Video: Andy Worthington and Ramzi Kassem Discuss Trump, Obama, Guantánamo and Torture at Revolution Books in Harlem

25.1.17

Andy Worthington and Ramzi Kassem listening to a question from the audience at a discussion about Guantanamo at Revolution Books on January 13, 2017.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the first two months of the Trump administration.

 

On Sunday I got back from my US tour to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, which was on January 11, and I’m posting the video below of a powerful event I took part in during my visit — a panel discussion, on “Trump, Torture and Guantánamo” (and Barack Obama’s legacy) at Revolution Books in Harlem.

I was delighted to take part in the event with another speaker I had invited, Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at City University of New York (CUNY), with whom I have appeared at events many times before (see here, for example), and who, back in 2012, provided me exclusively with unclassified notes of meetings with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which I published on my website and on the website of the Close Guantánamo campaign that I co-founded with the attorney Tom Wilner in January 2012, marking the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening.

Because of the uncertainties surrounding the transition from Barack Obama’s presidency to that of Donald Trump’s, I was involved in fewer events than usual on this visit — my seventh in a row to coincide with the anniversary of Guantánamo’s opening, all of which have been arranged by Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait — although everything I took part in was extremely worthwhile. I have previously posted the video of my speech outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 11, and the video of the panel discussion I initiated on Jan. 11 at New America, which also featured Tom Wilner, former Congressman Jim Moran, and Rosa Brooks and Peter Bergen of New America, and I’m pleased to be posting the video below, via Vimeo:

“Trump, Torture, and Guantanamo” from Revolution Books on Vimeo.

My presentation began at 8:50, and ended 23 minutes in, and Ramzi then spoke until 45:30. I then made a brief final statement about the small percentage of men genuinely accused of terrorism (no more than 3% of the 779 men held at Guantánamo by the US military), and asked Ramzi a question about the largely undocumented role of the Justice Department, under Obama as well as George W. Bush, in keeping Guantánamo open, and then we began what turned out to be lively Q&A session. Please note that there is a brief break in the visual recording (although not the audio), from 1:09:45 to 1:12:15, when the cameras were changed.

In my talk, I ran through the prison’s history — and my history of trying to get Guantánamo closed — and emphasized the need for us to maintain pressure on Donald Trump to free the men still held who have been approved for release (19 men at the time of the event, but now just five after releases in President Obama’s last week in office), to keep, and not scrap the Periodic Review Boards, which, in the last three years of Obama’s presidency, approved for release 38 out of 64 men who had previously been described as being “too dangerous to release,” or had been recommended for prosecution. I also believe, of course, that we should push Donald Trump to close the prison once and for all, despite his promise on the campaign trail to keep it open, and his recent tweet calling for more prisoners to be released.

Ramzi’s presentation was very powerful. He began by discussing Shaker Aamer’s case, spoke about the illegitimacy of all the so-called legal processes used to detain men at Guantánamo and to assess their cases, and his incredulity that, 11 years after he first visited Guantánamo, the prison is still open.

Ramzi then spoke about the case of Mammar Ameur, an Algerian he represented, who was seized in Pakistan, where he was working and living with his family when US and Pakistani officials came to abduct his neighbor, and not freed until October 2008.

As well as highlighting the abject failures of intelligence in this case — and in many, many others — Ramzi also spoke about the US’s systemic racism, as it applies not only to Guantánamo, but also to the judicial system on the US mainland, US geopolitical ambitions, and the role of bounty payments in filling Guantánamo with people who had nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism.

I hope you have time to watch the video, and to share it if you find it useful. I must reiterate that I found it to be a very powerful event, and I thank Revolution Books for hosting it, as part of a series of events following the Presidential Election — “Refuse Fascism,” which has its own website here, and which has mounted a very public campaign against Trump in the run-up to the inauguration that is still ongoing.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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.

One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, featuring the video of a great event about Guantanamo, Obama, Trump and torture at Revolution Books in Harlem, at which I was a speaker, along with law professor and attorney Ramzi Kassem. With his students, Ramzi represents three men still held at Guantanamo, and, in the past, has represented prisoners including Shaker Aamer. It was a very powerful evening, and I hope you have time to watch the video, and to share it if you find it useful.

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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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