Andy Worthington Discusses Guantánamo and the Failure of US Justice Under Obama with Peter B. Collins

14.4.11

Yesterday, it was my great pleasure to speak for over a hour with my friend, the veteran progressive radio show host Peter B. Collins, for his latest podcast, available here, which also features the journalist Robert Parry talking about Luis Posada Carriles and his article covering the jury trial and acquittal of Posada, the former head of Venezuelan intelligence, in El Paso last week.

This is how Peter described the show:

Two great journalists: Andy Worthington, author of The Guantánamo Files, comments on Obama’s cave-in on trials of 9/11 suspects, offers new info on our prisons in Afghanistan, and compares Britain’s political struggles to our own; Robert Parry offers history and context on the recent trial of CIA asset and Cuban exile Luis Posada Carriles.

In this article, Worthington reports that the same week Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder yielded on the trials, the Supreme Court refused to hear habeus corpus appeals of Gitmo inmates, allowing the conservative D.C. Court of Appeals to control the legal issues — consigning more than 100 innocent men to indefinite detention without charge or trial. Leaders of both parties are pandering to public fears, and the courts that limited Bush’s expansive view of presidential power are now maintaining that expansion for Obama. Worthington also talks about the new prison at Bagram with about 1,900 detainees, as well as the scattered prisons in Afghanistan where prisoners are interrogated using questionable methods. And he closes with an update on the Cameron government in Britain, and how its efforts mirror GOP positions in the US.

Peter’s podcasts provide a wonderful opportunity to discuss important topics in depth without commercial breaks, and our latest outing was no exception, as Peter allowed me to go deep into recent events which have demonstrated how both the Obama administration and the Supreme Court have now given up on doing anything that will lead to the closure of Guantánamo, or that will involve bringing justice to any of the 172 men still held.

The first of these is the administration’s cowardly retreat from the promised federal court trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks, which I covered in my article, Holder, Obama and the Cowardly Shame of Guantánamo and the 9/11 Trial, and also in my cross-posting of the now-discarded indictment, filed in New York in December 2009, which provides a context for the planned trial as part of a series of federal court trials that began in 1993 with the trial of Ramzi Yousef, the first (and failed) World Trade Center bomber, whose uncle is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. Seen from this perspective, of course, the abandonment of the 9/11 trial for nakedly political reasons is even more disturbing, and serves only to demonstrate how, on “national security,” the adminstration has capitulated horribly, and has vindicated Bush and Cheney from beyond the political grave.

As for the Supreme Court, I spoke at length not only about the history of the habeas litigation at Guantánamo, which has rarely received the coverage it should have, and also about the Supreme Court’s largely overlooked capitulation last Monday, which I discussed in my article, How the Supreme Court Gave Up on Guantánamo. This, sadly, appears to confirm that the justices are happy that the decision-making power on issues relating to Guantánamo is now in the hands of judges in the D.C. Circuit Court, even though they include poisonous right-wing ideologues like Judge A. Raymond Randolph, who voted for every Guantánamo-related piece of legislation under President Bush that was subsequently overturned by the Supreme Court. I mentioned how that court included Justice John Paul Stevens, whose retirement last year seems, ironically, to have created a generally more right-wing Supreme Court under President Obama, at least on “national security” issues, and also about how outrageous it is that the D.C. Circuit has been given a free rein to block all Guantánamo releases by, effectively, gutting habeas corpus of all meaning, and how depressing it is that almost no one in America’s mainsteam media has even noticed.

As mentioned in Peter’s introduction to the show, we also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, and especially the detention of prisoners at the US prison at Bagram airbase (who are now held in a new, rebranded facility known as the Detention Facility at Parwan). Peter picked up on ths topic because of his ongoing interest in it, but, in particular, because I have been examining the situation in Afghanistan in a series called “Bagram Week,” which has, to date featured the following articles — Updating the Definitive Bagram Prisoner List — 200 Review Board Decisions to Release, Transfer or Detain Added, Broken Justice at Bagram — for Afghans, and for Foreign Prisoners Held by the US, Voices from Bagram: Prisoners Speak in Their Detainee Review Boards (Part One of Three), The “Dark Side” of Bagram: An Ex-Prisoner’s Account of Two Years of Abuse and Bagram and Beyond: New Revelations About Secret US Torture Prisons in Afghanistan.

I was delighted that Peter wanted to talk about the largely overlooked situation in Afghanistan, where the Geneva Conventions have not been throughly reintroduced after the Bush years, where secret frontline facilities still exist where torture is practiced, where foreigners rendered to Bagram from other countries up to nine years ago are still held outside the law, and where the rebranding of the prison as somewhere more humane cannot disguise that fact that there is still violence and prejudice, and that the basis for holding prisoners is still as arrogant and generally misguided as it has been throughout the “War on Terror.”

Finally, Peter asked me to talk briefly about the political situation in the UK, following the creation of a coalition government after last May’s General Election, which I have been discussing in my onging series, Battle for Britain: Fighting the Coalition Government’s Vile Ideology. I was happy to do so, not only because the core values ensuring the stablity and fairness of my own country are under attack by arrogant ideologues who have finally given up on pretending that the welfare of all is of any interest to them (because they are only interested in the desires of the rich and the super-rich), but also because this situation is now being replicated throughout the countries of the West, and, of course, has very clear echoes in the United States.

This discussion involved a call for the creation of a revolutionary state of mind, which I hope will not fall on deaf ears, as it is clear to me that we have never before been so abandoned by mainstream politicians, and that we need to start thinking seriously about how to reclaim the machinery of politics for the people, before we are consigned to an ever increasing ghetto of powerlessness and poverty.

My thanks to Peter for creating the opportunity to discuss all these important topics, and for being such a well-informed host, and I do hope that you have the time to listen to 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) 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, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). 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 — or here for the US), 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.

6 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, H.p. Albarelli wrote:

    Peter is an excellent interviewer and commentator.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    He certainly is, H.p.!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Colin Jones wrote:

    This is such an awful story. Though of course unlawful drone-bombings in Pakistan generate far more bad will internationally than Gitmo.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Malcolm Bush wrote:

    Having listened to this interview on Peter Collins radio, I believe it may help to inform a much larger number of people. The Andy Worthington interview was instantly followed by another, Robert Parry talking about the Posada case. The two interviews complemented each other, give context and balance. I always emphatically believed that only when people see multiple issues, rather than just the one issue of criminality standing alone, will they take notice in significant numbers. In the UK we have far too many people drifting into apathy, or towards the yobbish far right, pursuing their own simplistic ideologies, to satisfy their primitive emotions. They like many in the US Administration have no moral worth. I cannot help speculate just how far the moral decline has spread since George W Bush launched this “War on Terror.” I tend to think the markers have been moved across the globe.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    George Kenneth Berger wrote:

    I’m sharing this now, Andy.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Malcolm, for that considered analysis, and good morning, George, and thanks for sharing.

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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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