Today (March 19, 2014), it is 300 days since President Obama promised to resume releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, in a major speech on national security issues last May, and I’m asking you to promote the Gitmo Clock, which I established last year with the designer Justin Norman, to show how many days it is since the promise, and how many prisoners have been released (just 12). At this rate, it will take over five years for all the cleared prisoners at Guantánamo to be released.
When President Obama made his promise, he was responding to widespread criticism triggered by the prisoners themselves, who, in February, had embarked on a major hunger strike — involving nearly two-thirds of the remaining prisoners — and his promise came after a period of two years and eight months in which just five men had been released from Guantánamo.
What was particularly appalling about the release of prisoners being reduced to a trickle was that over half of the men — 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners at the time — had been approved for release from the prison in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009 — and some of these men had previously been cleared for release by military review boards under President Bush, primarily in 2006 and 2007.
Congress had raised obstacles designed to prevent the release of prisoners, which had made it difficult for the Obama administration to release prisoners, but President Obama had the power to bypass Congress, through a waiver in the legislation, but had chosen not to use it. In addition, he had himself imposed a moratorium on releasing Yemeni prisoners — who make up two-thirds of the cleared prisoners — after it was revealed that a foiled bomb plot involving a plane on Christmas Day 2009 had been hatched in Yemen.
When he made his promise last May, President Obama also dropped his ban on releasing Yemenis and promised to appoint two envoys to help with the closure of Guantánamo. Those envoys have now been appointed — Cliff Sloan in the State Department and Paul Lewis in the Pentagon — and they have been helping with the release of the 12 prisoners who have left the prison since President Obama made his promise. In addition, in December, Congress eased its restrictions on the release of prisoners.
However, despite the president’s promise there are still 75 prisoners at Guantánamo who were cleared for release by the task force over four years ago, and 55 of these men are Yemenis. If President Obama wants his promise to be taken seriously, he needs to overcome the US establishment’s long-standing reluctance to release cleared Yemenis, because of fears about the security situation in Yemen. As the president said last year, “I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantánamo is not necessary to keep America safe. It is expensive. It is inefficient. It hurts us in terms of our international standing. It lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts. It is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
In conclusion, then, please visit, like, share and tweet the Gitmo Clock, and, if you would like to do more, you can:
– Call the White House and ask President Obama to release all the men cleared for release, and to make sure that reviews for the other men are fair and objective. Call 202-456-1111 or 202-456-1414 or submit a comment online.
– Call the Department of Defense and ask Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to issue certifications for other cleared prisoners: 703-571-3343.
Please also feel free to write to the prisoners at Guantánamo.
Note: This article was published simultaneously here and on the website of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign.
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 six-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.
On Facebook, Jamal Ajouaou wrote:
Thank you Andy I will share it god willing every body would do the same thing at least we can do after you had done all the work , action speaks louder then words even if they are as little as sharing on face book Allah will put blessing and we can be heard inchallah all the way to Obama ,
Thank you, Jamal. Much appreciated.
Naida DG wrote:
They have re-arrested Moazzam Begg on bogus charges in Britain. Endless suffering for these innocent victims.
Free Moazzam Begg campaign:
Thanks, Naida. Yes, I wrote about it when the news was announced. I’m hoping to write an update soon: http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/02/26/the-suspicious-arrest-of-former-guantanamo-prisoner-moazzam-begg/
Naida DG wrote:
Thank you Andy, God bless.. I will share this.
Thanks again, Naida. Good to hear from you.
When I posted the direct link to the Gitmo Clock on Facebook, and asked people to visit, like, share and tweet the site and to call President Obama or write to him, Mo D’oh wrote:
Emily Clement wrote:
Thanks, Mo D’oh and Emily. That’s great to hear.
Willy Bach wrote:
Andy, thanks, it is good you keep yourself sane by cycling around London taking photos, yet you keep putting out these reminders that the issue has not gone away. Tweeted, shared here, good on ya.
Thanks, Willy. Yes, I’m trying to strike a balance that is healthier than the first five years I spent on Guantanamo, when I worked on it 24/7, and eventually got ill. It’s interesting – I was hospitalized three years ago, on March 18 (when I also gave up smoking after 29 years), but I forgot that particular anniversary this year. I was evidently too busy having lunch with a friend, cycling, taking photos, and doing an event about Omar Khadr with Dennis Edney to remember it!
On another note, I’m planning to get my photo website, “The State of London,” launched soon. The current plan is for it to happen in May. Watch this space!
Thanks to everyone who has promoted the Gitmo Clock. It now has over 800 retweets and over 1600 Facebook likes, which is pretty good, I think!
David Knopfler wrote:
Shared on Twitter and FB
Thanks, David. Much appreciated.
David Knopfler wrote:
Andy your unfailing courtesy is remarkable. It’s you we should all be thanking for the endless, underpaid work and devotion you’ve given to this. If there was a journalism award for tenacity you’d be a clear front runner.
David Knopfler wrote:
Uruguay agrees to U.S. request to take some Guantanamo inmates
And thanks for the lovely encouraging words, David. Very kind, although “underpaid” rather captures the situation at present!
The news from Uruguay is good, isn’t it? I hope the actual releases follow soon. The Syrians would be a good bet.
John Pope wrote:
I would love to see obama in prison.
Ah yes, John, joining George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, David Addington, Jim Haynes, John Yoo, Alberto Gonzales and all the other criminals of the Bush administration.
Jamal Ajouaou wrote, in response to 2, above:
it is my pleasure Andy , list I can do , please dont think less of what you [do.] many families are very appreciative , i wish you steadfast and lots of courage in this age of consperecy munipilation and turbulance ,
Thanks again, Jamal. Much appreciated.
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