On Tuesday I was delighted to be invited to speak once more with progressive radio host Jeff Farias. The show is available here, and the half-hour interview starts 24 minutes in. Jeff had read my recent article, “Guantánamo and Habeas Corpus: The Torture Victim and the Taliban Recruit” (originally published on Truthout), and we had a great chat about how significant the habeas rulings are in exposing the truth about the cruelty, incompetence and overreaction that typifies the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” and why the entire detention policy should have been thoroughly repudiated by President Obama (as opposed to being dealt with primarily through cowardice and compromise).
Jeff and I began by discussing the extraordinary case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi (featured in the article mentioned above), a Mauritanian in Guantánamo who was once regarded as the “highest-value detainee at the facility,” because of his purported connection to the 9/11 attackers. Slahi’s habeas petition has just been granted by District Court Judge James Robertson, and, as I explained, he was tortured for many months in Jordan, where he was rendered by the CIA, and was also subjected to a particularly fearful torture program in Guantánamo, as a result of which he “broke” and told his interrogators whatever they wanted to hear.
Jeff and I also spoke about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (directed by filmmaker Polly Nash and myself). In particular, we discussed the success of the current UK tour of the film, and especially how the testimony of released prisoner Omar Deghayes is proving to be particularly powerful. I explained to Jeff how the film is available worldwide on DVD, and put out a call for anyone in the US to get in touch if they can help with promoting it, as a follow-up to my brief US tour last November (see my reports here and here).
We also spoke about Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who was cleared for release in 2007, and whose story is also featured in “Outside the law: Stories from Guantánamo,” and I ran through Shaker’s story — and the inexcusable refusal to release him — that I have reported at length in articles here, here, here, here and here (and see here and here for two posts relating to campaigns to secure his release).
Jeff also mentioned the frustrations that progressives currently have with the lack of outrage in the US regarding Obama’s failure to close Guantánamo and to thoroughly repudiate the policies of the Bush administration. This gave me the opportunity to talk about how dangerously self-defeating the administration’s cowardice is — as well as being fundamentally wrong — and also to talk about how significant it is that White House Counsel Greg Craig left the administration at the start of this year, even though he had pushed to close the prison and, last April, was close to bringing two cleared prisoners from Guantánamo to live in the US. As I pointed out, having just spent several weeks traveling around the UK with a former prisoner, this single gesture would have demonstrated to Americans, in the clearest manner possible, that profound mistakes were made in the “War on Terror,” and that not everyone who was held in Guantánamo — or who is still held — is or was a terrorist.
However, when Obama capitulated to right-wing criticism (and critics within his own party) and turned the plan down, it was, lamentably, the start of a process of back-tracking that has led to the revival of the reviled Military Commissions, the official endorsement of indefinite detention without charge or trial, the failure to close Guantánamo by Greg Craig’s one-year deadline, and the floundering that now typifies the administration’s approach to the prison’s closure, which has allowed right-wing critics to make all the noise and to advance their poisonous agenda.
Despite the generally bleak outlook, it was a pleasure to talk to Jeff, as ever, and I hope you enjoy the show.
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, updated in January 2010, 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.
Over on Facebook, Cranston Snord wrote:
since obama’s record for all things guantanamo is so horrendous, it leaves me with a question: why?
he didn’t try to conceal his enthusiasm for the afghan war, or lots of other disasters, but he did seem sincere during the campaign about both closing guantanamo and stopping torture. there seem to be two options:
one, he was lying during the campaign, or two, he wasn’t. there’s no fuzziness about what “closing” means.
since he has lied about other things, maybe that’s the best explanation, but if he wasn’t, then either he changed his mind, or he’s being pressured by other forces to follow this dismal course of action.
if he changed his mind, he has not publicly said so, which would have been the honorable thing to do.
i’m left with thinking he is being compelled by others.
any other theories?
This was my reply:
The more time goes on, the more I think the Senatorial rhetoric about Guantanamo, justice and the Constitution was real, but as President he’s a figurehead played by/preyed on by those around him. It ought to be deeply embarrassing, and if he had the courage to go with his principles he should have made a stand, but he hasn’t, and that’s a disgrace, unfortunately, as it perpetuates the Bush-era myths about responding to terrorism with violence and disdain for the law, alienates the left and only adds more fuel to the Republican’s lunatic wing every time he dithers or capitulates to their demands.
Felicity Arbuthnot wrote:
Courage? He’d have to look it up in the dictionary, like his predecessor, and, and ….
And Cranston added:
it is very difficult for most people to imagine that obama is a hollow reed that is swaying with the wind.
after eight years of bush’s attack on law and rationality, people welcomed obama’s complete sentences, especially the ones that supported ending the worst abuses. i think that wish was/is so strong that it makes actually understanding how he has failed almost impossible. the belief that he would do the right thing is stronger than his contrary deeds.
how to break through that remains a puzzle.
and yes, courage has been absent in DC for decades.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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