Dear friends, I do hope you have time to read my first article for Al-Jazeera English, “It’s time to end the injustice of Guantánamo and Bagram,” in which, the day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I run through the story of America’s dreadful innovations in the wake of the attacks — with particular reference to Guantánamo, where 164 men remain, and Bagram in Afghanistan, where 67 non-Afghan prisoners are still held, despite the handover of the majority of the prisoners to the Afghan authorities.
In the article I point out how, by discarding the Geneva Conventions after 9/11, the Bush administration embraced indefinite detention without charge or trial, and also opened the floodgates to the use of torture. The latter was eventually curtailed (as official policy, at least), but the indefinite detention continues under President Obama, both at Guantánamo and Bagram, which is unacceptable policy under any circumstances.
I also point out how another baleful legacy of the Bush administration’s lawless policies is the largely worthless information masquerading as evidence, which is used to justify the ongoing imprisonment of the men at Bagram, and around half of the remaining men at Guantánamo. As I explain in the article:
[T]he Bush administration set about justifying the unjustifiable at Guantánamo, in its Afghan prisons and in the “black sites” run by or on behalf of the CIA, through interrogations in which torture and other forms of coercion were used, along with bribery (offering prisoners comfort items, ranging from food and cigarettes to DVDs and even their own gardens) or simply grinding prisoners down through relentless interrogations, until they began telling their interrogators what they wanted to hear. In one particular case, a single prisoner made false or untrustworthy allegations against at least 120 of his fellow prisoners.
The result, predictably, was an intelligence operation of extraordinary worthlessness, composed, to an alarming degree, of false statements made by prisoners about their fellow prisoners, although that has never been officially admitted.
It should also be noted that, although this worthless intelligence continues to exert a baleful influence on around half the prisoners still at Guantánamo, the other half of the remaining 164 prisoners should be beyond its malevolent reach, as they were cleared for release in January 2010 by an inter-agency task force that President Obama established when he first took office. However, they are still held because of Congressional restrictions, and the president’s own unwillingness to spend political capital pushing for their release — an unacceptable situation that is highlighted on the GMTO Clock website that I established in August, and which will also be a major part of the campaigning for the closure of Guantánamo that will be building up from now to the 13th anniversary of the prison’s opening in January.
If you like my article for Al-Jazeera, please like it, share it, tweet it, and also feel free to comment on it.
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).
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On Facebook, I posted a link to the original article this morning, and wrote:
Here’s my first article for Al-Jazeera, reflecting on the injustice of the indefinite detention of prisoners at Guantanamo – and the foreign prisoners still held by the US at Bagram – the day after the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that prompted America’s profoundly mistaken flight from the law in the first place.
Eduardo António Morgado wrote:
Well done and informative!
Thanks, Eduardo, for the supportive words.
Darryl Rivers wrote:
The problem is the home country of many of them refuse to except them back. Some will be executed ( but I suppose that isn’t our problem )
Darryl, it’s true that some of the cleared prisoners need third countries to take them in, because it’s unsafe for them to be repatriated – the last three Uighurs, for example (Muslims from China’s Xinjiang province), some Syrians, and a few others. It’s my understanding, however, that there are countries prepared to take them – and, of course, President Obama recently appointed an envoy, Cliff Sloan, to help with this, as Daniel Fried did in 2009-10.
The main problem is the large number of Yemenis, who make up 56 of the 84 cleared prisoners. In his major speech in May, Obama lifted his own self-imposed moratorium on releasing cleared Yemeni prisoners. He should now do the bold thing, and put them all on a plane home.
Jamal Ajouaou wrote:
Thank you Andy Yemenis are Poor people it is good reason why so many because no body defend them or speak about them.
Yes, that’s right, Jamal. They don’t have the powerful House of Saud to stand up for them. What really irks me, however, is how the perceived failings of the Yemeni state are transferred to its citizens, as if that is even remotely acceptable. If you believe in justice and fairness, you can’t hold people because you don’t trust their government – especially when you went through a whole process of telling them that you didn’t want to continue holding them in the first lace. That’s just cruel. Monstrously cruel.
Jason Leopold wrote:
Thanks, Jason. I’m very glad to be joining you at Al-Jazeera!
After Mary Magnuson shared this on Facebook, Lee Kronick wrote:
Alas, I am coming to the conclusion that the only solution is for us to “throw the bums out!”
Heidi Waddell wrote:
Beyond time. They are forgotten people.
Thanks for sharing, Mary, and thanks for the comments, Lee and Heidi. I agree, Lee. We need governments that care about justice, rather than the banking-corporate-military-industrial monstrosities that we get whoever we vote for. And Heidi, yes, it appears to be an endless uphill struggle to make sure that the prisoners are not forgotten.
Andy Moss wrote:
Jenifer Fenton wrote:
Thanks, Andy and Jenifer. Lovely to hear from you both.
Kent Spriggs wrote:
Congrats on publishing in Al Jaz
Thanks, Kent. Good to hear from you, and I hope all is well with you. Our summer reunion now seems so very long ago. It’s been raining most of this week.
Karen Martin wrote:
Hi Andy, congrats. Now that we have Aljazeera-America T.V. maybe they’d be happy to have you as a guest on T.V.
That would be nice, Karen. Let’s see what happens the next time I’m in Washington – probably January, for the annual protests on the anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo.
If you torture someone, they’ll just blab out anything the torturer wants to hear, however stupid it is. They would say they were a pony if that was what was wanted of them. Evidence gained from torture is almost always utterly useless.
Yes, agreed, Thomas, but unfortunately far too many people don’t understand that. Good to hear from you.
Good job again Andy you have made a huge difference for both the prisoners and everyone who stll wants to see some justice around here.
been reading Victoria Brittain’s book Shadow Lives- people need to know what it’s like for prisoners families. second chapter is about Shaker’s wife Zinnira. like when he was cleared for release in 2007, she thinks their troubles are over- and then they just give the knife another twist to see how loud we will scream. it’s infuriating, – we are still screaming and Shaker is still in the cage.
Thanks, Paul. Great to hear from you, and thanks for the perspective on Shaker and Zinn. Infuriating, indeed. I was very pleased to meet Shaker’s family at an event last year, and their suffering – and the indifference of both the US and UK governments – is completely unacceptable.
Thanks Andy- unacceptable for sure but nasty in an especially revolting way- Sabah wrote many letters, often including the childrens’ drawings, to her husband Jamil but got no replies.Then after a couple years she got one letter. She was real happy to have it, but also a bit troubled as she could tell he had not got any of her letters. finally, in 2005, Jamil was handed a packet of 13 letters from his wife that the u.s. had been withholding from him for 2 years. So You Gotta wonder- what kind of people are they- so mean and twisted they keep his wife’s letters , and his children’s drawings, for 2 years? there’s no word for that.
Thank you for that, Paul. For those who don’t know, Sabah is the wife of Jamil El-Banna, kidnapped in the Gambia, where he had traveled in connection with the establishment of a peanut oil business with his friend Bisher al-Rawi, and Bisher’s brother. The latter was a British national and was freed, but Jamil and Bisher were flown to a “black site” in Afghanistan, and then to Guantanamo, where they remained until 2007. The British intelligence services were profoundly complicit in their kidnap and rendition, but have so far escaped accountability for their actions.
Your reminder of how cruel the Guantanamo authorities were, withholding family correspondence, is indeed worth remembering, and you’re right to say “there’s no word for that.” It should serve as reminder that the Bush administration sought to profoundly isolate its prisoners in the “war on terror,” sinking to depths previously occupied – if at all – only by reviled totalitarian regimes. Unfortunately, Sabah and Jamil’s example was typical.
Here’s a Guardian article about Sabah and Jamil: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/feb/19/guantanamo.usa
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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