Emptying Guantánamo: Obama to Release 17 or 18 Prisoners Before Trump Takes Over

Muieen Abd al-Sattar, a stateless Rohingya Muslim, who is not one of the men who will be released before President Obama leaves office, despite having been approved for release in 2009. The photo is from the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $3000 (£2400) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo into the new year.

 

Excellent news from Guantánamo yesterday, as Charlie Savage, in the New York Times, confirmed what those of us seeking the prison’s closure had hoped — that the majority of the 22 men approved for release (out of the 59 men still held) will be freed before President Obama leaves office.

Because of requirements put in place over many years by a hostile Congress, the Pentagon must notify Congress 30 days before a release — a “transfer” — is to take place, and the deadline for securing releases before Obama leaves office was therefore this Monday, December 19. By late in the day, officials told the Times, the administration had secured homes for 17 or 18 of the remaining prisoners, who, crucially, will be sent to Italy, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The Gulf countries have all taken prisoners in the last two years — almost all of them Yemenis, for whom third countries had to be found because the entire US establishment is unwilling to repatriate Yemenis based on fears about the security situation in their homeland. Four were sent to Oman in January 2015, another six in June 2015, and five were sent to the UAE in November 2015. Another ten were sent to Oman in January 2016, and another 12 were sent to the UAE in August 2016 (with three Afghans, whose repatriation had been prohibited by Congress, based on fears about them ending up taking up arms against US forces). In addition, another nine Yemenis were sent to Saudi Arabia in April 2016. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers’ Top Ten Songs on Bandcamp

The Four Fathers playing at Brockley Christmas Market on December 17, 2016 (Photo: Bo Bodiam).For Christmas, if you want a last-minute present, why not buy some music by my band The Four Fathers? Please also feel free to like us on Facebook, and to follow us on Twitter.

We play politically-charged roots reggae and rock — mostly original songs, and mostly my own compositions —and our first LP ‘Love and War’ was released last year, and is available on CD via Bandcamp (it can be sent anywhere in the world). On our Bandcamp page you can also buy the whole album as a download, or buy individual tracks — and you can also listen to or buy our subsequent EP, ‘Fighting Injustice,’ and our song ‘Close Guantánamo,’ released as an online single, as downloads.

We’re currently working on our second album, which will be released next year, featuring a number of songs that are becoming prominent in our live shows: ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?’ (about how white westerners regard their lives as more important than others), ‘London’ (about gentrification, and how London has changed over the last 30 years), ‘Riot’ (about the need to end inequality), ‘Equal Rights And Justice For All’ (about the importance of habeas corpus) — as well as two songs by guitarist Richard Clare — ‘When He Is Sane’, about mental health, and ‘She’s Back’ (about ‘Pussy Riot’) — and some love songs, ‘Tell Me Baby’ (about love and aging), ‘Dreamers’ (written for a friend’s 50th birthday) and ‘River Run Dry’ (about the end of a relationship, a song I wrote as a young man).

For now, however, feel free to check out our ten most popular songs on Bandcamp and have a listen — or buy them if you’d like, which would, of course, delight us! Read the rest of this entry »

In Final Counter-Terrorism Speech, Obama Targets Trump But Fails to Acknowledge His Own Mistakes on Guantánamo and War

President Obama and a quote about Guantanamo from a speech he made on January 5, 2010.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 Tuesday, at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, the home of US Special Operations Command and Central Command, President Obama made what is expected to be his final speech on counter-terrorism before he leaves office in just six weeks’ time.

As Jessica Schulberg noted for the Huffington Post, in his speech he “defended his legacy ― both from hawks who have accused him of withdrawing from the Middle East, and from liberals who have criticized his reliance on expansive surveillance and drones to fight wars,” and “sought to convince the country that he had struck the correct balance.”

Spying and drones

However, as Spencer Ackerman noted for the Guardian, this was “a highly selective account of his record, particularly about the mass surveillance architecture he embraced and the drone strikes that will be synonymous with his name.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Countdown to Close Guantánamo: With Just 50 Days Left for President Obama to Close the Prison, Please Send Us A Photo

Sharifa Mashrufa Karima, from a campaign called GuantaNOmo at Madani School for Girls in Whitechapel, east London, says, “Our campaign is focused on raising awareness about the reality of Guantánamo Bay whilst also working toward freeing at least one innocent detainee.”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 November 30, President Obama will have just 50 days left to close the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, which he inherited from George W. Bush, but which has been open under his watch for longer than under his predecessor.

To mark the occasion — and spurred on by the threat posed by the president-elect, Donald Trump, who promised on the campaign trail to keep Guantánamo open — we’re urging you to please print off a poster, take a photo with it, and send it to us — with a message to President Obama, if you wish (and to president-elect Trump as well, if you like).

You can also let us know where you are if you’d like to help us show how opposition to the existence of Guantánamo — which is a legal, moral and ethical abomination, and should never have opened — comes from across the US and around the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Donald Trump, Guantánamo and Torture: What Do We Need to Know?

An image made by supporters of Donald Trump based on his comments about Guantanamo.I wrote the following article (as “Donald Trump and Guantánamo: What Do We Need to Know?) 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.

So the bad news, on Guantánamo, torture, Islamophobia and war, is that, as Charlie Savage explained in the New York Times this week, “As a presidential candidate, Donald J. Trump vowed to refill the cells of the Guantánamo Bay prison and said American terrorism suspects should be sent there for military prosecution. He called for targeting mosques for surveillance, escalating airstrikes aimed at terrorists and taking out their civilian family members, and bringing back waterboarding and a ‘hell of a lot worse’ — not only because ‘torture works,’ but because even ‘if it doesn’t work, they deserve it anyway.’”

As Savage also noted, “It is hard to know how much of this stark vision for throwing off constraints on the exercise of national security power was merely tough campaign talk,” but it is a disturbing position for Americans — and the rest of the world — to be in, particularly with respect to the noticeable differences between Trump and Barack Obama.

The outgoing president has some significant failures against his name, which will be discussed in detail below, but America’s first black president did not, of course, appoint a white supremacist to be his chief strategist and Senior Counselor, as Trump has done with Steve Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, an alarming far-right US website. Nor did he call for a “total and complete shutdown” of America’s borders to Muslims, as Trump did last December, and nor did he suggest that there should be a registry of all Muslims, as Trump did last November. Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Play Three London Gigs in New Cross, Deptford and Brockley on Nov. 27, Dec. 10 and 17

The flier for The Four Fathers' gigs in November and December 2016 (flier by Brendan Horstead).Following the recent release of our new song, ‘Close Guantánamo,’ my band The Four Fathers have three gigs forthcoming in London in the coming weeks, and if you’re around we’d love to see you.

The song was featured in a video (on YouTube and Facebook) for the Close Guantánamo campaign, launched last week, just after Donald Trump’s unfortunate election victory, which, sadly, makes it seems less, rather than more likely that Guantánamo will be closed unless, before he leaves office in January, President Obama can fulfill the promise to close the prison that he first made on his second day in office.

As the last verse of the song states:

Obama promised to close the prison for good
On his second day in office
But Republicans resisted his plans
And he lacked the political will to do it

But as the years drag on and on
And the men still held get older and iller
Endless imprisonment without charge or trial
Is what it always was — a form of torture

Read the rest of this entry »

Andy Worthington’s Band The Four Fathers Release New Online Single, Close Guantánamo, Prior to Release of Second Album

The cover for "Close Guantanamo" by The Four Fathers, designed by Brendan Horstead.Last week, the Close Guantánamo campaign that I co-founded with the US attorney Tom Wilner in January 2012 released a new promotional video for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo. This is an initiative launched at the start of the year to count down President Obama’s last year in office, in an effort to encourage him to fulfill the promise to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay that he made on his second day in office, a mission suddenly made all the more important last week, after Donald Trump won the Presidential Election, to the shock of the Democratic Party and of decent people everywhere. Today, President Obama has just 63 days left to get Guantánamo closed. To encourage him to fulfill his promise, please print off a “50 days to go” poster for November 30, take a photo with it, and send it to the Close Guantánamo campaign, with, if you like, a message for President Obama, and/or advice for Donald Trump.

The video (also on Facebook) featured photos of celebrities and concerned citizens across the US and around the world holding up posters reminding President Obama how many days he had left to close Guantánamo, and also featured “Close Guantánamo,” a song I wrote for my band The Four Fathers, which is available below, via our Bandcamp page, to listen to, and, if you wish to support the band, to buy as a download — for just £1 ($1.25). Drummer Brendan Horstead also deserves thanks for making the campaign video — and the cover of the single.

Read the rest of this entry »

Podcast: Andy Worthington Discusses Closing Guantánamo and the Rightward Drift of Politics in the US and the UK with Kevin Gosztola for Shadowproof

The image from Shadowproof for Kevin Gosztola's interview with Andy Worthington in November 2016.Last Thursday, just two days after the US Presidential Election, I was delighted to speak to Kevin Gosztola of Shadowproof (formerly FireDogLake) for his “Unauthorized Disclosure” podcast series. The show was made available on the site on Sunday, but when it was posted the focus was on Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein, who was interviewed in the first half-hour of the one-hour show, along with a partial transcript of the interview.

And so, yesterday, Kevin posted an article focusing on my interview with him, including a transcript of much of our interview. The interview is available here, as an MP3, beginning 30 minutes in, and I hope you have time to listen to it and to share it if you find it useful. You can also listen just to my interview, in an edit made by my friend the campaigner Bernard Sullivan, which is available on Soundcloud here.

Kevin had picked up on a press release I sent him about the video for the Close Guantánamo campaign that I launched last Thursday, in the hope of maintaining pressure on President Obama to do all in his power to close Guantánamo before he leaves office in January. The video is also on Facebook, and anyone wanting to get involved is urged to print off a poster to remind President Obama that, on November 30, he will have just 50 days left to close the prison, to take a photo with it, and to send it to us, to add to the more than 500 photos that have been sent in by celebrities and concerned citizens across the US and around the world since the Countdown to Close Guantánamo was launched in January. Read the rest of this entry »

Radio: Andy Worthington Discusses Closing Guantánamo, Trump, Brexit and the Failure of Mainstream Politics on Portland’s KBOO FM

A composite image of Donald Trump and Guantanamo.Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo until the end of the year.

 

Yesterday, I was delighted to speak to Linda Olson-Osterlund on KBOO FM, a great community radio station in Portland, Oregon. The show, “Positively Revolting,” aired for an hour from 8am (4pm London time), and is available here on the website or here as an MP3. I hope you have time to listen to it and to share it if you find useful.

On the website, it was noted how Linda and I “talk[ed] about the seventy days left of the Obama presidency and the movement to close Guantánamo and release all prisoners not convicted of a crime,” as well as “the 2016 Presidential election and the parallels to the UK vote to leave the EU and the rise of the extreme right wing in both countries.”

Linda had picked up on the Countdown to Close Guantánamo that has been running all year, and that I was promoting on Thursday, just two days after the election, because moping or ignoring Guantánamo will not get that wretched place closed, and Barack Obama is still president for another ten weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

With Trump En Route to the White House, New Close Guantánamo Video Urges President Obama to Get the Prison Closed

Music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd), from the Close Guantanamo campaign video released on November 10, 2016.I wrote the following article (as “New Close Guantánamo Video Reminds President Obama He Has Just 70 Days Left to Close the Prison Before He Leaves Office”) 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.

Video features photos of some of the 500+ celebrities and concerned citizens who have sent in photos this year for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, and a new song, “Close Guantánamo,” by The Four Fathers.

Following the news that Donald Trump has won the Presidential Election, the Close Guantánamo campaign has launched a new promotional video, urging President Obama to do all he can to fulfill the promise to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay that he made on his second day in office back in January 2009.

We believe that the need to close the prison is more urgent than ever, given that, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to keep Guantánamo open, to send new prisoners there, and to reintroduce torture.

See the video below via YouTube — and please note it is also featured on our Facebook page, and is also on the homepage of Close Guantánamo website.

  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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