Archive for July, 2017

Off to WOMAD, Back on Monday! Have A Listen to The Four Fathers While I’m Away

A comparatively rare sunny interlude at the often rather wet WOMAD 2015 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Dear friends,

It’s that time of year again, when a whole posse of us from south east London head down to Charlton Park in Wiltshire for the WOMAD world music festival, which this year is celebrating its 35th year!

This will be my 16th annual visit, as part of a group of family and friends running children’s workshops, led by my wife Dot. I first went just after our wedding, and have been every year since — in the festival summers of 2004 and 2005, for example, when I launched my books Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield at the Glastonbury Festival, and also spoke and sold books at the Big Green Gathering and the Shambala Festival, and in 2007, the first year at Charlton Park, after the move from Reading, when it became a mud bath, and we feared it might not survive.

But this “hardy celebration of music marginalised by the western pop machine”, as the Times describes it, is not so easily destroyed. WOMAD came bouncing back in 2008, having redesigned its place in the landscape of Charlton Park, and it has been thriving ever since. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Architects for Social Housing’s Powerful Public Meeting, ‘The Truth About Grenfell Tower’, and Their Detailed Report

Grenfell Tower, photographed on the afternoon of June 14, 2017, about 12 hours after the inferno began (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

On June 22, a week after the dreadful Grenfell Tower inferno in west London, which I wrote about here and here, Architects for Social Housing (ASH), an organisation set up two years ago to oppose the demolition of housing estates for profit, and for social cleansing, which, instead, can be refurbished, held an open meeting to examine what caused the Grenfell fire, and what lessons can and must be learned from it.

I attended that meeting, in the Residents Centre of Cotton Gardens Estate in Lambeth, which was attended by around a hundred people, including residents, housing campaigners, journalists, lawyers, academics, engineers and architects. It was an articulate and passionate event, and I’m delighted that an edited film of the meeting is now available on YouTube, made by the filmmaker Line Nikita Woolfe (with the assistance of Luc Beloix on camera and additional footage by Dan Davies), produced by her company Woolfe Vision.

The meeting was hosted by Geraldine Dening and Simon Elmer of ASH, and a prominent guest was the architect Kate Macintosh, who, at the age of 28, designed the acclaimed Dawson’s Heights estate in Dulwich. Her late husband, George Finch, designed Cotton Gardens, another acclaimed estate, and one whose structural integrity, it became apparent at the meeting, had not been compromised as Grenfell Tower’s had, with its chronically ill-advised refurbishment leading, in no uncertain terms, to the terrible and entirely preventable loss of life on June 14. Read the rest of this entry »

Six Months of Trump: Is Closing Guantánamo Still Possible?

A collage of Donald Trump and the sign for Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay.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.

 

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.

Just a few days ago, we passed a forlorn milestone: six months of the presidency of Donald Trump. On every front, this first six months has been a disaster. Trump humiliates America on the international stage, and at home he continues to head a dysfunctional government, presiding by tweet, and with scandal swirling ever closer around him.

On Guantánamo, as we have repeatedly noted, he has done very little. His initial threats to send new prisoners there, and to revive CIA “black sites,” have not materialized. However, if he has not opened the door to new arrivals, he has certainly closed the door on the men still there.

These include, as Joshua A. Geltzer, the senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council from 2015 until Trump took office, wrote in “Is Closing Guantánamo Still Conceivable?,” a recent article for the Atlantic, “the five still held at Guantánamo despite being recommended for transfer.” He added, “This official designation refers to those still believed to be lawfully detained under the law of war, but unanimously recommended for repatriation or resettlement by an interagency group of career officials. In other words, their continued detention has been deemed unnecessary, assuming an appropriate country can be identified to accept them under conditions that ensure their humane treatment and address any lingering threat they might pose.” Read the rest of this entry »

“Choose Peace”: An Inspiring Message of Tolerance From Former Guantánamo Prisoner and Torture Victim Mustafa Ait Idir

Former Guantanamo prisoner Mustafa Ait Idir, photographed after his release from Guantanamo in December 2008 (Photo: Amer Kapetanovic).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.

 

Last year, I was honored to be asked to write a short review to promote a Guantánamo memoir by two former prisoners, Lakhdar Boumediene and Mustafa Ait Idir, two of six Algerians living and working in Bosnia-Herzegovina, who had been kidnapped by the US authorities in January 2002 and flown to Guantánamo, where they were severely abused. The US authorities mistakenly thought they were involved in a plot to bomb the US embassy in Sarajevo, despite no evidence to indicate that this was the case. Before their kidnapping, the Bosnian authorities had investigated their case, as demanded by the US, but had found no evidence of wrongdoing. However, on the day of their release from Bosnian custody, US forces swooped, kidnapping them and beginning an outrageous ordeal that lasted for six years.

Five of the six — including Boumediene and Ait Idir — were eventually ordered released by a federal court judge, who responded to a habeas corpus petition they submitted in 2008, after the Supreme Court granted the Guantánamo prisoners constitutionally guaranteed habeas corpus rights, by telling the US government, in no uncertain terms, that they had failed to establish that they had any connection to Al-Qaeda or had any involvement in terrorism.

Ait Idir, who had worked for Qatar Charities in Bosnia before his capture, where he had been widely recognized as a talented athlete and coach, was returned to his wife and family in Sarajevo, where he is now a computer science teacher at a secondary school, while Boumediene, an aid worker for the Red Crescent Society in Bosnia before his kidnapping, who gave his name to the Supreme Court case establishing the prisoners’ habeas rights, was resettled in France in May 2009. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’ at Vinyl Deptford

A screenshot of the video of The Four Fathers playing 'Masters of War' at Vinyl Deptford on April 28, 2017.Today I’m posting the second of three new Four Fathers videos on our YouTube channel — of us playing our cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Masters of War’, a live favourite — also featured on the CD of our first studio album, ‘Love and War.’ The video was recorded on April 28 at our most recent gig at Vinyl Deptford, a great record shop in London SE8, which has a wonderful little rock and roll basement, and our thanks to Ellen for making the videos.

We’ve played Vinyl many times before, but this was our first time with our new bassist, Mark Quiney, who joined us at the start of the year, and we hope you enjoy it, and will share it if you do.

I would’ve written an original anti-war song myself, but when The Four Fathers started, three years ago, a version of ‘Masters of War’ just fell into place, and it’s such a powerful song, with such direct and compelling lyrics — from Bob Dylan’s early incarnation as a folk singer and a protest singer — that it made me put aside my own notions of writing an anti-war song until last year, when I wrote ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’, the title track of our forthcoming second album, which, as well as dealing with war, also focuses on terrorism, the refugee crisis and the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Read the rest of this entry »

Donald Trump’s Stumbling Efforts to Revive Guantánamo

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 next 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 Guantánamo, Donald Trump has, essentially, done nothing since he took office, despite promising, on the campaign trail, to fill the prison “with bad dudes,” and to revive the use of torture. Shortly after he took office, a draft executive order was leaked, which saw him proposing to set up new “black sites,” and to send new prisoners to Guantánamo, but on the former he was shut down immediately by critics from across the political spectrum, and even from some of his own appointees, and on the latter we presumed that silence meant that he had been advised that it was not worth sending new prisoners to Guantánamo.

There are a number of reasons why this advice was to be expected: because the federal courts have such a good track record of dealing successfully with terrorism-related cases, and because the legislation authorizing imprisonment at Guantánamo — the Authorization for Use of Military Force, passed just days after the 9/11 attacks — focuses on 9/11, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and related forces, and not on newer threats — like Islamic State, for example, for which new legislation would be required.

As a result, although Guantánamo has almost entirely slipped off the radar, with the impression given that the men still held are trapped in a place that Trump has largely chosen to ignore, it has at least been reassuring that he has gone quiet on his previously-promised notions of reviving the prison. Read the rest of this entry »

Message to Jeremy Corbyn: You Represent Hope Not Just Because You Oppose Austerity, But Because You Must Save Us From Brexit

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning for the UK to stay in the EU prior to last June's EU referendum.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

It’s over a month since the General Election, which destroyed Theresa May as any sort of credible leader. Having called an election, despite repeatedly promising not to, she then showed a startling inability to meet ordinary people and to connect with them, in complete contrast to Jeremy Corbyn, and ended up losing her majority, instead of increasingly it massively, as was forecast, forcing her into a humiliating deal with the backwards religious fundamentalists of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party just to keep her government in power.

Corbyn, meanwhile, thrived on the campaign trail. Finally freed from the liberal media’s shameful negative portrayal of him (which had been pretty relentless for two years), because of the liberal establishment’s accepted need for something more closely resembling objectivity on the campaign trail, he was revealed as a leader with the common touch, able to connect with and empathise with ordinary people effortlessly. His supporters always knew this about him, but it had been suppressed by the media — and by Labour rebels — since his election as leader two years ago.

Some of Corbyn’s success came about because of Theresa May’s uselessness. She scored a huge own goal by refusing to debate with him on live TV, and she made colossal errors of her own beyond her woodenness and her apparently very real fear of actually meeting people: the so-called “dementia tax”, for example, an effort to address the costs of care for elderly people that was immediately seized upon — by Conservative voters and the right-wing media, as well as almost everyone else — as a classic “nasty party” attack on the security, savings and assets of the elderly. Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play ‘Rebel Soldier’ Live at Vinyl Deptford

Andy Worthington, Bren Horstead and Richard Clare of The Four-Fathers playing Vinyl Deptford in December 2016 (Photo: Dot Young).Today I’ve posted the first of three new Four Fathers videos on our YouTube channel — all recorded at our gig at Vinyl Deptford on April 28. Thanks to Ellen for recording the show.

The first of the videos is of our opening number, ‘Rebel Soldier’, an old folk song that I gave a new tune and a reggae rhythm 30 years ago while living in Brixton. At the time I put together band called the Rebel Soldier with my friend Glyn Andrews, who sadly died some years ago, and we sometime used to play with Vivian Weathers, who played bass with Linton Kwesi Johnson — and who, incidentally, taught me some crucially important lessons about the role of the bass in reggae music.

Rebel Soldier’ is one of a handful of songs I wrote — or arranged — in the 1980s that I have been playing with The Four Fathers since we first formed three years ago. Our recording of it is on our first album, ‘Love and War’, released in 2015, as well as another song from that time, ‘City of Dreams’, five new songs, a song written by our guitarist Richard Clare, and two covers. Another song from that time, ‘River Run Dry’, about the end of an affair, will be on our second album , ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ which also features another seven new songs by me, and two by Richard Clare, and which we’re planning to release in the autumn.  Read the rest of this entry »

Guest Post: Tom Pettinger, PhD Student, Examines Artificial Intelligence – Is It the Saviour of Humanity, Or Its Destroyer?

An artificial intelligence image.Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

The following article is one of my few forays into topics that are not related to Guantánamo, British politics, my photos or the music of my band The Four Fathers, but I hope it’s of interest. It’s an overview of the current situation regarding artificial intelligence (AI), written by Tom Pettinger, a PhD student at the University of Warwick, researching terrorism and de-radicalisation. Tom can be contacted here.

Tom and I first started the conversation that led to him writing this article back in May, when he posted comments in response to one of my articles in the run-up to last month’s General Election. After a discussion about our fears regarding populist leaders with dangerous right-wing agendas, Tom expressed his belief that other factors also threaten the future of our current civilisation — as he put it, “AI in particular, disease, global economic meltdown far worse than ’08, war, [and] climate change.”

I replied that my wife had “just returned from visiting her 90-year old parents, who now have Alexa, and are delighted by their brainy servant, but honestly, I just imagine the AI taking over eventually and doing away with the inferior humans.”

Tom replied that it seems that AI “could pose a fairly short-term existential risk to humanity if we don’t deal with it properly,” adding that the inventor and businessman Elon Musk “is really interesting on this topic.” Read the rest of this entry »

Haringey and the Wholesale Social Cleansing of London: Thousands of Social Tenants to Be Removed Via Estate Regeneration

A Haringey housing protestor in December 2016 (Photo: Polly Hancock).

Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist and commentator.

 

I was so busy last week with Guantánamo-related business (on and around US Independence Day) and activities involving my band The Four Fathers that I didn’t have time to devote to a truly scandalous development that took place last Monday — the decision, by councillors in the London borough of Haringey, to go into a 50:50 partnership with a private developer in connection with the future of its properties, including all its social housing, on the explicit understanding that it will demolish huge swathes of that housing and that those kicked out of their homes — their homes, not “units” or properties that don’t count as homes because those living in them don’t own them — will very probably not be able to return to the area, or even to carry on living in London at all.

In a powerful article in the Guardian last Monday, Aditya Chakrabortty captured the full disgrace of this social cleansing, focusing on how those in power treat those whose housing is in their control — with contempt, “[t]he condition of being held worthless,” as he pointed out.

Explaining that “[c]ontempt is the thread that runs through much of the worst barbarism in today’s Britain,” Chakrabortty began, inevitably and appropriately, by discussing the Grenfell Tower inferno on June 14, when a still untold number of people were killed in an entirely preventable disaster, noting that one Grenfell campaigner told the Financial Times, “It was not that we stayed silent, but that they never responded. It was not just that they ignored us, but that they viewed us with contempt.” 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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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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