Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo, Obama’s Failures and the UK’s Anti-Terror Laws with Chuck Mertz on This is Hell!

22.6.10

On Saturday, I was delighted to be interviewed by Chuck Mertz for This is Hell! in Chicago. Chuck was one of the first radio hosts to pick up on my work, back in July 2007, and it was great to talk again after our last interview, which, if I recall correctly, was way back in 2008. Our interview begins about 75 minutes into Chuck’s four-hour show, and is available here as an MP3.

Chuck always does thorough research for his interviews, and in our 35-minute discussion, we began by talking about his opening question: has there been any progress in rolling back the horrors of the Bush administration’s vile “War on Terror” policies (and their lesser-known British counterparts) either in the US or the UK?

I began by explaining how the case of Mohammed Hassan Odaini exemplifies much that has gone wrong, as this Yemeni student, seized by mistake, has still not been released, despite being cleared on three occasions — by a military review board under the Bush administration (in 2006), by Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force last year, and by a US judge three weeks ago, who granted Odaini’s habeas corpus petition and delivered a deeply critical analysis of the government’s behavior. As I also explained, Odaini cannot, at present, be released because of a moratorium on the release of any Yemenis that was introduced by President Obama in January, which, in turn, was only introduced because the President refused to stand up to scaremongering and hysteria in the wake of the failed Christmas Day bomb plot.

Seemingly content that this was my way of saying that nothing has substantially changed, Chuck then asked me about the Uighurs, and the significance of Obama’s failure to bring any of these wrongly seized Muslims from Xinjiang province to live in the US, as was planned last year by White House Counsel Greg Craig, until Obama got cold feet. He also wondered why the message of fear — propagated so successfully by the Bush administration — is still with us, and is so difficult to dislodge.

In response, I explained that at least part of the reason is that American citizens were sold a lie, which they appear to have embraced willingly in large numbers. In this lie, soldiers are regarded as terrorists, and terrorists are not regarded as criminals, and this, in turn, has led to a ludicrous and confusing situation — still, essentially, maintained by the Obama administration — in which it is far too easy to portray anyone opposed to US policies as terrorists.

Drawing me back to a topic that I forgot to address, Chuck then asked me to elaborate on the national security situation in the UK, and to explain if the apparent similarities with the US are as real as they appear. In response, I explained that the UK didn’t fall quite so completely for the confusions of the “War on Terror,” but did embrace imprisonment without charge or trial, on the basis of secret evidence, until the Law Lords ruled that system illegal in December 2004, when it was replaced by a form of house arrest that is still in force. I also explained to Chuck — and the listeners of This is Hell! — that it is by no means certain that the new government will return to the fundamental basis of not imprisoning anyone unless they have been tried and convicted in a court of law.

Chuck also asked me about the problems with moving Guantánamo prisoners to a new facility in Illinois, which has met with ferocious opposition in Congress — and I was delighted to note that he also picked up on Congress’s unconstitutional decision to grant itself the power to interfere with the proposed release of prisoners, which I wrote about here and here (with thanks to Lt. Col. David Frakt). This allowed me not only to talk about how Obama’s plan to bring prisoners to the US mainland to face indefinite detention without charge or trial is totally unacceptable, but also to talk about the administration’s other failures — including the failure to generally accept the rulings made by judges in the District Court in Washington D.C. — which have done so much to poison the President’s early promise.

There was much more in the interview that I haven’t touched on here, but I’ll close by reiterating what a pleasure it was to talk to Chuck, and to hope that it won’t be quite so long until we speak 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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. 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, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, 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 (The State of London).
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