Who Are the Five Yemenis Released from Guantánamo and Given New Homes in Oman and Estonia?

20.1.15

One of the four Yemeni prisoners released in January 2015 in Oman - Abd al-Rahman Abdullah Abu Shabati (aka Abd al-Rahman Muhammad), in a photo from the classified military files relating to the Guantanamo prisoners, which were released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.Last week, on January 14, the population of Guantánamo was reduced again as five more men were released, leaving 122 men still held, 54 of whom have been approved for release. The released men are all Yemenis, and four were sent to Oman, in the Gulf, and one to Estonia. The releases reinforce President Obama’s commitment to closing Guantánamo, and mark the third release of Yemenis since the president’s promise to resume releasing prisoners in May 2013, after nearly three years in which the release of prisoners had almost ground to a halt because of opposition in Congress and the president’s refusal to spend political capital overdoing that opposition, and the specific lifting of a ban on releasing Yemenis that he had imposed after a failed airline bomb plot in December 2009 that had been hatched in Yemen.

Across the US establishment, there continues to be a refusal to countenance the repatriation of Yemenis, because of fears about the ongoing security problems in the country, and so third countries have had to be found — firstly, Georgia and Slovakia, then Kazakhstan, and now Estonia and Oman. Although Oman borders Yemen, Abdulwahab Alkebsi, an expert on Yemen at the Center for International Private Enterprise in Washington, D.C., described Oman to the Miami Herald as “one of the more stable countries in the Arab World with a vast desert between it and neighboring Yemen.” Socially, he said, “Oman will be a better place to reintegrate into life than Latin America or Europe,” with, as the Miami Herald put it, “a common language, stable economy, educational and business opportunities that provide a better quality of life than impoverished Yemen.”

The first of the four men released in Oman is Khadr al-Yafi (aka Al-Khadr Abdallah al-Yafi), ISN 34, who was 31 years old when he was seized crossing from Afghanistan to Pakistan with a group of other men. Al-Yafi had been a farmer in Yemen, and had served for two and a half years in the Yemeni army before traveling to Afghanistan. He said that after hearing a sermon, he “decided to return home and sell his sheep so that he could travel to Afghanistan to teach.”

The US claimed that he had been seen in various guest houses connected with military activity, which may have been true (although no evidence has ever been presented to prove categorically that being in a guest house confirmed military activity), and also made a much more far-fetched claim that he was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, like all the men captured with him, who were described as the “Dirty Thirty” (see my article, “Dangerous Revisionism Over Guantánamo” for FAIR in 2009, which discusses the “Dirty Thirty”).

The unreliability of this claim was confirmed when he was approved for release in his Detainee Assessment Brief (one of the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011), dated April 5, 2007. He was then approved for release again in 2009 by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force.

The second of the four men released in Oman is Abd al-Rahman Abdullah Abu Shabati (aka Abd al-Rahman Muhammad), ISN 224, who was just 19 years old when he was seized.

Shabati said in Guantánamo that he had wanted to teach in Afghanistan, but had ended up in a madrassa, where he had stayed for just ten days until the 9/11 attacks. After that, he said, the people at the madrassa sent him to a “known Taliban house” near Kabul, and from there he eventually made his way to the Pakistani border, where he was seized. Although the US authorities came up with an impressive list of documents seized in raids, on which his name and details were allegedly recorded, there is no way of knowing how accurate these records are, as many featured supposed “aliases” that were notoriously generic, and others appear to record the names of prisoners that were leaked to al-Qaeda sympathizers, who duly described them in online postings as al-Qaeda members. For his part, Shabati “denied that he received any weapons [training] during his one-month stay in Kabul.”

Like Khadr al-Yafi, Abd al-Rahman Shabati was approved for release in his Detainee Assessment Brief (one of the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011), in his case in a decision dated January 14, 2007. He was then approved for release again in 2009 by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force.

The third of the four men released in Oman is Fadil Husayn Salih Hintif, ISN 259, who appears to have been 20 years old when he was seized. As I explained in an article in 2010:

[He] told his tribunal at Guantánamo that he had spent many years working as a farmer on his family’s land, and had then moved to Sana’a to look for work. There he met a man at a mosque who asked him about “going to Afghanistan to help poor Afghans,” and he “felt this would be a chance to do something good in memory of his deceased father, so he thought it was a good idea.” He then apparently sold his car to raise funds for his trip, received some money from his brother and set off for Afghanistan. In Kabul, he “began living with an individual who previously taught the Koran in Afghanistan,” and when he asked him how he could help the Afghans, was told that “he could either work with the Afghani Red Crescent or he could help distribute food supplies.” Having decided to work for the Red Crescent, he said that he traveled with the instructor to Logar province, south of Kabul, but stopped his work after the US-led invasion began, when he was escorted to the Pakistani border. There, he said, he surrendered to the Pakistani police, who took him to a prison in Peshawar. He was then transferred to a larger prison in Kohat, and was eventually turned over to the Americans.

Throughout his whole story, Hintif maintained that he “did not receive any training in Afghanistan” and “did not fight in Afghanistan because he was not convinced of the causes that were being fought for.” He explained that he “felt that the groups there were fighting for power, and that there was no reason to fight a jihad.” Disturbingly, apart from vague allegations about the guest houses in which he stayed, the only allegations that the US authorities [had] been able to come up with [were] that his name was on a document “recovered from a safe house raid associated with al-Qaeda in Karachi, Pakistan” (which is not necessarily reliable, as it may not have been his name, but a kunya or alias that does not necessarily refer to him) and a much-derided claim that his Casio watch was the same model as one used in improvised explosive devices “in bombings linked to al-Qaeda and radical Islamic terrorist groups.”

Like Khadr al-Yafi and Abd al-Rahman Shabati, Fadil Hintif (whose habeas corpus petition was turned down by a federal court judge in 2011) was approved for release in his Detainee Assessment Brief (one of the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011), in his case in a decision dated January 9, 2007. He was then approved for release again in 2009 by President Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force.

Mohammed al-Khatib (aka Muhammad Ahmad Salam), in a photo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.The last of the four men released in Oman is Mohammed al-Khatib (aka Muhammad Ahmad Salam), ISN 689, born in October 1980, who was just 21 years old when he was seized in a house raid in Faisalabad, Afghanistan, on March 28, 2002, the same day that another house raid led to the capture of Abu Zubaydah, the facilitator of a training camp that was not aligned with al-Qaeda, who was mistakenly regarded as al-Qaeda’s number 3, and subjected to horrendous torture (including 83 waterboarding sessions) as the first official subject of the CIA’s torture program.

15 men, including al-Khatib, were seized in the raid, and they mostly claimed that they were students. Eight had been released prior to this latest batch of releases, two after having their habeas corpus petitions granted, and two in recent months (a Yemeni and a Palestinian). Another man, sadly, was one of the three prisoners who died at Guantánamo, in mysterious circumstances, in June 2006, reportedly by committing suicide, although that explanation has been seriously challenged in the years since (see the latest news on the alleged suicides here).

As I explained in an article in October 2010 describing the circumstances of the arrest of the 15 men:

In May 2009, Judge Gladys Kessler, ruling on the habeas corpus petition of one of the [men], Alla Ali Bin Ali Ahmed, who described himself as a student, savaged the government for drawing on the testimony of witnesses whose unreliability was acknowledged by the authorities, and for attempting to create a “mosaic” of intelligence that was thoroughly unconvincing, and she also made a point of stating, “It is likely, based on evidence in the record, that at least a majority of the [redacted] guests were indeed students, living at a guest house that was located close to a university.”

As I explained in another article in 2010:

[Al-Khatib], who was reportedly seen by “a senior al-Qaeda member” at al-Farouq [the main training camp in Afghanistan for recruits from the Gulf] actually presented a far more coherent narrative, which involved traveling to Pakistan to get treatment on his nose, and then meeting up with a missionary under whose guidance he traveled to Faisalabad to study the Koran, where he stayed for eight months until he was seized in the house raid. In his tribunal at Guantánamo, after explaining that a “generous person” paid for his trip, the following exchange took place, which demonstrated how wide the cultural gap was between the Americans and Muslims from the Gulf:

Tribunal Member: I don’t know your culture very well, but … in our culture people just don’t step up and say, “I’ll pay for the trip for you.”
Detainee: In our culture, in Islam, there is such a thing … Indeed, it is an obligation for any Muslim who is rich to pay for someone who is poor.

The fifth man freed last week, who was sent to Estonia, is Ahmed Abdul Qader (aka Akhmed — or Ahmed — Abdul Qadir Hussain, or Abdul Qader Ahmed Hussain), ISN 690, who was also seized in the Faisalabad house raid along with Mohammed al-Khatib. Born in November 1983, he had turned 18 just four months before his capture.

As I explained in 2010:

[Qader] said in Guantánamo that he went to Afghanistan “to help the needy and the poor,” and tried unsuccessfully to establish a charity organization. He admitted that he visited the “back line,” encouraged by friends connected to the Taliban, but insisted that he “never participated in any kind of military activities.” After leaving Afghanistan before the US-led invasion began, he said that he ended up in the house in Faisalabad, where he became friends with Fahmi Ahmed [ISN 688, still held]. “We shared the same vision and he has the same opinions,” Ahmed said of him, adding, “He used to use hashish with me,” whereas the other students in the house “were trying to inspire me to do the religious things, like look at my religion, because most of the students were studying the Koran and all things related to religious studies.”

Below I’m posting an article in the New Yorker written after the men’s release by Amy Davidson, focusing on the story of Ahmed Abdul Qadir Hussain (including reference to his habeas corpus petition in 2011, which was turned down by a federal court judge after the appeals court in Washington D.C. gutted habeas corpus of all meaning for the Guantánamo prisoners), and comparing it with the disgraceful pro-Guantánamo posturing of a handful of Republican senators, who used the murders in Paris to call for a ban on the release of prisoners from Guantánamo, even those approved for release five years ago.

Sent to Guantánamo as a Teen-Ager, and Now to Estonia
By Amy Davidson, New Yorker, January 15, 2015

Ahmed Abdul Qader (aka Ahmed Abdul Qadir Hussain) in a photo included in the classified US military documents (the Detainee Assessment Briefs) released by WikiLeaks in April 2011.When Akhmed Abdul Qadir Hussain was eighteen (or a little younger, by some accounts), in early 2002, he was arrested by the Pakistani police, who gave him to American forces, who sent him to Guantánamo Bay. When he was about twenty-five, in 2009, the Guantánamo Review Task Force cleared him for release. It had taken seven years, but, as a Pentagon press release put it, “this man was unanimously approved for transfer by the six departments and agencies comprising the task force.” But he remained in Guantánamo for more than five additional years. Finally, on Wednesday, the Obama Administration announced that it had put Hussain on a plane to Estonia. He is not Estonian; he was born in Yemen. But now, at the age of about thirty-one, he will presumably learn at least the rudiments of the Estonian language, maybe while taking in the architecture in Talinn’s old city and on the Baltic coast. Four other Guantánamo prisoners were sent to Oman; they were also Yemeni. Each of them had been held for a dozen years or more, and each had also been cleared for release five years earlier. Neither they nor Hussain had ever been charged with anything.

Congress is informed before such releases, which might explain why, the day before the announcement, Republican Senators John McCain, Kelly Ayotte, and Lindsey Graham came out with a proposal for new Guantánamo legislation. It was not an effort to find a way to prevent teen-agers from being locked up for no good reason until they are in their thirties. Instead, it called for what would effectively be a moratorium on any transfers from Guantánamo. Under the proposal, no prisoner could be transferred to Yemen (although there are dozens of Yemenis who have been cleared for release) because Yemen, according to Ayotte, is “the Wild West.” And for the next two years, no prisoner who had received a medium-risk or high-risk designation could be released at all — never mind if nothing had ever been proved against him.

The medium-risk designation seems to be pretty easy to get; until his case was finally reviewed, Hussain was called that, on the ground that he had spent time at a guest house associated with the Taliban, where, the government argued, he had been “trained” (in what, exactly, isn’t really clear) and had access to a gun. In a 2008 assessment, he was also labelled as “a HIGH threat from a detention perspective,” because he had been “non-compliant and hostile to the guard force.” He hadn’t actually tried to attack anyone, but he had accumulated seventy-five disciplinary infractions, including “inappropriate use of bodily fluids,” with “the most recent occurring on 6 March 2008, when he refused to return a library book.”

Reading the paperwork, such as it is, that explains Hussain’s detention, one is struck by how little anyone seems to have considered that he was a teen-ager, and perhaps a minor, when he was put in a jumpsuit in a prison camp. But he would not have been the only juvenile — or even the youngest prisoner — at Guantánamo. The United States’s blindness about child prisoners is not confined to terrorism suspects; far too many underage suspects are sentenced and incarcerated as adults. It was only last week that New York City officials decided to stop putting prisoners under the age of twenty-one in solitary confinement at Rikers Island. (See Jennifer Gonnerman’s harrowing account of a childhood lost in that jail.) But not so many end up in Estonia.

This befuddlement seems to have extended to earlier reviews of Hussain’s case. When Judge Reggie B. Walton denied Hussain’s petition for a writ of habeas corpus, in 2011, he discounted Hussain’s account of what he had been doing in Pakistan and Afghanistan, in part because Hussain seemed suspiciously unrealistic about what kind of job he could get, clueless about the motives of the older men he was spending time with, aimless when it came to registering for school, and not in a hurry to go home and get married — this, again, when he was seventeen. (The blog Lawfare posted a link to the decision.) Hussain explained that he’d lingered in Lahore because when he looked for plane tickets home they’d seemed too expensive, with too many layovers, and he had wanted a cheaper, direct flight. The judge found this to be a “nonsensical” explanation, “given that the more layovers a traveler must experience to reach his or her final destination generally results in a less expensive ticket for the traveler.” Doesn’t everyone know that?

When the judges on the D.C. Circuit Court heard an appeal of Walton’s denial, two years later, they upheld it, although Judge Harry T. Edwards, in his concurrence, at least sounded frustrated by where the “vagaries” of Guantánamo jurisprudence had led. “Is it really surprising that a teenager, or someone recounting his teenage years, sounds unbelievable? What is a judge to make of this, especially here, where there is not one iota of evidence that [he] ‘planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such … persons’?” (Linda Greenhouse wrote about the opinion a few weeks ago, before news of Hussain’s transfer.) Edwards said that he was “disquieted.” Other relevant words might involve shame.

President Barack Obama’s first executive order, on January 22, 2009, called for the closing of Guantánamo. There are still a hundred and twenty-two prisoners there, fifty-four of whom have been cleared for release. Fewer than a dozen have any sort of prosecution pending against them. The cases that are in motion — some against dangerous, murderous people, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — have been bungled and delayed, far more so than they would have been if they had been brought in, say, the Southern District of New York, where the World Trade Center stood (and is now standing again). After a period of paralysis, during which the Administration appeared to have more or less thrown up its hands, the President is trying again, one plane ticket to Uruguay, or to the Baltic states, at a time.

The Republicans have been pushing back, citing the recent attacks in Paris, and talking about recidivism — although recidivist, with the implication of a return to a life of crime, is a strange thing to call a person whom you’ve never charged with a crime in the first place. According to the Times, the White House has a theory that if it can get the number of prisoners in Guantánamo down to between sixty and eighty, “keeping it open would make no economic sense” — as if it makes any economic sense now, at three million dollars per year, per prisoner. Does the White House’s strategy for closing Guantánamo involve Congress acting rationally? It will need a better plan than that.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, 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, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

See the following for articles about the 142 prisoners released from Guantánamo from June 2007 to January 2009 (out of the 532 released by President Bush), and the 110 prisoners released from February 2009 to December 2014 (by President Obama), whose stories are covered in more detail than is available anywhere else –- either in print or on the internet –- although many of them, of course, are also covered in The Guantánamo Filesand for the stories of the other 390 prisoners released by President Bush, see my archive of articles based on the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011: June 2007 –- 2 Tunisians, 4 Yemenis (herehere and here); July 2007 –- 16 Saudis; August 2007 –- 1 Bahraini, 5 Afghans; September 2007 –- 16 Saudis1 Mauritanian1 Libyan, 1 Yemeni, 6 Afghans; November 2007 –- 3 Jordanians, 8 Afghans14 Saudis; December 2007 –- 2 Sudanese; 13 Afghans (here and here); 3 British residents10 Saudis; May 2008 –- 3 Sudanese, 1 Moroccan, 5 Afghans (herehere and here); July 2008 –- 2 Algerians1 Qatari, 1 United Arab Emirati, 1 Afghan; August 2008 –- 2 Algerians; September 2008 –- 1 Pakistani, 2 Afghans (here and here); 1 Sudanese, 1 Algerian; November 2008 –- 1 Kazakh, 1 Somali, 1 Tajik; 2 Algerians; 1 Yemeni (Salim Hamdan), repatriated to serve out the last month of his sentence; December 2008 –- 3 Bosnian Algerians; January 2009 –- 1 Afghan, 1 Algerian, 4 Iraqis; February 2009 — 1 British resident (Binyam Mohamed); May 2009 —1 Bosnian Algerian (Lakhdar Boumediene); June 2009 — 1 Chadian (Mohammed El-Gharani); 4 Uighurs to Bermuda; 1 Iraqi; 3 Saudis (here and here); August 2009 — 1 Afghan (Mohamed Jawad); 2 Syrians to Portugal; September 2009 — 1 Yemeni; 2 Uzbeks to Ireland (here and here); October 2009 — 1 Kuwaiti, 1 prisoner of undisclosed nationality to Belgium; 6 Uighurs to Palau; November 2009 — 1 Bosnian Algerian to France, 1 unidentified Palestinian to Hungary, 2 Tunisians to Italian custody; December 2009 — 1 Kuwaiti (Fouad al-Rabiah); 2 Somalis4 Afghans6 Yemenis; January 2010 — 2 Algerians, 1 Uzbek to Switzerland1 Egyptian1 Azerbaijani and 1 Tunisian to Slovakia; February 2010 — 1 Egyptian, 1 Libyan, 1 Tunisian to Albania1 Palestinian to Spain; March 2010 — 1 Libyan, 2 unidentified prisoners to Georgia, 2 Uighurs to Switzerland; May 2010 — 1 Syrian to Bulgaria, 1 Yemeni to Spain; July 2010 — 1 Yemeni (Mohammed Hassan Odaini); 1 Algerian1 Syrian to Cape Verde, 1 Uzbek to Latvia, 1 unidentified Afghan to Spain; September 2010 — 1 Palestinian, 1 Syrian to Germany; January 2011 — 1 Algerian; April 2012 — 2 Uighurs to El Salvador; July 2012 — 1 Sudanese; September 2012 — 1 Canadian (Omar Khadr) to ongoing imprisonment in Canada; August 2013 — 2 Algerians; December 2013 — 2 Algerians2 Saudis2 Sudanese3 Uighurs to Slovakia; March 2014 — 1 Algerian (Ahmed Belbacha); May 2014 — 5 Afghans to Qatar (in a prisoner swap for US PoW Bowe Bergdahl); November 2014 — 1 Kuwaiti (Fawzi al-Odah); 3 Yemenis to Georgia, 1 Yemeni and 1 Tunisian to Slovakia, and 1 Saudi; December 2014 — 4 Syrians, a Palestinian and a Tunisian to Uruguay4 Afghans2 Tunisians and 3 Yemenis to Kazakhstan.

14 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my report about the five Yemenis freed from ‪Guantanamo‬ last week and given new homes in third countries – four of them in Oman (in the Gulf), and the fifth in Estonia. This positive development took place while I was in the US (in Massachusetts), but I didn’t have time to write about it until now. I hope you will share it widely if you find it useful.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote:

    Thanks for this Andy. I did wonder.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Were you wondering what had happened to me, Ann? It was so hectic in the States. I barely had time to write anything at all. Mind you, my friends in New York who I always stay with reminded me of what I used to be like – fuelled on coffee and fags and staying up late at night writing. I used to get more done, but I think it nearly killed me!

  4. Jeremy Putley says...

    How many Guantanamo prisoners have been released and returned to the UK? I know of only one – Binyam Mohamed. I’m asking because I thought I heard a different number (14) on BBC Radio 4 a few days ago.

  5. Martin Walker says...

    What does “inappropriate use of bodily fluids” mean?

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Jeremy,
    There were nine UK nationals, released in March 2004 and January 2005, then five residents were released – four in 2007, and Binyam Mohamed in February 2009 – so yes, it’s 14 in total.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Throwing mixtures of urine and faeces and sometimes semen at guards, Martin. Pretty unpleasant, but psychologically related to hunger striking, I think, in that these are men deprived of almost all possessions and almost all control over any aspect of their surroundings, who can only use their bodies to resist their captors.

  8. Jeremy Putley says...

    Thanks Andy, good to know the BBC got it right.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Ann Alexander wrote, in response to 3, above:

    No Andy – I wondered about the background of the men released. I could see you had a gruelling schedule in the States but you always looked well fired up in the videos you put up and you never missed a beat. Well done to you without the fags and the coffee. Hope you are taking a week off to recover.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Ann, for the supportive words. “You never missed a beat.” I like that!

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Umm Ibrahim wrote:

    Were they released to other prisons or released as in free?

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    No, they are not imprisoned, Umm Ibrahim, and I expect they will be treated well. For the men in Oman, this will presumably be easier (it being a Muslim country) than for the sole resettlement in Estonia, but Estonia was very willing to take him in, and this has been on the cards for some time.

  13. arcticredriver says...

    Andy, thanks again for your work keeping us up to date!

    Correspondent Umm Ibrahim asked whether these captives were free, or released to custody in their host country. Can I offer a prediction and some further comments on this issue?

    My prediction? As you have shared before the USA has tried to insist on imposing secret draconian and expensive security provisions on the host countries that accept former captives. I predict that, as it gets closer to the end of his term Obama will drop more of these hidden provisions.

    I recall commentators speculating that tiny Palau’s agreement to accept Uyghur captives was tied to the renewal of the USA’s generous operating grant to Palau. Last year it became known that the USA had accompanied the Uyghurs with funds for Palau to meet the added ongoing expenses of these foreigners — and that either due to corruption or mismanagement those funds had been exhausted leaving the Uyghurs without support and without speaking the local language.

    While those Uyghurs were, technically, free, they weren’t eligible for Palaun citizenship — open only to those born in Palau. Not being able to acquire citizenship would make it much more difficult to travel to other countries that would be a better fit for them culturally. Similarly, the Uyghurs transferred to Bermuda aren’t eligible for Bermudan citizenship.

    One of the Uyghurs in Palau did apparently manage to leave Palau, even though he wasn’t able to acquire a passport.

    The Uyghurs transferred to Albania, in 2006, may also have been technically free, but Albania classed them as refugees, and, at least for the first couple of years they were expected to return to the housing provided for refugees. That wasn’t fully free, to my way of thinking. It seems to me that it was more like being assigned to a halfway house — the last stage of imprisonment for many convicts who are being given an early release due to being paroled.

    I think we should suspect that the USA has gotten some countries to cooperate in tapping the former captives’ phones, and other surveillance measures.

    I see it as part of the surprising anti-terrorist hysteria that still infects Americans. Many American legislators and commentators, and many members of the public have taken the position (paraphrasing), “Any cost is worth paying if it can be said to be necessary to prevent even a single sudden and unexpected death of an American in a terrorist attack.”

    I see this as a position that really requires mature sober examination and rebuttal. Sudden and unexpected deaths are always shocking. But I don’t think a sudden and unexpected death due to terrorism should be considered orders of magnitude more worthy of counter-measures than other kinds of sudden and unexpected deaths.

    I think that those advocating for additional resourcces to be allocated to fighting terrorism should line up, cap in hand, right beside those advocating for resources being allocated to fight other forms of possibly preventable deaths.

    Here in Canada the Harper government, in a pound wise penny foolish cost cutting measure, reduced the staff of the agency that inspected meat to make sure it was safe for consumption, and we had outbreaks of illness and death from tainted meat.

    Equipping all motor vehicles with alcohol-breathalyzer-interlocks, would save many lives. For the three trillion dollars the USA spent to invade and occupy Iraq could the USA have retrofitted every vehicle in the world with an interlock?

    Most heartbreaking, I am afraid that a generation from now we may have passed the tipping point, where global warming simply can’t be fixed. I am afraid our grandchildren will have enough information to realize that globel warming could have been stopped, or reversed, if only a couple of trillion dollars had been spent to curb our use of fossil fuels and develop safe energy alternatives, circa 2003. I am afraid our grandchildren will ask us, “what discretionary expenses did you guys make in 2003, when you should have known global warming was putting civilization at risk, and had to be addressed, immediately?”

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the thoughtful comments, as ever, arcticredriver. I do share your concerns about the resettlement of prisoners in the past, and your valid points about the Uyghurs, and there’s no guarantee, of course, that those being resettled now will necessarily be treated as well as possible. Country by country, I suspect we could make some educated guesses about who will fare best, but I also think you’re right to point out that there have been efforts from the Obama administration to tone down the hysteria from Republicans – the men sent to Uruguay, for example, were explicitly referred to as refugees by President Mujica. Fortunately, there is one initiative I know of that aims to look after former prisoners – Reprieve’s Life After Guantanamo project – but ideally there should be a bigger organization within the US – within the State Department, preferably – dedicated to making sure former prisoners are looked after.
    As for your final point, I thought you put it very well – and sometimes I wonder if we shouldn’t all give up what we’re doing and campaign full-time for the planet …

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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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