As a former member of the U.S. Army Reserves during the Vietnam War, Jonathan Robison of Oakland doesn't believe a few reservists are solely responsible for torturing the Abu Ghraib prisoners.
"I joined for the same reason Bush did: to avoid the draft," Robison says. "The only difference was, I didn't make a big deal of what a patriot I was for joining the Guard, and I went to my drills." He served in the National Guard in New York and Connecticut, and was later assigned to the Reserves upon moving to Pennsylvania.
Based on recently revealed White House memos constructing legal defenses for torture, the blame must go to the top, Robison says. He also points to Bush administration efforts to declare that neither the Geneva Conventions governing behavior during war, the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights nor the U.S. Constitution applies to our prisoners.
Blame goes also to all of us lower-downs, too, Robison insists: "It was done in our name, with our flag and our money. The fact that it goes on elsewhere [outside the U.S.] is no excuse. In fact, it's now coming out that it is happening elsewhere" on the United States' watch. Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross told the Associated Press that some terror suspects whom the FBI says it captured are nowhere to be found in U.S. detention facilities, and that the U.S. government has refused to provide the Red Cross with a full list of prisoners.
Because of all this, Robison plans to fast for 24 hours at the Federal Building, Downtown. For his date, he chose Tisha B'Av, a Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction of the Jews' Jerusalem First Temple (by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.) and Second Temple (by the Romans in 70 B.C.), which begins at sunset July 26. "It may be difficult, because a Jewish fast is a real fast," Robison notes -- with no liquids, coffee, anything.
So far, no one else has volunteered to join him on the street: "If it's just me and the prophet Elijah, I'll be there." Robison says he's a pretty fair faster, and has been fasting on Yom Kippur for several years, though he is far from Orthodox: "I'm a Jew-Bu," he says, adding Buddhism to his Judaism.