Senator Carl Levin (D-Michigan) is demanding the release of Maryland man held in prison in Cuba since December 3, 2009. Senator Levin is among 18 senators calling on the Cuban Government to release Alan Gross who was held 14 months without being charged and received a 15-year prison sentence after a two-day trial. Senator Levin is the same senator sponsoring the National Defense Authorization Act with its inclusion of the terror detainee provision, which would do the same to an “enemy combatant” detained on American soil even if that person was an American citizen.
Working alongside Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), Levin has been involved in hours of debate over the provision deeming it necessary if America wants to be safe. Under this provision, a person detained will not be read their Miranda rights, allowed counsel and could be detained for an indefinite amount of time without charge or trial.
During Tuesday’s session, Senator Graham said, “”When they say ‘I want to talk to a lawyer,’ we tell them ‘Shut up! You don’t get a lawyer!’”
An amendment to exclude American citizens from this treatment was proposed by Colorado Senator Mark Udall (D). Sixty-one Senators, including nine senators asking for Alan Gross’s release, voted the Udall amendment down.
Maryland Senator Ben Cardin (D) spoke on the Senate floor today describing the pain the Gross family is experiencing. According to Cardin, Gross went to Cuba to “help the country’s small Jewish community establish an Intranet and improve its access to the internet, access which would allow the community to go online without fear of censorship or monitoring.” There are so many parallels in this story it is terrifying.
Cardin, Levin and other Senators penned a letter to Jorge Bolaños, Chief of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington, declaring the incarceration “a major setback in bilateral relations and human rights violation.”
“After two years in a Cuban prison, Mr. Gross and his family have paid an enormous personal price. Mr. Gross has lost 100 pounds and suffers from numerous medical conditions,” Cardin wrote. In addition, … Mr. Gross’s daughter and mother are both fighting cancer, and his wife is struggling to make ends meet. We strongly urge the Cuban Government to immediately release Mr. Gross on humanitarian grounds and allow him to be reunited with his family.”
Other Senators supporting this measure include: Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Maryland), Dick Durbin (D-Illinois), Bill Nelson (D-Florida), Dean Heller (R-Nevada), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana), Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island), Chris Coons (D-Delaware), Roy Blunt (R-Montana), Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin), Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island) and Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ).
Senators Heller, Lieberman, Landrieu, Casey, Whitehouse, Blunt, Kohl, Reed and Levin all voted against the Udall amendment.
This is hypocrisy, not safety.
Police officers around the world employed as defense against dissent are responding to protesters with violence. From the massacres taking place in Syria and Tahrir, to pepper spraying students at UC Davis, to injuring veterans in Oakland…the brutal attempts to silence dissent are shocking. For Americans still living inside the “American Dream Democracy” bubble, it is almost incomprehensible to think of a country shooting and killing their own, simply for protesting against the ruling regime. Pop that bubble. It’s happening in America and has always happened.
The above video is from a student protest at CUNY on November 21, 2011. Students were protesting against proposed tuition increases. They were not allowed to attend the meeting about the proposal and were instead arrested for protesting. In addition, witnesses to the police state were told to leave.
Remember America was founded because of a protest against taxation with representation (a point of discussion I think we’ve returned to). Watch the videos and study the images of people being beaten, arrested, shot, and killed over what they are saying.
Is what they are saying so scary to the regime that it must be met with violence? Are breaking park rules a justification for police brutality? Is demanding a voice in the world you live in the wrong thing to say? Think about why dissent is so scary. Stop thinking about the “laws” being “broken” and the tents. Start questioning why protest isn’t being allowed.
The right of free speech involves me shouting at the top of my lungs what I believe and listening to you shout at the top of yours what you believe; even if those two things are completely opposite. We have to respect each other’s rights to retain our own. We have to demand our rights when they are taken from us. We have to speak out when rights are taken away from others.
The death of Muammar Gaddafi brings freedom to Libya in symbol alone. Politicians speculate what comes after Gaddafi could be worse, people in Libya are concerned about the National Transitional Council, and the world waits to see if Libya will be a “friend” or “foe.” One way Libya and the rest of the world can measure the change is through the ideology endorsed by those in power. Rebels may have killed Gaddafi, but a tyrant is always more than the man himself.
Gaddafi used ideology to control the country for 42 years; he didn’t use violence alone. He printed The Green Book describing a true democracy, which is a democracy free of communism and capitalism. While the wealth of Libya did increase when Gaddafi took power (he demanded a larger percent from the oil companies) the results were not felt in mass (i.e. they didn’t trickle down). Gaddafi outlawed political dissent, employed informant groups, and limited who held power. His state controlled media guarded headlines, pictures, stories and videos making it easier for Gaddafi to wield power.
Violence outshines ideology because it is easier to comprehend. People can imagine a man being shot, but we have a hard time grasping our thought process and how it is constructed by what’s around us. We especially have a hard time admitting that our decision may have been made for us. Ideology is a long-term solution on how to maintain power. Gaddafi ruled Libya for 42 years making him the fourth longest ruling non-royal leader since 1900 and the longest ruling Arab ruler. Let’s talk about the violence, sure, but let’s mention Gaddafi’s other tactics of control and instilling fear. The state controlled media is a constant source of lies because it comes direct from the state.
Libya is not the only country dealing with this issue. BBC, as reputable as people want them to be, should always be remembered as a state controlled medium. China, Russia, America and every other country with a printing press experiences the same issue. People must be given the knowledge to question everything they are told so they are aware of the lack of objectivity in a report. What Gaddafi said was true and any questions could result in a person disappearing. A month before the rebellion began in February articles appeared describing Gaddafi as the savior of Libya. We cannot accept any source as our only source, people must have access to information.
With the uprisings in Iran, Egypt, Libya and the like many have pointed to the Internet for being the difference maker. Since videos can be uploaded onto youtube and seen around the world (that is if country’s don’t have the site blocked) people see a different reality. When Libyan rebels were ready to take the capital of Tripoli in August, Gaddafi was heard on the controlled TV station and radio station claiming victory over the rebels was imminent. Even though he claimed victory was certain, Gaddafi pressed women and young men to join in the fight against the rebels:
“All Libyans must be present in Tripoli, young men, tribal men and women must sweep through Tripoli and comb it for traitors,” the Libyan leader said. “I have been out a bit in Tripoli discreetly, without being seen by people, and … I did not feel that Tripoli was in danger,” he added. August 23, 2011
When the city of Tripoli was taken by the rebels, Gaddafi returned to the airwaves to claim his departure from the capital was only a strategy and declared victory against the rebels. Look at your window and see the rebels ruling the street, but listen to your leader and don’t recognize the rebel. Pretty brazen.
Let’s remember Gaddafi convinced people he lived in a tent. When they discovered Lamborghinis, and gold draped compounds, it was a big awakening. If Libya is going to avoid a repeat, and end a civil war, then the discourse of ideas must be open. There cannot be one source of information and people cannot accept only hearing one side of an issue. People, including those in Libya, have to recognize there is more than one side to a story. In fact there are two, three, four, five…an endless number.
People have to be aware of the untrustworthiness of the media at all levels no matter how much they read. If a leader takes away your right to have an opinion of your own then that person should not remain in power. The people of Libya finally overturned their person but can they overturn his ideas? And what can the rest of the world take away from Libya? Are we going to continue to trust the controlled media and whatever our leaders say without question? Can we see the dangers it caused in Libya and use that to find dangers in our own environment?
The people of Libya start their true rebellion now. Killing off supporters, and Gaddafi himself, doesn’t take away the rigid rules of life, negative view of Israel, mistreatments to other ethnicities, and the lack of civil rights. Are the people of Libya going to continue to think and live this way under a new ruling power? If the answer is no then recognizing the dangers of controlled media must be one of the first steps.