV – How should we evaluate Obamaâ€™s foreign policy record? Right-wing critics will of course excoriate Obama for all the usual thingsâ€”weakness against adversaries like Russia and China, negotiating with instead of subverting Cuba and Iran, eviscerating the US military, undermining relations with Israel. On the left, Obama is already being cast as another liberal leader whose actions failed to deliver on his promises, from Guantanamo to the Middle East. Historians will have plenty of things to quarrel about, but we need not wait.
MEDEA BENJAMIN – It would certainly be easy to do a piece about 10 horrible events from 2015, from the ongoing war in Syria and the refugee crisis, to the bombings in Beirut, Paris and San Bernardino, to the rise of Donald Trump and Islamophobia. But that wouldnâ€™t be a very inspiring way to bid farewell to this year and usher in a new one. So letâ€™s look at 10 reasons to feel better about 2015.
PHYLLIS BENNIS – France is in mourning and in shock. We still donâ€™t know how many people were killed and injured. In fact, thereâ€™s a lot we still donâ€™t knowâ€”including who was responsible. The ISIS claim of responsibility tells us virtually nothing about who really planned or carried out the attacks; opportunist claims are an old story. But the lack of information hasnâ€™t prevented lots of assumptions about who is â€œobviouslyâ€ responsible and what should be done to them. Already the call is rising across Franceâ€”â€œthis time itâ€™s all-out war. But we do know what happens when cries of war and vengeance drown out all other voices; weâ€™ve heard them before.
MEL GURTOV – The dynamics of how the American taxpayer is endlessly tapped to provide massive and unnecessary funds for the US military is explained. Gurtov is not writing about the core military requests for defense of the U.S., but rather the corruption and global adventurism that places US personnel in harms way, and cheats the U.S. itself out of funds needed for the well being of our people.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER – The awareness that must emerge from a decade-and-counting of torture revelations is that absolute power over others does not keep us safe and should not be pursued. And torture is only a minute fraction of the wrong we promulgate through unchecked militarism, the aim of which is domination of the planet. Step one in the unhealthy pursuit of power is the dehumanization of â€œthe enemy.â€ The consequences of what we do after that will always haunt us.
KATHY KELLY – â€œGuantanamo Diary,â€ by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, is his story of being imprisoned in Guantanamo since 2002. In all his years of captivity, he has never been charged with a crime. He has suffered grotesque torture, humiliation and mistreatment, and yet his memoir includes many humane, tender accounts, including remembrances of past Ramadan fasts spent with his family.
KATHY KELLY – From January 4-12, 2015, Witness Against Torture (WAT) activists assembled in Washington D.C. for an annual time of fasting and public witness to end the United States’ use of torture and indefinite detention and to demand the closure, with immediate freedom for those long cleared for release, of the illegal U.S. prison at Guantanamo.
CLIFF SLOAN – When I began as the State Departmentâ€™s envoy for closing the detention facility at GuantÃ¡namo Bay, many people advised me that progress was impossible. They were wrong.
ALICE SLATER – A secret US government legal memo, prepared for President Obama, was recently ordered to be released to the public by a Federal Court responding to a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The Administrationâ€™s legal reasoning clearly fails to justify the use of pilotless drones, controlled by a killer operator, sitting behind a desk somewhere in the US, aiming his computer joy stick at human targets on the ground, thousands of miles away.
TOM ENGELHARDT – The United States has been at warâ€”major boots-on-the-ground conflicts and minor interventions, firefights, airstrikes, drone assassination campaigns, occupations, special ops raids, proxy conflicts and covert actionsâ€”nearly nonstop since the Vietnam War began. Thatâ€™s more than half a century of experience with war, American-style, and yet few in our world bother to draw the obvious conclusions. Given the historical record, those conclusions should be staring us in the face. They are, however, the words that canâ€™t be said in a country committed to a military-first approach to the world, a continual build-up of its forces, an emphasis on pioneering work in the development and deployment of the latest destructive technology, and a repetitious cycling through styles of war from full-scale invasions and occupations to counterinsurgency, proxy wars, and back again.
JOHN LAFORGE – Four more innocents were released from Americaâ€™s Robben Island this month. Our offshore penal colony at Guantanamo Bay still holds 158 prisoners, 84 of whom have been cleared for release. The men sent home were never charged with a crime and were cleared four years ago.
DAVID SWANSON – When Barack Obama became president, there were 32,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. He escalated to over 100,000 troops, plus contractors. Now there are 47,000 troops these five years later. Measured in financial cost, or death and destruction, Afghanistan is more President Obamaâ€™s war than President Bushâ€™s. Now the White House is trying to keep troops in Afghanistan until â€œ2024 and beyond.â€
JOHN LAFORGE – The U.S. Army School of the Americas in Ft. Benning, Georgia is a notorious training operation for Latin American officers and soldiers. Itâ€™s associated with some of the worst dictatorships and human rights violators in the hemisphere. Over the past 20 years, the grassroots School of Americas Watch (SOA Watch) has grown into one of the most dynamic, multi-generational, cross-continental movements against militarism in the Americas (SOAW.org/November).
DAVID SWANSON – Evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” is “no slam dunk,” U.S. officials are saying this time around, reversing the claim made about Iraq by then-CIA director George Tenet. Opposition to a U.S.-led attack on Syria is growing rapidly in Europe and the United States, drawing its strength from public awareness that the case made for attacking Iraq had holes in it.
BIG NEWS NETWORK.COM – George W. Bush and several other members of his administration have been found guilty of war crimes by the Kuala Lumpur Foundation to Criminalise War.
CHRIS HEDGES – Attorneys Carl J. Mayer and Bruce I. Afran filed a complaint Friday in the Southern U.S. District Court in New York City on my behalf as a plaintiff against Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta to challenge the legality of the Authorization for Use of Military Force as embedded in the latest version of the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by the president Dec. 31.
NAOMI WOLF – I never thought I would have to write this: but – incredibly – Congress has now passed the National Defense Appropriations Act, with Amendment 1031, which allows for the military detention of American citizens. The amendment is so loosely worded that any American citizen could be held without due process.
JENNIFER M. FREEDMAN – President Barack Obamaâ€™s failure to close Guantanamo Bay and his decision to try some prisoners in military courts are â€œextremely disappointing,â€ said the United Nationsâ€™ top human-rights official.
CHARLES BUSCH: Our nation is presently involved in a debate about the sanctioned use of torture by the United States since 9/11. Is it enough to denounce torture and focus on the future, or do we need to investigate the past and seek accountability?
JORGE HEINE: The initial trickle of evidence about the many illegal ways in which Washington pursued its counterterrorist offensive from 2001 to 2008, first exposed by the pictures from Abu Ghraib in 2004, has turned into a veritable flood.