Archive for November, 2011

Misery for Nothing: 2 Million on Strike in the UK, As Tories’ Economic Plans Fail

As two million workers from 29 unions went on strike today, I paid a supportive visit to the Embankment in London, and watched as a huge procession of public sector workers came down Northumberland Avenue from Trafalgar Square and the Strand, having first convened in Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

The timing could hardly have been better, as the strike came the day after the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, admitted in his autumn statement that the whole point of the cuts and misery inflicted on everyone in Britain below the level of rich and super-rich — designed, we were told, to pay off Britain’s deficit in time for the next General Election in 2015 — had failed.

As Jonathan Freedland explained in the Guardian, “That goal had now receded to the distant horizon of 2016-17,” and “All the pain, the tax rises and spending cuts, that were meant to turn red ink black, would be, if not quite in vain, in pursuit of a goal now revealed as vanishingly remote.” Read the rest of this entry »

As Judges Kill Off Habeas Corpus for the Guantánamo Prisoners, Will the Supreme Court Act?

When it comes to Guantánamo, the prisoners held in the Bush administration’s experimental prison have mostly been abandoned by those who should have acted on their behalf in all three branches of government —  the executive branch, Congress and the judiciary.

In June 2004, for a brief moment, George W. Bush’s excesses were checked by the Supreme Court, which, in Rasul v. Bush, took the unprecedented move of granting habeas corpus rights to prisoners seized in wartime, after recognizing that the Bush administration had shunted aside the Geneva Conventions in favor of a unprecedented system of arbitrary detention.

In this system, the US government decided that all its actions relating to terrorism and the perceived threat from al-Qaeda and the Taliban (essentially regarded as interchangeable with al-Qaeda because they had “hosted” Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan) constituted part of a “war on terror,” and decided that everyone seized could be held, without anyone bothering to ascertain whether they had been seized by mistake, as “illegal enemy combatants,” who literally had no rights whatsoever, either as human beings or as prisoners. Read the rest of this entry »

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay: Greeks Rise Up Against Austerity

As the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) delivered some “chilling words on the euro debt crisis” (as the Daily Telegraph described it), warning that policy makers around the world must “be prepared to face the worst,” and that the “euro area crisis represents the key risk to the world economy at present,” and that a “large negative event would … most likely send the OECD area as a whole into recession,” the spotlight has generally shifted from the suffering of those most drastically affected by the economic meltdown in Europe, which is bad news for the people of Greece in particular.

As I explained earlier this month, in my articles, Crisis in Greece: Experts Call for Return of the Drachma, As Prime Minister Cancels Bailout Referendum, We Are All Greece: Expert Explains How the Greek Crisis is Being Manipulated by Banks and Governments to Enslave Us All and New Perspectives on the Euro Crisis, and the Need for Greece to Default, Greece has become the scapegoat for the failure of the Euro project, exposing the harsh reality that, after years of irresponsible lending by richer countries, in which the poorer countries not only became horrendously indebted but also saw their cost of living rise alarmingly, making them less competitive in terms of business, they are being made to foot the bill as a result of the banking crisis of 2007 and 2008, which destabilized Western economies to an extent that few commentators realized.

For Greece, the upshot of a debt crisis that first emerged in May 2010 had been 18 months of savage austerity that has been so severe that it has only served to further strangle the economy it was supposedly designed to revive. Earlier this month, the Greeks suffered a further humiliation, when their democratically elected government was replaced by a technocrat government imposed by the EU and the IMF, designed to further destroy Greece’s already shattered economy, in order to protect the bankers behind the Euro, and not to let Greece default and return to the drachma as some critics of the failure of the Euro project — myself included — recommend. Read the rest of this entry »

N30 Strike: 2 Million UK Workers to Protest Against Tory-Led Government Cuts

If you’re fed up with an “age of austerity” implemented by a Tory-led government of millionaires, driven by an ideological desire to crush the British state rather than tackling the root cause of the economic crisis — the unreformed, criminal working practices of the unregulated banks, their taxpayer subsidies, and the wholesale tax evasion and tax avoidance by corporations and wealthy individuals — then the N30 strike action on Wednesday, November 30, is an opportunity to show the government that the ordinary working people of Britain will not give in without a fight, when an estimated two million workers are expected to go on strike.

On the N30 website, set up specifically for the event, thousands of strike actions across the country are listed, and, in London, where nearly 300 actions have so far been submitted, the central event is a march, beginning at Lincoln’s Inn Fields at 12 noon, proceeding to a rally on Victoria Embankment at 1 pm, which I will certainly be attending.

On the face of it, this strike called by the unions, and inspired in particular as part of an ongoing struggle with the government regarding pensions, is not representative of the broad cross-section of British society affected by the government’s savage programme of cuts, because, of course, the government is also targeting those who don’t have unions, and who, in addition, don’t even have pensions to worry about — the unemployed (and especially those who are disabled), students, schoolchildren, and the many workers, including many self-employed people, who don’t have union representation. Read the rest of this entry »

Hearing Date Set for Bradley Manning, the Alleged Whistleblower Who Exposed the Horrors of America’s Wars and of Guantánamo

Every day, for the last seven months, I have had cause to reflect on the bravery of the whistleblower — Pfc. Bradley Manning, according to the US authorities — who, two years ago, released, to WikiLeaks, a trove of classified US documents — the “Collateral Murder” video, showing US soldiers killing civilians in Iraq in 2007, hundreds of thousands of pages of war logs from Afghanistan and Iraq, over 250,000 diplomatic cables, whose selective release, beginning almost exactly a year ago, drove the news agenda globally for many weeks (and also see my reflections on what they revealed about Guantánamo and US torture), and the military files on the Guantánamo prisoners, released last April.

It is, of course, the Guantánamo files that have encouraged me to think every day about the whistleblower responsible for providing them to WikiLeaks, as we all owe a great debt to whoever it was who leaked them. I worked with WikILeaks as a media partner for the release of these documents, liaising with nine media organisations (including McClatchy, the Washington Post,  the Daily Telegraph, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais), and although their impact was overshadowed — rather conveniently, it seems — after just a week, when Osama bin Laden was killed by US forces in Pakistan, I have continued analyzing them ever since, creating a 70-part, million-word series, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” which will be complete by spring 2012.

The documents — Detainee Assessment briefs prepared by the Pentagon’s Joint Task Force at Guantánamo — profile all but three of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened on January 11, 2002, and provide details of what was ascertained about the prisoners, and who provided that information. The documents clarify that many prisoners were completely innocent, detained because the Bush administration arrogantly disregarded the Geneva Conventions, and its tried and tested methods for screening prisoners seized in wartime to make sure that civilians had not been swept up with soldiers. Read the rest of this entry »

Two New Screenings of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” — in New York and London

NOTE Dec. 5: The screening at Middlesex University on November 29 was postponed, because, due to a water leak, the whole of the Hendon Campus was closed on health and safety grounds, but was rescheduled for December 6.

“‘Outside the Law’ is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten.”
Kate Allen, Director, Amnesty International UK

“[T]his is a strong movie examining the imprisonment and subsequent torture of those falsely accused of anti-American conspiracy.”
Joe Burnham, Time Out

As featured on Democracy Now!, ABC News and Truthout. Buy the DVD here (£10 + £2 postage in the UK, and worldwide) or here if in the US ($10 post free).

On Monday and Tuesday next week, in New York and London, there will be two screenings of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington), which, in the last two years, has had hundreds of screenings during two UK tours, a US tour (plus screenings on two further US visits), and a Polish tour, as well as film festival screenings in the UK, the US and Norway, many of which have featured Andy Worthington answering post-screening questions about Guantánamo past, present and future. Read the rest of this entry »

After Ten Years in US Custody, British Resident Shaker Aamer “Is Gradually Dying in Guantánamo,” Says Clive Stafford Smith

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the London-based legal action charity Reprieve, has just visited Guantánamo, for the first time in a number of years, as his colleagues have been undertaking visits instead, and has returned with a renewed sense of horror at the continued existence of Guantánamo, that bleak icon of the Bush administration’s disregard for the law, which President Obama has found himself unable to close.

This is a time of grim anniversaries. The 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in September was followed, in October, by the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan, and, as the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo approaches, on January 11, 2012, we have now reached the point where we can begin to mark the 10th anniversary of the dates on which the 171 men still held there were first seized, and to reflect on what it says about America’s notions of justice and fairness that they are, for the most part, still held without charge or trial.

On his visit to Guantánamo, Stafford Smith was visiting Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, whose case has long been of concern to British citizens and to opponents of Guantánamo in the US and elsewhere in the world. I have written about his case extensively over the years, and his story also features in the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” which I co-directed with the filmmaker Polly Nash. Read the rest of this entry »

The Unfinished Revolution in Egypt: The People vs. The Military Junta

A year ago, only those looking closely realized that huge cracks were developing in the facade of stability maintained by the West, and echoed, in the Middle East, by the ageing dictators who had helped preserve the status quo for decades. Only those looking closely heard about the mobilization of workers in North Africa to protest against the stagnation of their economies, or realized the full impact of the sacrifice of Greece at the altar of the neoliberal Euro project.

A year ago, hints of unrest emerged in the UK, when an “age of austerity” implemented by the Conservative-led government, who couldn’t even hide their delight at being presented with an opportunity to destroy the British state under the pretence of slashing the deficit, met with resistance, in large numbers, from the students and schoolchildren whose futures were being sold off.

By early December, however, when Parliament approved the government’s proposals to triple university tuition fees, and to end all state support for arts, humanities and the social sciences, the students capitulated, and went home instead of staying on the streets. That lesson ultimately played a part in feeding the Occupy Wall Street movement that established itself in New York two months ago, and then spread across America and around the world, but the true inspiration for change were the people of Tunisia and Egypt, who, last January, mobilized in huge numbers, and, unfazed by the risk of death at the hands of the security forces whose sole purpose was to protect the dictators from the people, overthrew those dictators — first, after 24 years, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who ran away from Tunisia to Saudi Arabia, and then, after 30 years, Hosni Mubarak. Read the rest of this entry »

The Complete Guantánamo Files: WikiLeaks and the Prisoners Released in 2007 (Part One of Ten)

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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 spring 2012.

This is Part 31 of the 70-part series. 386 stories have now been told. See the entire archive here.

In late April, I worked with WikiLeaks as a media partner for the publication of 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. These documents drew heavily on the testimony of the prisoners themselves, and also on the testimony of their fellow inmates (either in Guantánamo, or in secret prisons run by or on behalf of the CIA), whose statements are unreliable, either because they were subjected to torture or other forms of coercion, or because they provided false statements in the hope of securing better treatment in Guantánamo.

The documents were compiled by the Joint Task Force at Guantánamo (JTF GTMO), which operates the prison, and were based on assessments and reports made by interrogators and analysts whose primary concern was to “exploit” the prisoners for their intelligence value. They also include input from the Criminal Investigative Task Force, created by the DoD in 2002 to conduct interrogations on a law enforcement basis, rather than for “actionable intelligence.”

My ongoing analysis of the documents began in May, 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. This was followed by a ten-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released from 2002 to 2004,” in which I revisited the stories of 114 other prisoners released in this period, adding information from the Detainee Assessment Briefs to what was already known about these men and boys from press reports and other sources. This was followed by another five-part series, “WikiLeaks and the Guantánamo Prisoners Released After the Tribunals, 2004 to 2005,” dealing with the period from September 2004 to the end of 2005, when 62 prisoners were released. Read the rest of this entry »

As Deficit Super Committee Fails, “Occupy” Activists in Washington, DC Provide Inspiring Plan for US Economy

As was revealed in summer, when Tea Party Republicans were prepared to see America’s credit rating downgraded from AAA for the first time in its history rather than reaching a budget agreement with the administration (an act that ought to have counted as economic treason), the possibility of a bipartisan group reaching an agreement to reduce America’ s deficit has to be regarded as something close to impossible.

That, however, is what the deficit super committee, which has been meeting in August, is supposed to do by Wednesday, although, as the Guardian reported on Sunday, the committee, tasked with cutting $1.2 trillion from America’s $15 trillion budget deficit “looks close to admitting defeat as its deadline looms,” even though failure “will trigger automatic cuts to defence and social welfare programmes starting in 2013.” And today, as this article was published, the prognosis was no less gloomy. “‘Super-committee’ on brink of US deficit failure,” the BBC reported at 10 am Eastern time.

As the Guardian also noted yesterday, “Economists warned on Friday that failure by the ‘super committee’ could have dire consequences for the US and lead to another downgrade of its credit rating,” but, typically, Republicans are “refusing to budge on Bush-era cuts that provide tax breaks for wealthier Americans and expire in 2012,” which they want to extend, Democrats are “refusing to budge on cuts to ‘entitlement’ social welfare programs.” Read the rest of this entry »

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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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