As Attorney General Eric Holder left an appropriations subcommittee hearing on Thursday I spoke loudly from the third row as he prepared to leave the room:
"We need a special prosecutor for torture, Mr. Attorney General. Americans like the rule of law. The rule of law for everybody."
He replied as he approached and walked by, surrounded by bodyguards:
"And you will be proud of your country."
I was joined by others in replying simultaneously:
"Yes, we want to be proud of our country. We're ready. No need to wait."
Holder knew exactly what it would take for me to be proud of my country, and he told me directly that I would be.
Will I? Time will tell.
Some friends from Code Pink and Veterans for Peace and I had held up signs during the hearing: "Torture Is Illegal", "Special Prosecutor", "Justice for ALL", "Are Laws for Everyone?", "Special Counsel for War Crimes", "No Torture", etc.
But I had come with a coalition of groups led by the ACLU in an attempt to present a petition to Holder asking for a special prosecutor.
Pre-hearing we presented the petition to an assistant attorney general who then sat in the front row with a few other DOJ staffers. He promised to hand Holder the petition, and I asked him again in the hallway afterwards, and he promised to hand it to him.
Here's the opening of the ACLU's press release:
"A broad coalition of advocacy groups today will deliver petitions containing a quarter million signatures to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that he appoint an independent prosecutor to investigate the Bush administration’s use of torture on terrorism suspects. The petitions were gathered by the American Civil Liberties Union, MoveOn.org Political Action, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Firedoglake.com, Democrats.com and other advocacy groups. The petitions will be delivered during Holder’s testimony before a House Appropriations Subcommittee."
And here's what I said in that press release:
"David Swanson, Washington Director of Democrats.com: 'Torturing people to compel agreement with fictional justifications for war suggests that we have not advanced greatly during the past millennium. And yet I know that we have, and that we can prove it by enforcing our laws in the face of fear and misunderstanding. A delay cannot be justified by a lack of evidence (the evidence is overwhelming) or by a political calculation. Appointing an independent special counsel to enforce our laws would give a new basis for progress in our relations with the world, a rationale for improving our criminal code moving forward, and the necessary space for congress to properly pursue accountability and prevention of future abuses of power.'"
This was my blog of the hearing. A number of congress members said and asked very good things, but the questioning was not very pointed, and the answers were either vague or put matters off until July when task forces finish their work. (Do I have to wait until then to start being proud of my country?)