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Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Clinton vs. Obama on the Death Penalty
Obama seems a reticent supporter of executions. Clinton, as on most issues, seems to be a chameleon.
Running for U.S. Senate, Obama said he favored the death penalty for only the most heinous of murders, such as serial killing. But Obama qualified his stance, saying that his support eroded further when looking at how the death penalty "is currently administered in this country." All three candidates agreed that the capital punishment system should be overhauled. ICADP.
Sen. Kucinich's website labels Obama, Clinton, and Edwards pro-death penalty, to varying degrees. Obama andClinton both voted to prevent funds from being available to assist countries that refuse to extradite individuals to the US because of the moral objections of those countries to the death penalty. "Apparently, this is one of Obama's shifting positions." Bill Richardson, from all appearances already an also-ran this cycle, had the worst record according to Kucinich (which he does).
Amy Goodman reported in summer'04 that Obama "was involved very intimately in drafting and passing legislation that requires the video taping of police interrogations and confessions in all capital cases. And he also was one of the co-sponsors of this very comprehensive reform or the death penalty system in Illinois, which many people say may trigger the retreat on the death penalty in many other states."
In 1998, Obama supported policies to implement penalties other than incarceration for certain non-violent offenders, increase state funds for programs which rehabilitate and educate inmates during and after their prison sentences, and provide funding for military-style "boot camps" for first-time juvenile felons.
This quote from Clinton in 1994 shows her stance on general criminal law issues clearly: "We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders. The three strikes and you’re out for violent offenders has to be part of the plan. We need more prisons to keep violent offenders for as long as it takes to keep them off the streets."
OTOH, Clinton sponsored the federal Innocence Protection Act, allowing federal funding for DNA testing of evidence used in capital cases.
I wasn't able to find a good quote of her stance on executions per se. The Village Voice, though, notes her "unbending" support. But hey, just lick your finger, put it in the air, and feel the breeze - that's where Hillary will blow.
By the way, Bill Clinton, while campaigning for President, flew back to Arkansas to witness the execution of a mentally retarded man whom he had denied clemency, Rickey Ray Rector, a 40-year-old black man convicted of killing a black police officer. After shooting the cop, Rector shot himself in the head and damaged his brain. On the way out of the death cell, the inmate was asked if he wanted to finish his pie. He said he'd finish it when he came back.
Pres. Bush has accepted a House Republican resolution, which may be offered as early as next week and calls for the creation of military, political and social "benchmarks" to monitor the success of an increase in U.S. troops and hold Bush and Iraqi government accountable.
The proposal also calls for creation of a bipartisan congressional panel to monitor implementation of the benchmarks.
Pres. Bush: "Most people understand the consequences of failure. If failure is not an option, then it's up to the president to come up with a plan that is more likely to succeed."
The Reuters story doesn't explain why, but Speaker Pelosi opposes the resolution. The only reason I can think of is that the plan doesn't go far enough for Democratic lawmakers -- and that shows the Dems' cojones, it seems.
Adel Hamad was a teacher of elementary school orphans, a hospital worker, and someone who coordinated the delivery of food, medicine and blankets to refugees. He has been imprisoned for 5 years and classified as an enemy combatant, despite the lack of any allegations or evidence that he ever acted against the U.S. or its allies, or even had political sympathies for those who did. His friends and colleagues describe him as a funny, apolitical man who loved charity work and ping-pong. One of the U.S. Army Majors at his Tribunal called his detention unconscionable.
Growing evidence shows that the majority of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay have not committed any belligerent act against the U.S. or its allies. These prisoners, who have no legal recourse, have not been given their day in court. Nor have their detentions been scrutinized by a judge. They remain in jail year after year, separated from their families, often not fully knowing the accusations against them or the identity of their accusers.
The CIA, the Defense Department, commanders in the military, have all acknowledged that there are many innocents in jail. Yet instead of expediting their release, Congress recently eliminated the writ of habeas corpus, an essential safeguard enshrined in our Constitution, against an unchecked executive power. Before habeas corpus existed, rulers could throw people in jail without justification and without the prisoner having the right to defend himself in court.
The good news is that with the convening of the new congress in 2007, several senators are pressing to revisit the Military Commission Act, which nullified habeas corpus. This will no doubt help to shed new light on the situation of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and improve the chances of the release of Mr. Hamad and other innocent detainees.
You can help this cause by spreading the word of Adel Hamad's case to your friends and family. Read more at Project Hamad learn how you can be involved.
A current detainee speaks of the torture and humiliation he has experienced at Guantanamo since 2002.
By Jumah al-Dossari, JUMAH AL-DOSSARI is a 33-year-old citizen of Bahrain. This article was excerpted from letters he wrote to his attorneys. Its contents have been deemed unclassified by the Department of Defense. January 11, 2007
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba — I AM WRITING from the darkness of the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo in the hope that I can make our voices heard by the world. My hand quivers as I hold the pen.
In January 2002, I was picked up in Pakistan, blindfolded, shackled, drugged and loaded onto a plane flown to Cuba. When we got off the plane in Guantanamo, we did not know where we were. They took us to Camp X-Ray and locked us in cages with two buckets — one empty and one filled with water. We were to urinate in one and wash in the other.
At Guantanamo, soldiers have assaulted me, placed me in solitary confinement, threatened to kill me, threatened to kill my daughter and told me I will stay in Cuba for the rest of my life. They have deprived me of sleep, forced me to listen to extremely loud music and shined intense lights in my face. They have placed me in cold rooms for hours without food, drink or the ability to go to the bathroom or wash for prayers. They have wrapped me in the Israeli flag and told me there is a holy war between the Cross and the Star of David on one hand and the Crescent on the other. They have beaten me unconscious.
What I write here is not what my imagination fancies or my insanity dictates. These are verifiable facts witnessed by other detainees, representatives of the Red Cross, interrogators and translators.
During the first few years at Guantanamo, I was interrogated many times. My interrogators told me that they wanted me to admit that I am from Al Qaeda and that I was involved in the terrorist attacks on the United States. I told them that I have no connection to what they described. I am not a member of Al Qaeda. I did not encourage anyone to go fight for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden have done nothing but kill and denigrate a religion. I never fought, and I never carried a weapon. I like the United States, and I am not an enemy. I have lived in the United States, and I wanted to become a citizen.
I know that the soldiers who did bad things to me represent themselves, not the United States. And I have to say that not all American soldiers stationed in Cuba tortured us or mistreated us. There were soldiers who treated us very humanely. Some even cried when they witnessed our dire conditions. Once, in Camp Delta, a soldier apologized to me and offered me hot chocolate and cookies. When I thanked him, he said, "I do not need you to thank me." I include this because I do not want readers to think that I fault all Americans.
But, why, after five years, is there no conclusion to the situation at Guantanamo? For how long will fathers, mothers, wives, siblings and children cry for their imprisoned loved ones? For how long will my daughter have to ask about my return? The answers can only be found with the fair-minded people of America.
I would rather die than stay here forever, and I have tried to commit suicide many times. The purpose of Guantanamo is to destroy people, and I have been destroyed. I am hopeless because our voices are not heard from the depths of the detention center.
If I die, please remember that there was a human being named Jumah at Guantanamo whose beliefs, dignity and humanity were abused. Please remember that there are hundreds of detainees at Guantanamo suffering the same misfortune. They have not been charged with any crimes. They have not been accused of taking any action against the United States.
Show the world the letters I gave you. Let the world read them. Let the world know the agony of the detainees in Cuba.