Archive for July, 2012

Families of US Citizens Killed in Drone Attacks in Yemen Take Obama Officials to Court

Yesterday, in New York, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit (PDF) accusing US defense secretary Leon Panetta, CIA director David Petraeus, and William McRaven and Joseph Votel, the commanders of Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), of violating the Constitution and international law when they authorized and directed drone strikes that resulted in the deaths of three US citizens in Yemen last year — Anwar al-Aulaqi (aka al-Awlaki) and Samir Khan in a strike on September 30, 2011, which I wrote about here, and al-Aulaqi’s 16-year old son, Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, in another strike on October 14, 2011, at an open-air restaurant (a strike that killed at least seven people, including another child, Abdulrahman’s 17-year old cousin).

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Nasser Al-Aulaqi, the father and grandfather of Anwar and Abdulrahman Al-Aulaqi, and Sarah Khan, the mother of Samir Khan, and please see below a heart-breaking video of Nasser al-Aulaqi speaking about his grandson, in which he explains, “I want Americans to know about my grandson. He was a very nice boy he was very caring boy … I never thought that one day this boy, this nice boy, will be killed by his own government for no wrong he did certainly.” Abdulrahman had no connection to terrorism, and had merely been trying to find his father, who he missed, having last seen him before he went into hiding in 2009.   Read the rest of this entry »

Green London: Photos of Nunhead, Dulwich and Blythe Hill

A path through Brenchley GardensHorse chestnut, Dulwich ParkTop of the worldBrenchley GardensAquarius Golf ClubA great horse chestnut, Camberwell Old Cemetery
Into the wildThree graves, Camberwell Old CemeteryA row of graves, Camberwell Old CemeteryStatue in the treesStatue in the trees (close-up)Tree, Camberwell Old Cemetery
Death, where is thy victory?Angel and graves, Camberwell Old CemeteryLondon from Sydenham HillMayow ParkBlythe Hill, looking north to the City and Canary WharfBlythe Hill, looking east
Blythe Hill panoramaBlythe Hill: the skeletal trees in the sunFlowers and shadows, Dulwich Park

Green London: Nunhead, Dulwich and Blythe Hill, a set on Flickr.

As part of my ongoing project to travel the whole of London by bike, taking photos of whatever interests me, and whatever I think reflects the state of London at this particular time in its history — the ongoing manifestation of a hideously greedy property boom, for example, or the luscious greenery brought about through endless rain, which is very probably a sign of serious climate change — I’ve just posted to my Flickr account my tenth set of photos of London, and the first in a sub-set of photos of “Green London.”

This project of mine — to record London by bike — began two months ago, through a need for exercise after six years of sitting at a computer, a need to experience the sunshine — whenever the sun emerged — after the rainiest March and April in living memory (a trend that continues), and through a renewed fascination for photography (a love of mine since I was a teenager) after my wife bought me a digital camera for Christmas. Read the rest of this entry »

Six Years without Charge or Trial: An Evening of Poetry, Film and Tributes to Talha Ahsan in London, July 19

URGENT: Please note that, due to a double booking at  Zakat House, this event has been moved, at the last minute, to: The Arts Catalyst, 50-54 Clerkenwell Road, London EC1M 5PS. It will start at 8pm.

On Thursday, I’ll be taking part in an event in London to raise awareness of the plight of Talha Ahsan, a British citizen, and a poet who suffers from Asberger’s Syndrome. Talha, who also gained a first class honours degree in Arabic from SOAS (the School of Oriental and African Studies, part of the University of London), planned to become a librarian, but has been imprisoned for six years without charge or trial in the UK, while pursuing legal challenges to prevent his proposed extradition to the US. The event is taking place on the sixth anniversary of his arrest at his home, on July 19, 2006.

This will be my second appearance at an event in support of Talha. Two weeks ago, I took part in a moving event in Bethnal Green, in East London, The event in Bethnal Green, at the premises of the arts organisation no.w.here, involved a screening of the new documentary film, “Extradition,” directed by Turab Shah, which tells the stories of Talha Ahsan and also of Babar Ahmad, imprisoned for eight years without charge or trial, who also faces extradition to the US. The film features interviews with the human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce, the playwright Avaes Mohammad, the fathers of Babar and Talha, and Talha’s brother Hamja, all framed by Talha’s prison poetry, and at the event on July 4, there was a palpable feeling that, within days, Talha and Babar might find their last appeal to the European Court of Human Rights turned down, leading to their imminent extradition to the US — and solitary confinement in a Supermax prison.

Fortunately, the date that a decision on the appeal was to be made — July 10 — has now been extended to September, allowing campaigners some more time to try to persuade the British government to intervene. Talha and Babar Ahmad are accused of hosting a website from 1997 to 2004 promoting jihad in countries where Muslims faced oppression, but it is difficult to see what justification there is for extraditing them to the US, where a biased judicial system will probably sentence them to decades in solitary confinement, for two particular reasons. Read the rest of this entry »

Street Art, Sunshine and the River: Photos of Deptford and Greenwich

The Church of St. Nicholas, DeptfordGeorgian houses on the Pepys Estate, DeptfordMural, Riverside Youth Club, DeptfordNazi David Cameron - and a squirrel with a bombKilling Fat ChildrenA house with no door
Looking towards Canary WharfDangerous structureGreenwich ruinsGreenwich Olympic siteAccident black spotThe Lord Clyde pub, Deptford
A warrior's bust in DeptfordThe Granary, DeptfordSpeedwell Street, DeptfordPound Shop PlusLittle fluffy cloudsGreenwich Foot Tunnel and the Cutty Sark
Sun on the ThamesDavid Cameron, hunting toffWar is over, if you want itThe Laban Dance Centre and Deptford Creek

Street Art, Sunshine and the River: Deptford and Greenwich, a set on Flickr.

Three weeks ago, I posted my first set of photos of my journeys around London on my new Flickr accounta set I took on May 11, cycling around Greenwich and Deptford, down the hill from my home in Brockley, south east London — when I first began to realise that I had a need for exercise, a need to be outdoors whenever the sun shone in this rainiest of years, and a great desire to explore this vast city that has been my home for the last 27 years, even though I have never visited much of it, and have only partial knowledge of its contours, its hidden corners, and even some of its more obvious glories.

Combined, these various motives have progressively unmoored me from being enslaved to my computer, after six years of pretty relentless blogging, and have opened my mind and my body to the sights and the sounds of London, to the sun and showers, the torrential rain, the fast-changing skies like epic dramas, and also to the pleasures of the back roads, away from the tyranny of cars and lorries, where the unexpected can more easily be found, and where much of the city is silent in the daytime, its former industries replaced by apartments, its workers away — in the City or elsewhere — earning the money to pay for the “luxury” apartments in which, in many cases, they do not spend much time.

Repeatedly, I have found myself drawn to the River Thames and its tributaries and canals, most now flanked by towering new apartment blocks or converted wharves — and to classical compositions and perspectives of buildings and sky, clouds and water. Always, though, I find myself in search of unusual sights, glimpses of less obvious worlds in this city of millions of stories, places where the money has run out, or the standardising waves of gentrification cannot reach. Idiosyncratic places, touched by mavericks, or largely abandoned. Read the rest of this entry »

Olympics Disaster: The G4S Security Scandal and Corporate Sponsors’ £600 Million Tax Avoidance

As the cracks in the Tory-led coalition government grow more and more obvious, the biggest question may be whether it is incompetence or corruption that will depose the clowns who have been pretending to run the country for the last two years. In terms of the Olympics, which, two months ago, I described as a militarised, corporate, jingoistic disgrace, the incompetence particularly involves security and travel, and in terms of corruption, it involves the tax haven created for the duration of the Games, as reported last week.

On the security front, it was revealed that G4S, the biggest employer listed on the London Stock Exchange, with more than 650,000 staff worldwide, had spectacularly failed to fulfil its £284 million Olympics contract, in which it was supposed to provide 13,700 personnel for the Games. Just two months ago, it was reported that G4S had had 100,000 applications for 10,000 job vacancies, the inference being that all was proceeding smoothly.

That, however, was spectacularly untrue, as became apparent on Thursday, with just two weeks to go before the Games begin, when it was revealed that the government was arranging for 3,500 military personnel to be provided to make up for G4S’s inability to meet its commitment.

As the Guardian noted, “The news was met with disbelief. Diana Johnson, the shadow home office minister, tweeted: ‘This is the same G4S who aspire to win policing services through privatisation. Not reassuring.'” Read the rest of this entry »

Free Omar Khadr from Guantánamo! Please Support Senator Roméo Dallaire’s Campaign

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

But first, please sign the petition initiated by Canadian Senator Roméo Dallaire, urging Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to sign the paperwork to bring Omar Khadr home from Guantánamo, as agreed in October 2010. This petition has gone viral, and hundreds of people have been signing it every hour. With your help, we can turn this petition into a torrent of concern and indignation that the Canadian government — and the mainstream media — cannot ignore.

Just last week, we encouraged you, our readers, to sign a petition calling for the Canadian government to secure the release from Guantánamo of Omar Khadr, the Canadian citizen and former child prisoner who was supposed to have been returned to Canada last November, as part of a plea deal he agreed to in October 2010.

If you’ll forgive us for the intrusion on your time, we’d now like to ask you to sign another, similar petition, initiated by Senator Roméo Dallaire, a former Lieutenant-General in the Canadian Army, described on his website as a devoted humanitarian. The founder of the Child Soldiers Initiative, a project aimed at eradicating the use of child soldiers, Senator Dallaire recently appeared at a press conference in Ottawa to urge the Canadian government to honor its part of the deal, and to bring Omar home. Read the rest of this entry »

Rivers at Dusk: Photos of My Journey from Stratford to Canary Wharf

Abbey Mills Pumping StationChannelsea HouseThe footpath to Three MillsUrban wildernessLost in yellowBromley Gas Works
Three Mills LockReflections on the River LeaRiver and bridge reflectionsBridge reflections on the River LeaThe Limehouse CutThe last bend
Limehouse BasinCanary Wharf: the sun on the tower

Rivers at Dusk: My Journey from Stratford to Canary Wharf, a set on Flickr.

This eighth set of my photos of London, on the Flickr account that I set up last month, is part of my ongoing mission to travel the whole of London by bike, taking photos of everything that appeals to me — from the famous to the obscure, the rich, the poor, the natural and the man-made — and is the third and final part of a journey I undertook on July 5, 2012, first of all touring the bankers’ towers and the former docks of Canary Wharf, which I published as The Power of Greed: Photos of Canary Wharf, and then cycling the Lea Valley Walk — along the Limehouse Cut and the River Lea — to Stratford, for a glimpse of the Olympic Park, which I published as In Search of the Olympics: Photos of a Journey from Limehouse to Stratford.

After the alarm of the Olympic experience — far too much building work, and palpable paranoia, or, at least, the presence of a handful of zealous security jobsworths — it was refreshing to get lost in the backwaters of Three Mills Island, just a stone’s throw from the Olympic Park, and then to be beside the River Lea as the sun began slowly to set and to paint the trees and the river in a warm light that had been missing from a day in which the weather oscillated between sharp sunlight and the swift emergence of dark clouds filled with showers. Read the rest of this entry »

US Honors Deal to Release Convicted Bin Laden Cook from Guantánamo to Sudan; 87 Cleared Men Still Await Release

Getting out of Guantánamo is such a feat these days (with just three men released in the last 18 months) that it is remarkable that Ibrahim al-Qosi, a Sudanese prisoner who agreed to a plea deal at his war crimes trial in Guantánamo in July 2010, guaranteeing that he would be freed after two years, has been repatriated as promised. 168 prisoners now remain in Guantánamo.

With a typical disregard for the principle that a prisoner — any prisoner — must be freed when their sentence comes to an end, the US has maintained, since the “war on terror” began nearly 11 years ago, that prisoners at Guantánamo can continue to be held after their sentence has come to an end, and be returned to the general population as “enemy combatants,” even though President Bush failed to do this when he had the opportunity — with Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden who was freed after serving a five-month sentence handed down after his military trial in 2008.

A source with knowledge of al-Qosi’s case, who does not wish to be identified, told me that the Obama administration was unwilling to detain al-Qosi after his sentence came to an end, and I believe that one of the reasons that the President negotiated a waiver to the provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act, allowing him to bypass restrictions on releasing prisoners that were imposed by Congress, was to prevent Republicans from trying to force him to continue holding al-Qosi. Read the rest of this entry »

Pentagon Report into the Drugging of Guantánamo Prisoners Is Released

Ten and a half years into the Guantánamo experiment, as it becomes ever harder for those who are still appalled by the prison’s existence, and by the failures of all three branches of the US government — under Barack Obama — to close it, my friends and colleagues Jeffrey Kaye and Jason Leopold are to be commended for not giving up, and for digging away at the secrets that still shroud Guantánamo, and that, moreover, are still capable of providing a shock when uncovered, even if they are generally ignored by the mainstream media.

On Wednesday, the mainstream media decided to pay attention for a change, and Jeff and Jason’s report on a drugging scandal at Guantánamo, published on Truthout, where Jason is the lead investigative reporter and Jeff, a full-time psychologist, is also a regular contributor, was picked up by mainstream media outlets including the Associated Press, AFP and Britain’s Daily Mail.

Their article was based on the release of a Pentagon report, “Investigation of Allegations of the Use of Mind-Altering Drugs to Facilitate Interrogations of Detainees” that they requested through Freedom of Information legislation two years ago, and it paints a depressing story of prisoners at Guantánamo being given given powerful anti-psychotic medication and then, on occasions, interrogated, even though they were in no fit state to answer questions competently. Read the rest of this entry »

In Search of the Olympics: Photos of a Journey from Limehouse to Stratford

On Limehouse CutThe blue bridgeThis property is condemnedThe floating towpathThe white warehouseThe black door
Bow LocksWater dividedThe white bridgeBow Locks and Canary WharfThe broken bridgeA darkening sky
Graffiti on the green bridgeFirst glimpse of Three MillsLooking towards Bromley gas works across Abbey CreekThree MillsWhere rivers meetFirst glimpse of the Olympics
On the towpath near the OlympicsCoots nestingThe Olympic ParkAn Art Deco Olympic "upgrade"Opportunistic constructionDystopian Olympics

In Search of the Olympics: A Journey from Limehouse to Stratford, a set on Flickr.

On July 5, after I had undertaken the photographic tour of Canary Wharf that I recorded in my previous set of photos, The Power of Greed: Photos of Canary Wharf, I headed north, up to Commerical Road, unsure if I would travel on to the East End or visit the Olympic Park at Stratford. After joining a towpath, which I thought was the Regent’s Canal, which I had travelled the day before, I soon realised that I was, in fact, on Limehouse Cut, the southern end of the 18-mile Lea Valley Walk, which follows the formidable River Lea all the way up to its origin at Leagrave, north of Luton, near Waulud’s Bank, one of the great henges — circular earthen banks and ditches — of Neolithic Britain, along with those at Durrington Walls (near Stonehenge), and at Avebury and Marden in Wiltshire.

Having found myself on the Lea Valley Walk by accident, I took it as a sign that I should follow it to Stratford and the Olympic park, but I had no idea that, after travelling through Bow Common and Bromley in Tower Hamlets, I would suddenly — after passing under the A12 — find myself in what appeared to be the countryside, as the canal came up alongside the River Lea, and there were locks, sweeping views, the extraordinary old buildings at Three Mills, and then, suddenly, the gigantic building site in Stratford that is the home of the 2012 Olympics.

As another stage of my ongoing mission to travel the whole of London by bike, photographing whatever interests me — the buildings old and new, the rivers and canals, the skies and trees, the street art and decay — this journey pitted the traditional infrastructure of London’s waterways with the modem developments that have sprung up alongside it, and, in particular, with the cleansing of history along the Lea Valley and the outrageous and irresponsible blank cheque issued to those erecting the giant Olympics playground. 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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