The Guantánamo Files: 9/11 interview, Aafia Siddiqui protest and other events

17.9.08

The Guantanamo FilesOn September 11, the seventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I had the pleasure of being interviewed once again by Linda Olson-Osterlund for the “News and Public Affairs Special” show on KBOO FM in Portland, Oregon. The interview, available here, was part of a 9/11 Special, and Linda and I had the opportunity to follow up on previous interviews (here and here) to look at the current situation in Guantánamo: the plight of the 50-plus prisoners who have been cleared for release, but who cannot be repatriated because of international treaties preventing the return of foreign nationals to countries where they face the risk of torture; and those put forward for trial by Military Commission, with a particular focus, at Linda’s request, on Omar Khadr and Mohamed Jawad, the two prisoners, of the 24 charged to date, who were juveniles when they were seized.

This discussion focused on whether it was legitimate to apply “war crimes” charges to alleged combatants in war (it is not, of course, as it leads to an insane situation whereby US combatants are soldiers, while anyone who opposes them is a terrorist), and on the US obligation to rehabilitate juveniles, rather then subjecting them to years of abuse and then putting them forward for “war crimes” trials.

The last few weeks have been busy, as requests have come my way to comment on various issues, either as a spokesman for Reprieve, the legal action charity whose lawyers represent 31 of the remaining 263 prisoners in Guantánamo, or as the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.

On August 30, following the UK High Court’s ruling that the British government had an obligation to reveal potentially exculpatory information in its possession to the lawyers of British resident Binyam Mohamed, in advance of his proposed trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo, I was invited to talk to George Galloway on his TalkSPORT show about the sub-text of the case — the torture to which Binyam was subjected in Moroccan custody (on behalf of the CIA, who rendered him there for that very purpose) and in the CIA’s “Dark Prison” near Kabul. George was a gracious host, very attuned to the absolute horror of torture, and I would be happy to speak to him again.

On September 8, I was talking about Binyam again, after a showing of the film Outlawed at the Portobello Film Festival, which was arranged by the campaigning group Filmmakers Against War. Made in 2006, the half-hour film tells Binyam’s story and that of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen, mistaken for an alleged al-Qaeda accomplice, who was kidnapped as he attempted to enter Macedonia for a holiday and spent months in the “Salt Pit,” another CIA torture prison near Kabul, until the CIA discovered its mistake, and flew him to Albania, dropping him off and leaving him to make his own way home. In a lively Q & A session after the film, I was able to update the stories of these men, and to discuss, in particular, Reprieve’s long struggle for justice for Binyam.

Aafia SiddiquiOn September 12, I was one of several speakers — including Lord Ahmed, Victoria Brittain, Asim Qureshi and Moazzam Begg — invited to speak at a Cageprisoners protest outside the US embassy, to demand justice for Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani neuroscientist, abducted with her children in 2003, whose whereabouts were unaccounted for until this summer, when she reportedly surfaced in Afghanistan, was wounded in a gunfight and was spirited way to the United States to be charged in connection with terrorism. I can’t even begin here to discuss the horror of Aafia’s case, her long detention (denied by all parties), and the bizarre story about her capture in Afghanistan, and I recommend readers to visit this page on the Cageprisoners’ website to discover more and to read this article by Joanne Mariner of Human Rights Watch (and then to see here for the trail of tortured intelligence that leads from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to Majid Khan to Aafia).

I’m pleased to report, however, that the event was a success, as several hundred people turned up, some from far-flung locations around the country, and many who had not, to date, attended any other protests against the excesses of the “War on Terror.” I was happy to provide those attending with some background to the stories of “extraordinary rendition” that underpin the “War on Terror,” and to talk about the US prison in Bagram (in many ways, Guantánamo’s less accountable mirror prison). I can only hope that more people are drawn to the cause (which seems to be one of the most disturbing cases in the whole of the United States’ flight from the law over the last seven years), and that Moazzam’s heartfelt plea for more engagement from the British Pakistani community bears fruit.

And finally, on September 15, I was interviewed by Jeff Monaghan for CKCU, a community radio station in Ottawa, Canada. Jeff contacted me after he read an article I had written about Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni, a victim of rendition and torture who was recently released from Guantánamo (and whose story has not gained anywhere near enough press interest). In an interesting half-hour interview, we discussed Madni’s case, looked at “extraordinary rendition” in closer detail, and also spoke about the case of Omar Khadr — in particular, I must admit, I focused on the hypocrisy of the Canadian government, which advocates for the rights of “child soldiers” from other countries, but is unwilling to act for one of its own, and is content to let Omar, a 15-year old at the time of his capture, be brutalized for the perceived sins of his family.

My thanks to everyone mentioned above for keeping alive the struggle against the injustices of Guantánamo and the “War on Terror.” America’s return to the rule of law is more pressing than ever, as the election approaches, and I can only hope that every gesture by concerned individuals will help to deliver a new administration committed to engaging the United States with the wider world, and overturning the executive power grab engineered, over the last eight years, by Vice President Dick Cheney and his close advisers, including his Chief of Staff, David Addington.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and see here for my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.

3 Responses

  1. John Maszka says...

    The War on Terrorism is a Lie

    The war on terrorism is a lie because terrorism is not an enemy, it is a strategy.
    Terrorism is a strategy employed by weaker states and non-state actors when fighting an asymmetric war against a more powerful opponent.
    No state or non-state actor enters a conventional war against an enemy it has no chance of defeating conventionally.
    Since the U.S. has declared that it will maintain military superiority without challenge, it has done everything in its power to do just that. The US defense budget for 2008 is some $700 billion. There is no single state or non-state actor on this planet that can defeat the United States in a conventional war.
    Therefore, any single state or non-state actor that finds itself at war with the United States will be forced to fight an asymmetric war. That is, they will be forced to employ terrorism.
    Therefore the war on terrorism is a war against anyone at war with the United States. Therefore the war on terrorism is a lie. It is not a war on terrorism at all, but a war to promote and defend US imperialism.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    A video of the Aafia Siddiqui protest is available here:
    http://vimeo.com/1805465?pg=embed&sec=1805465

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    A recording of my interview with George Galloway (with accompanying images) is available here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2xjx4rKY38
    Or here:
    http://www.truveo.com/Guantanamo-Torture-George-Galloway-Reprieve/id/2707504223

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