As the world’s media marked the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq on Tuesday, I was honoured to be asked to speak to Dennis Bernstein, the veteran progressive radio host at KPFA in Berkeley.
Dennis and I have spoken before, and it’s always a pleasure to talk with him, but I was particularly pleased that I was asked to speak about Guantánamo as part of a program about Iraq, as far too few people in the media make the connections between the invasion of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, the use of torture and “black sites.”
At the start of the show, Dennis spoke to Raed Jarrar, an Iraqi exile who works for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and who delivered a searing indictment of the apologist for the Iraq war, ten years on, who pretend that it was, on an level, worthwhile, when, as he pointed out, it led to “one million dead, five million displaced, and the country in a shambles.”
My segment starts at 28 minutes in and last for a quarter of an hour, and began with Dennis asking me to recap how I researched the story of Guantánamo, and got to know about the stories of the men held there (through an analysis of 8,000 pages released by the Pentagon as the result of an FOIA lawsuit), and why the lies told about them — that they were “the worst of the worst” — were so outrageous: primarily, because the majority of the prisoners were bought for bounty payments from their Afghan and Pakistani allies, and because most of what purports to be evidence against them consists of dubious or patently false statements made by the prisoners themselves, or by their fellow prisoners, through the use of torture, abuse, or bribery (the promise of better living conditions).
Dennis also asked me specifically about torture, and we discussed the key role played by “torture memo” author John Yoo, who, disgracefully, is a law professor at Berkeley, as well as other key lawyers in the Bush administration — including Alberto Gonzales, Bush’s senior lawyer, who became Attorney General, David Addington, Dick Cheney’s senior lawyer, and Jim Haynes at the Pentagon, and we also discussed the shameful lack of accountability for torture under President Obama, who has blocked — and continues to block — all attempts to hold the Bush administration accountable for its crimes. I also had the opportunity to mention the torture program introduced by Donald Rumsfeld at Guantánamo, as his response to the CIA torture program allegedly justified by John Yoo’s “torture memos.”
We then, of course, spoke about the widespread hunger strike at Guantánamo, involving up to 130 of the 166 men still held, whose existence the government is only slowing acknowledging, after weeks of blanket denials, and which I have written about in my articles “A Huge Hunger Strike at Guantánamo” and “How Long Can the Government Pretend that the Massive Hunger Strike at Guantánamo Doesn’t Exist?” and spoken about in an appearance on RT, which I wrote about here, and an appearance on Press TV, which I wrote about here.
As I also explained, the important lessons to be learned from the hunger strike are that people’s lives — the prisoners’ lives — are in danger, as many of them have lost 20 to 30 pounds in weight, and now weigh less than 100 pounds, and that it is understandable that they should be in despair after 11 years of imprisonment in an experimental prison that should never have been opened.
It is now four years since President Obama promised to close Guantánamo, and three to four years since an interagency Task Force that he established concluded that 86 of the remaining prisoners should be released — recommendations subsequently overruled by the President himself (in the case of the Yemenis, who make up two-thirds of the remaining prisoners), and blocked by Congress.
As ever, it was a pleasure to talk with Dennis. I hope you have time to listen to the show, and I also hope to find the time in the next few days to write something about the dreadful anniversary of the start of the illegal invasion of Iraq, but if not, my articles, “Remember Abu Ghraib?” and “Book Review: Road From Ar Ramadi: The Private Rebellion of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejía” and my Guardian article from 2009 — also about the Abu Ghraib scandal — may be useful.
Please keep the story of the hunger strike in the news, if you can, by sharing my articles and my TV and radio interviews, as well as sharing reports by all the other journalists, lawyers, human rights advocates and activists covering the story. The men’s best hope is for their struggle to remind the world what is happening to them — by risking their own lives — to not be in vain.
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, 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 to everyone who has liked and shared this. The whole show was excellent. Just a reminder: the direct link for the show is here: http://archives.kpfa.org/data/20130319-Tue1700.mp3
My interview starts at 28 minutes in, but the whole hour is worth listening to if you have the time.
[…] the prison), and I have also spoken about the hunger strike on RT and Press TV, on the radio with Dennis Bernstein, Peter B. Collins and Michael Slate, and in print in an interview for Revolution […]
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.”
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