Letters: 1/19/17

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Be there or be square

In this post-truth world, it is important to remember the wisdom expressed by novelist Alan Garganus when he wrote, “The truth is always radical. Real history is written not in the third person, but in the urgent first.”

On Saturday, Jan. 21, women, men and children all over the globe will be marching to affirm the rights of women, minorities and the survival of the planet. It is as urgent as it has ever been and you need to be there… in person. Meet up in Denver at 9 a.m. at the Civic Center Park. You can find more information at www.marchoncolorado.org.

Be radical, be truthful, be there.

Naomi Rachel/Boulder

Former FBI agent asks Obama to free Leonard Peltier

In a letter dated Jan. 3, former agent and charter member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Agents Association (FBIAA) John C. “Jack” Ryan wrote to President Obama to request a grant of clemency to Native American activist Leonard Peltier. Leonard Peltier should receive clemency, Ryan said, “in the interest of the system of justice for which my two fellow agents died, and in the interest of reconciliation and compassion.”

In 1977, Peltier was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the shooting deaths of FBI agents Jack Coler and Ron Williams on the Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota.

The circumstances surrounding the case in combination with the passage of four decades of time served support [Peltier’s] request to live his final years at home. When Agents Coler and Williams lost their lives it was a devastating loss to us agents. Emotion ruled the decision-making process and likely clouded the judgment of the massive team of whom were driven to hold someone responsible for our loss, Ryan wrote. “If the government could do it all over again, it would respond differently. Through today’s lens, Leonard Peltier was not treated fairly and did not get a fair trial.”

In 2000, Congressman Don Edwards (also a former agent) stated: “The FBI continues to deny its improper conduct on Pine Ridge during the 1970s and in the trial of Leonard Peltier. The FBI used Mr. Peltier as a scapegoat and they continue to do so today. At every step of the way, FBI agents and leadership have opposed any admission of wrongdoing by the government, and they have sought to misrepresent and politicize the meaning of clemency for Leonard Peltier. The killing of FBI agents at Pine Ridge was reprehensible, but the government now admits that it cannot prove that Mr. Peltier killed the agents.”

Edwards’ words ring true today. Last week, the FBIAA succeeded in pressuring American University to remove a statue of Peltier that was exhibited there, and when former U.S. Attorney James Reynolds’ letter to the president to request that he grant clemency to Peltier was publicized, some sought to discredit Reynolds stating that he falsely claimed involvement with the Peltier case.

The FBI’s perpetual demonization of Leonard Peltier is an effort to poison public opinion and avoid self-reflection. Mr. Peltier’s clemency petition is not a referendum on federal law enforcement; it presents a moral imperative which President Obama can address, said Peltier attorney Cynthia Dunne, herself a former federal prosecutor. By reckoning with the past and moving forward in the best interests of justice, reconciliation and compassion, we can become a stronger nation. It is time to free Leonard Peltier.

Currently imprisoned in a maximum-security facility in Coleman, Florida, Peltier is far away from his reservation in North Dakota.

Maintaining strong family ties has been difficult. He has never even met some of his grandchildren or great-grandchildren. In December, Peltier’s younger son passed away while in Washington, D.C., advocating for his father’s release. Prison authorities refused to allow Peltier to attend his son’s funeral.

At 72 years old, Peltier suffers from serious medical problems that impair his ability to walk, see and conduct normal life activities. He suffers from severe diabetes, hypertension and a heart condition, and has been diagnosed with an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Recently, he was told he needs prostate surgery.

Imprisoned for 41 years, Peltier has long been eligible for release, but federal authorities have yielded to the objections of the FBI in denying Peltier’s applications for parole most recently in 2009 when he was told he will not receive another full parole hearing until 2024 when, if he survives, he will have reached nearly the age of 80. Peltier says he’s eligible for mandatory release, but the government has failed to apply its 30-year rule (after 30 years served, all sentences are to be aggregated and the prisoner released) or consider the good-time credit he has earned (20 years, to date).

Peltier’s release from prison now depends on a grant of clemency by President Obama who leaves office on Jan. 20.

International Leonard Peltier Defense Committee

Who is John Galt?

With the election of Donald Trump we may finally have the answer to the cryptic question posed by Ayn Rand in her libertarian, utopian novel Atlas Shrugged, “Who is John Galt?” Scott Walker, Rand Paul and Paul Ryan are, no doubt, waiting breathlessly for the skies to open.

The problem with promises of unfettered, deregulated, laissez faire capitalist enterprise is that there has never been a period in American history when the forces of capital have acted over the long term to benefit the American worker or the public’s well being at large. Greed and ego are difficult things to overcome. Putting a good foot forward is an admiral concession to the reality of a Trump Presidency, but no one should not fall into the temptation of trying to put lipstick on a pig.

Robert Porath/Boulder