Yesterday, I was delighted to talk to Michael Slate on his long-standing progressive show, on KPFK in Los Angeles, about Guantánamo past, present and future. The show is here, as an MP3 (also see here) and our interview lasts for around 20 minutes.
If you have the time, I hope you can listen to the show. Michael and I have spoken before (see here, here and here) and he is always very well-informed. On this occasion, our discussion was timed to coincide with the aftermath of the Presidential election, and the focus on President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo within a year, which he made in January 2009, and then, of course, failed to achieve.
Michael asked me about the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which I established in January this year with the attorney Tom Wilner, and I explained our mission, and how the main focus is on educating people about the fact that 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners in Guantánamo have been cleared for release but are still held, and how securing the release of these men is the most urgent demand for campaigners.
I also explained how two-thirds of these men are Yemenis, and how the Yemenis have been subjected to “guilt by nationality” ever since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed underwear bomber, was seized on Christmas Day 2009, and it was discovered that he had been recruited in Yemen. The moratorium that President Obama announced in January 2010, refusing to release any cleared Yemenis until further notice, needs to be withdrawn as soon as possible, so that these men can resume their lives.
Michael also asked me about Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, whose plight is one that I have repeatedly highlighted, and whose ongoing detention remains a particular insult. Shaker has been cleared for release for many years, and may well be the only prisoner from a country that right-wing lawmakers, who have imposed onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners, cannot argue is a haven for terrorists, and yet he remains held.
I was also able to stress how Guantánamo — and its closure — remains of huge importance: firstly because it is a prison where indefinite, arbitrary detention was put in place by President Bush, and hasn’t been stopped by Barack Obama, even though only dictatorships hold people indefinitely without charge or trial; and secondly, because the existence of Guantánamo is the reason why last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with its notorious sections requiring the mandatory military custody of terror suspects, possibly to include Americans, was able to be initiated.
No Guantánamo, no NDAA — and as I also explained, the existence of indefinite detention should trouble Americans deeply because it provides a template for tyranny, which, in America, has been used for the last eleven years.
I hope you have time to listen to the show, and thanks, as ever, for your support.
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, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “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.
Just listened to your KPFK interview. It’s been a while since I’ve checked your site.
Good for you for continuing your work on this. Also, because of that, have you been hassled by Homeland Security (a watch list, denied visas)?
Thanks for your interest. I haven’t been hassled, no, and I sincerely hope that situation doesn’t change!
On Facebook, I wrote:
Thank you, everyone who has liked and shared this – and listened to it! It was good to be back on the radio.
Can I suggest a site that might help with your research on long-term PTSD? http://www.ptsdsurvival.blogspot.com.
Just out of curiousity, has any UK media given you any coverage on this? If so, who?
To be honest, there’s not much mainstream media interest in Guantanamo these days, Tom, unless there’s a major story – the 9/11 trial, for example – although that’s largely been the situation since I started writing articles about Guantanamo in May 2007! That said, people who are interested tend to find me online, where I’m very easily found!
Sounds like you are real “heartfelt” for the terroists, wanting them to be free from the “torture of gitmo”, being completely blind to to thngs they committed (killing thousands) to get put in that situation. So I think that if gitmo is closed they should send the prisoners to the uk seeing that you may know what to do with them (maybe they could live at your house) they would love you for it, convert and maybe bake you a pie. have a good day.
Thanks, Dave. Don’t feel any need to explain what evidence you have for the men in Guantanamo being terrorists, beyond the handful put forward for trials, like the five men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Most of the men held were never terrorists at all, but perhaps you believe what people like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld told you without asking for evidence.
Have you been on Word Have Your Say? If you have, what’s your view of their program? I used to listen to them a lot, and actually called in twice. However, recently I stopped listening because they’ve turned really right wing. They take a NPR style approach to interviews (sit back and let everyone scream at each other because that’s “good radio”). Some guests openly push Islamaphobia, and the presenter does nothing. This is “quality journalism”?
Is that “World Have Your Say,” the BBC World Service programme, Tom? I haven’t ever listened to it, actually, but your comments about the direction it is taking are worrying – even if it’s sadly predictable that, allegedly in order to appeal to would-be listeners, producers and editors are aiming for the lowest common denominator.
Yes, it’s the BBC. I’ve even argued with their managing editor about their show content, and finally gave up. His attitude was the usual corporate MSM response. We don’t make the news. We go with what’s trending. If people want to talk about what Paxman had for lunch, we go with it. If you don’t like it, turn it off. Done well, this could be a great idea. Sadly though, as you say it seems that most of the BBC news side is right wing corporate. Can you imagine them giving Tony Benn his own news program in prime time?
Sadly, your last comment shows how far we’ve drifted to the right in the last 30 years or so, Tom. It’s impossible to imagine someone like Tony Benn being allowed free rein these days. And it’s not just serious left-wing discussion that’s been removed from the discussion; comedy has also largely been lobotomised. We have Armando Iannucci to thank for “The Thick of It,” but most political comedy has been got rid of – no Mark Thomas on TV any more, for example, and certainly no Spitting Image, which used to be savage!
The trend that’s still being followed is a station or network is right wing. Then, they have the token left wing presenter. That way, management can say, see, we’re not biased! We talk to everybody! The last UK example of this was LBC. Nick Abbott was their token left winger on weekends. But then, they fired lots of others and replaced them with all right wingers. Apparently, management said either drop the liberal stuff or you’re sacked. Now, it’s like Sky News. Which is why now I never listen to Stateside talk shows (and most intl. ones in English as well).
I’ve stopped watching TV, Tom, and the greatest relief is not having to deal with the news anymore. There’s just too much bias and stupidity and cynicism, and rolling 24-hour news is such a terrible idea.
A contact suggestion (if you haven’t already). Have you ever talked to Chris Hedges? Despite good reviews for his books, he has no social media outlets. Says he’s fighting to not be only a celebrity. This means either contacting him thru his publisher or the Nation. Beyond that, I have no insider to get more information. Sorry.
We haven’t met. It would be nice if our paths crossed in the States some time …
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. 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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