The Guantánamo Files: Andy Worthington Interviewed on The Young Turks TV

16.4.10

On Monday, at 1.20 in the morning in London, I was, nevertheless, happy to get on the phone to talk to Cenk Uygur for The Young Turks, a daily online news show, which attracts a significant number of viewers, and, when it launched in 2005 (after three years as a radio show), was the first live, daily webcast on the Internet. My interview, which lasts for 16 minutes, is available below, via YouTube:

Cenk was a great host, asking me to explain why I have contended, both in my book The Guantánamo Files, and in my subsequent journalism, that the overwhelming majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo are not terrorists. After describing how intelligence reports over the years have persistently demonstrated that no more than a few dozen of the men held at Guantánamo had any meaningful connection to al-Qaeda, I explained that the rest of the men were either completely innocent men, who were seized by the US military’s Afghan or Pakistani allies at a time when bounty payments averaging $5,000 a head were widespread, or low-level Taliban recruits, involved in an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the 9/11 attacks, and had no connection to al-Qaeda.

Cenk also asked me about the Uighurs, Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province, who were sold to US forces by Pakistani villagers in December 2001, allowing me to explain how they were living in a run-down settlement in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountains, either because they had failed to find a way to get to Turkey or Europe, where they hoped to build new lives, or because they nurtured futile hopes of rising up against their only enemy, the Chinese government, and occasionally had a go on the settlement’s one and only gun.

Clearly, these men were not terrorists, and bore no ill will towards the US, but, as I also explained, it was a bitter disappointment when a plan hatched by White House Counsel Greg Craig to bring two of these men to live in the US last April, which provided the best opportunity to demonstrate to the American people that they were not terrorists, and that terrible mistakes were made at Guantánamo, never reached fruition, because President Obama capitulated to Republican pressure and abandoned it.

As a result, Republican opportunists have been able to continue portraying these men as terrorists, even though, as Cenk noted, when four of them were resettled in Bermuda last June and Bill O’Reilly joked that Obama was setting free terrorists who wanted to set up an ice cream store (which the men had said they wanted to do), a more logical conclusion would have been that they were never terrorists in the first place. As I added, however, when dealing with the likes of O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, there is no place for logic or reality, as everything is twisted to the service of their own malign agenda.

Cenk also asked me to speak about the recent declaration by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former Chief of Staff, who asserted, as part of a lawsuit brought by a former Guantánamo prisoner seeking compensation, that President Bush, Vice President Cheney and defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld all knew — and didn’t care — that the majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo were innocent. Despite this, I had to point out that, although this was certainly true, all three men remained convinced that interrogations would yield “actionable intelligence,” and were happy to authorize a widespread torture program when they failed to get the results they hoped for.

Finally, we spoke about how the Obama administration is floundering, and how Guantánamo is now on the back burner, allowing me to explain that I don’t see how the prison will close, even though the need to close it is as great as ever, and Cenk concluded with some apposite complaints about how depressing it is when the President won’t do the right thing, but prefers instead to play politics with the lives of men who, for the most part, have already been deprived of their liberty — and subjected to a horrendously abusive regime — for no good reason for over eight years.

It was a pleasure to talk to Cenk, and I hope to have the opportunity to talk to him again.

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.

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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