Archive for November, 2012

The Banality of Evil: How the US Killed an Innocent Man at Guantánamo

Now that the all-consuming, and insanely expensive Presidential election is over for another four years, President Obama’s in-tray still contains Guantánamo, where, of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release by the Guantánamo Review Task Force. Consisting of officials from the relevant government departments and the intelligence agencies, the Task Force analyzed the cases of all the remaining prisoners in 2009, and recommended them for trial, continued detention, or release.

These men have now been held for at least three years since the Task Force reached its conclusions, and many were previously cleared for release by military review boards under the Bush administration — in many cases in 2006 or 2007, and in 2004 in others.

Although the public’s interest in the long-term injustices of George W. Bush’s horrendous experimental prison has dwindled, some people still remember that the President promised to close the prison within a year, when he first came to office in January 2009, but failed to do so. That is a failure that those concerned with justice will not let him forget, not least because it perpetuates the notion, introduced by the Bush administration, that certain people — those labelled as “terrorists” — can be subjected to indefinite detention. Read the rest of this entry »

Ex-Children’s Minister Sarah Teather Condemns Government’s Benefit Cap as Cruel and Immoral

Hurrah for Sarah Teather, the Liberal Democrat MP for Brent Central, and the minister for children and families in the Tory-led coalition government until September, when she was sacked.

I was sorry to see Sarah under the yoke of this hideous government, because she clearly had more humanity than all the other ministers, and, although she undoubtedly was trying to do her best for those in need, it was also clear to me that she would be unable to do anything much that was worthwhile in a government so dedicated to making the poorest people in society suffer as much as possible. I knew of her humanity, and of her dedication as a constituency MP, because she had very actively campaigned for one of her constituents, Jamil El-Banna, a prisoner in Guantánamo who was released five years ago, and I had met her during that time.

On Sunday, Sarah Teather broke her silence in fine style, telling the Observer, in no uncertain terms, that the government’s welfare reforms are unacceptable, and that, in particular, the one-size-fits-all benefit cap, being introduced in April, is cruel and immoral. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of Shadwell: School, Street Art, Studios and Railway Bridges

Space age hospitalWindmills not yuppiesWatney MarketBishop Challoner Catholic Collegiate SchoolFoxgloves at schoolWatching over us
Under the bridgeThe gentrification of Johnson StreetShadwell ladySlightly menacing pandaAn arc of lightGhostly family
Damp clownSelf-portrait in ShadwellNumber 6The exotic garden at Bishop Challoner SchoolConvent of MercyCable Street Studios
Pallets in Pitsea PlaceBrutalism on Stepney CausewayBlue bridge 1: Stepney CausewayAt the back of Cable Street StudiosBlue bridge 2: Pitsea StreetCable Street Studios' wonderful windows

Shadwell: School, Street Art, Studios and Railway Bridges, a set on Flickr.

As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I’m currently posting five sets of photos of a journey I made on a hot, sunny day in July, when I travelled from my home in Brockley, south east London, through New Cross and Bermondsey to the River Thames, and then across Tower Bridge and up to Commercial Road, one of the great arteries of east London, built to service London’s docks two hundred years ago.

Located in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, Commercial Road, which runs for two miles, passes through four areas within Tower Hamlets — Whitechapel, Shadwell, Limehouse and Stepney — where poverty is still prevalent, despite the encroaching gentrification, and these contrasts are reflected in the architecture — some old and decaying, some old and restored, and some with the gleaming new arrogance of London’s currently unfettered developers. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington Discusses the Need to Close Guantánamo on the Michael Slate Show

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. Read the rest of this entry »

Photos of Commercial Road: The 21st Century Rag Trade

The old brick towerThe dark tunnelArch 46England car washGoodman's Fields building siteWines and spirits and gentrification
Harry Gosling Primary SchoolCommercial Road, looking eastDreamweaverDresses, and Marilyn MonroeCharlie's Shopfitting Co.Euro Miss
The house on the cornerStreet sceneFood & WineWorn-out horses and jockeysFeelingsEternity
Dressed to impressBoxesFast food and the lotteryReally cheap mannequinsI'm really cheapShoe Candy

Commercial Road: The 21st Century Rag Trade, a set on Flickr.

As part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, this is the second of five photo sets that I’m belatedly publishing, many months after they were taken, which capture a journey that I took, on a particularly hot and sunny Tuesday in July, just before the Olympics madness took off.

The first set focused on the start of my journey, through New Cross and Bermondsey, south of the River Thames, and after crossing Tower Bridge, this second set features my journey to Commercial Road, and then east along that great artery of east London. Read the rest of this entry »

President Obama, It’s Time to Fulfill Your Promise to Close Guantánamo

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. 

Now that the dust has settled on last week’s Presidential election, we at “Close Guantánamo” pledge that we will continue to demand that President Obama fulfills his promise to close the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which he made on his second day in office in January 2009.

Although we acknowledge that the President has released 71 prisoners since that time, and we accept that Congress has been monstrously obstructive, this is not sufficient to excuse Barack Obama for his failure to fulfill his promise. 166 men still languish in Guantánamo, almost all abandoned by the justice system on which America prides itself.

Particularly galling is the fact that 86 of the men still held were cleared for release by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force, a sober and responsible collection of officials from the major government departments and the intelligence agencies, who analyzed the cases of all the prisoners throughout 2009. The Task Force concluded that 56 of those men should be released, and 30 others — all Yemenis — should be held in “conditional detention” (a category of detention invented by the Task Force) until it was decided that the security situation in Yemen had improved. Read the rest of this entry »

From Deptford to Bermondsey: Photos of a Summer Journey Through London’s History

The Orion Business CentreSouth East London Combined Heat and PowerThe dusty pathUnder offerFurniture saleMOT
Wall of PraiseGreat deals on alcohol 24 hours a dayArtesian HouseThe Fort (closed down)Bermondsey Spa GardensBuddhists in the library
Southwark Council's former One Stop ShopPalatial council offices, to be gentrifiedTrees in Bermondsey Spa GardensSpa Road gentrificationA wonderful arch on the Neckinger EstateBermondsey Spa building site
Bermondsey Spa: The builders and the luxury flatsAnother garage bites the dustThe tunnel of the lost riverAnother fine arch, on the Arnold EstateJunction on Jamaica RoadThe Shard viewed from Jamaica Road

From Deptford to Bermondsey: A Summer Journey Through London’s History, a set on Flickr.

After posting five set of photos of autumn in London,  as part of my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, I’m briefly returning to summer to post five of the 46 sets I have from July and August that have not been published yet, containing over a thousand photos.

I have thousands more photos from September, October and November, from al parts of London, and will return to more recent photos after this reminder of summer, but for now, please join me on July 24, 2012 (a hot Tuesday), when I decided to take a visit to east London — and, specifically, Commercial Road, which runs from Aldgate East to Limehouse, and was built by the East India Company 200 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »

Protest Groups Challenge the Tories’ Mission to Wreck England’s Schools and Universities

As has been apparent for the last two and a half years, ever since the wretched Tory-led coalition government was formed, no area of British life — or more correctly, English life — is safe from the Tory butchers intent on destroying the state for malevolent ideological reasons.

Health, welfare, education — all have come under ferocious attack, as I have been reporting extensively for the last two years. An early target was education, as poorer school pupils had their financial support — the Education Maintenance Allowance — scrapped, and David Willetts, the minister for universities and science, presided over the near-tripling of university fees from £3,290 a year to a maximum of £9,000 a year, and the removal of all government support for arts, humanities and the social sciences.

A new organisation seeks to defend universities from Tory butchers

This week, a new body, the Council for the Defence of British Universities, is being launched. Its 66 founding members include David Attenborough, Alan Bennett, Melvyn Bragg, A.S. Byatt, Richard Dawkins, Michael Frayn and Andrew Motion, and, on its website, the CDBU states, “Britain’s universities are amongst the world’s best. But misguided policies are rapidly undermining them.” Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections on Mortality: Photos of Autumn in Brockley Cemetery

Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 1Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 2Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 3Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 4Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 5Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 6
Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 7Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 8Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 9Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 10Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 11Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 12
Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 13Autumn in Brockley Cemetery 14

Reflections on Mortality: Autumn in Brockley Cemetery, a set on Flickr.

The 55th photo set in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began exactly six months ago, focuses on Brockley Cemetery, one of a pair of Victorian cemeteries just down the road from where I live in south east London, and a visit I made as the sun was beginning to fall on a weekday evening in October, casting a golden light on the gravestones and on the wonderful trees that are part of the cemeteries’ attraction.

Located between Brockley Road and Brockley Grove, in the neighbouring area of Ladywell, the 37-acre site of Brockley and Ladywell Cemeteries (formerly known as Deptford and Lewisham Cemeteries) opened in 1858, and the two cemeteries were separated by a wall until 1948. They are now just separated by trees, and a low bank, but each has its own distinctive character. In fact, there is only one official entrance between the two cemeteries, which I didn’t find out until after I had visited Brockley Cemetery on many occasions, and which, as a result, was something of a Narnia moment for me (from the wardrobe in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which was one of my favourite books as a child, along with the rest of C.S. Lewis’ Narnia series). Read the rest of this entry »

Conservative Judges Demolish the False Legitimacy of Guantánamo’s Terror Trials

When is a war crime not a war crime? When it is invented by the executive branch and Congress, and implemented for six years until a profoundly Conservative appeals court strikes it down.

The invented war crime is “providing material support to terrorism,” and on October 16, 2012, a panel of three judges in the D.C. Circuit Court (the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.) threw out the conviction of Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden, who had received a five and a half year sentence for “providing material support to terrorism” at the end of his trial by military commission in August 2008 (although he was freed just five months later, as his sentence included time already served).

In its ruling, the court stated, “When Hamdan committed the conduct in question, the international law of war proscribed a variety of war crimes, including forms of terrorism. At that time, however, the international law of war did not proscribe material support for terrorism as a war crime.”

For anyone who has followed the history of the military commissions in any depth, the result was not completely unexpected. Revived by the Bush administration in November 2001, specifically for trying prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” the commissions were struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2006, but were then revived by Congress, when “providing material support to terrorism” and “conspiracy” were included as war crimes, even though there was no precedent for doing so. 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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