Protesting Torture Under Bush and Obama

World Can't Wait | December 13, 2014

Opposing torture as a key component of the Bush regime program has been integral to World Can't Wait's mission from the start. Here are some snapshots of what this has looked like over the years.

Street Theater: Orange Jumpsuits & A Moral Challenge

In 2005, World Can't Wait activists used dramatic street theater to directly confront students and others with the moral consquences of standing by, or carrying out only ritualistic protest while "our" government publicly carried out extreme and grotesque acts of torture (view the photo of a detainee on a leash at Abu Ghraib). Watch the how-to video on the intervention we called "Take the Leash" below.

Activists wore orange jumpsuits while protesting in large actions and small. Below, International Human Rights Day in NYC, 2006 (Source: Indymedia).

Torture + Silence = Complicity: Calling Out War Criminals

During a public debate between human rights lawyer Doug Cassel and torture lawyer for the Bush regime John Yoo in 2005 World Can't Wait protesters attended as detainees, confronting Yoo and the audience. During the debate Cassel asked, "If the President deems that he's got to torture somebody, including by crushing the testicles of the person's child, there is no law that can stop him?", to which Yoo replied "No treaty." Cassel followed up with "Also no law by Congress—that is what you wrote in the August 2002 memo", to which Yoo replied "I think it depends on why the President thinks he needs to do that." We now know, based on the Senate report on CIA torture that the US government at this time was holding innocent family members in order to coerce prisoners into cooperating.

Orange jumpsuits at John Yoo debate

Going into Print

World Can't Wait placed a number of full-page advertisements in newspapers in order to reach out as broadly as possible. In 2006, the ad below was placed in The New York Times stating "this unprecedented legalization of torture is part of a package coming from the Bush regime" and calling on people to join in the national day for mass protest to drive the Bush regime from power.

NY Times ad

Emergency Evening Against Torture

Prominent voices including Mark Ruffalo, Daniel Ellsberg, Craig Murray, Bill Goodman, and Olympia Dukakis  gathered to declare themselves against the "new normal" of the Bush regime's illegitimate, illegal codification of torture on October 2, 2006.

Waterboarding Demonstrations

In many such demonstrations, activists stressed that reporters who described waterboarding as "simulated drowning" were in fact practicing simulated journalism. The video below depicts the first dramatic water-boarding protest, in front of the Department of Justice in 2007, while Michael Mukasey — who wouldn't say waterboarding was torture — was being confirmed as Attorney General. A team of actors showed what happens during a waterboarding session. Using waterproof plastic between the water and the victim's face allowed this demonstration to be carried out without actually waterboarding any of the volunteers; although even just a small taste of what it's like to lose access to air was terrifying enough.

These iconic demonstrations were carried out in cities across the country as well as DC. The photo on the right is from the waterboarding topic page on The New York Times.

waterboarding times square 1-11--08

Bringing the Protest to the Democratic National Convention in 2008

"Torture is not going away just because Obama is becoming president" - more true than ever as Obama declares no prosecutions for any of the criminals who ordered and orchestrated torture, and as prisoners still rot away in Guantanamo, subjected to horrific force feedings on a daily basis.

Continuing to Protest & Demanding Prosecution of the War Criminals

Under Obama, many people have assumed torture is no longer an issue. World Can't Wait has relentlessly continued to protest torture and mobilize visible resistance.

Fire John Yoo

Torture + Silence = ComplicityIn 2008, World Can't Wait launched - a hub for protests as Bush regime war criminals returned to civilian life and took up positions of prestige in the community. John Yoo, the Bush torture lawyer, currently teaches law at the University of Berkeley Law School. World Can't Wait has been a regular presence at the school, at graduations, and in front of his classes with orange jumpsuits.

Speaking Out and Exposing Guantanamo

Andy WorthingtonWorld Can't Wait has partnered with Guantanamo expert, journalist Andy Worthington, for years, bringing him to the U.S. to engage a variety of audiences small and large with the details of the humanity of the people left to rot in Guantanamo, and the horrific conditions they are still being subjected to physically and psychologically. These events are always tied to the need for continued visible resistance and protest.

While at protests, we've brought out the Museum of Torture — displays meant to inform the public about the scope, scale and barbarity of institutionalized torture used by the U.S.

Supporting the Guantanamo Hunger Strike

Torture takes many forms, including the force-feeding and psychological torment of prisoners declared innocent but unable to return home under Obama. In May 2013 World Can't Wait placed a full-page ad in The New York Times declaring Close Guantanamo Now! Stop the Torture, and continued to stage dramatic and visible protest against what this government is doing in our names.

Close Guantanmo New York Times Ad

Guantanamo Hunger Strike action

Main Torture Protesting Torture Under Bush and Obama


World Can't Wait mobilizes people living in the United States to stand up and stop war on the world, repression and torture carried out by the US government. We take action, regardless of which political party holds power, to expose the crimes of our government, from war crimes to systematic mass incarceration, and to put humanity and the planet first.