On Tuesday evening, I responded to a last-minute request for a brief interview about Guantánamo, and the ongoing hunger strike that is now on its 135th day, with Press TV. That interview is available here, and below is a rather helpful transcript, produced by Press TV, to which I have made a few corrections.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to link to a radio interview I undertook last week with Linda Olson-Osterlund on her show A Deeper Look on KBOO FM, a community radio station in Portland, Oregon. Linda first approached me for an interview back in May 2008, and we have since spoken many times. It is always a pleasure to speak to her, as she is a well-informed host, passionate about exposing injustice. The half-hour show is available here, and the MP3 is here.
The show was entitled, “Guantánamo Bay Prison Camp: Will It ever Close?” and this is how Linda described it:
With 104 men on hunger strike, 41 of them being force fed and 4 hospitalized, White House officials and Senators Feinstein and McCain paid a surprise visit last Friday. At the same time there is a mini troop surge going on at the prison. Join me, Linda Olson-Osterlund, for A Deeper Look, this Thursday morning at 9:30am. My guest will be Andy Worthington, journalist and author of The Guantánamo Files. He’ll help make sense of the changing political landscape about the prison camp and bring us up to date on efforts to have men released.
Below is the transcript of the Press TV interview:
Press TV has conducted an interview with Andy Worthington, with the Close Guantánamo campaign, about the hunger strike still continuing at Guantánamo Bay prison. What follows is a transcript of the interview.
Press TV: Mr. Worthington, first of all how does this particular case question America’s human rights record?
Andy Worthington: Well of course it is awful for America’s human rights record to be holding men without charge or trial, not to be holding them under any internationally accepted standards, and to be embroiled in the middle of this terrible situation whereby over 40 of the men in there are being force-fed and the majority of the prisoners are on a hunger strike and have been on a hunger strike for over four months.
Press TV: My question is: why doesn’t the United Nations or the European Union intervene?
Andy Worthington: They have done what they can. You know, the United Nations has spoken out on several occasions this year since the hunger strike started, very publicly. The European Parliament has passed a resolution calling for the prisoners to be treated well, calling for the hunger strike to be brought to an end, for Guantánamo to be closed. The thing is that no one can put pressure on the United States unless the United States wants that pressure to be exerted. Now it is certainly true that criticism hurts America but there’s no magic lever that anyone has to make them do anything.
What we have seen from President Obama are promises to deal with it and we actually had him appointing an envoy at the State Department who is going to help supposedly with the release of prisoners. So we are getting somewhere, but it is all happening very slowly and that is terrible for the men in Guantánamo who are literally starving themselves to death.
Press TV: Well, the situation is getting worse day by day. What if an inmate on hunger strike dies? What then?
Andy Worthington: Well, then it will be extremely bad PR for the United States government and that really is something that ought to be sharpening their resolve more than it is.
Unfortunately, they’ve demonstrated over the years that they are very good at keeping force-fed hunger strikers alive. There is a man at Guantánamo [Abdul Rahman Shalabi] who has been on a hunger strike since the summer of 2005 — yes that’s right, nearly eight years. He has been force-fed since January 2006 when they first brought the restraint chairs, in which they strap them in there and then they put the tubes up their nose into their stomach.
He has been fed twice a day like this since January 2006, and he’s still alive. I can’t vouch for what his mental state would be, or in fact for how weakened his body must be as a result of all this, but he hasn’t died.
So I would imagine, at some cynical level, they are counting on the fact that they are able to keep people alive. The problem is that people are starving themselves in this way at Guantánamo because they don’t believe anymore in the value of their lives, trapped in this prison when they’re not being released. And this is men who — over half of them have been cleared for release by the government but have been trapped because they’re part of a game of cynical political football.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here – or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
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