Archive for September, 2011

Ten Years After 9/11, America Deserves Better than Dick Cheney’s Self-Serving Autobiography

On August 30, when In My Time, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s self-serving autobiography was published, the timing was pernicious. Cheney knows by now that every time he opens his mouth to endorse torture or to defend Guantánamo, the networks welcome him, and newspapers lavish column inches on his opinions, even though astute editors and programmers must realize that, far from being an innocuous elder statesman defending the “war on terror” as a robust response to the 9/11 attacks, Cheney has an ulterior motive: to keep at bay those who are aware that he and other Bush administration officials were responsible for authorizing the use of torture by US forces, and that torture is a crime in the United States.

As a result, Cheney knew that, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that launched the “war on terror” that he is still so concerned to defend, his voice would be echoing in the ears of millions of his countrymen and women, helping to disguise a bitter truth: that, following the 9/11 attacks, Cheney was largely responsible for the abomination that is Guantánamo, and for the torture to which prisoners were subjected from Abu Ghraib to Bagram to Guantánamo and the “black sites” that littered the world.

Alarmingly, while Cheney has been largely successful in claiming that the use of torture was helpful, despite a lack of evidence that this was the case, what strikes me as even more alarming is that many Americans are still unaware of the extent to which the torture for which Cheney was such a cheerleader did not keep them safe from terrorist attacks, but actually provided a lie that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: An End of Week Appeal for $700 to Support My Work on Guantánamo and Torture

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Well, my friends, with the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks almost upon us, and every mainstream media outlet bombarding us with far too much information, as though, by now, the anniversary has become some sort of giant annual defining event of America’s identity, those of us who plug away at exposing the dark underbelly of America’s suffering on a regular basis — the damaging response of the Bush administration, with its arrogant and inept “war on terror,” its torture program, its disdain for the Geneva Conventions and its dislike of capable and humane interrogators — are still plugging away, hoping our voices will be heard amidst all the noise that, for the most part, signifies nothing.

I’ve been too busy with “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” my ongoing 70-part, 700,000-word series telling the stories of all the Guantánamo prisoners — for the first time with the inclusion of information drawn from the classified military documents released by WikiLeaks in April, on which I worked as media partner — to fully indulge in the feeding frenzy, and I’ll still be here next week, when the media pack moves on to something new, putting out the 19th or 20th part of the series, and moving on to the next part of the project — a series of ten articles telling the stories of the 111 prisoners released (and the three who died) in 2006. Read the rest of this entry »

The Baha Mousa Inquiry: A Good Day for British Justice, A Bleak Day for the British Army and Their US Mentors

Yesterday, the publication of the final report of the Baha Mousa Inquiry demonstrated that, occasionally, when something truly monstrous has occurred, the British government can do the right thing, and hold a proper inquiry.

Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist in Basra, Iraq, was killed by British soldiers in September 2003, his brutalized body bearing 93 separate injuries, after two days of what the judge in the three-year inquiry, Sir William Gage, described as “serious, gratuitous violence” that leaves “a very great stain on the reputation of the Army.”

As the Independent explained in an editorial today, the report is “damning.” The judge found that the “savagery meted out to Mr. Mousa and fellow detainees in Basra in 2003 were not the actions of a few ‘bad apples,’” but were, instead, “the result of systemic, ‘corporate’ failures that meant neither the abusive soldiers, nor their superiors, were aware that forcing detainees to wear hoods and adopt excruciating stress positions contravened both British law and the Geneva Convention.”

The Independent noted, “That any British soldier is unclear about what constitutes torture is disgraceful enough. That there were others who saw what was happening and allowed it to continue is truly shameful.” Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: As Lib Dems Vote to Support Tory Privatisation Plans, The Last Hope is the House of Lords

When the history of Britain’s first modern coalition government is written, it is fair to say that two events in particular will mark the turning point in the fortunes of the Liberal Democrats, when swathes of the population came to regard them as hypocritical and untrustworthy. The first of these was, of course, the vote last December to raise university tuition fees from £3,290 a year to £9,000 a year, and to withdraw all funding from arts, humanities and social sciences, when, as I reported at the time, 27 Lib Dem MPs voted for the rise in tuition fees (including 15 ministers), while 21 voted against, five abstained, and three were out of the country. Crucially, as I also explained, “The vote was won by 323-302, so just 11 more dissenters were needed for the vote to have been lost.”

Given that the Lib Dems had actively campaigned against any kind of rise in tuition fees, and that this was a major manifesto promise, with the party as a whole going so far as to pledge the abolition of fees, and thereby gaining a large number of young voters, this capitulation was a death sentence for the party’s credibility, and one from which it may never recover.

On Andrew Lansley’s wretched Health and Social Care Bill, otherwise known as the NHS Privatisation Bill, to those of us who think that privatisation, where intended, should be exposed for what it is, the Lib Dems were not faced with such a stark manifestation of hypocrisy and capitulation in voting for the bill on its third reading. This was because they had not made a specific manifesto promise to protect the NHS from the Tories, although they did promise to “protect frontline services such as cancer, mental health and maternity despite a squeeze on the NHS budget,” as the BBC explained prior to the General Election last year. Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part Three of Five)

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Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.

This is Part 18 of the 70-part series. 234 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.

In late April, WikiLeaks pushed Guantánamo back onto the international media’s agenda by publishing thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002, which drew on the testimony of witnesses — in most cases, the prisoners’ fellow prisoners — whose words are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion (sometimes not in Guantánamo, but in secret prisons run by the CIA), or because they provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.

As an independent media partner of WikiLeaks, I liaised both before and after the publication of these documents with WikiLeaks’ mainstream media partners (including the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais), and then, after the killing of Osama bin Laden pushed Guantánamo aside once more, and allowed apologists for torture, and those who engineered its use by US forces, to resume their malignant, criminal and deeply mistaken defense of torture, and of the existence of Guantánamo, I began to analyze all of the Detainee Assessment Briefs in depth.

I began, in May and June, with a five-part series, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. These men and boys were amongst the first 201 prisoners released, and unlike the other prisoners, for whom information was released to the public from 2006 onwards, as a result of court cases involving Freedom of Information requests, no information had been officially released about the first 201 prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day Two: $1900 Still Needed to Fund my Guantánamo Work

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It’s the second day of my quarterly fundraising appeal, and I’d like to thank the six readers and supporters who, to date, have donated $600 to help me continue my research and writing on Guantánamo and torture.

I realize that times are tough, and only getting tougher, and I completely understand if you are unable to donate to support my work, but being a freelancer is a precarious experience at the best of times, and, as I explained yesterday, I was recently hit by hackers, and will have to pay out to improve the security of my site.

As I also explained, I’m particularly hoping to have your support for my latest project, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, 700,000-word series providing the most detailed information available anywhere regarding the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: Make No Mistake, the Government Plans to Privatise Our Precious Health Service

I’ve just returned from having my blood tested at Lewisham Hospital, and, as always when I use the NHS (the National Health Service, for readers outside the UK), I marvel that, because the entire system is paid for via taxation, no one asks me for any money upfront, and no one asks me for any money when I leave. This is  a wonderful form of collective insurance, and I am perpetually grateful for the vision of the NHS’s founders, back in the 1940s. However, as the Tory-led coalition government tries for the third time to persuade the House of Commons to back its disgraceful Health and Social Care Bill, despite a much-touted “listening exercise” on the government’s part, it is clear that nothing has fundamentally changed, that it remains a bill dedicated to the privatisation of the NHS, and that MPs must do away with it once and for all.

In 2008, the NHS took up 8.3 percent of Britain’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), compared to 15.3 percent of GDP in the US, where vast inequalities exist between the treatment of the rich and the poor. And yet, in Britain, under the Tories heading the coalition government, the most savage assault on the NHS is underway, in which that vision of care for all that was articulated and brought to life by the post-war Labour government will, if the Tories succeed with their plans, be replaced by an increasingly privatised system modelled on the US system, in which care for the rich will be prioritised over care for the poor (as Hamish Meldrum, the chairman of the British Medical Association, explained in an interview with the Guardian last week) and companies driven purely by their profit margins will be in charge of more and more of the health service.

If we’re lucky, the NHS will, for the most part, remain free at the point of entry, and at the point of exit, but it will certainly cost more than it does now (as all those private companies have shareholders to feed) and will result in savage inequalities of treatment. Moreover, as astute commentators have been pointing out since the government first presented its NHS reform bill at the start of the year, there is nothing to prevent the increase of inequality between the treatment of the rich and the poor if, as is intended, the government’s plans result in the health minister abdicating his own responsibility to provide or secure the provision of NHS services for everyone, which has existed since the founding of the NHS in 1948. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Help Me Raise $2500 for My Work on Guantánamo and Torture

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On the eve of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 that precipitated the “War on Terror” that has consumed my life for the last five and a half years, through my work chronicling the illegality and the human cost of the Bush administration’s cruel and misguided response to those attacks, it is, I’m rather astonished to note, three months since I last reached out to you, my readers and my supporters, to ask you to provide some financial support to help me to continue my work.

Every three months I ask for donations to help me maintain my existence as a journalist working mainly in the new media, combining traditional journalism (paid for by those who publish it) and reader-funded journalism (supported directly by my readers) as a viable model for a writer in 2011. My last appeal in June — for $2,000 — was thoroughly successful, and with the help of 36 wonderful friends, readers and supporters (and my apologies if I didn’t manage to thank you all personally!), I succeeded in raising that amount, and, with donations received over the summer, exceeding my expectations. Read the rest of this entry »

WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005 (Part Two of Five)

Please support my work!

Freelance investigative journalist Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, million-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002. Adding information released by WikiLeaks in April 2011 to the existing documentation about the prisoners, much of which was already covered in Andy’s book The Guantánamo Files and in the archive of articles on his website, the project will be completed in time for the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening on January 11, 2012.

This is Part 17 of the 70-part series.

In late April, WikiLeaks pushed Guantánamo back onto the international media’s agenda by publishing thousands of pages of classified military documents — the Detainee Assessment Briefs — relating to almost all of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002, which drew on the testimony of witnesses — in most cases, the prisoners’ fellow prisoners — whose words are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion (sometimes not in Guantánamo, but in secret prisons run by the CIA), or because they provided false statements to secure better treatment in Guantánamo.

As an independent media partner of WikiLeaks, I liaised both before and after the publication of these documents with WikiLeaks’ mainstream media partners (including the Washington Post, McClatchy Newspapers, the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais), and then, after the killing of Osama bin Laden pushed Guantánamo aside once more, and allowed apologists for torture, and those who engineered its use by US forces, to resume their malignant, criminal and deeply mistaken defense of torture, and of the existence of Guantánamo, I began to analyze all of the Detainee Assessment Briefs in depth.

I began, in May and June, with a five-part series, “WikiLeaks: The Unknown Prisoners of Guantánamo,” telling the stories of 84 prisoners, released between 2002 and 2004, whose stories had never been told before. These men and boys were amongst the first 201 prisoners released, and unlike the other prisoners, for whom information was released to the public from 2006 onwards, as a result of court cases involving Freedom of Information requests, no information had been officially released about the first 201 prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »

The UK “Riots” and Why the Vile and Disproportionate Response to It Made Me Ashamed to be British

I left the UK for a family holiday in Greece in the middle of what were termed “the riots,” a four-day explosion of violence, looting and arson that didn’t really come as a surprise to me, as it was both a bitter response to an increasingly divided society, and a dreadful demonstration of how we define ourselves through our possessions.

However, I was glad to be away as far too many of my fellow citizens responded to the outbursts of violence around the country (which were generally directed at property and the police, but in some places involved assaults on other civilians and even murders) with their own unedifying calls for vengeance.

In analyzing what happened and why, I am bound to reflect on how we became so materialistic, and on how, through New Labour’s cleverly manufactured boom years (based largely on allowing house prices to rise in the most disproportionate manner, and to encourage those with mortgages to obsess about the spiralling value of their houses to the exclusion of almost everything else), those excluded from the miracle were nevertheless bombarded with messages about how material goods are the only barometer of success in life, so that, across society as a whole, it was difficult to find people who were not obsessed by material goods, their supposed value as status symbols, and their supposed worth.

The New Labour years were a depressing time to be alive for those of us interested in political awareness about the world and values of a less material sort, and it all came crashing down between 2007 and 2008, with a global financial crisis that showed what happens when society’s barometer is greed, and when those involved in creating fiendishly clever ways of making money (however immoral their behaviour is to ordinary people with consciences) are allowed to do whatever they want, and regulations are shredded to encourage further greed on a previously unthinkable scale. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

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The Battle of the Beanfield

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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