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 »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 3: $3400 (£2700) Urgently Needed to Support My Guantánamo Work

Andy Worthington addressing campaigners in Florida, outside the entrance to US Southern Command, on January 9, 2016 (Photo: Medea Benjamin for Andy Worthington).Please support my work and my efforts to raise $3400 (£2700) for the next three months!

 

Since launching my latest quarterly fundraiser on Monday, I’ve had four donations, for which I’m very grateful, but I’m still a very long way from my target of $3500 (£2750) for the next three months. As a reader-funded journalist, the work I do on Guantánamo — researching, writing, campaigning, making media appearances, making personal appearances, maintaining this website, running the admin, and replying to myriad emails — is mostly unpaid; or, in other words, is only possible with your generous support.

I have no institutional backing, so if you value my independence as a journalist, commentator and activist — as I know many of you do — then please, if you can, donate to enable me to keep working to get Guantánamo closed. A donation of just $25 (£20), for example, is just $2 (£1.50) a week, not a huge amount, I hope, for the work that I do.

So please if you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal).

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. I currently have a number of monthly sustainers, and it’s always reassuring to know that some money is guaranteed every month. Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: With Trump Presidency Looming, Please Support My Work on Guantánamo – $3500 (£2750) Needed

Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on january 11, 2016, the 14th anniversary of the prison's opening (Photo: Justin Norman).Please support my work and my efforts to raise $3500 (£2750) for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s that time of year again, when I ask you, if you can, to support my independent research, writing and commentary on Guantánamo and related issues. This is work I’ve been doing, largely as a reader-supported independent writer, for over ten years, but whilst it was reasonable to suppose, until recently, that Guantánamo might close, if not under President Obama, then under Hillary Clinton as his successor, the election of Donald Trump indicates, alarmingly, that the prison may gain a new lease of life from January onwards. On the campaign trail, Trump promised to keep Guantánamo open, to bring back torture, and even to send US citizens to Guantánamo to face military commission trials — all developments that are completely unacceptable.

I need your support to be able to continue the struggle to get Guantánamo closed (to bring to an end indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial), to make sure that no efforts to revive torture will be successful, and to continue to call for those who authorized and implemented the post-9/11 programs of extraordinary rendition, torture and arbitrary detention to be held accountable for their actions. It is hugely important that Donald Trump — and those he is appointing to key positions — are resisted every step of the way if they attempt to revive Guantánamo in any way, or to revisit any of the other lawless excesses of the Bush years.

So if you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to donate via PayPal (and I should add that you don’t need to be a PayPal member to use PayPal). I’m hoping to raise $3,500 (£2,700) for the next three months, which is just $270 (£200) a week for my constant work campaigning on behalf of the Guantánamo prisoners.

Any amount will be gratefully received, whether it is $10, $25, $100 or $500 — or any amount in any other currency (£5, £15, £50 or £250, for example). PayPal will convert any currency you pay into dollars, which I chose as my main currency because the majority of my supporters are in the US.

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make This Recurring (Monthly),” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. I currently have a number of monthly sustainers, and it’s always reassuring to know that some money is guaranteed every month.

Readers can pay via PayPal from anywhere in the world, but if you’re in the UK and want to help without using PayPal, you can send me a cheque (address here — scroll down to the bottom of the page), and if you’re not a PayPal user and want to send cash from anywhere else in the world, that’s also an option. Please note, however, that foreign checks are no longer accepted at UK banks — only electronic transfers. Do, however, contact me if you’d like to support me by paying directly into my account.

Since my last fundraiser in September, through which I raised around $1500 of the $3500 I hoped to raise, I have continued to try to educate people about Guantanamo and the men held there, and to campaign for the closure of the prison, through the 60 or so articles I have written over the last 90 days, in which I have also written about issues relating to politics in the UK, and have also undertaken media appearance and personal appearances, all of which, like most of my writing, is unpaid and only possible through your support.

I hope that you can help support my work at this particularly dangerous time for liberty and the rule of law, and I thank you, as always, for your interest in my work.

Andy Worthington
London
December 5, 2016

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 debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), 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.

Yemeni Freed in Cape Verde: 59 Men Left in Guantánamo

Yemeni prisoner Shawki (aka Shawqi) Balzuhair, in a photo from Guantanamo included in the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2011.

Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo into the new year.

 

Good news from Guantánamo, as the first prisoner to be released since Donald Trump won the Presidential Election last month has been freed in Cape Verde, an island nation off the west coast of Africa.

Shawki Awad Balzuhair (aka Shawqi Balzuhair), a 35-year old Yemeni prisoner, was approved for release in July, by a Periodic Review Board, a high-level government review process set up in 2013 to review the cases of all the prisoners still held who are not facing trials and had not already been approved for release.

Seized in one of a series of house raids in Karachi, Pakistan on September 11, 2002, Balzuhair and five other men were originally — and mistakenly — regarded as members of an al-Qaeda cell-in-waiting, and described as the “Karachi Six.” By the time the six had their cases reviewed this year, however, the US government had walked back from its claims, after “a review of all available reporting,” accepting that “this label more accurately reflects the common circumstances of their arrest and that it is more likely the six Yemenis were elements of a large pool of Yemeni fighters that senior al-Qa’ida planners considered potentially available to support future operations,” and describing Balzuhair as “probably awaiting a chance to return to Yemen when he was arrested at the Karachi safe house.” Of the six men, five have been approved for release, and Balzuhair is the third to be freed. Read the rest of this entry »

Final Two Review Board Decisions Announced: 21 Men Now Approved for Release from Guantánamo

12 of the Guantanamo prisoners put forward for Periodic Review Boards. Top row from left: Mohammed Ghanem (Yemen, approved for release), Haji Hamidullah (Afghanistan, freed), Abdul Rahman Shalabi (Saudi Arabia, freed), Ayyub Ali Salih (Yemen, freed). Middle Row​: Yassin Qasim (Yemen, approved for ongoing imprisonment), Abdu Ali al-Hajj Sharqawi (Yemen, approved for ongoing imprisonment), Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Mauritania, freed), Mansoor al-Zahari aka al-Dayfi (Yemen, freed). Bottom, from left, Ravil Mingazov (Russia, approved for release), Abu Zubaydah (Palestine, not decided yet), Salman Rabei’i (Yemen, approved for ongoing imprisonment), Abdul Latif Nasir (Morocco, approved for release).Please support my work! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo into the new year.

 

On September 9, as I reported at the time, the last of 64 Guantánamo prisoners to face a Periodic Review Board— Hassan bin Attash, who was just 17 when he was seized in September 2002 — had his case reviewed. A month later, a decision was taken in his case (to continue holding him), bringing the first round of the PRBs to an end, with two exceptions.

In the cases of two men whose cases were reviewed in April and May, the board members had been unable to reach a unanimous decision, and. for these two men, decisions were not reached until last week — November 21, to be exact. In the case of one man, Jabran al-Qahtani, a Saudi, the board members approved his release, while in the case of the other man, Said Nashir, a Yemeni, a decision was taken to recommend his continued imprisonment.

The decisions mean that, of the remaining 60 prisoners, 21 have been recommended for release —seven by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, which President Obama established shortly after taking office in 2009, to review the cases of all the men he had inherited from George W. Bush, and 14 by the PRBs. For further information, see my definitive Periodic Review Board list on the Close Guantánamo website. 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 »

Demonising the ‘Other’: Tackling the Rise of Racism and Xenophobia

Andy Worthington speaking at RAF Menwith Hill at a CAAB (Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases) protest on July 4, 2013.Please support my work as a freelance investigative journalist and commentator.

 

Last week, I took part in a fascinating event, the Brockley Festival of Ideas for Change, just a few minutes’ walk from my home in south east London, which was organised by two local organisations, the Brockley Society and the St. John’s Society. This was the talk I gave, which I wrote in a 90-minute burst of concentrated creative energy just beforehand. It distils my feelings about the current rise of racism and xenophobia in the UK, the narrow victory for leaving the EU in the referendum in June, and the terrible indifference to the current refugee crisis, which is taking place on a scale that is unprecedented in most of our lives, and I examine the dangers posed by an “us” and “them” mentality, laying the blame on cynical politicians and our largely corrupt corporate media, whilst also asking how and why, on an individual basis, people are becoming more and more insular, and what, if anything, can be done to counter these dangerous trends.

I was asked to join this event today because I’ve spent the last ten years — nearly eleven now — researching and writing about the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, telling the stories of the men held there and working to get the prison shut down, because it is, to be frank, a legal, moral and ethical abomination that should ever have existed.

Discussing Guantánamo here today wasn’t of particular relevance to most of the problems facing people in Britain right now, as the last British resident in Guantánamo — a rather lovely man named Shaker Aamer — was released over a year ago. I could have talked about Britain’s complicity in the existence of Guantánamo, and how we replicated part of its lawlessness here in the UK, holding foreign nationals without charge or trial, on the basis of secret evidence, and subjecting British nationals to a form of house arrest and/or internal exile, but I thought it would be useful to look at a key aspect of Guantánamo that has relevance to so many of the things happening in Britain today that are so deeply troubling to so many of us; namely, the rise of racism.

It doesn’t take a genius to look at Guantánamo and to realise that everyone held there since the prison opened in January 2002 is a Muslim. And because of all the disgraceful rhetoric about terrorists and the “worst of the worst,” Americans have been encouraged to accept that. But imagine if there was a prison run by the United States where people were held without charge or trial, and subjected to torture, and everyone held there was a Christian, or Jewish. There would be an unprecedented uproar. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantánamo Lawyer’s Moving Memories of Her Client Obaidullah, an Afghan Released in the UAE in August

Obaidullah’s mother, at her home in Haiderkhil, Afghanistan, holding photos of her son on August 16, just after his release from Guantanamo (Photo: AP/Nishanuddin Khan).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.

 

In August, a long-suffering Afghan prisoner at Guantánamo, Obaidullah, was finally released after 14 years of imprisonment without charge or trial, sent to the United Arab Emirates rather than to his home village, because the US Congress had, with a rather hysterical disregard for any sense of proportion, passed a law preventing any Afghan prisoner at Guantánamo from being repatriated. Below I’m cross-posting a moving account of Obaidullah himself, and of his wrongful imprisonment, by one of his attorneys, Anne Richardson. Other civilian lawyers who worked on his case include Dan Stormer and Cindy Pánuco of Hadsell Stormer & Renick LLP in Pasadena, CA, where Richardson worked before moving to Public Counsel, the US’s largest pro bono firm, where she is the directing attorney of the Consumer Law Project.

Obaidullah, who has just one name like many Afghans, was seized in July 2002, when he was around 22 years old (he doesn’t know his exact year of birth), and was accused of having “stored and concealed anti-tank mines, other explosive devices, and related equipment,” and it was also claimed that he “concealed on his person a notebook describing how to wire and detonate explosive devices”; and that he “knew or intended” that his “material support and resources were to be used in preparation for and in carrying out a terrorist attack.”

The charges were listed when he was, absurdly, put forward for a trial by military commission in September 2008. Even if the allegations were true, putting forward a minor insurgent for a war crimes trial was a disgracefully overblown response to his alleged activities, but as an investigation by his military lawyers found in 2011, it appears that the US authorities were mistaken about Obaidullah’s role in any kind of plot against US forces. His wife had just given birth, and blood found in his car, interpreted as being a sign that someone was wounded in an attack, seems to have been from his wife’s labor, which he failed to mention because speaking about such things is not something an Afghan man does. Read the rest of this entry »

Great New York Times Exposé of How Torture, Abuse and Command Indifference Compromised Psychiatric Care at Guantánamo

A prisoner, in the early days of Guantanamo, being moved on a gurney, as prisoners were in the prison's early years.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.

 

A recent detailed New York Times article, “Where Even Nightmares Are Classified: Psychiatric Care at Guantánamo,” provides a powerful review of the horrors of Guantánamo from the perspective of “more than two dozen military medical personnel who served or consulted” at the prison.

The Times article, written by Sheri Fink, explains how some prisoners were disturbed when they arrived at the prison, others “struggled with despair” as their imprisonment without charge or trial dragged on, and some “had developed symptoms including hallucinations, nightmares, anxiety or depression after undergoing brutal interrogations” by US personnel — sometime in CIA “black sites,” sometimes at Guantánamo — who had themselves been advised by other health personnel. Those who were tortured — although the Times refused to mention the word “torture,” as has been the paper’s wont over the years, coyly referring to dozens of men who “underwent agonizing treatment” — “were left with psychological problems that persisted for years, despite government lawyers’ assurances that the practices did not constitute torture and would cause no lasting harm.”

The result, Fink concluded, was that “a willful blindness to the consequences emerged. Those equipped to diagnose, document and treat the effects — psychiatrists, psychologists and mental health teams — were often unaware of what had happened.” Doctors told the Times that, “[s]ometimes by instruction and sometimes by choice, they typically did not ask what the prisoners had experienced in interrogations,” a situation that seriously compromised their care. 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 »

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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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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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