I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 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.
At “Close Guantánamo,” we recently launched our appeal to President Obama for his second term in office, asking him to do three things in particular to honor his promise to close Guantánamo, made when he took office four years ago, which, of course, he failed to fulfill.
Those three requests — relating to the 86 prisoners, out of 166 in total, who have been cleared for release but are still held — were as follows:
1: Lift the ban on releasing any of the 56 cleared Yemenis from Guantánamo, imposed in January 2010.
2: Appoint a new person to deal specifically with closing Guantánamo, to find new homes for the cleared prisoners in need of assistance.
3: Take the fight to Congress to stop treating the cleared prisoners as pawns in a cynical game of political maneuvering, and to clear the way for all 86 cleared prisoners to be repatriated or safely rehoused in other countries. Read the rest of this entry »
From Mile End to Bow and Stratford on a Summer’s Day, a set on Flickr.
This photo set, the 80th in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began last May, is the second of three that precedes and follows on from a set I published last July, entitled, “The Olympics Minus One Day: Photos from the Frontline in Stratford” (and see here too), in which I cycled east from Whitechapel along the A11 — Mile End Road, which becomes Bow Road and crosses the A12 on the way to the Olympic Park along Stratford High Street. In the Olympics set I published in July, I then cycled up to Leyton, along the A12 at the north of the Olympic Park, and then back south via Hackney Wick, Old Ford, Poplar and the Isle of Dogs, stopping in on Greenwich before returning home to Brockley.
Following the previous set, “Adventures in History: The Mile End Road,” in which I passed various historical landmarks on the way to Queen Mary, University of London and the Regent’s Canal, this set begins at the “green bridge” that crossed Mile End Road, and then traces my journey along Bow Road, past the derelict St. Clement’s Hospital, and other landmarks, to Bow Church, marooned on a traffic island, and the Bow Flyover, which vaults over the A12, where bikes were exempt from the Olympic traffic ban, and I had great views, from a highway that is never normally empty in the daytime, of the Olympic Park, the Lea Navigation (the River Lea), the A12 and the northern reaches of Bow and Stratford. Read the rest of this entry »
On Friday, following the publication of my article “America’s Disappeared” on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation, I was interviewed by Scott Horton, with whom I have been talking since August 2007, when he first picked up on my Guantánamo work, and then followed up via an article about Jose Padilla, the US citizen imprisoned as an “enemy combatant” on the US mainland, and tortured until he lost his mind.
Scott and I have mostly discussed Guantánamo in the last five and a half years, although we have also dealt with related issues — the US prison at Bagram in Afghanistan, for example — and on Friday the initial topic of our discussion was torture, the CIA’s “black sites” and the lack of accountability for the Bush administration’s torture program — all of which was dealt with in my article. This followed the publication, by the Open Society Justice Initiative, of “Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” the first major report identifying the prisoners subjected to torture and disappearance since a UN report on disappearances in 2010, on which I was the lead author of the sections on disappearances in the “war on terror.” Read the rest of this entry »
UPDATE 7.30pm, Feb. 25: The campaigning group 38 Degrees has now launched its own official petition calling for a debate on the provisions for implementing enforced competition in almost all NHS services, which the Tories had been hoping would pass in a month’s time without even being noticed. There appear to be no depths to which these butchers of the state will not sink. Please sign this and share it as widely as you can. It already has nearly 20,000 signatures, and the target is 60,000 by the end of today. Note: This petition is in addition to the one launched by Charles West, mentioned below.
Where is the outrage in the mainstream media?
For the past week I have been receiving messages via email or on Facebook from concerned friends and/or organisations warning me that the government is sneakily pushing through new legislation which will force all Clinical Commissioning Groups — the GP-led practices, which, from April, will be responsible for 80 percent of the NHS budget — to go through a marketplace for all new NHS service contracts.
As the campaigning group 38 Degrees explains in an urgent new petition, regulations relating to section 75 of the wretched Health and Social Care Act (Andrew Lansley’s NHS privatisation bill, which was passed last year) “require virtually all health provision to be carried out in competitive markets, regardless of the wishes of either local people, GPs or local Clinical Commissioning Groups. They contradict assurances that were given by health ministers during the passage of the Act that it did not mean the privatisation of the NHS, and that local people would have the final say in who provided their NHS.”
The silence in most of the mainstream media regarding these plans — in the BBC, for example — has been deafening, although today, the Daily Mirror has become involved, with an article entitled, “Tories’ hidden privatisation plan revealed,” and on Friday, in the Guardian, Polly Toynbee’s contribution was an informative article entitled, “The Lib Dems must not stand for any more lies over the NHS,” in which she noted how NHS dissent over the Health and Social Care Act was only quelled through public assurances from ministers that there would be no enforced privatisation of services, which “seemed convincingly cast-iron.” Read the rest of this entry »
Adventures in History: The Mile End Road, a set on Flickr.
This is the 79th photo set in my ongoing project to photograph the whole of London by bike, which I began last May. I currently have around 8,000 photos to publish, to add to the 1,500 or so I have already published, so it would be fair to say that it’s a project that is slightly out of control, in which it has proven far easier to get out and about taking photos, than it is to upload them.
Part of this is because I insist on spending time researching the places I photograph, so that my record of London is not just photographic, but a text-based historical record as well. However, it is also because, from the beginning of the project, I have been responding to the long years I spent indoors, writing on a daily basis about Guantánamo, followed by my illness two years ago, with an insatiable desire to be outdoors, on a bike, as much as possible. Read the rest of this entry »
Injustices do not become any less unjust the longer they are not addressed, and when it comes to the “war on terror” launched by President Bush following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, those injustices continue to fester, and to poison America’s soul.
One of those injustices is Guantánamo, where 166 men are still imprisoned, even though 86 of them were cleared for release by a task force established by the President four years ago, and another is Bagram in Afghanistan (renamed and rebranded the Parwan Detention Facility), where the Geneva Conventions were torn up by George W. Bush, and have not been reinstated, and where foreign prisoners seized elsewhere and rendered to US custody in Afghanistan remain imprisoned. Some of these men have been held for as long as the men in Guantánamo, but without being allowed the rights to be visited by civilian lawyers, which the men in Cuba were twice granted by the Supreme Court — in 2004 and 2008 — even if those rights have now been taken away by judges in the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C., demonstrating a susceptibility to the general hysteria regarding the “war on terror,” rather than a desire to bring justice to the men in Guantánamo.
Another profound injustice — involving the kidnapping of prisoners anywhere in the world, and their rendition to “black sites” run by the CIA, or to torture dungeons in other countries — also remains unaddressed. Read the rest of this entry »
The power of Islamophobia, it seems, is such that when a tabloid newspaper — the Daily Star — published an article with the headline “Mosque terror doc fundraiser,” claiming that “Britain’s biggest mosque is under investigation after it scheduled a fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” it led to the event being moved.
The mosque in question was the East London Mosque, in Whitechapel, and the alleged investigation was by the Charity Commission. The Star reported that the Charity Commission “said it had started a probe into the mosque,” and had “not yet launched a full investigation,” but was “looking into the issue.” That sounds very vague, but it was enough to get the mosque jumpy, and the event has, as a result, been moved to another venue in Whitechapel.
As for the “fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” another way of putting it would be that the Justice for Aafia Coalition (also see here) is putting on a fundraising event for a US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who disappeared for nearly five and a half years, from March 2003 to July 2008, when, they contend, she was kidnapped and she and two of her three children were held in secret prisons run by or for the CIA and the US government. The third child, a baby at the time of her disappearance, may, it appears, have been shot and killed at the time of Dr. Siddiqui’s kidnapping. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday’s news was expected, but it still hit hard. Last June, the Joint Committee of North West London Primary Care Trusts proposed the closure of four of the nine A&E Departments at hospitals in north west London, and on Tuesday, despite vigorous campaigns throughout the area against the proposals, the committee confirmed that, as the Evening Standard put it, “Hammersmith and Central Middlesex hospitals will lose their A&Es permanently while Charing Cross and Ealing will be left with a downgraded urgent care centres which will not accept emergency patients.”
This really is an alarming development, as it will leave three of the eight boroughs in north west London — containing about three-quarters of a million people — without a major hospital, out of the 1.9 million people in the whole of north west London. In addition, removing hospitals’ ability to deal with emergencies essentially sounds the death knell for those hospitals, as a huge range of hospital services rely upon emergency admissions and the ability to deal with emergencies. In Lewisham, for example, where similar cuts have been approved, at least 90 percent of the mothers in the entire borough (4,400 a year) will no longer be able to give birth in Lewisham itself, despite it having the same population as Brighton, Hull or Newcastle.
Following the announcement about the north west London hospitals, Andy Slaughter, the MP for Hammersmith and the secretary of Save Our Hospitals Hammersmith and Fulham, said, “This is the biggest hospital closure programme in the history of the NHS. It will put lives at risk across West London and will give a second class health service to 2 million people.” He also stated, “There will be no A&E in the London boroughs of Hammersmith, Ealing or Brent, which together have a population the size of Leeds.” Read the rest of this entry »
Defend London’s NHS: A Week of Action, a set on Flickr.
Last week, from February 9 to 16, campaigners across London — in Lewisham, in Hammersmith, in Ealing, in Archway and in Kingston — who are fighting to save essential frontline services from the government (which is committed to the destruction of the NHS), and from senior NHS management (who have forgotten what the NHS is for), came together as “Defend London’s NHS,” an unprecedented coalition of MPs, unions, campaigners, patients, doctors and other health workers.
In the inaugural week of action, there were events on Saturday February 9 outside Ealing Hospital and Central Middlesex Hospital (between Brent and Ealing), which are two of the four A&E Departments (out of nine in total) that face the axe in north west London, along with the two hospitals in Hammersmith — Charing Cross and Hammersmith itself, and there were also protests and events throughout the week, culminating in a rally in Lewisham on Friday (see my photos here), and rallies in Hammersmith and Kingston on Saturday.
The Parliamentary launch of “Defend London’s NHS”
However, the week of action’s central event took place on Monday February 11, when “Defend London’s NHS” was launched in the House of Commons. At this event, the speakers, who included the doctors Louise Irvine, the chair of the Save Lewisham Hospital campaign, and Onkar Sahota, the chair of the Ealing Save Our Hospitals campaign, and two MPs, Andy Slaughter and Heidi Alexander, were united in their recognition that the NHS currently faces an unparalleled threat, greater than at any other time in its 65-year history. Read the rest of this entry »
In the Belly of the Beast: A Walk through Lower Manhattan, a set on Flickr.
Regular readers will recall that, last month, I visited the US to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the 11th anniversary of its opening, taking part in events in Washington D.C. and McLean, Virginia from January 10 to 12, and in New York on January 13, which I made available in photo sets here, here and here. An archive of various articles relating to my visit — and videos of my appearances — can be found here.
However, as I explained in an article two weeks ago, An Englishman in New York: Photos of a Walk from Brooklyn to Manhattan, I actually arrived in New York on the evening of January 7, and didn’t leave until the evening of January 16, so I had plenty of time to wander around the city — and specifically Manhattan and Brooklyn, the former because, of course, it draws the visitor like an irresistible magnet, and because I had appointments there with various friends and colleagues: with Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait, with various friends and associates at the Center for Constitutional Rights, with the dancer and activist Nancy Vining Van Ness, and with the journalist and researcher Anand Gopal, as well as my rendezvous for a panel discussion at Revolution Books on January 13 with the Guantánamo attorney Ramzi Kassem, who represents Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, after which a big group of World Can’t Wait supporters went out for dinner before I ended up down an alley in Chinatown being filmed for a forthcoming documentary. Read the rest of this entry »
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