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Michael Ratner, CCR, A Great Warrior For Justice & The People's Law Has Died at 71
#1
Quote:Yet another of my heroes died this week.....the best the legal profession has had, IMHO.

The groundbreaking human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, he defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. Ratner served as the longtime president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Ratner began working on Guantánamo in the 1990s, when he fought the first Bush administration's use of the military base to house Haitian refugees. We begin today's show with a speech he gave in 2007 when he was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The trailblazing human rights attorney Michael Ratner has died at the age of 72. For over four decades, Michael Ratner defended, investigated and spoke up for victims of human rights abuses across the world. He served as the longtime head of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Attorney David Cole told The New York Times, quote, "Under his leadership, the center grew from a small but scrappy civil rights organization into one of the leading human rights organizations in the world. He sued some of the most powerful people in the world on behalf of some of the least powerful." In 2002, the center brought the first case against the George W. Bush administration for the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantánamo. The Supreme Court eventually sided with the center in a landmark 2008 decision when it struck down the law that stripped Guantánamo prisoners of their habeas corpus rights. Ratner began working on Guantánamo in the 1990s, when he fought the first Bush administration's use of the military base to house Haitian refugees.
Michael Ratner's activism and human rights work dated back to the 1960s. He was a student at Columbia Law School during the 1968 student strike there. Michael was a clerk for the legendary Federal Judge Constance Baker Motley. When he graduated from law school, she was the first African-American woman judge and protégé of Thurgood Marshall. In a 2004 letter, Constance Baker Motley wrote, "Michael Ratner was in retrospect, the ablest law clerk I have had in my tenure on the bench."
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Ratner joined the Center for Constitutional Rights in 1971. His first case centered on a lawsuit filed on behalf of prisoners killed and injured in the Attica prison uprising in upstate New York. Michael Ratner was deeply involved in Latin America and the Caribbean, challenging U.S. policy in Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Puerto Rico and elsewhere. In 1981, he brought the first challenge under the War Powers Resolution to the use of troops in El Salvador, as well as a suit against U.S. officials on behalf of Nicaraguans raped, murdered and tortured by U.S.-backed contras. In 1991, he led the center's challenge to the authority of President George H.W. Bush to go to war against Iraq without congressional consent.
A decade later, he would become a leading critic of the George W. Bush administration, filing lawsuits related to Guantánamo, torture, domestic surveillance and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. He also helped launch the group Palestine Legal to defend the rights of protesters in the U.S. calling for Palestinian human rights. In recent years, he was the chief attorney for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and became a leading critic of the U.S. crackdown on whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. He also served as Democracy Now!'s attorney for many years and was the husband of Karen Ranucci, a longtime member of the Democracy Now! family.
Today we spend the hour looking at the life and legacy of Michael Ratner. Later, we'll be joined by three lawyers who worked closely with Michael over the years, but we begin with a speech Michael Ratner gave in 2007, when he was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship.
MICHAEL RATNER: Over the last few years, I've become acquainted with a man named Henri Alleg. Henri Alleg is a French Algerian in his eighties who was water-torturedor, as this administration says, waterboardedby the French. Here is how Henri Alleg described his water torture, a practice that goes back to the Inquisition: "The rag was soaked rapidly. Water flowed everywhere: in my mouth, in my nose, all over my face. ... I tried, by contracting my throat, to take in as little water as possible and to resist suffocation by keeping air in my lungs ... as long as I could. But I couldn't hold on for more than a few [moments]. I had the impression of drowning, and a terrible agony, that of death itself, took possession of me."
Think about Henri Alleg when you hear the CIA talk about enhanced interrogation techniques. Or think about a terrible agony, that of death itselfthat of death itselftaking over you when you hear our new attorney general refuse to condemn waterboarding, or when you hear that some of our Democratic leaders were briefed and made not a peepnot a peepof objection.
Let there be no doubt, the Bush administration tortures. It disappears people. It holds people forever in offshore penal colonies like Guantánamo. It renders them to be tortured in other countries. This is what was done to CCR's client Maher Arar, who was rendered to Syria for torture. And sadly, a majority of our Congress, our courts and our media have given Bush a free handand, in fact, worse, have been the handmaidens of the torture and detention program. But it has not been given a free hand by the Center for Constitutional Rights. It has not been given a free hand by The Nation. It has not been given a free hand by Jeremy or Naomi.
Today we're in the midst of a pitched battle, a pitched rattled to put this country back, at least ostensibly, on the page of fundamental rights and moral decency. The battle is difficult, and the road is long and hard. On occasion, I get pessimistic. Sometimes I and my colleagues feel like Sisyphus. Twicenot just once, twicewe pushed the rock up the hill and won rights for Guantánamo detainees in the Supreme Court, and twice the rock was rolled back down by Congress over those rights. So we pushed it back up again. Five days ago, we were in the Supreme Court for the third time. It was difficult, more difficult than before, because the justices have changed. Four are antediluvians, lost forever to humanity.
But before I get us all depressed, we've had our victories. We've gotten lawyers to Guantánamo, stopped the most overt torture and freed half of the Guantánamo detaineesover 300. We have gotten Maher Arar out of Syria. Canada has apologized for his torture, given him a substantial recoveryin Canadian dollars, which is no embarrassment anymore. They said he was an innocent man, but he remains on the U.S. terror list. We have slowed, but not yet stopped, a remarkable grab for authoritarian power.
I also don't look hopeI also don't lose hope, because I think about the early days of Guantánamo. At first, we were few. But now, we are many. At first, when CCR began, we were the lonely warriors taking on the Bush administration at Guantánamo. Now we are many. Now we, just on Guantánamo alone, are over 600 lawyers, most from major firms of every political stripe. These lawyers have an understanding of what is at stake: liberty itself. This strugglethis struggle will be seen as one of the great chapters in the legal and political history of the United States.
Today, war, torture, disappearances, murder surround us like plagues. Most in this country go on their way oblivious. Some don't want to know and are like ostriches. Some want to justify it all. Some want to make compromises. But be warned: We are at a tipping point, a tipping point into lawlessness and medievalism. We have our work to do. For each of us, the time for talking is long, long over. This is no time for compromise, no time for political calculation. As Howard Zinn admonishes us, it is the job of thinking people not to be on the side of the executioners. The Puffin/Nation Prize reminds us all that the job for each of us is not to be on the side of the executioners. Thank you all.
AMY GOODMAN: Attorney Michael Ratner, speaking in 2007 when he was awarded the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Michael died Wednesday at the age of 72 as a result of complications related to cancer.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Today we are remembering the life and legacy of the trailblazing attorney Michael Ratner, who died on Wednesday at the age of 72. We're joined by four guests who knew Michael well on a personal and professional level.
AMY GOODMAN: Reed Brody is counsel and spokesperson for Human Rights Watch. Michael Smith is an attorney and board member of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He co-authored a book with Michael called Who Killed Che?: How the CIA Got Away with Murder. We're also joined in Pittsburgh by Jules Lobel. He is the president of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh.
And joining us from London is Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks, joining us from the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, where he has asylum. He has been there for almost four years. Julian Assange took refuge in the embassy in 2012. Assange wants to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex assault claims, which he has repeatedly denied. He says he fears Sweden will extradite him to the United States, where he could face trial for publishing classified information. He was represented during this time, through his years inside the embassy, by Michael Ratner.
Julian, welcome to Democracy Now! Your thoughts today on your late counsel, your late attorney and friend, Michael Ratner?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Michael touched many people throughout his life. And you're seeing some of that today. He was my personal friend and adviser, our lead lawyer in the United States and in the English language. So, people here, people associated with WikiLeaks, its various staff, and our other lawyers in the United States are grieving.
But I want to reflect a little on Michael Ratner. Michael was important, not because of hissimply because of his talent and indefatigability, political and human consistency, but because he was a role model to so many who knew him, and a role model that is immutable. Michael was not aone of these figures that plague the left so much. He was not a thundering genius, although he was brilliant. He was not someone who was ideologically hidebound. He was not someone who simply engaged in value projection or exhibitionism. Michael Ratner was aled a life which was laudatory both at theat his human level, in terms of his dealings with his family, his children, with his friends, and in terms of his work in law and political consistency. And he brought all these things together. And that is why you're seeing the outpouring that you are seeing. Because peoplebecause of Michael's sensitivity across all of these domains, he is someone that you felt interacted with you as a human being, not simply someone who wanted something in a political direction or in terms of law. And while he had his flaws, these only made you understand that he really was a figure who you could strive to emulate. And I think this is probablywill be seen his most important legacy.
The other lawyers will talk about the cases that he wasthe cases that he took. He certainly took many cases for us in relation to the ongoing, pending U.S. prosecution in the United States in relation to Chelsea Manning, in relation to banking blockades, in relation to all the politics surrounding this. He stepped forward first in relation to Guantánamo Bay, when other lawyers, such as groups associated with the ACLU, felt that this was not something that was politically achievable. But he is someone who inspires a model for people who are concerned about justice, that is achievable, not a model of self-destruction, not a model that is unable to achieve because it requires some particular kind of genius that cannot be worked towards. And that is something that deeply affected our young lawyers in the United Statesfor example
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Julian
JULIAN ASSANGE: [inaudible]
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Julian, I wanted specifically to ask you about this issue of the model that he provided to others. Could you talk a little bit about his impact both in terms of the work he did in defending whistleblowers like yourself, but also in terms of his ability to take the human rights issue to an international level and to deal across countries and mobilize legal battles across borders?
JULIAN ASSANGE: Yes. I mean, I've dealt with many lawyers in the United States and many people in the United States. And some of those, although they proclaim to be concerned with the abuse of state power in the United States, are in fact, themselves, very provincial and, in some ways, American exceptionalists of their own. Michael cut completely across that. He was genuinely concerned about people in Guatemala, about me, as an Australian, about people who face similar problems in Palestine, about people who have been extradited from the United Kingdom. And he was able to work with these other groups and other lawyers across jurisdictions, because they perceived that his genuine human concern for them was not simply about grabbing some prize that he could take back to the United States and exploit within his own, if you like, New York constituency.
And so, he was very effective as a lawyer and as a campaigner for justice, because he would do thingsfor example, seeing that people might be extradited to the United States, take up the battle at the place of extraditionfor example, here in the United Kingdom, with one of my other lawyers, both on my case and in relation to some alleged terrorism cases, Gareth Peirce. Other lesser lawyers, lesser human beings, might have gone, "Well, I can get the glory, and I can get the credit, once that person is extradited to the United States, and then can bethe trial can be exploited, and great precedence can be set in the United States." Michael was much more concerned, at a human level, to take action early in the process, and try and stop grand juries or try and stop extraditions, before the person entered in to a U.S. justice system that has become increasingly difficult to deal with.
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange, I wanted to go to a video produced by the Ratner family to mark Michael's 60th birthday, talking about his legal legacy.
BETH STEVENS: He has worked on a series of cases in different areas that are just pushing the ability to raise international human rights in U.S. courts.
REPORTER: For Helen Todd, nothing could justify the East Timor massacre, which killed her son Kamal. And today, a United States court agreed.
HELEN TODD: It's been a long time, and I've come halfway around the world. But I feel satisfied that at last a court has said, "This is wrong."
REPORTER: Kamal was one of 200 killed in the student protest. And the Indonesian general who ordered his troops to open fire has now been ordered to pay.
MICHAEL RATNER: And it affected the judge very heavily. The judge, who wouldwas not familiar with this law, not familiarprobably didn't know East Timor from, you know, Timbuktu, was incrediblyyou could see she was incredibly moved. And we all leftleft, I think, feelingyou know, feeling bad, obviously, about what happened, but very, very good that we had gottenafter a lot of work and a lot of people's efforts, gotten it to a trial where it was really heard.
LIZZIE RATNER: He's really, I think, helped pioneer this type of tort law, where you can actually sue dictators or sue war criminals from within the United States.
BETH STEVENS: I found out early in one fall that this general was studying at the Harvard School of Government. And the students worked for most of the school year pulling together information about the general's role in genocide in Guatemala.
RAY BRESCIA: We needed to develop some of the facts, and the only way that we could really do some pieces were to actually interview the general. And so I sort of posed as this student doing some research on Guatemala.
BETH STEVENS: Michael and I flew up to Boston and went to Harvard graduation with the papers in hand.
RAY BRESCIA: Michael is not afraid to sue anyone at any time.
BETH STEVENS: He's still wearing his Harvard graduation robes, and the process server, with a big smile, held out the papers, called his name, shook his hand. And General Gramajo took the papers with a big smile.
LIZZIE RATNER: And he's won these huge cases. But, of course, many of the dictators have not forked over the billions of dollars that their victims are due.
AMY GOODMAN: That, an excerpt of a family video that was produced for Michael Ratner's 60th birthday. That story that you heard, the attorney Beth Stevens talking about the lawsuit against Héctor Alejandro Gramajo, who was graduating from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. In the corner, you see Michael's profile. I was there, along with journalist Allan Nairn, as they, Beth Stevens and Michael Ratner and the private investigator, slapped Héctor Alejandro Gramajo with this lawsuit as he was walking in to get his Harvard Kennedy School degree, slapping him with a lawsuit for crimes against humanity.
We are joined by a roundtable of people to remember Michael Ratner, who died on Wednesday of complications due to cancer here in New York City, Michael Ratner, the longtime former head of the Center for Constitutional Rights. We're joined by Michael Smith, his colleague, co-author and friend, as well, Reed Brody of Human Rights Watch and Jules Lobel, joining us from Pittsburgh, Julian Assange in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. Give us the span of his work, Reed.
REED BRODY: You know, from defending human rights in the United States to defending Central American revolutions against the United States, from defending HIV-positive Haitians quarantined in Guantánamo to defending Muslims taken to Guantánamo 10 years later, you know, from defending foreignfrom suing American torturers abroad to suing, as we saw, foreign torturers in America, to defending whistleblowers. Over 50 years, Michael was always instinctively on the right side of every battle, fighting the right battle from the right trench. You know, he had this unerring ability to know where to be at the right time.
AMY GOODMAN: Reed, you were arrested with Michael in 1984. Can you talkand William Kunstler, right?
REED BRODY: Yes. It was
AMY GOODMAN: And Arthur Kinoy? Can you talk about the circumstances?
REED BRODY: Sure. I had actually just come back from Nicaragua, where I documented systematic atrocities by the U.S.-backed contras, who were trying to undermine the Sandinista revolution. And there was a sit-in at the Federal Building in downtown Manhattan, organized by the National Lawyers Guild. And Michael was there, Bill Kunstler, Arthur Kinoy, Barbara Dudley, Ron Kuby, [Marilyn] Clements. And we were allwe were all arrested. But Michael didn't stop there. When the International Court of Justice in The Hague ordered that the United States stop funding and supporting the contras, Michael and Jules Lobel and the CCR went into court, saying, "Well, you know, let's enforce this order."
And actually, Michael asked me to go down to Nicaragua to talk to Americans who might be in harm's way if the courtif contra funding continued. And I interviewed and took an affidavit from a friend named Ben Linder, who wrote in his affidavit that if the United States kept funding the contras, he was in danger of life and limb. And, of course, the lawsuit failed. The aid to thean injunction was not granted. And Ben Linder was killed, the first American to be executed, the only American to be executed, by the U.S.-backed contras in Nicaragua. And then Michael defended the Linder family for many years in their suits against the contras and against the United States.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Michael Smith, for years, you co-hosted a show, Law and Disorder, with Michael Ratner. Talk about
AMY GOODMAN: On WBAI.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On WBAI, yes. Talk about how you first met him, and also his perspective on the law and how lawyers dealt with the law.
MICHAEL SMITH: I lived around the corner from Michael 30-some years ago. Michael had just gotten elected as the president of the National Lawyers Guild. I was in a four-floor walkup, and he schlepped up one night, and he asked me if I would be on the editorial board of Guild Notes, which is the guild magazine. So he signed me up, and that's when we started out working together. We did six books together. He did the foreword or the introduction or a chapter in a number of them.
We did the Che Guevara book. Michael greatly loved and admired Che, and he suspected that the U.S. story about Che's death was BS. And so he did a FOIA request. And years went by, and nothing happened. And then, one dayand he was telling me. We were walking down the street, and he said, "You know," he said, "I just got this huge box of documents from the FBI and the CIA and the Defense Department and the White House. And what should we do?" So, I was representing Ocean Press at the time. And I called them up, and I said, "I think we've got a book here. Can you hold up putting out your catalog 'til we look through it?" And they said, "Sure." So, Michael and I and my wife Debbie looked through it, and we figured it out, and we put it all together, and we sent it down to Australia. We put out our first book. We were on the show with you, Amy. It was 20 years ago.
And then, out of nowhere, 10 years later, without Michael making a further request, he got another box of documents. And we looked at those. And there had been a lot of historical work done in the meantime. So we were able to take these new documentsI mean, stuff on White House stationery that said, "The troops we trained finally got him," a memo to Johnson, the president, stuff like that. And we put the story together. And we realized that there was a prior agreement with the Bolivian dictatorship. The CIA had two agents that were running intelligence. The Department of Defense was funding everything from ballots to bullets, funding the Bolivian army that captured Che. The CIA agents were working the intelligence. They captured Che. And they had a prior agreement with the head of the Bolivian military that if they captured, then they'd kill him. And so, that was America's doing, and we proved that. And that book is all over Cuba. They sell it for 25 cents. It was featured last year at the International Book Fair. It's all over Argentina, where Cheand it's even coming out now in Iran in Farsi, and it's going to be distributed in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. So, Michael made a contribution there.
AMY GOODMAN: And Che Guevara killed in October 1967 in Bolivia.
MICHAEL SMITH: That's right. And the moral responsibility for that, the actual responsibility for the assassination, which was a political murder, lies on the United States. There's no statute of limitations to murder. The two people that directed the killing are still alive. They're in Florida.
AMY GOODMAN: They are?
MICHAEL SMITH: And that was one of the many contributions that Michael made.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And this whole issue of he was a lawyer who did not really overestimate the power or the requirements of the law?
MICHAEL SMITH: He didn't think thathe deeply believed in democracy and the rule of law. And he didn't think that capitalism was compatible with that. He thought maybe fascism was, but certainly notand we can see, what's going on now, he was absolutely clear-sighted on that. Michael initially started off, like all of us, as, you know, liberals, thinking that the law was a civilized way of solving disputes. It may flawed here or there, but it could be fixed and so on. Well, we all quickly got over that notion. And Michael came to believe that the law was a means of social control by the 1 percent, who would fight to keep their control, by any means necessary, as long as possible. And that was what the law was. And Michael sought to promote true democratic law and to undermine that false ideology that thought that the law we have now is somehow fair. It's not fair.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to a moment with you, Michael Smith, and Michael Ratner. This was July [20th] in Washington, D.C., at the reopening of the Cuban Embassy after it was closed for more than five decades. Michael was drenched in sweat. It was boiling hot. But it was one of the happiest times I had ever seen Michael Ratner, as he talked about the significance of this historic day.
MICHAEL RATNER: Well, Amy, let's just say, other than the birth of my children, this is perhaps one of the most exciting days of my life. I mean, I've been working on Cuba since the early '70s, if not before. I worked on the Venceremos Brigade. I went on brigades. I did construction. And to see that this can actually happen in a country that decided early on that, unlike most countries in the world, it was going to level the playing field for everyoneno more rich, no more poor, everyone the same, education for everyone, schooling for everyone, housing if they couldand to see the relentless United States go against it, from the Bay of Pigs to utter subversion on and on, and to see Cuba emerge victoriousand when I say that, this is not a defeated country. This is a countryif you heard the foreign minister today, what he spoke of was the history of U.S. imperialism against Cuba, from the intervention in the Spanish-American War to the Platt Amendment, which made U.S. a permanent part of the Cuban government, to the taking of Guantánamo, to the failure to recognize it in 1959, to the cutting off of relations in 1961. This is a major, major victory for the Cuban people, and that should be understood. We are standing at a moment that I never expected to see in our history.
AMY GOODMAN: Bruno Rodríguez, the foreign minister of Cuba, gave a rousing speech inside the embassy. Talk about what he said still needs to be accomplished. He wasn't exactly celebrating a total victory today.
MICHAEL SMITH: No, because things still aren't normal.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Smith.
MICHAEL SMITH: The United States is still spending $30 million a year trying to subvert the Cuban government. They still illegally are holding Guantánamo. And they still haveand this is the most important thing, because it's costing Cuban people $1.1 trillion in funds to develop their countrythey still have the blockade. So, unless those three things are changed, you're not going to have a normal situation.
MICHAEL RATNER: Let me tell you, as someone said to me here, if Obama wants to solve Guantánamo and the prisoners at Guantánamo, give it back to Cuba. There will be no prisoners left in Guantánamo. Easy way to do it, satisfy the Cubans, satisfy Guantánamo. Let it happen now.
Think about Cuba's place in history, when we think about it for young people, not just for the fact that it leveled a society economically, gave people all the social network that we don't have in the United States, but think about its international role. You think about apartheid in South Africa, and the key single event took place in Angola when 25,000 Cuban troops repulsed the South African military and gave it its first defeat, which was the beginning of the end of apartheid. It had an internationalism that's just unbelievable. And I remember standing in front ofin the 100,000 people in front of a square in Havana in 1976. I was on a Venceremos Brigade. And Fidel gave a speech, and he said, "There is black blood in every Cuban vein, and we are going into Angola." I'm telling you, I still cry over it.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Michael Ratner speaking July [20th], 2015, at the opening of the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C., after it had been closed for more than 50 years.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
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#2
A great man and will be greatly missed.
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#3
"The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it." Karl Marx

"He would, wouldn't he?" Mandy Rice-Davies. When asked in court whether she knew that Lord Astor had denied having sex with her.

“I think it would be a good idea” Ghandi, when asked about Western Civilisation.
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#4

CCR Mourns The Loss of a Hero - Michael Ratner



May 11, 2016







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It is with a very heavy heart that we write to tell you of a great loss to our family. Today, we lost one of the great social justice warriors of our time, Michael Ratner. In July 2015, Michael fell ill. But he fought his illness in the same manner as he did all of the injustices he encountered for the last half century; with clarity, tenacity, good cheer, the support of his loving family and friends, and hope for the best possible outcome against the odds. Sadly, this was one fight that he wasn't able to win. We send our deepest condolences to his family and to all of those who knew and loved him.
Family members say Michael was born with the "empathy gene," which made him a wonderful and loyal friend. While a law student at Columbia University in 1968 this empathy and compassion helped him find his political focus during student protests against the Vietnam War. While participating in a building occupation on campus Michael was pushed to the ground and beaten by the police. Seeing his bloodied classmates who were, like him, standing up for what's right, he decided he would always stand on the side of the oppressed and against the oppressor. A law student was pushed down; a radical rose up. In his words, "[E]vents like this created the activists of the generation and I never looked back; I declared that I was going to spend my life on the side of justice and non-violence." And this is exactly what Michael did until his last breath.
After law school Michael was drawn to the Center for Constitutional Rights; it would be his political home for over 40 years. He started as a staff attorney on the same day as another lost CCR hero, Rhonda Copelon, who along with other CCR colleagues, built gender work into the Center's portfolio in the early 1970s. Through the years, Michael came to embrace international law as a key tool for the Center through the counsel of Rhonda and former CCR Vice President, Peter Weiss. This work, along with Michael's tenacity and spirit remain the defining features of CCR 50 years after it was founded.
Michael was the organizational bridge between the work of CCR's founders, from whom he learned how to litigate boldly and work with social movements, and our current generation of lawyers and advocates. He was a mentor and inspiration to generations of law students and lawyers who have come through CCR. Twenty-four years ago, the Center's current Executive Director, Vince Warren, was one of these students. He shared his thoughts upon first meeting Michael as a CCR Ella Baker Intern:
"He lived the vision for how a radical people's lawyer could almost literally shift the world for the most precarious in our society, by shifting the ground under the most powerful. But what really shifted, was me. Hearing his stories of representing clients and political movements from every corner of the globe, I came to see how I could use my law degree for something extraordinary and eternal. It was my honor to have later served with him on CCR's Board and to work in partnership as the Executive Director of the organization we both cherished."
In accepting the Center's Relentless Radical Award in 2012, Michael explained why he chose to spend his career in partnership with CCR: "I believed then and I still believe today, that it is the place that will change the world. I am as excited to walk into the Center today as I was that first day. And I still believe it is the place that will change the world."
Jules Lobel, CCR's Board President and frequent CCR co-counsel with Michael, shared "Michael was the moral and political compass for me and CCR. He was the spirit of the Center: his approach to litigation and working with communities, his fortitude in waging long running campaigns, and the values he held dear. These will outlive him and continue to impact CCR's work for generations."
Michael had the vision to see things on the horizonthings that others barely glimpsed, often dismissed, or were convinced simply didn't exist. From his work at CCR challenging US imperialism and oppression through policies of brutal militarism from Central America, Iraq and at home, Michael stood for peaceful conflict resolution and accountability for the inevitable abuse that accompanies the use of force. He never shied away from a fight, no matter the odds; indeed, it is likely he specifically selected the cases with the longest odds. After all, those involved in these cases were most in need of solidarity, support and a legal ally. This was obvious in the years he spent dedicated to exposing conditions facing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and advocating for adherence to international law and recognition of their human rights.
Katherine Franke, CCR's Board Chair, reflects on the legacy that Michael has left us with:
"He was among the most visionary lawyers of our generation, holding the U.S. government accountable when it went to war illegally, tortured its citizens, withheld state secrets, limited the rights of a free press, persecuted political dissidents and in countless other contexts. There has hardly been a progressive social movement in the last 45 years that Michael hasn't been part of, contributing his phenomenally creative and cutting edge legal mind. All of us who treasure freedom and oppose oppressive state violence owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Ratner."
Michael's special gift was his ability to turn an urgent problem into a meaningful, hard-hitting lawsuit. He sometimes won in court, but he always won in the court of public opinion; even if it took the rest of the world a decade to get there. Among his many iconic wins was gaining freedom for HIV+ Haitians held at Guantánamo Bay in 1993. This experience prepared him to recognize what was at stake when the first men were transferred to Guantánamo in 2001he knew that this was an attempt to place them beyond the reach of the law, the courts, reporters or lawyers. Within months of the 9/11 attacks Michael had made a compelling case for why CCR, alone among U.S. organizations, and at the great risk of losing support, should take up the challenge to these detentions.
No target was too daunting; Michael went after dictators, torturers, corporations, and the military, and he challenged the impunity of government officials everywhere. Famously antiwar, he represented members of Congress three times over two decades in challenges to executive war making, and he represented solidarity activists who fought for peace. He fought in domestic and international legal forums for the victims of U.S. oppression in Central America, to end the illegal U.S. blockade of Cuba, and for independence for Puerto Rico. Most recently, he represented journalist Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in support of whistleblowers who expose abuses and provide access to information; two things a democracy needs to be both morally accountable and functional.
Michael dedicated his life to the most important justice causes of the last half century. He was the second wave of people's lawyers at CCR, its first Legal Director, and longtime Board Member and Board President; and as such helped shape the course of the work for four decades. He is survived by the legacy he created at CCR. We were undeservedly fortunate to have had so much of Michael's vision, time and leadership over these many years. We send his wife Karen Ranucci, and children Jake and Ana, and the rest of his close-knit family a heartfelt embrace from the entire CCR family.
We close with Michael's words: "There is not the same sense of strength in struggle that you can change things, not as there was in the 60s and 70s. You get to the point where you have a very conservative government and you feel like you are only a flickering light. But we have to keep the light lit."
We will keep the light lit for you Michael.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#5
For those not familiar with the CCR [Center for Constitutional Rights] which Ratner founded and was long the leader of, here is their website and their great work: https://ccrjustice.org/home/what-we-do

Michael not only was the lead lawyer on many cases, but the inspiration for others to join CCR or similar groups of progressive lawyers that formed in the USA and elsewhere. He long had a weekly show on the Pacifica radio network - now archived in the Pacifica Archives and some on the WBAI archives - entitled 'Law and Disorder'.

While there a many other very committed and competent lawyers at CCR, there is no one to replace Ratner and it is a huge loss. His FBI and other intelligence files kept on him must be HUGE, a sign of how righteous was his work against the tyranny of the system and the legal system in particular. He was the first to take on a case in support of release of a Guantanamo detainee [and many other cases no other lawyer would touch with a ten foot pole]...he led the way and others now have followed. Brave leaders and clear thinkers like this don't come often and we are all much poorer for loosing him. I will miss his soothing voice on WBAI radio each week telling the new horrors of the government and how CCR was trying to combat them.

Michael Ratner Presente!


Quote:

What We Do



The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. CCR is committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change. We do that by combining cutting-edge litigation, advocacy and strategic communications in work on a broad range of civil and human rights issues, listed below.




"Power concedes nothing without a demand."
- Frederick Douglass





Issues We Fight

Abusive Immigration Practices




The U.S. government has a long history of violating the civil and human rights of immigrants who often lack political power and access to justice. From our early support of the Sanctuary Movement and our representation of HIV-positive Haitians held in Guantánamo to our legal challenges to...



Our cases and advocacy work




Corporate Human Rights Abuses




Since our founding in 1966, the Center has pioneered legal strategies to ensure that courtroom doors remain open to those with the least access to justice. In few instances is this more difficult than when our clients are seeking justice for human rights violations committed or facilitated by a...



Our cases and advocacy work




Criminalizing Dissent




CCR was born out of dissent. Growing directly out of Civil Rights struggles in the South, we have consistently worked to protect the right to dissent, not simply as an individual liberty but as the starting point for social change. Historically, CCR established the right to challenge the...



Our cases and advocacy work




Discriminatory Policing




CCR has tenaciously challenged discriminatory policing for decades, recognizing that discrimination and police violence do not arise as isolated incidents but are deeply embedded within our criminal justice system. We have challenged both local law enforcement (most notably the NYPD) and...



Our cases and advocacy work




Drone Killings




Since 2002, the United States has operated a secretive killing program using armed drones and other weapons in multiple countries, far removed from any legitimate battlefields. These so-called targeted killings have left thousands of people dead and injured, including hundreds of children. Both...



Our cases and advocacy work




Government Surveillance




From the stunning revelations of the FBI's COINTELPRO program just a few years after CCR was founded to the broad-ranging surveillance of the post-9/11 era, CCR has consistently sought to expose and oppose government surveillance. We have worked to protect individuals and communities from...



Our cases and advocacy work




Guantanamo




For over a decade, CCR has been at the forefront of the legal battle against indefinite detention and torture at Guantánamo, representing many current and former detainees. We sent one of the first civilian lawyers to the base; organized a network of hundreds of lawyers (the "GITMO bar") to...



Our cases and advocacy work




LGBTQI Persecution




CCR has long had a deep commitment to protecting members of LGBTQI communities from discrimination, censorship, violence and persecution. Throughout the 1990s, the Center fought for the rights of gays and lesbians to serve in the Peace Corps, march in the St. Patrick's Day Parade, receive...



Our cases and advocacy work




Mass Incarceration




CCR works hard to empower those who have been imprisoned, supporting movements begun by prisoners and foregrounding their stories and voices in our work. With the National Lawyers Guild, we provide our Jailhouse Lawyers...



Our cases and advocacy work




Muslim Profiling




CCR fights tirelessly to obtain justice for those who have fallen victim to domestic government abuses perpetuated in the name of the so-called "war on terror." Our challenges to discriminatory profiling, torture, and illegal detentions of Muslims in the U.S. began in the days immediately after...



Our cases and advocacy work




Palestinian Solidarity




CCR has long challenged impunity for the Israeli government's violations of international law related to its illegal occupation of Palestine, U.S. support that enables Israel's violations, and efforts to punish activists for speaking out in solidarity with Palestine. We have sought transparency...



Our cases and advocacy work




Racial Injustice




CCR has been fighting for racial justice since our first day. We organized legal support for and defended marchers who were arrested on the historic Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965; litigated scores of Voting Rights Act cases; led challenges to de facto segregation that held states...



Our cases and advocacy work




Sexual and Gender-Based Violence




Since the 1970s, combating sexual and gender-based violence has been an integral part of CCR's mission. We fought for recognition of the right to self-defense for victims of domestic violence, winning the first ever appeal of a murder conviction on these grounds, and helped to strike down New...



Our cases and advocacy work




Torture, War Crimes, & Militarism




CCR has been relentless in its efforts on behalf of victims of torture and war crimes. The Center pioneered the use of the Alien Tort Statute to allow foreign victims of international human rights violations to sue the perpetrators in U.S. courts. From taking Bosnian-...



Our cases and advocacy work






"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#6

CCR Mourns the Loss of a Hero - Michael Ratner



May 11, 2016







[Image: homepage-hero_0.jpg?itok=koftWZ3r]











It is with a very heavy heart that we write to tell you of a great loss to our family. Today, we lost one of the great social justice warriors of our time, Michael Ratner. In July 2015, Michael fell ill. But he fought his illness in the same manner as he did all of the injustices he encountered for the last half century; with clarity, tenacity, good cheer, the support of his loving family and friends, and hope for the best possible outcome against the odds. Sadly, this was one fight that he wasn't able to win. We send our deepest condolences to his family and to all of those who knew and loved him.
Family members say Michael was born with the "empathy gene," which made him a wonderful and loyal friend. While a law student at Columbia University in 1968 this empathy and compassion helped him find his political focus during student protests against the Vietnam War. While participating in a building occupation on campus Michael was pushed to the ground and beaten by the police. Seeing his bloodied classmates who were, like him, standing up for what's right, he decided he would always stand on the side of the oppressed and against the oppressor. A law student was pushed down; a radical rose up. In his words, "[E]vents like this created the activists of the generation and I never looked back; I declared that I was going to spend my life on the side of justice and non-violence." And this is exactly what Michael did until his last breath.
After law school Michael was drawn to the Center for Constitutional Rights; it would be his political home for over 40 years. He started as a staff attorney on the same day as another lost CCR hero, Rhonda Copelon, who along with other CCR colleagues, built gender work into the Center's portfolio in the early 1970s. Through the years, Michael came to embrace international law as a key tool for the Center through the counsel of Rhonda and former CCR Vice President, Peter Weiss. This work, along with Michael's tenacity and spirit remain the defining features of CCR 50 years after it was founded.
Michael was the organizational bridge between the work of CCR's founders, from whom he learned how to litigate boldly and work with social movements, and our current generation of lawyers and advocates. He was a mentor and inspiration to generations of law students and lawyers who have come through CCR. Twenty-four years ago, I was one of these students. When I first met Michael as a CCR Ella Baker Intern, I saw someone who lived the vision for how a radical people's lawyer could almost literally shift the world for the most precarious in our society, by shifting the ground under the most powerful. But what really shifted, was me. Hearing his stories of representing clients and political movements from every corner of the globe, I came to see how I could use my law degree for something extraordinary and eternal. It was my honor to have later served with him on CCR's Board and to work in partnership as the Executive Director of the organization we both cherished.
In accepting the Center's Relentless Radical Award in 2012, Michael explained why he chose to spend his career in partnership with CCR: "I believed then and I still believe today, that it is the place that will change the world. I am as excited to walk into the Center today as I was that first day. And I still believe it is the place that will change the world."
Jules Lobel, CCR's Board President and frequent CCR co-counsel with Michael, shared "Michael was the moral and political compass for me and CCR. He was the spirit of the Center: his approach to litigation and working with communities, his fortitude in waging long running campaigns, and the values he held dear. These will outlive him and continue to impact CCR's work for generations."
Michael had the vision to see things on the horizonthings that others barely glimpsed, often dismissed, or were convinced simply didn't exist. From his work at CCR challenging US imperialism and oppression through policies of brutal militarism from Central America, Iraq and at home, Michael stood for peaceful conflict resolution and accountability for the inevitable abuse that accompanies the use of force. He never shied away from a fight, no matter the odds; indeed, it is likely he specifically selected the cases with the longest odds. After all, those involved in these cases were most in need of solidarity, support and a legal ally. This was obvious in the years he spent dedicated to exposing conditions facing Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and advocating for adherence to international law and recognition of their human rights.
Katherine Franke, CCR's Board Chair, reflects on the legacy that Michael has left us with:
"He was among the most visionary lawyers of our generation, holding the U.S. government accountable when it went to war illegally, tortured its citizens, withheld state secrets, limited the rights of a free press, persecuted political dissidents and in countless other contexts. There has hardly been a progressive social movement in the last 45 years that Michael hasn't been part of, contributing his phenomenally creative and cutting edge legal mind. All of us who treasure freedom and oppose oppressive state violence owe a debt of gratitude to Michael Ratner."
Michael's special gift was his ability to turn an urgent problem into a meaningful, hard-hitting lawsuit. He sometimes won in court, but he always won in the court of public opinion; even if it took the rest of the world a decade to get there. Among his many iconic wins was gaining freedom for HIV+ Haitians held at Guantánamo Bay in 1993. This experience prepared him to recognize what was at stake when the first men were transferred to Guantánamo in 2001he knew that this was an attempt to place them beyond the reach of the law, the courts, reporters or lawyers. Within months of the 9/11 attacks Michael had made a compelling case for why CCR, alone among U.S. organizations, and at the great risk of losing support, should take up the challenge to these detentions.
No target was too daunting; Michael went after dictators, torturers, corporations, and the military, and he challenged the impunity of government officials everywhere. Famously antiwar, he represented members of Congress three times over two decades in challenges to executive war making, and he represented solidarity activists who fought for peace. He fought in domestic and international legal forums for the victims of U.S. oppression in Central America, to end the illegal U.S. blockade of Cuba, and for independence for Puerto Rico. Most recently, he represented journalist Julian Assange and WikiLeaks in support of whistleblowers who expose abuses and provide access to information; two things a democracy needs to be both morally accountable and functional.
Michael dedicated his life to the most important justice causes of the last half century. He was the second wave of people's lawyers at CCR, its first Legal Director, and longtime Board Member and Board President; and as such helped shape the course of the work for four decades. He is survived by the legacy he created at CCR. We were undeservedly fortunate to have had so much of Michael's vision, time and leadership over these many years. We send his wife Karen Ranucci, and children Jake and Ana, and the rest of his close-knit family a heartfelt embrace from the entire CCR family.
We close with Michael's words: "There is not the same sense of strength in struggle that you can change things, not as there was in the 60s and 70s. You get to the point where you have a very conservative government and you feel like you are only a flickering light. But we have to keep the light lit."
We will keep the light lit for you Michael.

If you have memories or thoughts about Michael Ratner you would like to share, we are collecting them at mratnertributes@ccrjustice.org. Please feel free to write in: we will gather your messages and send them to his family.

"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#7
A VERY inciteful and moving show on Law and Disorder [a show Michael Ratner co-founded and was very often on] on WBAI radio archives can be found here http://www.wbai.org/server-archive.html on Monday May 30, 2016 at 9am.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#8

Michael Ratner Was a Fearless Warrior for JusticeHe Was Also My Beloved Uncle

My relationship with Michael was entwined not only with questions of war, peace, and justicebut also with more intimate questions of family, aspirations, disappointments, anxiety, and joy.

By Lizzy Ratner

May 18, 2016



[Image: Ratner_family_OTU_img.jpg] My uncle Michael Ratner (on the left), with my dad, me, my son, my husband and Michael's wife, Karen Ranucci, at a protest with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. (photo courtesy of the author)


Uncles don't fare terribly well in history or literature. From Creon to Claudius, Uncle Sam to Uncle Scar, the role of Father's younger or Mother's older brother tends to be a dubious one, shaded by jealousy, vengefulness, and a penchant for fratricide. There are exceptions, to be sure: Pip's sweet but simple uncle, Joe Gargery. Peter Parker's ill-fated Uncle Ben. But even at their best, they rarely take the shape of crusading activists against US imperialism. Or legal warriors against war criminals. Or the implacable scourges of torturers. They do not, as a rule, serve legal papers to blood-stained generals at their Harvard graduations. But my Uncle Michael did. And in this way, as in so many others, he defied imaginationand redefined reality.
Last week, on Wednesday, I lost this beloved uncle of mine. He slipped away after a brief but torrential illness, a vigorous 72-year-old with years of fightand decades of outragestill inside him. In the days before his death, close friends and family streamed into his hospital room, one last love-in. Michael's son brought a banjo, his friend a guitar. We sang songs, watched old videos, rehashed favorite memories, and cried a lot. All of us. Dear cousins who'd grown up with Michael in Cleveland. Dear friends who'd gotten beaten up with him at Columbia. Friends from the legal trenches, friends from struggles that spanned the globe. Even nurses and doctors who had grown attached to him in their too-short time together. "I know this is unprofessional," one broken-up physical therapist confessed as she rushed into his hospital room, "but I had to come by when I heard."
In the days since Michael's death, the outpouring of love and grief across the continents, from friends, acquaintances, and complete strangers, has comforted and stunned us. The painand beautyof the moment is that it would have stunned Michael, too. For all the people he touched and inspired, for all the audacity of his political work, I believe he had no idea of his far-reaching influence. As each new tribute rolls in, I imagine him clapping his right hand over his moutha favorite gesture when he was shocked or movedand shaking his head back and forth while letting out an emphatic "Whoaaaaaa!"
Michael was always far more interested in finding out about other people than in talking about himself.
In some ways, I understand this. We in his family always knew that Michael was extraordinary, brilliant, and passionatethe best and boldest there was. But I don't think we fully realized how extraordinary he was to so many other people. This was in part, I suspect, because Michael didn't talk all that much about his workwhich is to say, his particular role in any of the many struggles he had dedicated himself to. He would talk about the struggles themselvesabout the abuses that moved him to actionbut, as his wise friend Rashid Khalidi observed, Michael was always far more interested in finding out about other people than in talking about himself. He had an amazing enthusiasm for people, and when he was with you, he wanted to hear about your work, your children, your parents, your fears, your hopes and accomplishments.
But for me, at least, I think there's another reason for the surprise: My relationship with Michael was so deeply personal, so entwined not only with the big questions of war, peace, justice, and injustice, but also with the more intimate questions of family, parenting, birth, death, holidays, vacations, aspirations, disappointments, anxiety, depression, and joyall the strands that weave together to form the fabric of our daily lives. Michael was, quite simply, a defining force for me. He was my mentor and guardian, my jester and wise counsel, and so much of what I have done, small and fragmentary as it is, is because of him. I guess I couldn't imagine that he could mean so much to so many others, too.
This connection to Michaelpowerful and encompassinggoes all the way back to my beginning. I had no consciousness in my earliest days of the work that sent him careening through Central AmericaNicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvadorbut I knew I adored him. Back then, Michael wore a full black beard, part Che Guevara, part Vilna Gaon, and whenever that beard came around, I knew the fun would begin. He would throw my sister and me over his shoulders like sacks of potatoes, hurl us squealing into the air, shake our hands until they almost dropped off.
Michael loved kids. He had a fantastically goofy side, and he could keep us entertained for hours. But I also think that he connected so well with us, and with the scads of kids who followedhis own children above all, but also his friends' childrenbecause, for all his jokes and silliness, he took young people seriously, respected their still-forming minds. Plus, kids were some of the only people who could go toe-to-toe with him in curiosity and enthusiasm. In the brutal days before his death, just before he went into the hospital for the last time, Michael's daughter discovered that he'd been searching for videos of how to draw cardinals. He had wanted to send them to my son.
Michael's respect for the minds of the under-10 set meant that he never talked down to me.
In my own life, Michael's respect for the minds of the under-10 set meant that he never talked down to me, always assumed that I could and should understand. He spoke of the world as it was, and as I got older, that meant he became not only fun but interesting. It was the early 1980s, a moment of revolution in Latin America and Reagan's counterrevolution at home, and when Michael was around, conversation inevitably turned to issues both mysterious and grown-up. He used words like "Managua" and "Nicaragua," "Sandinista" and "contra," and in 1982, he took my whole family to Cuba, not long before he and the Center for Constitutional Rights sued the Reagan administration over its draconian restrictions on Cuban travel. I'm ashamed to admit that I was more interested in guzzling as much Tropi-Cola as I could than in absorbing the lessons of the Cuban Revolution. Nonetheless, a halo of nascent comprehension was beginning to form at the fringes of my consciousness. Though I didn't realize it then, Michael was laying stones in the forest for me to follow when the time came.
Michael kept laying these stones, bigger, more deliberate, as I got oldersuggesting that I write about the bombing of Cambodia for a 10th-grade term paper, subscribing me to The Nation, giving me a copy of Living My Life, Emma Goldman's autobiography. I'd like to think that Michael saw in me a receptive spirit, that he recognized the way the privilege of my childhood was raising more questions for me than I could answer on my own. But maybe he just realized that I was 16 and struggling with a splintering nuclear family, and he wanted to be present for me. He called to check in on me often. The phone would ring, and we would talk about whatever homework I was doing; his kids, who were just small, pixieish toddlers back then; and, eventually, the big case that had come to consume himthe illegal detention of HIV-positive Haitian refugees at the US Naval Base at Guantánamo Bay.
Guantánamo. For 14 years, it's been synonymous with the barbarism and abuse of the "war on terror." But before it became a modern-day penal colony, it was an open-air holding cell for more than 300 Haitian refugees: men, women, and children who had fled Haiti after the US-backed coup against Jean-Bertrand Aristide. For more than a year, Michael, along with Harold Koh and a group of Yale law students, worked every anglelegal, political, and grassrootsin a multi-pronged campaign to free the refugees. And, miraculously, they won.
From the moment I read that the Bush administration planned to resurrect Gitmo, I knew that Michael would fight it.
It was a signal victory for Michael, a rare moment when the promise of legal rights trumped the power of government impunity, when organized compassion won out over naked cruelty. This cruelty, which Michael witnessed firsthand during visits to Guantánamo, shook him powerfullyso much so that, from the moment I read the news in January 2002 that the Bush administration planned to resurrect Gitmo for so-called enemy combatants, I knew that Michael would fight it. Damn the death threats, damn the opprobrium of the rah-rah jingoists and play-it-safe crowd.
Today, as I look back over the sweep of Michael's life, his audacity stuns me. Back then and in the moment, however, it didn't surprise me all that much. Like a kid who conjures magical powers for her parents, who is convinced they can take on dragons and vanquish bullies, I believed that Michael could fight and win the big, impossible battles that few others would: sue presidents, challenge dictators, pursue torturers. He made it seem so routine, almost easy, like just another day at the office.
Nor was it just the big battles that I relied on him to tackle. I also turned to him to work smaller, more personal miracles. When a woman I knew got slammed with serious health and legal troubles at the same time, I turned to Michael for legal guidance. When lawyer friends needed career advice, I sent them to him. And in my own life, I leaned on him constantly. I relied on him for political guidance, to give me the right read on an issue when I couldn't parse it myself. I relied on him for professional counselto say nothing of internships and actual jobson the many occasions I was lost. I relied on him for lightning humor, brilliant ideas, off-kilter quirkiness, and reassurance. I relied on himexactly 10 years ago this Mayto perform my wedding.
Who will be our moral compass now that Michael can't be?
And now? Now that Michael is no longer here, I feel bereft: hollowed out, diminished, and a little scared. I keep wondering who will nudge me to take the bolder path when the safer one seems so much easier; who will help me slice through ethical snarls when I can't unravel them myself; and who will crack me up with a steady supply of bad Borsht Belt jokes and, just as often, whip-clever quips. On the day after Michael's death, his son, Jake, wondered who will be our moral compass now that Michael can't be. It's a question I've been asking, too.
Michael, I suspect, would be somewhat mortified by all this gushing. He was too much of a rebel for pedestals, and he had little time for the Great Man theory of justice. He didn't believe in men (or women), he advised me on a number of occasions; he believed in movements. In Black Lives Matter. Occupy Wall Street. The fight for Palestinian freedom. The struggle of the Sandinistas. The promise of South African trade unionists. The pursuit of Puerto Rican independence. And on and on.
"When change comes, it is unpredictable, but it does not happen by chance," Michael told his close friend Anthony Arnove in an interview several years ago. "At some point," he continued, "all of these small efforts coalesce, and we see the changes we want…. All of us need to light sparks all of the time, and then the time comes when justice is inevitable."
Michael was right about the power of movements, about the quantum effect of lots and lots and lots of people working together. He wouldn't have minded a few tears, but then he'd want us to get busy with the critical work of waging peace, forging racial justice, ending torture, stopping violence, and thwarting US imperialism. He'd want us to ignite change. But dear god, I will miss him as I stumble, arms outstretched toward the millions of tiny sparks, along the path he laid for me.
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply
#9
Thom Hartmann was quite cut-up by Ratners death, over a fortnight ago- http://www.thomhartmann.com/bigpicture/m...rican-hero



Nice accolade from 4:30
Martin Luther King - "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."
Albert Camus - "The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion".
Douglas MacArthur — "Whoever said the pen is mightier than the sword obviously never encountered automatic weapons."
Albert Camus - "Nothing is more despicable than respect based on fear."
Reply
#10
They really don't come any better than Micheal Ratner. Few know of him or his work. He is responsible for getting most all of those who have been gotten out of Gitmo out; of putting many a dictator in prison or at least in the dock; of taking on cases NO one else would think to take on; defending Assange; defending prisoners; suing presidents and former high-level administration persons; first case against CIA/USG illegal actions in Nicaragua; making Kissinger and Rumsfeld and others think 200X before traveling abroad...and on and on and on..... You can bet his FBI and CIA files are HUGE!...and would be highly redacted when released. He even went so far as to publicly say that Capitalism was NOT compatible with real justice...and that is, I believe, true; as in Capitalism the rich can buy 'justice' and punish the poor - they also buy the politicians to make the laws that prefer them and their money. Capitalism also sees no value in things it can not sell or make money upon - such as life, liberty, environment, freedoms, privacy, other species, the ecosphere.....or the poor and disadvantaged.

A great, sensitive, and comprehensive tribute to him by his colleagues at WBAI-Radio in NYC here [MP3] ::thumbsup:: to listen to or download. From the show he started [Law and Disorder] by his two other presenters. Michael Ratner Presente!!!!
"Let me issue and control a nation's money and I care not who writes the laws. - Mayer Rothschild
"Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience! People are obedient in the face of poverty, starvation, stupidity, war, and cruelty. Our problem is that grand thieves are running the country. That's our problem!" - Howard Zinn
"If there is no struggle there is no progress. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and never will" - Frederick Douglass
Reply


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