War & Peace
Activist Elliott Adams to speak on Guantanamo Bay this weekend
By Chris O'Neal 11/14/2013
Former president of Veterans for Peace Elliott Adams is making two stops in Ventura this week to discuss his goal of closing Guantanamo Bay and ideas and resources for becoming involved in political activism.
Adams, a Vietnam veteran, recently ended an 80-day hunger strike that left him 45 pounds lighter. After undergoing the protest alongside Code Pink co-founder Diane Wilson and members of Veterans for Peace, Adams started his Close Gitmo U.S. speaking tour, coinciding with movement action plan (M.A.P.) workshops to influence activists by giving them the tools needed to carry on.
Currently, 164 prisoners remain in Guantanamo Bay, 86 have been cleared of any wrong-doing, and less than a dozen have been charged with an actual crime.
Adams spoke with the Reporter from Portland, Ore.
VCReporter: Why a speaking tour?
Elliott Adams: Over half of the people who are in Gitmo right now have been declared innocent and are free to be released, and that has been a year since the government has said they are free to be released. Most of them have been cleared two or three times before that.
It became clear that they were so frustrated and discouraged that the only way to get out of there was to die, so they exercised their First Amendment right to go on a hunger fast. It’s clearly a First Amendment issue; it’s trying to deliver a message and it doesn’t hurt anybody at all. And the response was that our soldiers in uniform exercised another form of torture which was to force-feed; and force-feeding is recognized by the American Medical Association, by the World Medical Association and by international law that to force-feed a competent patient is torture.
I realized what a terrible situation these guys are in and I just feel their pain; I had to do something. So what did I do? I went on this fast for 80 days, and when that was over I thought of what I could do next and decided the next thing I could do was talk about it.
Is there still political support to close Gitmo? President Obama promised to close Guantanamo Bay — it didn’t seem to go anywhere.
I think you’re picking and choosing what he said. He also said that you have to make me do what’s right. Remember that? That’s what we’re about now. I’m not asking Obama to close Gitmo. I’m not asking Congress to close Gitmo. I’m saying we build a social movement to get a majority of Americans to believe that it’s time to close Gitmo, and that will do it.
Do you think Gitmo has damaged our standing worldwide when we speak of human rights?
I think that qualifies as the understatement of the century, maybe the understatement since the existence of this country. There’s no question about it. Not only is it so serious that it’s totally obliterated our ability to talk about human rights, it’s also why it’s the biggest security threat we have. The first thing the government has to do to get you to kill other people is to demonize them. If anyone wants to demonize the United States, all they have to do is point to Gitmo. That’s it! It’s all done.
What can people get out of the M.A.P. workshops and how do you get more people involved?
M.A.P. isn’t necessarily about Gitmo but it applies to Gitmo, it applies to people who are involved in activism and get frustrated because they can’t move ahead and need to know what to do next. If you were in San Diego and going to New York, I could give you easy directions. Go east until you hit the ocean and then go north. Those are directions, right? Easy enough? What do you think the chances are people get discouraged halfway there?
All social movements go through the same stages, whether you’re trying to get a crossing light put in at your high school or you’re trying to abolish war. Big movements and small movements go through the same steps, and we can learn from them, and we will be more effective if we understand where we’re going and what we’re trying to do.
Elliott Adams will present “Guantanamo – A National Security Risk, A Plan to Close It” today, Thursday, Nov. 14, 3 p.m. at Ventura College, 4667 Telegraph Road, Ventura. On Saturday, Nov. 16, Adams will host a M.A.P., Movement Action Plan Workshop, at 2:30 p.m followed by a dinner and a presentation of “Guantanamo – A National Security Risk,” at Unitarian Universalist Church, 5654 Ralston St., Ventura. For more information, visit www.closegitmo.net.”