Close Guantánamo’s Aims for 2020’s Presidential Election Year – and New Campaign Posters

5.12.19

Campaigners outside the White House calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on January 11, 2012, the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

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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.

For those of us who care about the ever-pressing need for the prison at Guantánamo Bay to be shut down for good, the coming year is going to be challenging.

As long as Donald Trump remains president, and, frankly, as long as Republicans retain control of either the Senate or the House of Representatives, it is reasonable to assume that there will be no movement whatsoever towards the closure of Guantánamo.

Forgotten or ignored, Guantánamo may not even be mentioned at all on the presidential trail, but we’ll be doing our best to make America remember this stain on its national conscience, where 40 men are still held, for the most part without charge or trial, in defiance of all the legal and judicial values the US claims to hold dear.

We’ve just commissioned new campaign posters in connection with our ongoing photo project involving our initiative the Gitmo Clock, which we first launched in 2013 and revived last year, and which counts, in real time, how long Guantánamo has been open.

We’ve just updated the Gitmo Clock, and have five new posters for 2020 — the first marks the 18th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on January 11, when the prison will have been open for 6,575 days. For February 5, 2020 there is a poster marking 6,600 days, for May 16 there is a poster marking 6,700 days, for August 24 a poster marking 6,800 days, and for Dec. 2 a poster marking 6,900 days.

By 2021, and the 19th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo on January 11, 2021, we hope that there will be new a Democratic president and that Democrats will be in the majority in the Senate and the House — not that we are expecting too much from them; after all, under President Obama, they had eight years, between 2009 and 2016, to close Guantánamo, but they failed to do so.

However, our ultimate aim — the closure of Guantánamo once and for all — can, at present, only be regarded as even conceivable if the prison is under Democratic control, and while we encourage you to campaign for Guantánamo’s closure throughout 2020, and to contact your Senators and Representatives (and/or their challengers) to ask them to remember why Guantánamo must be closed, we’re also happy to ask if anyone in the Washington, D.C. area would be interested in approaching Democrats in the House (where Democrats currently have a majority) to discuss movement towards Guantánamo’s closure. Please get in touch if you’re interested.

Meetings took place last January, which fed into passages aimed at moving towards the closure of Guantánamo in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which we wrote about in a recent article entitled, Closing Guantánamo, the Democrats and the NDAA. Significantly, as Just Security described it, the House draft, under the new chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash)., was noticeably progressive in seeking to ensure “maximum flexibility for the Commander in Chief by imposing no restrictions on transfers to the United States” from Guantánamo, and also in its proposal that the Attorney General, in consultation with the Secretary of Defense, should “submit a disposition plan to the defense committees … identifying a disposition for each individual still detained at Guantánamo Bay … other than simply continuing to hold the individuals in continued law of war detention indefinitely.”

Smith also made a point of mentioning the five men approved for release by high-level government review processes — the Guantánamo Review Task Force and the ongoing, parole-style Periodic Review Boards — under Barack Obama, but who were not released by the time Obama left office, and are still held by Donald Trump, who has no interest in releasing any of the 40 men still held under any circumstances.

Smith’s draft bill called for “an unclassified report to explain why none of the cleared detainees have been transferred and why the process has stalled,” also noting that “the lack of transfers is not only problematic from a policy and human rights perspective,” but “is also having a negative effect on the functioning of the ongoing periodic review board (PRB) process” — which, as we discussed recently, is now being boycotted by the prisoners, who have correctly concluded that it is now an empty process.

These proposals didn’t make it into the House’s final version of the bill, and, in any case, would not have survived the consolidation process with the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is currently ongoing, as both committees try to thrash out a workable final bill. However, it is clear that Smith’s proposals can and should be revisited this coming year, with even more radical proposals if Democrats gain the upper hand politically next year.

These would include: reinstating the Office of the Envoy for Guantánamo Closure, which Donald Trump scrapped; releasing prisoners who are not going be put on trial; finding a facility on the US mainland that can be used to hold prisoners moved from Guantánamo so that the facility in Cuba can finally be closed; and establishing plans for the men transferred to the mainland to be put on trial in federal court, scrapping the broken military commission system, which is not fit for purpose, as should have happened all along.

All of these moves are necessary if we are to succeed in closing Guantánamo before another anniversary that none of us want to see, but which is only just over two years away: the 20th anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11, 2022.

We trust that you’re with us, and, to help us to continue our work, please feel free to make a donation via the PayPal “Donate” button at the top of this article.

* * * * *

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 see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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:

    Via the Close Guantanamo​ campaign, which I co-founded in 2012 with the US attorney Tom Wilner, here’s a statement of intent for the forthcoming Presidential Election year, as we promise to keep campaigning for the prison’s closure, despite our anticipation that Guantanamo won’t be mentioned at all on the campaign trail, and point out that, for there to be any chance at all of progress towards the closure of Guantanamo, the Republicans must lose the presidency, and control of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

    We have no foolish faith in the Democrats, but, since they took the House two years ago, they have made progress, via the Armed Services Committee, under Rep. Adam Smith as chair, in trying to raise the closure of Guantanamo as a topic for inclusion in the annual National Defense Authorization Act.

    There are also links to the new campaign posters for 2020, marking 6,575 days of the prison’s existence on January 11, and subsequent posters for 6,600, 6,700, 6,800 and 6,900 days, and I hope you’ll be able to take photos with the posters and send them to us.

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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 (The State of London).
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