Video: Andy Worthington Talks About Guantánamo and the Need to Close the Prison at Western New England School of Law

30.1.15

Andy Worthington and the We Stand With Shaker poster at the protest against Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2015, the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).Following my recent US tour, calling for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the 13th anniversary of the opening of the prison I have, to date, posted videos from an event in New York, of me speaking outside the White House, and of a panel discussion at New America in Washington D.C., but, with the exception of a very brief TV appearance (included here), I haven’t yet posted any videos from the three days I spent in Massachusetts — although I did post links to two radio shows here.

I’m pleased to be able to correct that now, with video of the talk I gave at Western New England School of Law at lunchtime on January 14, the first of my Massachusetts events to be recorded, unlike my first two talks, in Boston and at Harvard Law School. My thanks to Richie Marini of the World Can’t Wait for making it available.

All of my events in the US were rewarding, and this was no exception. I was given free rein to run through the story of Guantánamo, and took the opportunity to explain how I began working on the Guantánamo story, and then to discuss the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report, explaining how important it is not to forget that it was not just the CIA that used torture, and that torture has been a part of the story of Guantánamo throughout its long history. For more about my reflections on the CIA torture report, see my articles “Punishment, not apology after CIA torture report” (for Al-Jazeera) and “Why Guantánamo Mustn’t Be Forgotten in the Fallout from the CIA Torture Report.”

The video is below:

Running through Guantánamo’s history, I also spoke about the long struggle by lawyers to secure habeas corpus rights for the prisoners, the inadequate review process established by the Bush administration (the Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Administrative review Boards), which, nevertheless, provided the basis for my research into the prisoners, which continues to be relevant to this day.

I explained how my research into the documents reluctantly released by the Bush administration in 2006 enabled me to work out who was captured where, and to piece together a coherent narrative regarding the so-caled “worst of the worst,” to establish how the overwhelming majority of those seized  were no such thing, and how, once I had written my book The Guantánamo Files, I began working full-time as a journalist on Guantánamo and related issues, initially challenging the Bush administration, and, for the last six years, monitoring the Obama administration’s efforts to close the prison (as President Obama promised on his second day in office), and, of course, the political obstacles raised by Congress that, for nearly three years, led to unacceptable inaction on the part of the administration.

I also spoke about President Obama’s high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, established in 2009 to review all the prisoners’ cases, and the profound problems with the task force’s decision to designate 48 men as too dangerous to release, even though they accepted that there was insufficient evidence to put them on trial. As I explained to the legal crowd, this should set alarm bells ringing, and I proceeded to explain how fundamentally unreliable the majority of the so-called evidence is against almost all the prisoners, because it largely consists of unreliable statements made by the prisoners themselves, about themselves and/or their fellow prisoners, through the use of torture or other forms of abuse, through bribery or simply through exhaustion.

I also spoke about the case of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and my new campaign We Stand With Shaker, which I encourage you to look at if you haven’t already.

I also spoke about the current situation at Guantánamo, regarding the 122 men still held — the 54 approved for release, and the 68 others whose cases need resolving if Guantánamo is ever to be closed. Just ten of these men are facing — or have faced — trials, and it appears that the fate of the 58 others will decide whether or not Guantánamo will actually be closed under President Obama.

I spoke about these issues at length from around 25 minutes into the video, and my talk ended at 31 minutes with a call for us eventually to return to the same respect for the law that we had before the 9/11 attacks.

After that, there is a 20-minute Q&A session, which was generally very interesting, although it may be that those asking the questions cannot be heard clearly. I hope, however, that some of the topics discussed are of interest.

In conclusion, I hope you enjoy the video, and that you will share it if you do. More radio interviews and another videoed event will be forthcoming soon.

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.

11 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Joyce McCloy wrote:

    do you think there’s any chance Cuba will regain GITMO? And if that happened somehow, would Cuba get custody of the detainees?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    It’s not looking likely, Joyce. After Raul Castro asked for it back, the White House stated that President Obama “does believe that the prison at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down … but not the naval base.”
    See: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-31059030

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Karen Martin wrote:

    sometimes little steps lead to big steps. Giving back the area that is the Gitmo prison is a start. I’m thinking of how Canada got single-payer health insurance……province by province.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Good point, Karen. Certainly, as far as I know, no one expected Obama to start talking to Cuba after all this time. Personally, though, I think Guantanamo won’t be handed back to the Cubans until there’s a serious move towards de-militarization in general in the US, which would also involve closing bases in some of the many – far too many – other countries in which the US maintains military bases.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Sadly, the only way for Cuba to get their land back is for an administration to come to power that believes in the sovereignty of nation states and stops being imperialist. The US has been imperialist for 2 centuries and the people seem all too willing to be goaded into that imperialism.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Agreed, Jan, but the day may come when the $$$ simply aren’t there anymore.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    I just added the video to my YouTube channel, where videos of my TV appearances and most of my personal appearances that were filmed are collected: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=FLm-qm6RrnDlpRpVGjiJF2fw

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Karen Martin wrote:

    we didn’t have 24 news back in the days of President Carter, and that’s 30+ years ago…….does anyone remember much about U.S. relinquishing the Panama Canal? I wonder if there is a lesson, or “instructions” on how to get U.S. to “relinquish” Guantanamo. Sadly I do think you’re right Andy, until we run out of $$$ to support our 800 or so military bases, U.S. military is not about to budge—-who knows as chaos of climate change hits even worse: climate refugees, fight for live sustaining arable land and drinking water……..

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    A quick bit of research suggested that the US had to give up the Panama Canal, Karen, because, in 1956, the US had “used financial and diplomatic pressure to force France and the UK to abandon their attempt to retake control of the Suez Canal,” as Wikipedia puts it, and resisting Panamanian demands would have been a hypocrisy too far!
    See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panama_Canal
    So I’m not sure if we can draw any lessons from it. The better bet, still, it seems to me, is to try to work out how to mobilize against the US’s role as the aggressive global policeman – with those hundreds of bases around the world.
    I found an interesting recent article by the author David Vine based on his forthcoming book, “Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World”: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/11/america-still-has-hundreds-military-bases-worldwide-have-they-made-us-any-safer

  10. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy!

    WRT to President Carter’s return of the Panama Canal Zone to Panama, I remember Republican Senator from Hawaii, Senator Hayakawa, saying “Of course the USA should keep the Panama Canal Zone! We stole it fair and square”

    In civil law, everyone knows that an agreement signed under duress is unenforceable. Cuba signed the unequal treaties that granted the USA the right to run the base at Guantanamo when Cuba was weak, wasn’t fully independent from its occupiers.

    The treaty says the USA is to use the base as a “Coaling station”, and for other purely naval purposes. Internment camps aren’t a listed purpose. US warships aren’t fueled by coal, its last coal fueled ships would have been retired or retrofitted sixty or seventy years ago.

    Some of the locations at Guantanamo are named after “Cuzco Wells”. The base once had a source of fresh, potable water, even though the base seems to be in a region that is in a rain shadow most of the year. The western horn of the base, where the Guantanamo River empties into the Caribean, is mainly a salt marsh or a very arrid area full of cactus. The eastern horn is similarly very arrid.

    When a very arrid area with ground water that is fresh is near a body of salt water, that ground water has to be managed very carefully. When too much fresh water is pumped from the acquifer it is replaced by undrinkable brine, and the acquifer is almost impossible to rehabilitate.

    Prior to the Cuban Revolution the Battista regime provided a pipeline of drinkable water from Cuban reservoirs. Really, when Castro shut down the base’s fresh water, it would have made sense for the US Navy to relocate the remaining services offered by the base to nearby Puerto Rico, or to Florida.

    The Navy did build a desalination plant, but its water tastes so bad that the Guantanamo captives are the only people forced to drink it. Even the military working dogs on the base drink imported bottled water. Getting bottled water to drink instead of the foul tasting and highly colored water from the desalination plant was one of the concessions won during the 2005 hunger strike.

    Realistically, the lack of fresh water alone, should be a good reason to hand back the base.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver, for the history lesson – and for the mention of the disgusting yellow water from the desalination plant that the prisoners had to drink. That’s definitely another black mark against the authorities at Guantanamo.

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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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