Open letter to the Pentagon’s Rosa Brooks

Dear Rosa:
I hope you and the family are all well. It’s been a while since we got to know you and your fabulous mother, the principled and gutsy activist Barbara Ehrenreich, when you were living in Virginia. You were still such a big human rights activist at that time.
So anyway… No polite way to phrase this… Rosa, What the heck are you doing in your current role as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense and Special Coordinator for Rule of Law and Humanitarian Policy, “running a new Pentagon office dedicated to those issues”… with regard to, primarily:

    1. The Executive Order that Pres. Obama signed March 7, in which he expressly allowed for the indefinite detention without trial of suspects in the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay; and
    2. The appalling and deliberate humiliation to which warders in a U.S. Navy brig (naval prison) have been subjecting accused secrets leaker Bradley Manning.

Rosa, what on earth is going on– and what has your role been in all of this??
It is so hard to believe that you, Rosa Brooks, have been turning into John Yoo in this way. Rosa Brooks! With your long record as a consultant for Human Rights Watch, a fellow at he Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard, a board member of Amnesty International USA, for goodness sakes, and a member of the Executive Council of the American Society of International Law.
Rosa Brooks, whose newspaper columns at the L.A. Times, 2005-2009, were nearly always deeply animated by your defense of the universal rights of all persons– including the fundamental right to liberty and the right, if accused of a crime, to a fair and open trial… and the rights of all, whether incarcerated or not, to basic standards of human dignity and freedom from torture.
Sadly, the way that this September 2006 column of yours is titled on the website, now looks eerily prescient:”Rosa Brooks: Our Torturer-in-Chief.”
Rosa, please explain so that I and others can understand it: After two years of working in the Pentagon, has the evil of torture now become so routine and (as Hannah Arendt put it) “banal” for you that these latest, extremely abusive steps from the Obama administration now seem “okay” to you?
Do you see your role in the Pentagon as somehow being “to make things less bad than they would otherwise have been”? That is a common reason given by people who get sucked into doing the work of running the apparatuses of repression. (It’s also a “reason” that women who have been abused by their partners commonly give when they decide to stay with them, rather than quit.. Think about that. Are Michele Flournoy and your other bosses at the Pentagon and in the White House actually abusing you and your lengthy record of rights activism when they continue to employ you as their fig-leaf?)
Doing work of the kind you’re doing at the Pentagon is also nicely paid and (in some quarters) prestigious. But I can’t imagine that you have the excuse that your family needs the money you’re getting at the Pentagon. You were doubtless pulling in big bucks before as a law prof at Georgetown; and your husband, Peter Brooks, is not hard up, either. Nor can I believe that you “need” the prestige of working as a relatively lowly DAS at the Pentagon.
So why do you stay there at the Pentagon, providing a quasi-liberal “cover” for an administration that is, let’s face it, behaving in these matters no better than than the George W Bush administration behaved?
Rosa, please consider resigning. Your resignation from this strange office you are holding there could make a real difference. If you do it right, it could make 100 times more of a difference than you could ever hope to make if you simply stay on, tidying up some little portions of the detentions policy around the edges while continuing to act as a liberal fig-leaf there.
If you don’t resign, then that would be the saddest thing.
I wonder what your mom will think of you if stay on as “Rosa Brooks: Our Torturer-in-Chief”. I know what I would think of you.
Stay well, whatever you decide… But please, examine your soul deeply over these two latest, tragic steps.
Warm regards– Helena.

5 thoughts on “Open letter to the Pentagon’s Rosa Brooks

  1. Salah

    Well now I think you should most of American who welcoming new “Negro ” Obama as a new Hero in US administration to realize he is not just like his prevues criminal and thug GW Bush and his father but he is follow their steps well and quite.
    Well done Helena with your past support for this “Negro”

  2. pabelmont

    Very heart-felt, Helena. What ARE those people doing, messing about with “human-rights” while actual human rights are being abused right and left?
    Used to be, people resigned positions (rather than accepting them!) in morally-corrupt situations such as you describe.
    Many people still make excuses for Obama, talk about the American ship-of-state as a super-tanker which cannot be steered or stopped but very, very slowly; but I see no sign of even such very, very slow stopping or change of direction.
    And the “real story” of 9/11 is apparently “too hot to handle” so that the associates of the “perps” are to be tried outside the public eye and any light they might shed on what “really happened” will be kept away from the American people, once again.

  3. anonymous

    Helena, one guy in the governement had the courage to call spade a spade and took the responsibility, without apology for what he said – and lost his job. That what I call courage – and it exemplifies what JFK wrote about
    I always appreciate and enjoy your blog

  4. anonymous

    sorry, I did not mention the name of Mr Crowley, the spokesman for Sec. Hillary Clinton, he resigned today.

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