During my ten-day US tour last month to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, all the events I took part in, and the TV and radio interviews I undertook, were worthwhile, enjoyable, and an opportunity to provide important information and to urge those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo to keep campaigning for its closure.
This is not an easy task, given President Obama’s failures, cynical Congressional opposition, and the obstruction of right-wing judges in the D.C. Circuit Court — and it is compounded by a recent poll showing that a majority of Americans are apparently content for Guantánamo to remain open — but the 10th anniversary provided an opportunity to launch a new campaigning website, “Close Guantánamo” with the attorney Tom Wilner (and supporters can sign up here), and also to hook up with many other friends.
One of these is Jason Leopold, the lead investigative reporter for Truthout, who is a colleague and a friend with whom I spent some time in the fall of 2010, during “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week, and in the third of the four cities on my recent visit — San Francisco — Jason and I took part in an hour-long conversation, at UC Hastings Law School on January 13, which was one of the most satisfying of all my engagements, as Jason and I work well together, and had enough time to cover all the issues that need discussing, on this baleful anniversary when all three branches of the US government have failed to close Guantánamo, and too few people seem to care.
In the discussion, posted above via YouTube, which was well attended by law students, activists and Vietnam war veterans, Jason and I discussed Guantánamo past, present and future, the Bush administration’s torture program, the victims of torture, including Abu Zubaydah (whose story Jason has covered, and continues to cover, in depth), and the failures of the Obama administration to close Guantánamo or to hold anyone accountable for the Bush administration’s crimes.
I was, as I mentioned above, particularly pleased to have the time to discuss, in detail, why Guantánamo should remain a source of undying shame (a tale of arrogance and incompetence only made all the more clear through my work on the classified military files released by WikiLeaks last year), and why it is not even remotely acceptable for the government and the American people to accept or to be swayed by the many failures and the continuing lies and distortions that have led to the prison remaining open.
Along the way, Jason and I also had time to discuss the horrendous National Defense Authorization Act, which, although it contains an almost unknown waiver allowing the administration to release prisoners by bypassing barriers raised in Congress, also reinforces previous Congressional opposition to the release of prisoners, and also, notoriously, includes Congressional approval for “terror suspects,” in future, to be held in military custody, possibly for life, without charge or trial.
This is a development that, as I repeated throughout my visit, is a disgrace, thoroughly undermining America’s foundation as a nation based on the rule of law, although I also noted that, although, in theory, it applies to US citizens (something that had particularly mobilized dissent in the US when the NDAA was passed) that is unlikely, as Americans have many more protections than foreigners.
When pushed, even George W. Bush, who imprisoned and tortured the US citizen Jose Padilla as an “enemy combatant” on the US mainland from 2002 to 2005 (and similarly detained US citizen Yaser Hamdi and US resident Ali al-Marri), backed down when threatened with a legal challenge, and moved Padilla into the federal court system — where jury members, lawyers and judges nevertheless continued with his victimization, which has still not come to an end.
Moreover, what everyone needs to remember is that these provisions — although revealing most of all how out of touch with reality America’s scared and scaremongering lawmakers are — also came about for one reason, and for one reason only: because, for ten years, foreigners have been held in military custody in Guantánamo, without charge or trial, and the 171 men still held there will continue to be held for the rest of their lives, even though 89 of them have been cleared for release, unless a concerted effort is made to close the prison, and to point out that arbitrary detention is as unacceptable when applied to foreign Muslims held at Guantánamo as it is when possibly directed at US citizens.
I do hope that you have time to watch the video, and to publicize it if you find it informative, and I’d particularly like to thank Bill Carpenter for filming the event, and to the National Lawyers Guild, Hastings Chapter, for staging it, along with co-sponsors The World Can’t Wait, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Veterans for Peace. My thanks also to Jeff Kaye and Michael Kearns for turning up so we could have a great get-together, and to MaryAnn Thomas, Curt Wechsler and Stephanie Tang of the World Can’t Wait for looking after me during my all-too-brief visit to the Bay Area.
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 June 2011, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
On Facebook, Kevi Brannelly wrote:
what an amazing interview and indictment of the shameful US policy around guantanamo
Well, thank you. Kevi. That’s very encouraging to hear.
Kevi Brannelly wrote:
well and as you said, how sad that we would consider it a victory to get 1, just 1, man out… how low we have sunk
Ah well yes, Kevi, that’s very true, and expressed in isolation like that it made me think that we’re partly in these difficulties, with so much denial and bluster going on, because people who should have known better could pretend, under Bush, that it was someone else’s doing, but now that it involves them having to confront their own complicity, or their own nation’s complicity, or the depths to which their own beacon of freedom has sunk, they’ve run away from the responsibility – just as Obama has done, in fact.
Dave Colding wrote:
So true andy. So true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Thanks, Dave, for the resounding support!
Interesting stuff Andy (as always),
I read a good quote recently (I can’t remember who said it):
“The victors write the history books.”
I don’t think these ‘democratic’ American politicians, lawyers, soldiers and so on, care about their legacy. They’ve convinced the majority of the population that they’ve done what is necessary to protect the security of their country. People’s patriotism and loyalty will help them overlook the injustice and cruelty inflicted on some unknown (supposed terrorist) prisoners.
And I appreciate your point about the stories of people, because that is what is missing – the human aspect of these unknown ‘bad-guys’.
This is an outstanding and very engaging interview/discussion between Mr. Leopold and Mr. Worthington. You two gentlemen should speak together more often.
Thanks, Tashi. Long time no hear! I hope all is well with you. I think your analysis is, sadly, spot-on, although I do also think that at the back of these people’s minds is the sometimes nagging question: how will the history books regard me? And it’s started to occur to me that appealing to their long-term vanity might be the only pressure point left to us – or the only one that might work on them.
At this point, I think all options need to be explored …
Thank you, Suzanne. I’m very glad to hear that. Jason and I both enjoyed it, and spoke of doing it again, so I hope it will happen.
I am doing very well thanks – Hope you are too.
Long-term Vanity! LOL! That gave me a good chuckle. Well, if first you don’t succeed – try everything!
It’s worth exploring as many pressure points as possible… you never know, maybe one will work!
(I am still hopelessly optimistic – even though my own optimism has been pushed to the edge a number of times! Lol. No point giving up now!)
Thanks again, Tashi. I’m glad you liked that line – and I’m glad you remain optimistic.
Dave Colding wrote (in response to 6, above):
Not a problem andy.By the way.I first heard about you by way of your interviews with scott horton on antiwar radio.Until then,i had NO idea of what the detainees had gone through.Being railroaded.sold out for the most part.And totally fucked with.
Thanks again, Dave. I’m delighted to hear that, and will also let Scott Horton know!
Dave Colding wrote:
I believe in cuba.And the cuban revolution.But not in the u.s. occupation of guantanamo.(the prison.)
Yes, it’s such a weird set-up. When I first began researching the current “war on terror” incarnation of Guantanamo, I almost couldn’t believe that the US had been there for over a hundred years. I wrote to Scott, by the way. He wrote back, “Nice to get through to someone every once in a while, huh?”
you never know, maybe one will work!
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