in the spotlight
By Mike Ferner
-- -- Ft. Benning,
GA – Sitting in a Georgia motel Saturday night, Kathy Kelly
talked through a bad phone connection and a worse head cold to
recount the previous day’s activities where she and 13 others
were arrested at an airstrip outside Raleigh, North Carolina.
Johnson County Airport is home to Aero Contractors Corp., a firm
described by the
New York Times as “a major domestic hub of the Central
Intelligence Agency's secret air service,” that shuttles
prisoners abroad for interrogation and suspected torture. The
Times reports Aero was founded in 1979 by the chief pilot for
Air America, a CIA “front” in Vietnam.
In addition to
Kelly, those arrested Friday included residents of a Raleigh
Catholic Worker house and members of Stop Torture Now, a project
of the Center for Theology and Social Analysis in St. Louis,
Missouri. Protesters walked onto company property and lowered
the flags to half-mast before being arrested.
supporters included members of the North Carolina Council of
Churches, Amnesty International, and the War Resisters League.
They participated by dressing like Guantanamo prisoners in
orange jumpsuits, holding a banner that said “Aero Contractor
CIA Torture Taxi,” and delivering a four-count “indictment”
to current and former heads of the CIA and company officials for
violating U.S. and international laws against torture.
Kelly, a leader
in the movement to stop the U.S. war on Iraq, said she got
arrested because of a growing concern over the government
“becoming increasingly blatant about its role in torture.
People need to stand up before it becomes more risky.”
Asked what she
meant by that, she replied, “At this point here in the U.S., we
don’t face any of the risks of people who stood up against the
Salvadoran death squads. We are perhaps inconvenienced, but
there are no massacres, our family members aren’t being killed.
That’s why we need to stand up now.”
her most, she explained, are not reports of torture coming out
of U.S.-run prisons in Iraq or secret sites around the world.
“The U.S. has always excepted itself from international norms of
human decency…but now some are starting to say, ‘It’s ok. We’re
the U.S. We have to do anything to make sure we’re never
attacked again.’ It’s disturbing to see how tolerant we’ve
people say, ‘Well, Saddam was a lot worse than the CIA so we
have to do it in order to keep people like Saddam from hurting
people.’ That is really faulty thinking,” the Nobel Peace Prize
nominee added. “We are using some of the exact same torture
cells Saddam used! When we apprehend Iraqis they might be good
guys, but by the time they leave after three days, they’re bad
guys, is how one soldier explained it. And look at the woman
bomber arrested in Jordan. She had three brothers killed in
Iraq and the person she married was held three days and
tortured. If we think terrifying people is a way to build
security, we’re misguiding ourselves in a terrible way. Real
protection lies in building just and fair relationships.”
While Kelly and
the others were being arrested Friday morning, copies of the
“indictment” were delivered to members of the Johnston County
Council and the Johnston County Airport Commission asking that
officials take action to revoke Aero Contractors’ lease for
engaging in illegal activities at the public airfield.
arrest at the Johnston County Airport, Friday, Kelly traveled to
Ft. Benning, Georgia, to join over 15,000 people gathered for
the annual protest against the Army’s School of the Americas,
which critics say trains Latin American soldiers in
counterinsurgency tactics including torture. She and the 13
people arrested outside Raleigh were released on $500 bond and
given dates in January to appear in court in Johnston County.
is a freelance writer from Ohio.
Copyright Mike Ferner