More Talk Radio on 12/05/11
Host Cecil Prescod interviews Peter Van Buren about the ever-greater erosion of American rights. Van Buren is the author of a recent article on TomDispatch called, “No Free Speech at Mr. Jefferson’s Library, George Orwell, Philip K. Dick, and Ray Bradbury Would Have Recognized Morris Davis’s Problem.”
TomDispatch regular and State Department Official Peter Van Buren, begins his article with the First Amendment, now endangered in Washington. “Those beautiful words,” he writes, “almost haiku-like, are the sparse poetry of the American democratic experiment.”
He urges its rereading “at this moment when the government seems to be carving out an exception to it large enough to drive a tank through. As the occupiers of Zuccotti Park, like those pepper-sprayed at UC Davis or the Marine veteran shot in Oakland, recently found out, the government’s ability to limit free speech, to stopper the First Amendment, to undercut the right to peaceable assemble and petition for redress of grievances, is perhaps the most critical issue our republic can face.”
Van Buren describes the dramatic case of Morris Davis, former Air Force colonel and chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo, who stated he would not use evidence obtained through torture and then resigned when a torture advocate was named his boss.
Davis was a researcher for the Library of Congress in 2009 when he was fired for writing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that had nothing to do with his work at the library, which was considered exemplary. Writes Van Buren: “The simple act of speaking out on a subject at odds with an official government position was the real grounds for his firing. That, and that alone, was enough for termination. As any devoted fan of George Orwell, Ray Bradbury, or Philip K. Dick would know, Davis committed a thought crime.”
Davis has taken the case to court where a loss would be a chilling precedent at a moment when secrecy is becoming the first principle of the American government.
Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq as a State Department Foreign Service Officer serving as Team Leader for two Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). Now in Washington, he writes about Iraq and the Middle East at his blog, "We Meant Well." His new book is "We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People", (The American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books).