Archive for March, 2017

My Heartfelt Defence of the Wonderful NHS, Exactly Six Years After My Major Illness

Andy Worthington in St. Thomas's Hospital, March 23, 2011 (Photo: Dot Young).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Exactly six years ago, my life changed drastically when I was hospitalised, for 12 days, as doctors with the NHS tried — and eventually succeeded — in working out how to save a number of my toes, which, over the preceding months, had gone black and were causing me truly extraordinary pain. It is also important because, as I prepared to admit myself to hospital, at noon on March 18, 2011, I smoked the last cigarette in 29 years of enthusiastic addiction, a move that counts as one of the single most important things I have ever done on my life. As a chain-smoker of roll-ups, I was, very genuinely, killing myself by the time of my illness, and I am thankful that I not only carried on living, but also recovered my lung capacity, and began singing again (I come from a long line of singers, stretching back as far as my family’s memory reaches).

As for my illness, at the start of the year, I had first noticed what appeared to be a painful bruise on the big toe of my right foot, although I had no recollection of hitting it on anything to cause such a bruise. I then made a visit to the US to campaign for the closure of Guantánamo (for the first time on the anniversary of the prison’s opening), where I was in pain but still able to function, and, at the end of the month, I visited Poland for a week, to show a Polish-subtitled version of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the film I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash, where the pain grew much more severe.

On my return to the UK, my big toe was turning back, and was soon joined by my middle toe, and yet I was failed by both GPs and doctors at my local hospital, who didn’t understand the severity of what was happening to me. For the entire month before I was finally hospitalised, at my wife’s instance, when I was finally given morphine, the only effective painkiller for truly severe pain, I suffered the most horrible sleep deprivation, unable to sleep for more than a few minutes at a time, as every time I managed to fall asleep the pain would wake me up just minutes later. Just once, I managed to get locum doctors to give me two painkillers stronger than over the counter medications, and on the first occasion I actually got one good night’s sleep, but by the time I took the second its strength was insufficient to combat the ever-growing pain. Read the rest of this entry »

Rebel Music: Memories of St. Patrick’s Day in London, 1986

A vintage postcard image for St. Patrick's Day.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

31 years ago, I made a discovery that had some serious resonance for me — the existence of St. Patrick’s Day. It was March 17, 1986. I’d moved into a flat in London three months earlier, in December 1985, opposite the George Canning pub, where I had ventured on my first night, meeting up with squatters, from the roads behind the junction of Tulse Hill and Brixton Water Lane, who soon became my friends.

After three years in Oxford, I wanted as big a change as possible — somewhere in the real world, as far removed as possible from Oxford’s dreaming spires and the endless reminders (to someone from a northern, working class, Methodist background) that it was basically a finishing school for the public schoolboys who would soon go on to run everything.

Seduced by my love for roots reggae music and the Clash, I decided there was no better place than Brixton to sign on and to learn to play the guitar and write songs, inspired by two of my other musical heroes, Bob Dylan and, recently discovered, Shane MacGowan of the Pogues, whose rattling bender of an album, Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, had recently been released. Read the rest of this entry »

Another Legal Hero in the Struggle Against Trump’s Bigotry: Hawaii’s Judge Derrick Watson Issues Nationwide Restraining Order on Immigration Ban

Demonstrators hold signs at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on January 29, 2017 after Donald Trump issued his first Muslim ban (Photo: Branden Camp/AP).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 next three months of the Trump administration.

 

Congratulations to District Judge Derrick K. Watson, in Hawaii, who, on Wednesday, issued what the Washington Post described as “a sweeping freeze of President Trump’s new executive order hours before it would have temporarily barred the issuance of new visas to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries and suspended the admission of new refugees.” I wrote about the original ban here, and the rulings shutting it down here and here, and wrote a follow-up about the reissued ban here, on March 7.

With some accuracy, the Post described Judge Watson’s 43-page opinion as “blistering,” adding that it “pointed to Trump’s own comments and those of his close advisers as evidence that his order was meant to discriminate against Muslims,” and noting that Judge Watson “declared there was a ‘strong likelihood of success’ that those suing would prove the directive violated the Constitution.”

In particularly damning language, Judge Watson declared that “a reasonable, objective observer — enlightened by the specific historical context, contemporaneous public statements, and specific sequence of events leading to its issuance — would conclude that the Executive Order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion.” Read the rest of this entry »

Video: On CBS’s 60 Minutes, Former Guantánamo Prisoner, Torture Victim and Best-Selling Author Mohamedou Ould Slahi Tells His Story

A screenshot from "Prisoner 760," 60 Minutes' interview with Mohamedou Ould Slahi.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 next three months of the Trump administration.

 

If you haven’t already seen it, I urge you to watch the first full-length, post-release interview with former Guantánamo prisoner, torture victim and best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi, freed last October, which was shown on CBS’s 60 Minutes show on Sunday. A transcript is here.

Slahi was handed over to the CIA in November 2001, on the mistaken basis that he possessed important information about al-Qaeda, and was then tortured in Guantánamo, in a special program approved by defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, until, after being taken out on a boat and beaten for hours while freezing from ice packed into his clothing, and after being told that his mother was being brought to Guantánamo, he was “broken” and began telling his interrogators whatever they wanted to hear — lies, but lies that were somehow regarded as credible.

Moved into separate housing with another perceived informant, he was then allowed to write the memoir that was eventually published as Guantánamo Diary in 2015, a devastating account of US torture and incompetence that was profoundly shocking despite its many redactions, and that also revealed Slahi as a witty, perceptive and thoroughly likeable human being. I should note also that I find it ironic that Slahi was only allowed to write a memoir in the first place because of his torture and his subsequent cooperation. Read the rest of this entry »

Worthless MPs Refuse to Challenge Tyrannical Theresa May on Their Own Right to Vote on Final Brexit Deal or on the Rights of EU Nationals in the UK

Stop Brexit: a composite image produced last June by Marketwatch.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Another day, another thoroughly depressing example of why, in the post-EU referendum era, the House of Commons seems intent on proving that it no longer has any worth.

In the last two weeks, peers in the House of Lords have voted for two important amendments to the government’s brief bill to allow Theresa May to trigger Article 50, beginning the two-year process of the UK leaving the EU — the first defending the right of the 3.3m EU nationals living and working in the UK to stay here, as I wrote about in my article, House of Lords Defends Right of EU Nationals to Stay in the UK Post-Brexit, as the Tyrant Theresa May Vows to Overturn Amendment, and the second guaranteeing MPs a final vote on the final Brexit deal in 2019, as I wrote about in my article, On Brexit, the House of Lords Do What MPs Wouldn’t Do, and Pass An Amendment Guaranteeing Them A Final, Meaningful Vote on Any Deal to Leave the EU.

Last night, however, MPs voted to drop those amendments, and the House of Lords then complied, paving the way for Theresa May to trigger Article 50 by the end of the month. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 1: Seeking $2500 (£2000) to Support My Work on Guantánamo

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the Supreme Court on January 11, 2017, the 15th anniversary of the opening of the prison (Photo: Matt Daloisio).Please support my work and my efforts to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

It’s that time of the year, when I ask you, my friends and supporters, to make a donation to support my work, primarily on Guantánamo, which I have been researching, writing about and campaigning to close for eleven years. This website — and the 50 or so articles I publish here very three months — is entirely reader-supported, so I need your support if I am to continue the work I have been doing since 2006.

My target for this quarter — $2500 (£2000) — works out at just $50 an article, so if you can donate $50 you will know that you have paid for one of my articles. Otherwise, a donation of $25 (£20), for example, is just $2 (£1.50) a week — not too much, I hope, for the work that I do, reminding the world on a non-stop basis about the existence of Guantánamo, telling the stories of the men held there, and pointing out the unrelenting need for the prison to be shut down once and for all. However, any amount will be gratefully received, whether it is $10, $25, $100 or $500 — or any amount in any other currency (£5, £15, £50 or £250, for example). PayPal will convert any currency you pay into dollars, which I chose as my main currency because the majority of my supporters are in the US.

So if you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal). You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. I currently have a number of monthly sustainers, and it’s always reassuring to know that some money is guaranteed every month. Read the rest of this entry »

Please Join the March Against Racism National Demo in London This Saturday, March 18, 2017

The March Against Racism poster for the national demo on March 18, 2017.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

This Saturday (March 18), if you’re in London or able to get to the capital, I do hope you’ll come to a national March Against Racism demo, beginning at noon by the BBC in Portland Place, London W1A 1AA, with other demos taking place in Glasgow, beginning at 11am in Holland St, and Cardiff, beginning at 11am in Grange Gardens. The Facebook page for the London event is here.

The protests have been called to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (which is on March 21), and also because it is the week before Theresa May intends, suicidally, to trigger Article 50, beginning the disastrous two-year process of us leaving the EU. Please also note that there is another national demo, against Brexit, on Saturday March 25, which I’ll be writing more about soon.

Standing up to racism is hugely important, as was made clear last June with the narrow victory for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum. Amongst the misplaced reasons for the Leave vote, which included some spurious notion of British sovereignty, was a toxic mix of racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia, stirred up for years by politicians and the media, and by fears and misconceptions prompted by increased immigration — a phenomenon not unique to the UK, of course, but shared by all the richer countries of the west — that were, lamentably, unchallenged. Read the rest of this entry »

Donald Trump’s Latest Outrageous Guantánamo Lie

A collage of images of Donald Trump and Guantanamo on its first day back in January 2002.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 three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

On the morning of March 7, Donald Trump tweeted an outrageous lie about Guantánamo — “122 vicious prisoners, released by the Obama Administration from Gitmo, have returned to the battlefield. Just another terrible decision!”

That number, 122, was taken from a two-page “Summary of the Reengagement of Detainees Formerly Held at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba,” issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in July 2016. The summaries are issued twice a year, and, crucially, what Trump neglected to mention is that 113 of the 122 men referred to in that summary were released under President Bush, and just nine were released under President Obama. In the latest ODNI summary, just released, the total has been reduced to 121, with just eight men released under President Obama.

This is a disgraceful lie to be circulated by the President of the United States, and it is depressing to note that it was liked by over 85,000 Twitter users, and that Trump apparently has no intention of withdrawing it. Read the rest of this entry »

On Brexit, the House of Lords Do What MPs Wouldn’t Do, and Pass An Amendment Guaranteeing Them A Final, Meaningful Vote on Any Deal to Leave the EU

A protest outside the Houses of Parliament on February 20, 2017 (Photo: Andy Rain/EPA).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Congratulations to the House of Lords, where peers, by 366 votes to 268, have voted to give Parliament a veto over the final outcome of Theresa May’s Brexit negotiations, while voting against another amendment to allow a second referendum.

This is the second amendment to the government’s derisorily short Brexit bill, authorising Theresa May to trigger Article 50 and start the two years of negotiating time that is provided for the UK to leave the EU.

Last week, the Lords backed an amendment telling the government to respect the rights of the 3.3m EU citizens living and working in the UK to stay here, and not to treat them as “bargaining chips” in negotiations with the EU, a principled move that I wrote about in my article, House of Lords Defends Right of EU Nationals to Stay in the UK Post-Brexit, as the Tyrant Theresa May Vows to Overturn Amendment. Read the rest of this entry »

Donald Trump’s New Immigration Ban Is Still Unconstitutional, Barring Muslims From Six Countries Despite No Evidence That They Pose a Security Threat

"We are all immigrants": a protestor in Boston's Copley Square on January 29, 2017, after Donald Trump issued his first Muslim ban (Photo: NBC Boston).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.

 

Donald Trump’s alarming presidency began with a blizzard of disgraceful executive orders, of which the most prominent was the immigration ban preventing visitors from seven mainly Muslim countries — Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from coming to the US for a 90-day period. Refugees from these countries were banned for 120 days, and refugees from Syria were banned permanently. The ban was so chaotic that legal US residents — who had left the US for a vacation, for example, or on business —  were also banned, as were dual nationals, and, of course, it was unconstitutional because it was effectively a ban on Muslims, and, as David Cole, National Legal Director of the ACLU and professor at Georgetown University Law Center, has explained, as such it “violates the first principle of the Establishment Clause, which forbids the government from singling out particular religions for favor or disfavor (Larson v. Valente, 456 U.S. 228, 247 (1982)).”

Trump’s original executive order, which I wrote about in my article Trump’s Dystopian America: The Unforgivable First Ten Days, was almost immediately subjected to successful legal challenges, as I explained in my articles, Heroes of the Resistance: Judge James Robart, Who Has Suspended Donald Trump’s Unacceptable Immigration Ban, and Washington State AG Bob Ferguson (on February 5), As 9th Circuit Judges Uphold Stay on Donald Trump’s Disgraceful Immigration Ban, 29 Experts from The Constitution Project Condemn Spate of Executive Orders (on February 10) and Court Rules That Donald Trump’s Disgraceful Immigration Ban Discriminates Against Muslims (on February 14).

With some thought having gone into this revised executive order, some of the worst aspects of the original have been removed — an exception has been made for legal residents and dual nationals, and the ban on Iraq has also been lifted, because, as Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute from 1993-2012 and a founder of Human Rights Watch, explained in a Guardian column, “Apparently, officials of the administration persuaded the president that it is not a good idea to stigmatize Iraqis as terrorists at a time when Iraqi forces, with American assistance, are fighting to expel the Islamic State from Mosul.” Neier added, “Also, some of the most damaging publicity resulting from the previous version of the order involved the exclusion of Iraqis. Those detained by federal agents as they tried to enter the United States included Iraqis who had assisted US forces when they occupied the country after the 2003 invasion by acting as translators.” Read the rest of this entry »

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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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