In the Guardian: Remember 9/11 and remember Guantánamo

11.9.09

The Guantanamo FilesFor the Guardian’s Comment is free, “Remember 9/11, remember Guantánamo” is an article I wrote to provide a reminder that, as we remember the nearly 3,000 people from over 40 nations who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “much work still needs to be done to address the fallout from the Bush administration’s extraordinary response to the attacks.”

My particular concern is with Guantánamo, for two reasons: firstly, because, on this sad anniversary, we are still waiting for justice to be delivered in the cases of the few dozen men apparently involved in the attacks, or in other acts of international terrorism; and secondly, because the majority of the 225 men still held in Guantánamo had nothing to do with the above, and it is time that their long imprisonment came to an end.

In the cases of the few dozen genuine terror suspects in Guantánamo, I urge President Obama to put them forward for trial in federal courts, and not to revive the Military Commissions that, as former prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld recently explained, are “beyond repair.”

In the cases of the other men, I explain how, despite considerable success in their habeas corpus hearings (in which 29 out of 36 appeals have been granted), the prisoners’ quest for justice is still limited by an outmoded review process in which the courts are obliged merely to consider whether the government has proved that they were connected to al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban.

With each passing year, I believe that the rationale for holding genuine terror suspects alongside Taliban foot soldiers, seized in connection with the overthrow of the Taliban government, as though they were one and the same, becomes increasingly intolerable, and I call for swift action to acknowledge that this is the case, and to facilitate the promised closure of the prison by January 2010.

I also discuss Bagram and the fate of those held in secret prisons or rendered to other countries, but my focus is predominantly on Guantánamo, because, on the eighth anniversary of 9/11, it remains the most visible and bleakly iconic symbol of the Bush administration’s hideous response to the terrible events of that day.

As I explain in the conclusion to my article, “Guantánamo remains the most obvious challenge to President Obama’s stated ambition to ‘regain America’s moral stature in the world,’” but as it now stands, “justice is being delivered neither to those regarded as genuinely dangerous, nor to those whose significance has been exaggerated.”

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.

The Guardian article was cross-posted on Common Dreams and AlterNet.

4 Responses

  1. In the Guardian: Remember 9/11 and remember Guantánamo by Andy Worthington « Dandelion Salad says...

    […] Andy Worthington Featured Writer Dandelion Salad http://www.andyworthington.co.uk 11 Sept. […]

  2. the talking dog says...

    “Justice is being delivered neither to those regarded as genuinely dangerous, nor to those whose significance has been exaggerated.”

    Well, there you are. The entire concept of individual adjudications of anything was tossed by George W. Bush (as channeled by David Addington) who declared that Geneva Convention Article 5 combatant status hearings were not necessary because the President had declared everyone “an enemy combatant,” then (and still) an unrecognized status apparently made up by Mr. Addington (and his partner in perfidy… and incompetence… Douglas Feith).

    And it seems, the years-long drumbeat and repetition of “worst of the worst,” “worst of the worst” has had its desired effect: even the Bush Obama Administration apparently believes its own bulls***, as its “executive review” languishes on, simultaneously purporting to “clear” men on the one hand while the Justice Department fights tooth and nail to continue holding the very same men, the State Dept. purports to be “negotiating to resettle” while the Defense Dept. continues to release Bush era propaganda about “terrorists returning to the battlefield” and “worst of the worst” seemingly designed to scare off foreign governments from admitting them!

    And quite frankly, everyone is left to ponder quite what “the rule of law” means anyway when habeas corpus petitions are granted 29 times (against only 7 denials, and these, of course, only because the government had any evidence at all of any connection no matter how tenuous to the Taliban, rather than to al Qaeda let alone the 9-11 plot), and most of those 29 men remain imprisoned at Guantanamo,,, potentially for the rest of their lives… habeas petitions granted or denied alike!

    The Bush Obama Administration continues to tell us about its preference for “the rule of law” (over the preference of its predecessor) even when it’s showing the same squeamishness of courts that we have become used to lo these 8 years.

    And quite frankly, the Bush Obama Administration’s misguided plan to propose preventive detention rather than risk giving up the political expediency of actually taking its lumps and releasing the 80-90% completely innocent men it is holding (including dropping its galling insistence that men from Yemen who admitedly have no connection to terrorism whatsoever must enter Saudi style “reeducation” programs lest they pose “security threats”) is just too bitter a gall to even try to swallow.

    As someone who was in downtown New York on the morning of 11 Sept. 2001, as I am most mornings to this day, I can safely say that the combination of OBL and Zawahari (not to mention their harborer Mullah Omar) running around free while hundreds of nobodies were, instead, trotted before us to serve as the collective scapegoat, while the same event was used to justify the Afghanistan war, the Iraq war, the ghost prisons, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition, torture, warrantless spying on citizens… is God damned close to comical. If the joke weren’t on those of us not in the ruling elite, of course. But the joke is on us, people. Not to in any way minimize terrorism (which unlike most, I got to see up close myself), but the cure we have been prescribed has been, and will be, far more toxic than the supposed disease.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, TD. I hoped you’d drop by, as I knew, of course, that you would be reflecting on all of this yesterday. As you write on your website, “I happened to be at work one city block north of the WTC, and, given that proximity, a few degrees alteration of a terrorist-pilot’s flight path, and I’m not sitting here typing this”:
    http://thetalkingdog.com/archives2/001356.html
    To me that adds enormously to the power of your analysis of how the rule of law, shredded so disgracefully by the Bush administration in response to the attacks, continues to be so severely threatened by his successor, and I wholeheartedly agree with you conclusion: that, with regard to 9/11, “the cure we have been prescribed has been, and will be, far more toxic than the supposed disease.”
    Thanks again.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    And have a look at this:
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Notice-of-continuation-from-the-President-regarding-the-emergency-declared-with-respect-to-the-September-11-2001-terrorist-attacks/
    I was alerted to it by a friend on Facebook, but had to pinch myself to check that it wasn’t a spoof.
    We’ve now had a permanent state of national emergency for nine years!?!

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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