On reflection, I think the biggest event of 2009 for me turned out to be a screening of "The Response" --a film about Guantanamo detainees and the military tribunals at the Siskel Film Center this past summer.
The experience was a knockout for me, for at least three reasons. My most prominent memory is of one of the stars of the film -- Kate Mulgrew of Star Trek fame -- participating in a panel after the screening. I was blown away when she said, "I did this because our civil liberties in our country have been gravely damaged and we all need to contribute to repairing them."
Kate Mulgrew, Peter Riegert, and Sig Libowitz portray military judges
in a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) at Guantanamo
The second thing that struck me was the presentation by Thomas Sullivan, a prominent Chicago lawyer who also participated in the panel and described his work defending Guantanamo suspects pro bono. I thought to myself, "Here's this hugely successful big city lawyer, and yet it's important enough to him to spend a massive amount of his time making sure these guys get the benefit of a proper defense."
Third, but far from least, was the quality of the film itself. It raised the basic question: is due process important? What does it really look and feel like when corners are being cut? The filmmaker, Sig Libowitz, did a spectacular job of bringing the core issue -- legal process -- into the foreground and making it compelling. (That's probably why the American Bar Association gave the film its prestigious Silver Gavel Award.)
"The Response" and its creator, Sig, have spurred me to learn a lot more about this issue, share what I've learned with others, and try to contribute to solutions in any way I possibly can.
This past week, the Governor Quinn announced a plan to house Guantanamo detainees at a correctional facility in Thomson, IL. When I went to see "The Response" months ago, I had no idea at the time that Guantanamo -- and all the issues related to it -- would soon become a special concern to all of us in Illinois!
The French Embassy's cultural center in Washington, D.C. screened The Response Tuesday, February 16, for a crowd of about 220 - including many representatives of the military, legal, government, and media community. Screenings of "The Response" are supposed to stimulate engaged discussion, and this one succeeded.
(See Guantanamo: "The Response" and Obama's State Department )
(See Easter Victory: The Guantanamo Lawyers )
Chicago was the site of major protests against U.S. detention practices in Guantanamo, as well as in Bagram, other prisons throughout Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the world, on and around January 11, 2012. We called for an end to indefinite detention, unfair trials, and torture.
(See Chicago Protests Guantanamo Detention)
(See Too Much State Power? (Asymmetric Warfare and Asymmetric Policing))