Another busy month, as the architects of America’s moral collapse (primarily Vice President Dick Cheney and his chief of staff David Addington, but also the figurehead of the seven-year Torture Nation, President George W. Bush) were swept from power by Barack Obama, a non-WASP, non-Halliburton candidate promising change. As a result, the closure of Guantánamo figures prominently in the following list of the Top 20 Articles based on site traffic in November, although there are also several articles detailing the manifest failures of the “War on Terror” experiment.
As usual, this analysis does not take into account the large numbers of readers who found the articles on other sites on which they were published: primarily, the Future of Freedom Foundation, for whom I have recently started writing, the Huffington Post, Antiwar.com, CounterPunch and ZNet, and also Cageprisoners and others who regularly cross-post my articles, including, of late, Lew Rockwell, Global Research and Information Clearing House. It also does not include visitor stats for my book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (available from Amazon here), or the first eight of 12 additional online chapters of The Guantánamo Files, available in the column on the left (with two new chapters added last month). Note: Figures in brackets indicate the positions last month.
1 (1): Six in Guantánamo Charged with 9/11 Murders: Why Now, and What About the Torture? (February 2008)
Still on top (because it’s now on Page 1 of “Google Images” for 9/11, and probably because the world is full of conspiracy theorists), this article followed the announcement that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and five others had been put forward for trial by Military Commission at Guantánamo, and provides a detailed background to their stories, and to their treatment (i.e. torture) in US custody. For links to other articles chronicling my assiduous coverage of the Commissions, see the bottom of the article, and for the latest on the trials, see 18 below.
2 (4): Sami al-Haj: the banned torture pictures of a journalist in Guantánamo (April 2008)
An overview of the experiences of al-Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj, which was published just before he was released from Guantánamo, this features five powerful drawings (based on censored drawings by Sami), which were commissioned by Sami’s lawyers at the British legal action charity Reprieve. An archive of articles about Sami is here, and UK readers should know that Sami is on a UK tour with Moazzam Begg (former Guantánamo prisoner) and Chris Arendt (Iraq war resister), which starts in January. Details from Cageprisoners.
3 (-): Guilt by Torture: Binyam Mohamed’s Transatlantic Quest for Justice (November 2008)
The latest twists and turns in the case of British resident Binyam Mohamed, tortured for nearly two years — in Morocco and the CIA’s “Dark Prison” in Afghanistan — to produce a confession that he took part in a non-existent “dirty bomb” plot. Judges in the US and the UK have been examining his case, and all are distressed by the actions of their governments. For a detailed history of Binyam’s rendition and torture, see 20, below, and for an analysis of his UK court case, see High Court rules against UK and US in case of Guantánamo torture victim Binyam Mohamed. Also see US Justice Department Drops “Dirty Bomb” Plot Allegation, Meltdown at the Guantánamo Trials, and Torture cannot be hidden forever. For an archive of articles about Binyam, see here.
4 (-): Life Sentence for al-Qaeda Propagandist Fails to Justify Guantánamo Trials (November 2008)
Al-Qaeda member Ali Hamza al-Bahlul is given a life sentence on the eve of the Presidential elections in a one-sided show trial that would have shamed a dictator, after he refused to take part in the trial and did not mount a defense. Final score in the Propaganda League: Al-Qaeda 1, US 0. It’s time to scrap the Military Commissions. For three recent articles about the Commissions’ inbuilt corruption, see The Dark Heart of the Guantánamo Trials, New Evidence of Systemic Bias in Guantánamo Trials, and Corruption at Guantánamo: Military Commissions Under Investigation.
5 (10): Torture allegations dog Guantánamo trials (March 2008)
Examining the problems facing the US administration in its attempts to conceal evidence of torture, this article focuses in particular on misguided attempts to prosecute two juveniles: Omar Khadr (see 14, below) and Mohamed Jawad.
6 (-): 20 Reasons To Shut Down the Guantánamo Trials (November 2008)
From David Hicks to the Kuwaitis charged in October (also profiled here), this handy guide dissects the problems with all 20 of the cases put forward for trial by Military Commission — and the six that were dropped. A cut-out-and-keep guide to the Western world’s most monstrously flawed military trial system.
7 (-): Why Guantánamo Must Be Closed: Advice for Barack Obama (November 2008)
Since Barack Obama’s extraordinary election victory, it seems that everyone and their keypad has an opinion about closing Guantánamo. This article examines the critical errors that were made by the administration, which led to the prison holding innocent men and low-level foot soldiers unconnected to al-Qaeda or the 9/11 attacks, and how torture was introduced in an attempt to extract “actionable intelligence” from prisoners with no knowledge of terrorism. Also see the follow-up article, How Guantánamo Can Be Closed: More Advice for Barack Obama, in which I specifically propose solutions to the problems of the three categories of prisoners still held.
8 (7): Dick Cheney: More Horrors from the “Vice President for Torture” (June 2007)
A detailed analysis of Dick Cheney’s role as the actual Commander-in-Chief of the Bush administration, this article followed the publication of a ground-breaking Washington Post series on Cheney by Barton Gellman and Jo Becker.
9 (-): A bright new day, but what now, President Obama? (November 2008)
A post-election salute, a farewell to Cheney and Addington, and a reminder of the constitutional pledges that the President-Elect needs to keep if he is to restore America’s moral standing.
10 (-) Release of three prisoners highlights failures of Guantánamo (November 2008)
A Kazakh teenager, who may or may not have grown vegetables for the Taliban, an Uzbek taxi driver who once drove a regional Taliban leader, and a 63-year old Somali refugee kidnapped for no reason from his home in Pakistan. Prisoners like this are still in Guantánamo. Here are a few more stories from the last few months: Three prisoners released from Guantánamo, including the brother of US “enemy combatant” Ali al-Marri, Clearing Out Guantánamo: Two More Algerians Transferred, Rendered to Egypt for torture, Mohammed Saad Iqbal Madni is released from Guantánamo, and Two Afghans released from Guantánamo: a farmer and a teenager.
11 (14): Book review: Road From Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejía (January 2008)
The story of the first deserter from the Iraq war, Camilo Mejía, capturing the camaraderie of the soldiers, the deranged incompetence of many of their leaders, and the encounters with brutality, including his own, that led him to desert. Also see On Veterans Day, my correspondence with Brandon Neely, Iraq war resister and former Guantánamo guard. A few other articles about Iraq are here.
12 (13): A critical overview of Salim Hamdan’s Guantánamo trial and the dubious verdict (August 2008)
A comprehensive account of the first US war crimes trial since Nuremberg, this article highlighted many of the problems that have plagued the Commissions since their conception in November 2001. Also see 13, below.
13 (-): Bin Laden’s Driver To Be Released From Guantánamo; Government Defeated (November 2008)
How Salim Hamdan’s repatriation to Yemen to serve out the last month of the meager sentence he received after a trial in the summer (see 12, above) spells the end of the whole malign Guantánamo project. Also see The End of Guantánamo.
14 (8): The trials of Omar Khadr, Guantánamo’s “child soldier” (November 2007)
A detailed account of Omar’s story, from his capture (at the age of 15) to pre-trial hearings in his Military Commission, including psychological analysis, legal challenges to the Commissions, the shame of putting forward a child for a “war crimes” trial, and the disgraceful suppression of evidence. For two other recent articles about juveniles at Guantánamo, see The Pentagon Can’t Count: 22 Juveniles Held at Guantánamo, and Trampling The Rights Of The Child: The Treatment Of Juveniles In Guantánamo. An archive of articles about Omar is here.
15 (16): In a Legal Otherworld, 9/11 Defendants Cry Torture at Guantánamo (June 2008)
Following 1, above, and preceding 17, below, this article looked at the arraignment of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-defendants in June, and, in particular, at Mohammed’s sly mentions of his torture by US forces. For an analysis of possible false confessions made by Mohammed, see Guantánamo’s tangled web: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Majid Khan, dubious US convictions, and a dying man.
16 (2): Dick Cheney Shreds Secret Documents (September 2008)
A bit of fun drawn from Philip Toledano’s new online installation, America: The Gift Shop, featuring clever takes on the “War on Terror” imagined as merchandise, this was largely picked up through a picture link on the last page of the news aggregator Cursor. For a more heavyweight take on Dick Cheney’s role, see 8, above.
17 (18): Is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed Running the 9/11 Trials? (September 2008)
The pre-trial hearings of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his four alleged 9/11 co-conspirators, in which another facet of the Commissions’ extraordinary ineptitude was highlighted when Mohammed was allowed to use his right to self-representation as a platform to mock the judge and toy with the administration.
18 (-): Silence on war crimes as the US election campaign ends (November 2008)
A pre-election salvo analyzing the Bush administration’s war crimes, blasting John McCain for his flip-flopping on torture, lamenting Barack Obama’s refusal to mention war crimes on the campaign trail, and also lamenting the inability of swathes of the population to recognize the criminal regime that has been occupying the White House.
19 (-): Why Jose Padilla’s 17-year prison sentence should shock and disgust all Americans (January 2008)
Part of a profound and underreported story: the Bush administration’s insistence that the President can, if he wishes, imprison US citizens on the US mainland without charge or trial as “enemy combatants,” torture them so that they lose their minds, and then prosecute them in dubious trials in which all mention of torture is prohibited. See here for Padilla’s full story and here for more.
20 (-): Guantánamo: Torture victim Binyam Mohamed sues British government for evidence (May 2008)
A Londoner’s transformation from janitor to al-Qaeda operative. All it takes is 22 months of torture. The horrors of “extraordinary rendition,” in one case study.
Th-th-th-that’s all for this month, folks — except to say, Don’t Forget the Uighurs.
And finally, in mopping up neglected corners of the website, here’s another one that got away: Treachery at Guantánamo (or, Shameless Attempts To Send Unwanted Gitmo Prisoners Back to Torture).
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 also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.
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