Saturday, July 18, 2009




 “But in late June Holder asked an aide for a copy of the CIA inspector general's thick classified report on interrogation abuses. He cleared his schedule and, over two days, holed up alone in his Justice Depart ment office, immersed himself in what Dick Cheney once referred to as ‘the dark side.’ He read the report twice, the first time as a lawyer, looking for evidence and instances of transgressions that might call for prosecution. The second time, he started to absorb what he was reading at a more emotional level. He was ‘shocked and saddened,’ he told a friend, by what government servants were alleged to have done in America's name. When he was done he stood at his window for a long time, staring at Constitution Avenue.” Independent’s Day, Daniel Klaidman, NEWSWEEK dated Jul. 20, 2009


 For several years, members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance [NCNR] have tried to speak truth to power.  For example, after an exuberant rally in Washington, D.C.’s John Marshall Park on June 25, Torture Accountability Action Day, NCNR led a march to the Department of Justice to seek a meeting to discuss the indictment of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney.


 A letter had been sent on May 11 to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting a meeting. He never responded, so we marched to the DOJ entrance on Pennsylvania Avenue with banners calling for the prosecution of members of the Bush Administration for war crimes. 


 Last year, we sent a similar letter to then-Attorney General Michael Mukasey.  Since he did not respond, we rallied on November 10 outside the DOJ’s Constitution Avenue entrance.  A public relations person came out and said he would only deliver our letter.  Since we were denied a meeting, sixteen of us did a die-in on the sidewalk.  The police declined to arrest us.


 The same PR person came out on June 25 and took a copy of the Holder letter.  This time he claimed we would receive a response, but said nothing about a meeting. So again we did a die-in, and twelve of us got on the sidewalk to express our disgust.  First, representatives of the DOJ were refusing to meet with concerned citizens, and second, it seemed the illegal machinations of the Bush administration were not going to be investigated.  The police had orders not to arrest, so we remained on the sidewalk for at least an hour.  Afterwards, we resolved that we would continue our efforts to challenge the Department of Justice.


 Media reports surfaced in July suggesting Attorney General Holder is seriously considering the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate torture and other abuses that occurred during the Bush-Cheney administrations.  This was remarkable, more so considering the Obama White House is opposed to digging up the skeletons.


 It is difficult to ascertain what exactly Holder intends to do.  Will this be another whitewash, designed to placate the protesters who are demanding justice for all? Or will Holder actually try to restore the rule of law with a thorough investigation followed by a vigorous prosecution of the war crimes?


 What interests me is what effect, if any, Torture Accountability Action Day and the other protests might have had on Eric Holder.  Is he a government official with a conscience?  Is he prepared to go against the president and his advisors? 


Members of NCNR have frequent discussions about "effectiveness."  Presumably all groups have similar discussions.  Of course, these discussions have to be grounded in the reality that we are challenging the actions of the U.S. government, the greatest imperial power in world history.  And it is essential to recognize we have the best Congress corporate lobbyists can buy.


 We have no idea if anyone in government, except for the police, notices NCNR’s acts of civil resistance.  It was decades later before it was revealed the Vietnam War protests did affect the likes of Robert McNamara and Richard Nixon.  We still have not yet received a response from the attorney general, but we are prepared to remind him it is his duty to investigate further the high crimes and misdemeanors of possibly the most notorious administration in the country’s history.  Calling for a serious investigation would ensure Holder’s place in history.


 Presumably, our actions directed at the Department of Justice have had no effect on its decision-making.  Nevertheless, we will continue to act against injustice regardless of our effectiveness.  Any nonviolent direct action can have an effect on those who are participating, those supporting, those observing and those being challenged.  Quantifying the effect is very difficult.


The need to speak truth to power is an essential part of my life, and I try to be effective. But in these times when our government persists in its warmongering, refuses to stop shredding the Constitution, passes lame climate change legislation and ignores single payer heath care reform, we must act regardless of our effectiveness. 


Max Obuszewski has been a member of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance since its inception. He can be reached at mobuszewski at and invites all to join NCNR at the White House on October 5.  Go to


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