Protestors Call for the Closure of Guantánamo outside the White House, a set on Flickr.
These photos, following on from the previous set, capture some of the key images and the principled, decent and tireless campaigners for justice involved in the protest in Washington D.C. on January 11, 2013 to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and to call on President Obama to fulfil the promise he made to close the prison when he took office in January 2009, or be remembered as a failure, who succumbed to political expediency and settled for a path of cowardice rather than confronting his political opponents, both in the Republican Party and in his own party, and doing what needed to be done.
This, of course, involved the still-pressing need to restore some semblance of justice in the wake of the horrors inflicted on the law, on America’s reputation, and on hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the so-called “war on terror,” but instead of addressing the issues, President Obama has expanded the US government’s drone program of extrajudicial assassinations, and has failed those in Guantánamo — especially the 86 men (out of 166 still held in total), who were cleared for release by the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established after taking office in 2009. The Task Force spent a year reviewing the prisoners’ cases before reaching its sober and considered conclusions, and, in addition, some of these men were actually cleared by military review boards under the Bush administration, some as long ago as 2004.
However, they remain held either because they are Yemenis, regarded as an unprecedented terrorist threat — despite being cleared — since the foiled underwear bomb plot on a US-bound plane three years ago, or because they are from countries where they face the risk of torture if repatriated, and new homes have not been found for them, or simply because Congress has passed legislation designed to prevent any prisoner being released to any country that lawmakers regard as a threat.
As I explained in my speech outside the White House, where I took many of these photos (and where Jeremy Varon of Witness Against Torture took the photos of me), continuing to hold men who were cleared for release makes the US worse than a dictatorship that throws people in a dungeon and then throws away the key.
As well as featuring elements of the rally and the speakers outside the White House, this set also includes the unannounced last part of the protest, in which members of Witness Against Torture, the mainly Catholic (but also Quaker) group of campaigners who fasted for six days from January 7 to 12, while protesting every day, and reflecting intensely on the plight of the prisoners, advanced to the fence around the White House, and tied 166 ribbons to it — one for each of the men still held — while softly and beautifully singing a song of sympathy and solidarity with our “Muslim brothers,” which was profoundly moving.
More photos from my US trip will follow soon. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these glimpses into the spirit of righteous indignation — and empathy with the prisoners — which powers the protests against the US government’s embrace of torture, indefinite detention, endless war and extrajudicial assassinations that has dominated US policy for the last 11 years. I believe we will prevail, but I’m also aware that the struggle is, for the most part, not for those without phenomenal endurance.
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.
Thanks for liking and sharing, my friends. It’s taken me a while to get these uploaded, as I had events on the 12th and 13th, travel from DC to NYC, and meetings in NYC – and I also felt obliged to spend sometime away from a computer screen walking the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn. More photos to follow soon – some protest photos, and many other photos, taken in New York and DC, which will be more familiar to those of you who’ve been following my project to photograph the whole of London by bike.
First, though, I need to catch up on some sleep. I got three hours this afternoon, but not enough to offset the lack of sleep caused by an overnight flight.
Ruth Gilburt wrote:
rest up, Andy!!! x
Thanks, Ruth. If only I could just rest up, but unfortunately I have medical appointments almost every day for the next eight days. Nothing life-threatening, I’m assured, but I’d rather be doing something else.
Ruth Gilburt wrote:
oh…..well I hope it all turns out to be ok! x
Me too. I can bore you – as briefly as possible – with the details next time we meet. It’s the ongoing saga of my blood, and how it’s not got the message that it’s supposed to be keeping me alive, rather than trying to see me off!
How many of those people are indeed guilty of terrorist offenses? Surely there must be a very few (5 to 10 at most) guilty men who are indeed Al Qaida members amongst the waves of innocent people?
Yes, when I interviewed Larry Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff a few years ago, he told me that when 14 “high-value detainees” were sent to Guantanamo form the “black sites” in 2006, it was so that the administration could claim, with a straight face, that Guantanamo actually held some terrorists. Analysts are on record as stating that, of the 750 prisoners who arrived at Guantanamo in its first two years (out of 779 in total), none were senior al-Qaeda, and only a few dozen could be described as mid-level operatives.
Thanks for reminding me of something that bears repeating on a regular basis.
Hi Andy welcome home
God willing your health is good. We need you in full health for all the wonderful campaigning you are planning ahead… Is it anything to do with stress? Please keep well.
Further to Thomas comment can you please list the prisoners somewhere on your site pls send me the link that have been cleared waiitng to find a country to live in, the prisoners that are truly terrorist, then the remainder who are in desperation as to know what will happen to them. As I want to send letters but need to choose words according to each prisoner etc. .
If this is a headache for you/ lack of time pls email site who might have this info at easy reach etc.
god bless. Keep well.
Thanks for the welcome home. It is good to be back with my family, although I did have a wonderful time with all my friends in the US.
As for your request regarding the prisoners, that information is classified. The prisoners and their lawyers have been told what category they are in, but the lawyers aren’t allowed to talk about it.
What I can tell you is that the names of 55 cleared prisoners was released by the US Justice Department in September, which is very useful. My preliminary analysis of that list is here: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2012/10/25/who-are-the-55-cleared-guantanamo-prisoners-on-the-list-released-by-the-obama-administration/
One other, not on that list, is Djamel Ameziane, an Algerian.
And the 30 other cleared prisoners are Yemenis, although their identities are not clear.
I hope this helps!
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