Last week, I had the pleasure of talking to Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio about my recent week-long visit to Poland, with former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, to tour a sub-titled version of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash. The 24-minute interview — my 22nd with Scott — is available here.
This is how Scott described the show:
Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, discusses his week long tour of Poland, home of a “black site” secret CIA prison, during which he tried to convince the Polish government to accept Guantánamo prisoners who can’t be released to their home countries (for fear of torture); the prison’s ignominious history as “a Soviet-era compound once used by German intelligence in World War II;” the difficulty in getting information from foreign governments complicit in the CIA’s rendition and torture program; how former US officials traveling abroad risk criminal indictments; and the secret CIA prison in Romania that remains … secret.
This is a fair précis, although to add a little more information I explained how everyone in a position of authoritiy in Poland has been refusing to admit the existence of the secret CIA prison in Poland, even though it has been established without a doubt that at least two “high-value detainees,” Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, were flown to the facility from another secret prison in Thailand in December 2002. Both men were recently granted “victim” status in an ongoing investigation into the complicity of the Polish government in the establishment of the prison, which, in itself, demonstrates that evidence clearly exists to prove that both men were indeed held at the prison.
I also spoke about how difficult it is to pursue investigations in countries complicit in torture in the “War on Terror,” because, of course, they were involved in criminal activities, for which they can — and should — be prosecuted, mentioning the recent shutdown of the Lithuanian investigation into its own secret prison, but pointing out that the honesty and integrity of the Polish prosecutor — and the lawyers working for al-Nashiri and Zubaydah — has been echoed in, for example, the UK, where lawyers and judges have all stuck doggedly to the torture story, despite political pressure not to do so.
I also discussed how the indictment for torture prepared against George W. Bush, which prevented him visiting Switzerland last week, was a real boost during my visit to Poland, helping me to persuade audiences that, despite the widespread feeling that the investigation will not be allowed to proceed to its logical conclusion, prosecuting torturers (and those complicit in torture, as in Poland) is a hard task, requiring patience and endurance, and we must all, therefore, take great hope from George W. Bush’s realization that, in future, he may not be able to visit Europe at all.
Scott and I also spoke about the torture in Egypt of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi (which led to a false claim that al-Qaeda was working with Saddam Hussein on obtaining chemical and boiological weapons, later used as a justification for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003), and the crucial role, in the rendition and torture program that was the dark heart of the Bush administration’s “War on Terror,” that was played by Egypt, and especially by intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, designated as Vice President by Hosni Mubarak before his fall from power on Friday, as I explained in my articles, As Egyptians Call for Mubarak’s Fall, He Appoints America’s Favorite Torturer as Vice President, Revolution in Egypt – and the Hypocrisy of the US and the West and As Mubarak Resigns, Ex-Guantánamo Prisoner Mamdouh Habib Reminds the World that Omar Suleiman Personally Tortured Him in Egypt.
There’s even more that we managed to cram into the show, including discussions of the ongoing torture investigations in Spain, how Germany dropped an investigation due to pressure from the Bush administration, and how Romania is in denial about its own torture prison, but as I explained in closing, so long as some avenues remain open, there is hope that what I have prevously described as the battle for the soul of America — the struggle to hold to account the senior officials and lawyers in the Bush administration who conceived and approved the torture program — will be won not by the “dark side,” but by those in the light.
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 July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, T Freeman Ledger wrote:
Brilliant work Andy! You really need to spread this truth, far and wide! Thank you for posting..
Thanks, T! That’s very good to hear.
Lea Reiter wrote:
Dugg & tweeted.
thanks for the info.
I also received the following message from Rob Gehrke:
Many thanks for your tireless and unwavering work bringing into focus the barbaric practices of the torture state Archipelago. Years from now, Americans will look back and marvel at why it was allowed, nothing was done to immediately stop it and try to repair the damage. It seems to be the common error, born out of an authoritarian mindset, that “This is the way it is, so it must be so” – that it is inevitable partly because we are in the middle of it, and are under the illusion that it is therefore more difficult to change.
Those of us who are becoming familiar with MKUltra, KUBARK, professor David H. Price’s writings, the files at the National Security Archive, among other things, are just realizing the vast extent and history of these practices, and how they represent the exact polar opposite of the ostentatious proclamations about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. In the current climate of US politics (if we can call it that), Obama is somewhat trapped because if he closes Guantanimo he will be seen as “weak”, and more importantly, it will force on the consciousness of citizens that horrible mistakes have been made, and that in turn will spark a broader conversation on the GWOT, and US foreign policy in general if that domino should fall – which is of course what needs to happen. The problem seems to go much deeper than just Guantanimo. He, the DoJ, and some judges, are apparently willing to sacrifice the lives of a couple hundred men in order to avoid that.
An old Turkish proverb, paraphrased :
No matter how far down the wrong road you have gone, turn back.
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I remember some of our politicians talking about afghan prisoners in poland – people were laughing at them… now you see the truth, shame!
Yes indeed, Siegfried, Thanks for the comment.
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