Save the NHS and Free Shaker Aamer from Guantánamo, a set on Flickr.
I just wanted to make available a few photos — and a bit of explanatory text — from two of the campaigns that are closest to my heart: the campaign to close Guantánamo (and, specifically, to secure the release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison), and the campaign to save the NHS from savage cuts and privatisation at the hands of both the Tory-led coalition government and senior NHS managers who have forgotten what the NHS is for.
The first photo in this set is from the regular weekly vigil outside Parliament for Shaker Aamer, held by the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign on most Wednesdays, from noon until 2pm, and the second — of some Close Guantánamo cupcakes, featuring Shaker’s prison number, 239 — is from the recent march and rally for Shaker in Battersea, which I spoke at on Saturday.
Shaker Aamer is one of 84 men who are still held despite being cleared for release by a high-level, inter-agency task force established by President Obama shortly after he took office in 2009. These men are still held, however, because of obstruction by Congress, and an unwillingness on the part of President Obama to spend political capital overcoming those obstacles.
In addition, although the British government has been calling for Shaker’s release since 2007, and David Cameron spoke to President Obama about him at a recent G8 summit, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that he is still held because of President Obama’s inaction, and because the British government has not been pushing the US hard enough.
As I explained on Facebook after a friend posted this photo of me speaking at Saturday’s event, “Due to family obligations, I couldn’t get there until 3.30, so I missed seeing the majority of the speakers, unfortunately, but there was still a good crowd by the time I got to speak, and I had the opportunity to talk to lots of people afterwards.” I added, “Nevertheless, I am disappointed that, as usual, the mainstream media failed to pay attention to the event, as though the imprisonment without charge or trial for 12 years of a British resident, who has twice been cleared for release by representatives of the US government, isn’t worthy of discussion.”
I also stated, “When I spoke, I was unable to disguise my frustration that Shaker is still held when the UK claims it wants him back and has been trying to secure his return, and the US has stated it no longer wants to hold him. How are we meant to accept that he is still held, when he could be put on the first plane home tomorrow morning?”
Save the NHS!
The other photos are of yesterday’s NHS protest outside the Department of Health onWhitehall, where the nursing campaign group, the 4:1 Campaign, was highlighting recently announced plans by the NHS to downgrade between 70 and 100 of the 140 A&E Departments in the country, and also to call for the 20,000 current nursing vacancies in England to be filled.
The 4:1 Campaign was established to call for for “a mandatory minimum ratio of nurses, so there will be no more than 4 patients to 1 nurse,” and I was happy to go along to support the campaign, and also to give a talk based on my experience of why senior NHS managers are deluded to think that massive cuts to A&E departments will improve services overall, when that is obviously untrue.
In my talk (and thanks to my friend Ruth for taking the photo of me), I explained how the plans for A&E would replicate, throughout the country, the problems we identified in Lewisham, where we recently forced the government and NHS managers to abandon plans to close the A&E department and severely downgrade services at Lewisham Hospital to pay off the debts of a neighbouring hospital trust that were accrued in part because of ruinously expensive PFI deals.
As I stated in the detailed article I published just before the protest, “The planned closure of A&E (which means that all frontline acute services close) would have meant that tens of thousands of Lewisham residents (including thousands of pregnant women) would have had to leave the borough to be treated, or to give birth. If the senior NHS managers and the government had their way, this would have meant seriously ill people and pregnant women having to undertake a long journey to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital on a remote heath in Woolwich. This, alarmingly, can take nearly two hours by public transport, and would not be easy by car — or even by ambulance — at rush hour.”
I hope you enjoy the photos, and I also hope that, if these topics are of interest to you, you will join the groups and individuals campaigning to close Guantánamo and to save the NHS.
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, and “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.
When I posted “Close Guantanamo” cupcakes (for Shaker Aamer) I wrote:
I photographed these rather wonderful cakes on Saturday, at the march and rally in Battersea for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantanamo, at which I was one of the speakers. 239 is Shaker’s prison number. My thanks to the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign for putting on such a great event. Now we just need to find a way to get these into the supermarkets!
London Guantánamo Campaign wrote:
These cakes were kindly made and donated by a supporter of the London Guanatanamo Campaign and we were selling them on our stall to raise funds for our activities.
Another one of our supporters also made some excellent cakes, but they were not Guantanamo-themed.
These are really great – so powerfully visually!
London Guantánamo Campaign wrote:
thank you, our actions always are
Brigid-mary Oates wrote:
I ate two… they were delicious. . X
And please listen to Shaker speak from Guantanamo – shouting from his cell – in the recent CBS News broadcast, if you haven’t already heard it: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2013/11/20/from-guantanamo-shaker-aamer-says-tell-the-world-the-truth-as-cbs-distorts-the-reality-of-life-at-gitmo/
Emily Clement wrote:
Mike Wallace, used to love love love this show
You’ve lost me there, Emily …
Emily Clement wrote:
oh sorry 60 minutes i thought it used to have the inside info every sunday nite i watched
Well, it may just be a sign of the times, Emily. The show on Guantanamo certainly got Shaker’s words out to the wider world, but its main narrative was extremely carefully scripted and edited, as most mainstream media reporting on Guantanamo is – so there was no explicit mention of torture or indefinite detention, and no genuine confrontation or hard questioning of any kind. I was interested to see how quickly, and in a slightly panicked manner, the presenter corrected herself when she said “prison” by mistake, and not “detention center” as everyone is told to say, in no uncertain terms.
When I was younger, British TV was full of people who were always challenging the establishment line. But then that was the 70s before the corporate takeover of – well, almost everything, really.
Emily Clement wrote:
i agree i wish i could do something, the interview did not make him sound angelic tho. americans like baseball and apple pie they like to relate to scary movies. Lesley Stahl looked scared.
Ah yes, I agree, Emily, Lesley Stahl did look a bit scared – but also shocked that Shaker spoke such good English; and then of course she found out that he’s a British resident. I don’t think she knew that beforehand, although it doesn’t take much research to find out!
Campaigning investigative journalist and commentator, author, filmmaker, photographer, singer-songwriter and Guantánamo expert
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