The following are excerpts from a speech given by the Hon. Cynthia McKinney, former U.S. Congresswoman, at an event sponsored by the Pakistani American National Alliance (PANA). Since this speech was delivered, Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, 38, a Pakistani neuroscientist trained in the U.S. at MIT and Brandeis, was sentenced by a U.S. court on Sept. 23 to 86 years in prison for allegedly having shot at but missed two U.S. soldiers, though she herself was shot twice in the abdomen. She denies the charges. She is believed to have been held secretly by the U.S. for five years before that, from 2003 to 2008, much of the time at the U.S. base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where, witnesses say, her cries of agony as she was tortured were so haunting that prisoners went on a hunger strike in protest. Now that she has been convicted, repatriation can occur only pursuant to a prisoner transfer treaty, and no such treaty is currently in force between the U.S. and Pakistan. Nevertheless, her family vows to launch a movement of her millions of supporters around the world to win her freedom. As huge protests broke out in cities across Pakistan on Sept. 24, the government announced it would petition the U.S. for her repatriation on humanitarian grounds.
by Cynthia McKinney
Our mission is grounded in our deep commitment to human dignity. We are here because we respect the humanity of every person on this planet and we hope, through our good works, to inspire policies from governments that also reflect that respect for human dignity.
We are also aware that we can only reach our aspirations if we rely on truth and embody justice tempered with compassion. And so it is for this reason that we find ourselves assembled here this evening: to assert the truth and request of the Obama and Zardari administrations a commitment to justice with compassion.
In that regard, I am humbled to be with you now and to have been asked by the Pakistani American National Alliance to travel to Pakistan at this very trying time in the life of that country. (McKinney’s visa was denied without explanation by Pakistani authorities. – ed.)
I visited those towns, I heard from the mayors and elected leaders and I did my best to help the people. But the world saw one of America’s best kept secrets: While the United States is a world leader, the people of the United States also need the rest of the world. In the midst of extreme misfortune, we saw differences put aside and the world respond to our need.
Sadly, today Pakistan faces a similar challenge of almost unimaginable proportions. I have seen the photos, eerily reminiscent of what we saw in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita; I have heard the pleas from my friends inside Pakistan. Every Pakistani I know, no matter where they might currently be in the world, is working to come to the aid of their countrymen. And the numbers are staggering: 20 million people face devastating loss and reportedly one fifth of Pakistan is under water. But I am pleased to read that, again, the world is responding.
For starters, after irreconcilable differences, she and her husband divorced; her ex-husband then reportedly assisted the Pakistani government in nabbing her after Khalid Sheikh Mohammed named her as an al-Qaeda operative after he had been waterboarded 183 times. After that, Siddiqui and her three children went missing for five years, from 2003 to 2008, only to resurface, along with her son, at the U.S. Air Force Base in Bagram, Afghanistan, where she was being held after the suspicious behavior outside of the governor’s residence.
That leaves now only the matter of Dr. Siddiqui’s son, still missing, who was just a baby at the time of his and his mother’s disappearance. Now, there are reports that Dr. Siddiqui’s youngest child was killed at the time of her abduction. No one knows. At any rate, the two children are in Karachi in the loving care of their family members while their mother awaits sentencing, expected to occur on Sept. 23 in New York City.
Now, I recount most of this story to you who are here and I know that you already know far more details because you have been following this drama for years now. But sadly, the American people are fed a media diet of Paris Hilton cocaine busts and celebratory slaps on the back for an announced U.S. end to combat in Iraq while the real news of true unemployment figures, our failing education system, our failing justice system, our failed immigration policy, failed safe food policy combined with fewer and fewer real political options for U.S. voters, coupled with rising racial, ethnic and religious strife in this country, go underreported.
So, what are we to do?
I first became aware of the plight of Dr. Siddiqui through another of our beleaguered sisters, attorney Lynne Stewart, who sits now in prison for providing legal representation to someone accused and later found guilty of terrorism. It was Stewart’s support committee that first alerted me to the plight of Dr. Siddiqui. Then, more and more messages came into my email box from people I either knew or had heard of and then finally I took the time to read the complaint against Dr. Siddiqui and began to realize just how curious this case really was.
I understand that members of the British and Pakistani Parliaments have written to President Obama asking that Dr. Siddiqui be returned to Pakistan where her loving family and an intensely interested population follow every item about her fate and await her return.
As the U.S.-Pakistani relationship rocks from the latest mistreatment yesterday at Dulles Airport of a visiting Pakistani military delegation, and the country seems purposely embroiled in the discussion of a local land use and zoning issue in New York City, I believe that this compassionate act by the Obama Administration would go a long way toward improving U.S.-Pakistan relations. Additionally, a human rights-human dignity-based U.S. foreign policy would certainly improve the safety and security of Americans as we travel around the world.
Finally, there was a time when we were looked up to and loved around the world. We served as a beacon of what was possible and to the global community, we were considered something good about the world. Too much of our goodwill has been squandered and in many places the United States is no longer accepted.
Glen Beck’s rally (on 9/11) was intended to restore our country’s honor. I envision the day when our policies move us, honorably, back to acceptance and even affection. I hope that President Obama will utilize this moment and allow Dr. Siddiqui to go home.
For news from, by and about Cynthia McKinney, former Georgia congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate, check these websites: http://dignity.ning.com/, http://www.enduswars.org, http://www.livestream.com/dignity, http://www.twitter.com/dignityaction, http://www.myspace.com/dignityaction, http://www.myspace.com/runcynthiarun, http://www.twitter.com/cynthiamckinney, http://www.facebook.com/CynthiaMcKinney and http://www.youtube.com/runcynthiarun.