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letters, opinions, editorials
The Signpost welcomes letters of opinion to encourage dialog in the community. Letters are subject to editing for length, clarity, libel, and other considerations.
Albuquerque therapist speaks out on use of torture by U.S.
—School of the Americas Watch
Having served two sentences and nine months in federal prison for acts of nonviolent civil disobedience to protest U.S. use of torture and terror as instruments of foreign policy, Albuquerque therapist Judy Bierbaum has something to say about recent revelations of U.S. abuse of detainees in Iraq.
"Few people are aware that what happened at Abu Ghraib prison has been happening to people throughout Latin America for many years,” she said. “At the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemispheric Institute for Security Cooperation, the U.S. military has long been training Latin American operatives in techniques of torture and terror, which are used against their own populations to suppress dissent in the most brutal ways imaginable.
In 1996 the Pentagon was forced to admit that it used torture manuals in teaching interrogation techniques at the SOA, which has more than sixty thousand graduates, many of whom have returned to their countries to commit atrocity after atrocity. More recently, the New York Times (5/13/04, A1) reported that near-drowning has been used to interrogate U.S. political prisoners and is seen by American authorities as not in violation of our country's anti-torture statutes. In light of this, the claim that President Bush, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, and the high military commanders in Iraq did not know that such things were occurring in Iraq is simply not credible."
Bierbaum and her colleagues at the School of the Americas Watch call for a full investigation of U.S. policy regarding the use of torture and terror, an investigation in which the top officials will be called to account rather than a few soldiers who did as they were told and were used as scapegoats.
"Secretary Rumsfeld should be asked to resign immediately," says Bierbaum. "A last-ditch apology to appease the conscience of Congress does not constitute a remedy for what he has done and is doing. The President should be forced to face the abundant evidence that his administration routinely flaunts international humanitarian law and required to explain why he holds that U.S. citizens should be exempt from prosecution for war crimes in the World Court."
Judy Bierbaum returned from serving six months in California most recently for nonviolent civil disobedience at the School of the Americas, and was recently awarded the Linda Estes “Giraffe” Award for willingness to stick her neck out for humanity. She is available for interviews at 268-1040 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every public employee, whether elected (?) or hired, has sworn to uphold and defend our civil rights as prescribed by our constitutions.
Thank you, Victoria Dunlap, for your diligent performance of your sworn duty to execute the will of the people in an unbiased manner, on an individual basis, in matters of personal choice. One would think that you would be praised for your courage and integrity.
As a constituent, I expect all public employees to conduct themselves with the same respect for our personal freedoms.
Now, I ask you, how has it come to be that private citizens are controlled, and dictated to about what to do or not to do, by servants of the public will?
re: thank you, Commissioner Sapien
I'd like to thank Commissioner Sapien for his help in getting the ordinance passed for the Placitas Open Space. Commissioner Sapien met with Las Placitas Association and staff from the City of Albuquerque Open Space Division. He worked with Sandoval County attorney David Mathews and me on wordsmithing the ordinance. This is a big step in the history of the Placitas Open Space and Commissioner Sapien deserves a round of applause.
Las Placitas Association
Just a note to share with your readers that Placitas is a very special place. I know that my usual tone is sarcastic, but I'd like to be serious for one moment. But just for one moment. If you miss the sarcasm, check out my Signpost-on-the-Web column here.
I spent a delightful two days on Mother's Day weekend visiting the various art studios on the Placitas Studio Tour and saw incredible sculptures, hand-painted furniture, beautiful gourds, computer-generated designs, crafts and jewelry in various media, and a collection of paintings that could fill an art museum.
To add to my experience, I had lunch at a local restaurant and was treated to wonderful outdoor music from a bunch of talented local musicians. (Sorry, I don't remember the name of the group.) Just a great set of experiences and one more reason I'm proud to be from this area.
[The group is the Placitas Moriband, or Mountain Band or something like that -Ed.]
Some of you may remember my letter in last month's Signpost about people not respecting the night sky in our area, not understanding the credo of respect of one's neighbors, and not caring about the special night skies we have in Placitas and surrounding areas.
I don't know if the letter worked, because I haven't heard from the four of my loyal readers who made the original complaint. However, I did do some more checking and asking around and found out that the problem isn't with the builders, it's with some unscrupulous landscapers who prey on victims—new people coming from other areas who don't understand the fragile nature of our environment and skies. I'm guessing that the people who still keep the lights on just do it because they've made the investment in those stupid spotlights that shine on blank garage doors, walls, or whatever.
So, let's give the landscapers a "heads up" and tell them that they should respect our starry night skies and our neighbors' rights to darkness.
In the Sheriff’s Corner in the April 2004 issue of the Signpost, a report was printed on the arrest of “a longtime Placitas resident” who admitted targeting mountain bikers by booby-trapping public trails with cables and other hazardous obstacles.
The trails in question are on a tract of National Forest land commonly referred to as the Bernalillo Watershed and generally defined as the area bounded by Sandia Wilderness on the east, Sandia Pueblo to the south, private land and I-25 to the west, and Highway 165 to the north. The story fell just short of labeling the guy a martyr, insinuating that the booby traps were an understandable reaction to mountain bikers’ trail use.
The story stated, rather matter-of-factly, that mountain bikers cause environmental damage and treat the hiking area as an obstacle course (whatever that means). The essay went on to say that many residents object passionately to the environmental damage caused by mountain bikes. Give me a break ....
The assertion that mountain bikes damage trails is nonsense. I’ve been riding the watershed area for more than ten years and reject the notion that the trail network has suffered significant environmental damage from bikes. In fact, in spite of increased use, there has been little change in the character of the trails in the past decade. Gullied and incised trails in the area have been that way for years and are prone to erosion primarily because of their down-gradient alignment and tendency to collect and carry runoff from the occasional rainstorm, not bikes. These poorly aligned and unmaintained trails were not built by bikers or other modern trail users but are relics of the area’s mining and livestock grazing past. I suggest you stop portraying mountain bikers as evildoers ‘cause it ain’t real.
re: environmentalist’s efforts appreciated for watershed health, cleanliness
Placitas residents and the Placitas Watershed area of the Cibola National Forest have been served well and without fanfare for many years by Michael Delongchamp, a true steward of the land. A year ago, feeling frustrated about having to pick up beer cans nearly every morning on our walk out there, we came across this good gentleman and suggested that the community as a whole get together to pick up debris each week since the Sandia ranger station in Tijeras expressed clearly that the forest service is far too understaffed to do this.
We learned that Mr. Delongchamp and a few others have gone out every weekend for years to collect trash and dispose of it, as well as rake areas ruined by tire tracks in order to help bring back the native grasses—and not just occasionally, but as a regular commitment to keeping the watershed clean and as environmentally sound as possible given the number of people who use and abuse it.
However misguided his decision to take his love of this land to the extent he chose, his good works out there are appreciated and should be honored not only as an act of brave commitment to a fine environmental cause but as a symbol of what we all should feel—respect for the land that was here long before we walked, rode, or discarded human debris on it. Every mark made on that escarpment stays—unless there is someone to care for it.
Thank you, Michael Delongchamp.
[Editor’s note: On April 30, 2004, Michael Delongchamp of Placitas admitted to stretching a metal cable across a trail in the Bernalillo Watershed area that injured biker Chris Casey in December. He pled guilty to one count of use of a hazardous or injurious device on federal land. He faces a prison sentence of up to twenty years, a fine of up to $250,000, or probation. Sentencing is scheduled for July 23, 2004.]