Archive for March, 2012

Four Days Left to Save the NHS: Petitions, Protests and Lobbying the Lords

Time is running out. As I have been explaining throughout this week, it would be great if there was a huge turnout at Saturday’s protest against the Tory-led coalition’s butchering of the NHS. which may be on the statute books by Tuesday without further concerted effort. So please, if you’re in London, or can make it to London on Saturday, come to the Save Our NHS! demonstration outside the Department of Health, from 2.30 to 4.30. 

And there is more. David Owen — Lord Owen — has tabled a crucial, last-minute amendment calling for the passage of the bill to be halted until the government releases its risk register, and there has been time for that important document to be scrutinised carefully. This is a hugely important development, and, as I explained yesterday, Lord Owen has a firm grasp of how passing the bill now, without the risk register being released (despite a tribunal twice ordering the government to release it) would be the third great constitutional outrage committed by the government — following David Cameron’s lie about not allowing a top-down reorganisation of the NHS on his watch, and the stealthy implementation of aspects of Andrew Lansley’s rotten NHS reform bill before it has even been passed by Parliament.

To help peers decide why they should be on the right side of history, Dr. Éoin Clarke, on his blog The Green Benches, has been encouraging supporters of the NHS to contact members of the House of Lords to ask them to support Lord Owen’s amendment. With the help of a widget designed by the activist Brian F. Moylan, it takes just a quarter of an hour to email every peer who might be persuaded to defeat the government on Monday, and I urge you please to send emails to the peers if you have just 15 minutes to spare. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo and Recidivism: The Media’s Ongoing Failure to Question Official Statistics

Last week, the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Director of the CIA and the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, issued a two-page unclassified summary, entitled, “Summary of the Reengagement of Detainees Formerly Held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba” (PDF), which provided information about the purported “recidivism” of former prisoners.

According to the summary, of the 599 prisoners released from Guantánamo, 95 (15.9%) are described as “Confirmed of Reengaging,” and 72 others (12%) are described as “Suspected of Reengaging.” However, in the mainstream media, little distinction was made between the “confirmed” and “suspected” figures. Reuters’ headline, for example, was “Recidivism rises among released Guantánamo detainees,” which was typical. In seeking to justify it, Reuters’ reporter stated, “The figures represent a 2.9 percent rise over a 25 percent aggregate recidivism rate reported by the intelligence czar’s office in December 2010.”

In terms of statistics, this was accurate, as the DNI report in December 2010 (PDF) contained an assessment that 81 former prisoners (13.5 percent) were “confirmed” and 69 (11.5 percent) “suspected” of “reengaging in terrorist or insurgent activities after transfer.” However, as has been the case since “reports” like these first began to be published, under the Bush administration (see this 2009 Seton Hall Law School report — PDF), the mainstream media has persistently refused to demand that the statistics be backed up with evidence. Read the rest of this entry »

Killing the NHS: Why Are The Tories Getting Away With It?

In the US, because of that country’s notorious fetishization of self-reliance, it has been appallingly easy for would-be exploiters to portray anything cooperative as being Communist, with the result that the gulf between the rich and the poor is horrendous, healthcare is a privilege and not a right, and it is possible for weird, self-defeating movements like the Tea Party to persuade ordinary people that is somehow a good idea to slavishly empower the same super-rich people who have treated them with disdain for three decades and outsourced all their jobs in search of greater profits for themselves and their shareholders, and then conjured up the greatest theft in history through deregulating the financial sector.

In the UK — the US-lite, in so many ways — it has taken a while for Tea Party-style self-defeating stupidity to take root, but successive governments — and their corporate advisors — have long been fascinated by the profits to be made in following the hyper-capitalism of the US, and, following the deranged property-driven bubble of the Labour years (which almost everyone bought into, and which is still preserved in the inflated house prices in London and the south east), the Tory-led coalition government now appears to be succeeding in its efforts to con British voters into accepting an artificial, ideologically driven “age of austerity.”

In this latest cynical assault on the British people, the Tories and their cowardly or deluded Lib Dem accomplices — while largely shielding the City thieves and corporate tax-avoiders from public scrutiny — have managed to persuade voters to believe that “we’re all in it together” in having to “tighten our belts,” even though those making these pronouncements are wealthy Etonians whose face fat alone ought to indicate that they’re not “in it with us” at all. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: London Protest Outside the Department of Health on Saturday March 17 — Plus A Last-Minute Call to Lobby Lib Dem MPs and Peers

With just a week to go until the NHS as we know it may be consigned to history, the time for concerted action is more important than ever. Last week, as I noted here in a round-up of recent events, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham secured a debate on the Health and Social Care Bill today, after forcing the government to honour Dr. Kailash Chand’s successful e-petition, which has secured over 170,000 signatures. 100,000 signatures are needed to secure a Parliamentary debate, but David Cameron has clearly begun to tire of his democratic experiment, and was trying to ignore the petition until he was shamed into responding.

However, despite possible fireworks in the House of Commons, the date for the bill to become law creeps ever closer, with March 20 as the intended date for it to make it onto the statute book, and the last obstacles continue to fall away, especially as senior Lib Dems failed to kill the bill at their spring conference at the weekend. — which must surely count as another capitulation for which they will be punished at the polls.

The “Block the Bill” website indicates that there will be a a day of action on March 14, but I’m not sure that there is time for a specific action to be established, and it might make more sense for campaigners to join with students, who already have a national day of action planned for Wednesday, which is supported by the NUS — see the NUS pages here and here — and also see the Facebook pages here and here. In London, campaigners are meeting at ULU, on Malet Street, at 1.30 pm for a march starting at 2 pm. Read the rest of this entry »

UN Torture Rapporteur Accuses US Government of Cruel and Inhuman Treatment of Bradley Manning

Last week, at a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Professor Juan Méndez, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, spoke about the case of Pfc. Bradley Manning, the alleged WikiLeaks whistleblower, telling the news agency AFP, “I believe Bradley Manning was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in the excessive and prolonged isolation he was put in during the eight months he was in Quantico.”

This was a reference to the US military brig near Washington D.C., where Manning was held after his arrest in Kuwait, and before he was moved to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas (on April 20 last year). when his treatment noticeably improved. I wrote about Manning’s ill-treatment at the time, in my articles, Is Bradley Manning Being Held as Some Sort of “Enemy Combatant”?, Psychologists Protest the Torture of Bradley Manning to the Pentagon; Jeff Kaye Reports, and Former Quantico Commander Objects to Treatment of Bradley Manning, the Alleged WikiLeaks Whistleblower. In addition, as I noted in an article last November, after Manning had been charged, and when a date was set for his first hearing:

Among the disturbing details to emerge was information about his chronic isolation, and about the enforced use of nudity to humiliate him, all of which provided uncomfortable echoes of the Bush administration’s torture program, as used in military brigs on the US mainland on two US citizens, Jose Padilla (who lost his mind as the result of his torture) and Yaser Hamdi, and US resident Ali al-Marri. Read the rest of this entry »

Petition to Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo Launched in the US and Internationally

Please sign the Care 2 petition, which can be signed by anyone anywhere in the world, including the US and the UK.

Last week, I drew readers’ attention to the urgent and ongoing e-petition on the British government’s website designed to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. Leaflets to publicize this petition will be back from the printer’s this week, and will be used across the UK to encourage people to sign the petition, to secure 100,000 signatures by May 14, triggering a Parliamentary debate about why Shaker is still held, despite the fact that the US government doesn’t want to continue holding him. In the meantime, however, I want to make sure that readers from anywhere in the world are aware that another petition for Shaker has been launched on the influential Care 2 Petition Site.

Shaker, who has a British wife and four British children, was seized by bounty hunters in Afghanistan, where he had traveled with his family to undertake humanitarian aid, in November 2001, and was then sold to US forces. He arrived at Guantánamo on February 14, 2002, on the same day that his youngest son was born, and he continues to be held, even though the Bush administration cleared him for release in 2007, and President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force cleared him for release in 2009, and even though successive British governments have been asking for him to be returned to the UK since August 2007.

Shaker’s continued detention is, therefore, thoroughly unacceptable, and no excuses can be made by either the Obama administration or the coalition government in the UK to justify his continued imprisonment. As a result, campaigners on both sides of the Atlantic — and around the world — are encouraged to call for his release through these two petitions. Read the rest of this entry »

Save the NHS: The Need to Scrap the Tories’ Privatisation Bill Is More Urgent Than Ever

Last week appeared to be another good week for those opposing the Tory-led coalition government’s disastrous and entirely unwanted NHS reform bill, although no one should be fooled, as the government is still determined to press ahead with its terrible plans, even though wrecking the NHS will almost certainly cost them the next election.

First up was the matter of the e-petition launched by Dr. Kailash Chand OBE, a GP and chair of Tameside and Glossop Primary Care Trust. Simply entitled, “Drop the Health Bill,” the e-petition “[c]alls on the Government to drop its Health and Social Care Bill,” and, at the time of writing, it has been signed by 172,483 people, and is open for signatures until May 16.

This is good news, of course, although in order for it to count for anything, the Labour leader Ed Miliband — and shadow health secretary Andy Burnham — had to force David Cameron to honour a promise he made to the British people, and to Parliament. As Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and parliamentary private secretary to Ed Miliband, explained in an article four days ago: Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 5: Still Seeking $1200 to Fund My Work on Guantánamo

Please support my work!

Thanks to the generosity of 16 friends and supporters, I have raised $800 to help support my research and writing about Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months, and I’m enormously grateful for the support.

However, as the week comes to an end, I’m putting out a final appeal for financial assistance, in the hope of raising another $1200. The total I’m seeking — $2000 — works out at $150 a week for the next three months, which is not a huge amount, but sufficient to allow me the freedom to research and write freely about topics that need covering — mainly relating to Guantánamo and the “war on terror,” including further articles in my series, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” but also on other themes, including the ideologically-driven “age of austerity” in the UK, the European economic crisis, revolutionary movements in the Middle East, and the future of the Occupy movement.

All contributions are welcome, whether it’s $25, $100 or $500 — or, of course, the equivalent in pounds sterling or any other currency. Readers can pay via PayPal from anywhere in the world, but if you’re in the UK and want to help without using PayPal, you can send me a cheque (address here — scroll down to the bottom of the page), and if you’re not a PayPal user and want to send a check from the US (or from anywhere else in the world, for that matter), please feel free to do so, but bear in mind that I have to pay a $10/£6.50 processing fee on every transaction. Securely packaged cash is also an option! Read the rest of this entry »

Were Two Prisoners Killed at Guantánamo in 2007 and 2009?

My friend and colleague Jeff Kaye, a full-time psychologist who somehow also finds time to conduct research into Guantánamo and America’s post-9/11 torture program, had a fascinating — and disturbing — article published last week on Truthout, in which, after stumbling upon the autopsy reports of two prisoners who died at Guantánamo in 2007 and 2009, reportedly by committing suicide, he “found irregularities, unanswered questions, and startling new facts the government has withheld from the public for years,” as he explained in a follow-up article on his blog, Invictus.

Summing up the core of his findings, he added, “For instance, one detainee, Abdul Rahman al-Amri, was found hanged with his hands tied behind his back. The other deceased prisoner, Mohammad al-Hanashi, was said to have strangled himself to death with a type of underwear not used by detainees at the time.”

I’m cross-posting the article below, as I believe Jeff has indeed exposed some previously unexplored, and genuinely troubling “irregularities, unanswered questions, and startling new facts” regarding these two deaths, which have long troubled me as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Return Shaker Aamer to the UK from Guantánamo: Major Publicity Campaign Launched to Secure 100,000 Signatures on UK E-Petition

Please sign the e-petition (British citizens and residents only).

This is the image that, from next week, will be on postcards distributed the length and breadth of the UK, and handed out in universities and colleges, in mosques and churches, and at protests and other gatherings, to secure 100,000 signatures on an e-petition launched by the family and lawyers of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo. Please click on the image for the full-size version.

Entitled, “Return Shaker Aamer to the UK,” the e-petition (which can be signed by children, as well as adults) urges the government — and, specifically, the Foreign Office and the foreign secretary William Hague — to “undertake urgent new initiatives to achieve the immediate transfer of Shaker Aamer to the UK from continuing indefinite detention in Guantánamo Bay.”

The e-petition needs 100,000 signatures by May 14 to secure a response from the British government, and in order to achieve this, campaigners are drawing up plans to repeat the successful campaign to secure a Parliamentary debate about Babar Ahmad, the British citizen who has been held in the UK without charge or trial for eight years pending extradition to the US. Nearly 150,000 signatures were secured for Babar Ahmad between August and November last year, triggering a debate in Parliament that facilitated high-level discussions about the fundamental problems regarding the extradition agreements between the US and the UK, and throughout the EU. 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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