Radio: My Discussion with Scott Horton About the Shameful Rehabilitation of George W. Bush, As I Recall His 2002 Memo Authorizing Torture


Radio host Scott Horton and Andy Worthington, photographed calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2018, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! 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 week I was delighted to be invited to discuss Guantánamo, George W. Bush, torture and the “war on terror” by Scott Horton, the libertarian, Texan-based radio host, and the author of Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, in which, as Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg notes in a review, he “masterfully explains the tragedy of America’s longest war and makes the case for immediate withdrawal.”

Scott and I have been talking several times a year — and sometime more frequently — since September 2007, when we first spoke about the case of US “enemy combatant” Jose Padilla, tortured on the US mainland. Our interviews have generally been for 20-25 minutes, but for our latest interview the brakes were off, and we spoke for a whole hour.

The show is available here, or here as an MP3, and I wholeheartedly recommend it as a tour through the darkness of the “war on terror” declared by the Bush administration after the 9/11 attacks, as manifested in CIA “black sites,” in the CIA’s “extraordinary renditions” to torture prisons in other countries, in Guantánamo, and in the wars — and the accompanying lawless prisons — in Afghanistan and Iraq. We also looked at the sad failures of the Obama years — not only his failure to close Guantánamo, but how extrajudicial assassination by drones replaced the messy detention, rendition and torture program of the Bush years, but is no more legally or morally acceptable.

The trigger for our conversation was my article, Exactly 16 Years Ago, George W. Bush Opened the Floodgates to Torture at Guantánamo, which looked at the presidential memo, dated February 7, 2002, which removed the protections of the Geneva Conventions from prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” paving the way for their torture.

Scott and I began by discussing the unfortunate success of US black propaganda at the start of the “war on terror,” with Scott mentioning how the US portrayed their prisoners as somehow superhuman, when in fact many of them were nothing more than sheep herders, although far too many people still don’t know how few genuinely significant prisoners have ever been held at Guantánamo — essentially, just a few percent of the 779 men and boys held there by the US military since the prison opened 16 years ago.

I also explained how one of the fundamental insanities of the post-9/11 detention program is that people allegedly involved in terrorism were regarded as soldiers — and allowed to portray themselves as warriors, as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has done — while ordinary foot soldiers for the Taliban ended up being portrayed as terrorists, a topsy-turvy world that not only reeked of incompetence, but was so brutal that it involved everyone who ended up in US custody — often bought for bounty payments, or seized via faulty intelligence — being stripped of absolutely all their rights.

We also discussed the various post-9/11 torture programs — the CIA’s “black sites,” the proxy prisons in other countries where prisoners were sent via “extraordinary rendition” to be tortured on the CIA’s behalf, and those tortured in Guantánamo, Afghanistan and Iraq. Interestingly, although the 2014 Senate Intelligence report into the CIA’s torture program established that 119 men went through the CIA torture program, no official figures exist for how many were sent to be tortured in other countries.

Scott also made reference to Strawberry Fields, the CIA “black site” that briefly existed within Guantánamo, in 2003-04, Camp No, also known as Penny Lane, where supposedly pliant prisoners were apparently trained to be double agents, and where, as Scott pointed out, three men were reportedly killed, according to a story that emerged in 2010, via former Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman and the other Scott Horton, the lawyer and Harper’s columnist.

We also spoke about how accountability went so far awry after 9/11 that, when two men, Manadel al-Jamadi in Iraq, and Gul Rahman in Afghanistan, were conspicuously murdered, officially no one appeared to be responsible.

In this responsibility-free world, the US not only killed and tortured with impunity, but also, essentially, did away with the Geneva Conventions, a bleak innovation that very few people truly seem to have taken on board. Scott and I also spoke about how Daesh (Islamic State) was created in Camp Bucca in Iraq, with Scott also noting that its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was also held at Abu Ghraib.

Scott also made reference to a former interrogator who has explained how routine torture was in Iraq — how, essentially, tens of thousands of people were tortured in Iraq, on the roadside, in their homes, everywhere, including, of course, the US’s network of horrible prisons, even though the Geneva Conventions were supposed to apply there.

Everywhere, sadly, from Bagram to Guantánamo to Abu Ghraib, torture techniques migrated from site to site, with, essentially, two parallel torture programs existing for several particularly dark years — the CIA program that Jay Bybee approved via the 2002 “torture memos” written by John Yoo, and Donald Rumsfeld’s program, initially for Mohammed al-Qahtani, which was then widely used in Guantánamo, and, inevitably, spread to other locations.

There was much more that Scott and I discussed about these particular topics before we finally brought the story up to date in the last 15 minutes or so of the show — looking at who is still left, and what injustices they still face — but I won’t try and encapsulate everything in this article, as I really would like you to listen to the show, to share it if you like it, and even to let me know what you thought of it.

This, in conclusion, is how it was described on Scott’s website:

Investigative journalist Andy Worthington returns to the show to discuss the absurd rehabilitation of George W. Bush by the left. Worthington recalls the early days of the Bush-Cheney administration and the crimes committed at Guantánamo and the murder of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan. Worthington then breaks down the various elements of the U.S. torture network and the long draw down of Guantánamo starting in the Bush days, but which has never reached its conclusion. Finally Worthington talks about how Obama’s preference for drone assassinations limited captures of enemy combatants and why Trump wants to revitalize the prison.

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 music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Donald Trump No! Please Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2017), 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.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to, and discussing a recent hour-long interview I undertook with Scott Horton, radio host and author of Fool’s Errand, about why the US should get out of Afghanistan. Scott and I first spoke in 2007, and have been talking regularly ever since, but this discussion, inspired by my recent article marking the 16th anniversary of George W. Bush’s memo stripping the protections of the Geneva Conventions from prisoners seized in the “war on terror” was a detailed tour through the Bush years in particular – dealing with Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Camp Bucca, Guantanamo, the CIA “black sites,” proxy torture sites used in the “extraordinary rendition” program and much more – and also running through the failures of the Obama years (especially his use of the drone program), and ending up with the 41 men trapped at Guantanamo by the delusional Donald Trump and his advisers, who seem to think that it’s appropriate to renew its use as a prison, when there is absolutely no reason for it to stay open one day longer. I hope you have time to listen to the show, and will share it if you find it useful.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Brigid Mary Oates wrote:

    Thank you

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    You’re welcome, Brigid. Over ten years I’ve been talking to Scott Horton on and off. He has some tenacity. He’s done literally thousands of shows on US national security issues. Mind you, I’ve published 2,174 articles about Guantanamo, at the latest count!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Aleksey Pesky wrote:

    As always, excellent, Andy!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Aleksey. This was such a detailed discussion that I hoped poeple would take an interest.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Hanan Bagh wrote:

    You’re great Andy Worthington. Thanks !!!!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    😉 Thanks, Hanan!

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Mary Shepard wrote:

    Bush and Cheney committed crimes against humanity. They should have been put on trial at the ICC.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, exactly, Mary. And Tony Blair too. And Donald Rumsfeld. It’s quite a long list, actually!

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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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