Statement of Ellen Barfield
U.S. Veteran and Vice President, Veterans for Peace
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Ellen Barfield is the National Vice President of Veterans for Peace and a full-time peace and justice activist. She served in the U.S. Army from 1977-1981. She is also a member of the national boards of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the War Resister's League, and the School of the Americas Watch.
Veterans for Peace (VFP) is proud to join the ACLU and other concerned parties in strengthening the call for U.S. government disclosure of information about detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. As former military members, and in some cases as former prisoners of war, VFP members are very concerned about the likelihood that U.S. secrecy about foreign detainees could threaten the safety of U.S. soldiers who may be captured in future conflicts.
Another aspect of the organization's mission is to speak out when soldiers or veterans are particularly threatened by the U.S. government policies and actions. U.S. government refusal to classify the detainees as prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions certainly fits that description.
Given current U.S. policy, hostile foreign governments would have no reason to observe international law. This compromises the safety of not only U.S. service members, but also civilian Americans.
The U.S. government was historically instrumental in helping establish the Geneva Conventions and is now turning its back on guarantees of due process for prisoners of war.
The Pentagon's convoluted designation of detainees as "illegal combatants" to justify the denial of decent treatment, legal representation, speedy trials, or perhaps even release after acquittal, is especially troubling.
As critics of U.S. foreign and military policies, and as advocates for our colleagues serving on active duty now, the VFP strongly urges the U.S. government to disclose full information about persons being detained at Guantánamo Bay. It is imperative that the U.S. recommits itself to its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights laws.
VFP members have served in every conflict since World War II through the current occupation of Iraq, and are represented in nearly 100 chapters in America. VFP members speak out against war and the conditions that create war.