On Tuesday, I was delighted to talk once more with Brad Friedman, muckraking citizen journalist and host of The Brad Blog, standing in for Mike Malloy on the progressive talk show out of Dallas, Texas.
This was a 2 am start for me, but it’s always a pleasure to talk to Brad, and I’m happy that he took the time to subject Mike’s regular listeners to what he described as “the most underreported story of the last decade,” or, as he put it on The Brad Blog, where the show is available, “Andy Worthington with a maddening hour on our disastrous, immoral, shameful and failed policy of detention at Gitmo.”
Shorn of ad breaks, the one-hour show actually came in at 38 minutes, which gave Brad the time to express his repeated exasperation at the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and Barack Obama’s failure to close the prison. Along the way, Brad aired a number of audio clips from the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by myself and Polly Nash, and available on DVD here), which he described as “startling,” and we spoke about the story of Omar Deghayes, seized while living with his Afghan wife and six-month old son in Lahore, Pakistan, many hundreds of miles from the battlefields of Afghanistan, and listened to Moazzam Begg discussing how difficult it is for ex-prisoners to build a bond with their youngest children, who, in many cases, were born while they were in Guantánamo.
Brad and I also discussed the imminent failure to close Guantánamo by Barack Obama’s self-imposed deadline of January 22, 2010, the problems regarding plans to move prisoners to Illinois, and the recent scaremongering regarding the failed plane bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, which prompted Brad to explain how the American people have become “cowards and sissies” who are “terrified of everything we’re told to be terrified about,” and allowed me to describe how disappointed I am that the connections being drawn by what Brad called “cowards and liars,” regarding Abdulmutallab’s purported connection to former Guantánamo prisoners in Yemen, are not being adequately challenged. Primarily, the prevailing narrative needs challenging because the alleged “terrorists” in Yemen are Saudis, and also because there is absolutely no reason for concluding that the 40 or so Yemenis in Guantánamo, who, like the six men released before Christmas, have been cleared for release by military review boards under the Bush administration, by Barack Obama’s own interagency Task Force, which has been reviewing the cases all year, and in some cases by the US courts, have anything to do with an inept would-be plane bomber and a handful of Saudis who may, or may not, have had anything to do with him.
In response to a question about whether the prisoners were “the worst of the worst,” or whether Guantánamo was nothing more than the most extraordinary scam, I had the opportunity to explain how it was certainly the latter, and to run through the story of how the Bush administration’s unprecedented arrogance and obsession with unfettered executive power led to men being seized for bounty payments, or through dismally poor intelligence, not being screened on capture (according to the Geneva Conventions) to determine whether they were combatants or not, and then being tortured when they failed to provide any “actionable intelligence.”
There was more in the show, including the neglected importance of thoroughly cleaning up the US military and its detention policies, and unequivocally reinstating the Geneva Conventions after the disastrous tenure of Donald Rumsfeld as defense secretary, and a lament that, when it comes to barking out loud and belittling opponents, Republicans have all the swagger and Democrats are, to put it bluntly, useless, but we then ran out of time, just as I was beginning to recap the story of how the sidelining of White House counsel Greg Craig, the driver of the Guantánamo deadline and the dismantling of Bush’s “War on Terror” policies, spelled the end of Obama’s dream of a swift resolution of the Guantánamo story. However, if you want to know more, please feel free to check out my article, “Guantánamo: Idealists Leave Obama’s Sinking Ship.”
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 I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
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