Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses the Guantánamo Hunger Strike with Dennis Bernstein and Michael Slate

20.4.13

The hunger strike in Guantánamo, which is now in its 74th day, continues to draw attention, although it is important that everyone who cares about it keeps publicizing the story — and keeps reminding the mainstream media to keep reporting it — or it will be lost in the hysteria emanating from the Boston bombings, which right-wingers, of course, are using to replenish their Islamophobia — one aim of which will be to shut down discussion of Guantánamo, in order to keep the prison open.

As my contribution to keeping the story alive, I’ve been publishing articles about the hunger strike on an almost daily basis, and have also been taking part in as many media appearances as possible. On Monday, after the military had clamped down on the hunger strike with violence last weekend, firing non-lethal rounds and moving the majority of the prisoners into solitary, I received several invitations to take part in TV and radio shows, but all but two fizzled out when the Boston bombing occurred. One of the two was a Canadian radio station, and the other was with Dennis Bernstein on Flashpoints, on KPFA in Berkeley, California.

My interview with Dennis is available here, just three weeks after our last discussion about Guantánamo, and I was pleased to be joined by Candace Gorman, the Chicago-based attorney who represents two Guantánamo prisoners — one still held, and the other freed in 2010 — and Stephanie Tang of the World Can’t Wait. Both are friends, and between us, and with Dennis’s informed interest in the topic, I believe we thoroughly analyzed the dreadful situation that is still unfolding at Guantánamo, and pointed out the urgent necessity for President Obama to take action.

At the very least, President Obama needs to secure the release of the 86 prisoners (out of 166 in total) who were cleared for release by his own inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and to grant immediate and objective reviews to the 46 other prisoners who, two years ago, the President disgracefully designated for indefinite detention without charge or trial, on the unacceptable basis that they were too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. At the time, when President Obama issued an executive order authorizing these men’s indefinite detention, he promised them periodic reviews of their cases, but those have not materialized, and are not even on the horizon, which is a disgrace.

On Friday, with Boston still dominating almost all news outlets, and its steady drip-drip of black propaganda poisoning or strangling the focus on Guantánamo that had been building powerfully over the previous six weeks, I was delighted to be asked by Michael Slate to appear again on his show is on KPFK 90.7 FM, in Los Angeles, just two weeks after we last spoke. Like Dennis, Michael has regularly spoken to me over the years, and is also a well-informed and articulate host.

My interview with Michael is here, as an MP3 (and also see here), and I was pleased to be joined by Omar Farah of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represents a number of Guantánamo prisoners, including Mohammed al-Hamiri, a Yemeni, profiled here, and also, as he mentioned in the show, Fahed Ghazi, another Yemeni whose eloquence he praised, and who, he said, would be able to explain his case much better than him, if the government allowed the prisoners to speak freely.

Michael’s description of the show is below, but two of the things we discussed deserve particular attention: firstly, how the tide has been turning against Guantánamo because of attorneys getting their own stories out to the public, in their own words — most noticeably, through Shaker Aamer’s story, here and here, and the op-ed by Samir Moqbel in the New York Times last week, which has been enormously influential.

The second major point, which I made quite forcefully, I believe, was to point out how the pressure needs to be relentlessly focused on President Obama, who pretends that the obstacles to closing the prison are all the fault of Congress, when he himself is responsible for an unprincipled ban on releasing any of the cleared Yemeni prisoners (who make up two-thirds of the cleared prisoners), and it is his obligation, as the President of the United States, to make the case that Guantánamo needs to be closed for legal, moral and ethical reasons, as well as for the sake of America’s national security.

When President Bush set up the abomination that is Guantánamo, he at least pretended that there was some purpose to it — as an interrogation center where the prisoners literally had no rights. Now, however, Guantánamo has no purpose whatsoever. Its existence is merely a testament to the power of black propaganda and Presidential inertia, and those of us who care must continue to shout this from the rooftops.

This is Michael’s description of the show. I hope you have time to listen to both shows, with two of the most clued-up and important broadcasters operating in America today:

Prisoners at the US torture camp at Guantánamo continue their hunger strike against their inhumane conditions, an action which began February 6. Last weekend, the world heard the news of a brutal attack on the frail hunger strikers, with US soldiers firing rubber bullets as part of forcing prisoners into solitary confinement cells. Omar Farah of the Center for Constitutional Rights will join us to give an update on the strike, the attack on the prisoners and efforts to spread solidarity. Omar Farah is a staff attorney for the Guantánamo Global Justice Initiative, and has represented prisoners in numerous court cases since 2008.

Also joining us will be Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantánamo Files. He recently published a description of the conditions of the hunger strikers at Guantánamo that Shaker Aamer gave to his attorney, Clive Stafford Smith, in a phone conversation on March 29. In 2007 and again in 2009, Shaker Aamer was cleared for release by the US government, like most of those imprisoned. Yet they are still being held. To get involved, visit CloseGuantanamo.org.

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 “Close Guantánamo campaign”, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

9 Responses

  1. Tom says...

    Hi Andy,
    Who was the Canadian outlet? If you haven’t tried already, you should contact CBC’s Metro Morning (based in Toronto). If they do an interview with you, it’s podcasted and listed w/comments. Could be a high visibility outlet for you.

  2. Tom says...

    Another lead could be CBC’s “The Current”. Very open to progressive content and guests (Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Ralph Nader, and others). A long shot would be C-PAC TV (based in Ottawa). Not as right wing as C-SPAN in the States. That being said, check “Rockwell Presents”. It’s usually a 30 minute talk format covering a wide range of issues. Most of the time they concentrate on Canadian guests. However, if you pitch a “Canadian angle” in some way, they might talk to you. No guaranteees or inside contacts to help out there, though. Sorry.

  3. Tom says...

    Just thought of another West Coast lead: KCRW’s “To the Point” news program. They carry a mix of content (locally produced, NPR, PRI and others). However, they’re NOT as right wing and corporate as NPR is. Check the link on their site and contact their exec. producer.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Tom,
    It was News Talk Radio in Saskatchewan. That was a first for me!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the leads, Tom. Will follow up if I can.

  6. Tom says...

    A suggestion about further Canadian sources. Sadly, almost all corporate talk stations are right wing. Whether it’s Toronto, Calgary, Montreal or Vancouver, it’s the old “right wing content makes tons of money” idea.

    This in turn leaves the CBC (depending on the show you contact) and some smaller progressive outlets. On the other hand, you understand that a key part of this is building critical mass in interest and maintaining it. I’m just hopefully helping to minimize duplication in contacting the wrong people. Stay away from the Globe and Mail, Toronto Sun, and Chorus Radio.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Tom.

  8. Tom says...

    In case anyone missed this earlier today. World Have Your Say on the BBC was talking about shutting down Guantanamo. The guests ranged from former detainees to a former Bush official. I know their exec. producer will talk about “maintain balance in various points of view” on the program. However, after about 15 seconds of the former Bush assistant’s lies, I had to turn it off.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. I had a message asking me to appear on the show, but I didn’t get it until it was too late, sadly. Sometimes it’s good to go up against the propagandists; on the other hand, pretending that objectivity is acceptable when it comes to Guantanamo isn’t something that I have ever, or will ever find acceptable. It’s built on lies, and until those are exposed the perpetrators and their apologists simply shouldn’t be allowed to peddle their filth as though it bore some resemblance to the truth.

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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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