Radio: I Discuss the Never-Ending Limbo of Guantánamo with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

20.9.21

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay outside the White House on January 11, 2020, and the logo for Chris Cook’s Gorilla Radio show in Victoria, Canada.

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Yesterday, I was delighted to talk to Chris Cook, for his Gorilla Radio show, broadcast every Thursday morning on CFUV 101.9FM in Victoria, on Vancouver Island in Canada. Chris and I have spoken many times over the years, and his show admirably fulfills its remit to cover topics relating to “social justice, the environment [and] community,” and to “provid[e] a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.”

Chris and I spoke in the second half of the one-hour show, which is available here as an MP3.

At the start of the show, Chris spoke about the US’s recent drone attack in Afghanistan, in which civilians, mistakenly identified as ISIS-K terrorists, were killed. He noted that Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, has “expressed regret for those killed in what he characterized a ‘mistake with horrific consequences,’” but asked, pointedly, “why America was continuing its attacks against the country it has reportedly withdrawn from.”

In the first half of the show, he then spoke to independent journalist Vanessa Beeley, who specialises in the Middle East, about the ongoing crisis in Syria, and that interview is well worth a listen.

Rep. Schiff provided the link to my interview, with Chris noting that he was one of 75 members of the House of Representatives to sign a letter to President Biden, in August, calling for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, and we discussed the significance of this letter, and of an earlier letter, from 24 Senators, also calling for the prison’s closure.

I explained how positive it was to see lawmakers openly calling for the closure of Guantánamo, and, in particular, finally recognizing how unacceptable it is for the US to be holding, on an indefinite basis, men who have never been charged with a crime or put on trial, but I added two notes of caution; firstly, that no Republicans signed on to either letter, and, secondly, that the withdrawal of the last US troops from Afghanistan last month seems, counter-intuitively, to have slowed progress towards the closure of Guantánamo, rather than hastening its demise, as would be logical.

As has so often been the case, scaremongering has returned to haunt Guantánamo — this time following the US withdrawal from Guantánamo, on the spurious basis that some of the Taliban’s leaders were held at the prison, and that this somehow reflects on the dangerousness of those still held, even though no Taliban members are still at Guantánamo, and the release of Taliban prisoners was undertaken either as part of the peace process in Afghanistan, or through US failures of intelligence.

Sadly, however, even before the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration had been moving far too slowly on Guantánamo. President Biden inherited 40 prisoners from Donald Trump, but although six of these men had been approved for release by high-level government review processes — and five more were approved for release in May and June — only one of these men has been freed, and widespread calls for Biden and Antony Blinken, the Secretary of State, to revive the Office of the Special Envoy for Guantánamo Closure, created by President Obama but shut down by Trump, to deal with resettlement issues, and to move towards Guantánamo’s closure, have not yet led to an Envoy being appointed.

The administration needs to urgently revive the role of the Envoy, and also to respond to calls not just for the ten men approved for release to be freed, but also for the 17 other men held indefinitely without charge or trial as “forever prisoners” to also be freed, if they are not going to be charged with crimes.

Chris also helpfully promoted my quarterly fundraiser to support my Guantánamo work, and my ongoing photo-journalism project ‘The State of London,’ which led, via a discussion of independent and corporate media, to a conversation about freedom of speech, before we ended our interview by returning to Afghanistan and Guantánamo to discuss my article, How the Disaster of Guantánamo Foretold US Defeat in Afghanistan, in which I explained, primarily via an analysis of Guantánamo and Bagram, the main US prison in Afghanistan, how the US, from the beginning of its occupation, lost the battle for “hearts and minds” by imprisoning Afghans without rights, and often on the basis of spectacularly inept intelligence, including many men who had actually been working with US forces.

There was more in the show than I’ve covered above, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and will share it if you find it useful.

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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 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).

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the 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.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to, and discussing my interview about Guantanamo yesterday, with Chris Cook, for his Gorilla Radio show in Victoria, Canada. Chris and I have spoken many times before over the years, and he is always an extremely well-informed host.

    In our half-hour interview – in the second half of the show, after an interview about Syria with independent journalist Vanessa Bealey – we spoke about the unconscionable situation whereby 10 men approved for release from the prison by high-level government review processes are still held, and also about how unacceptable it is that 17 other men, accurately described as “forever prisoners,” are still held indefinitely without charge or trial.

    I criticized the Biden administration for moving far too slowly when it comes to releasing prisoners, and moving towards the prison’s eventual closure, and lamented how, perversely, the final withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan has revived Republican enthusiasm for keeping Guantanamo open, even though there is no connection whatsoever between the men still held at Guantanamo and the new Taliban government in Afghanistan.

  2. Anna says...

    Hi Andy, no time to read you right now, but will do so later. Don’t miss this text and video in it about a taliban-guided tour of Bagram prison …
    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/9/22/life-in-bagram-through-the-eyes-of-former-prisoners.
    Must be dreadful for its former prisoners but very important to open the ‘civilised’ world’s eyes. The reporter is Polish lady who writes for AJE regularly from Afghanistan but also for local press here. Bless her !

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the link, Anna. Great work by By Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska.

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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 and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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