The Bitter Legacy of 9/11, on its 17th Anniversary: Endless War, Guantánamo, Brexit, Trump and the Paranoid Security State

The Statue of Liberty and the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.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.

 

17 years ago today, on September 11, 2001, the world changed forever. In the wake of the terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people, a US-led coalition invaded Afghanistan, decimating al-Qaeda and toppling the Taliban, but staying on to lose hearts and minds in an apparently unending occupation in which we are still mired.

Within three months, Tony Blair was imprisoning foreign-born “terror suspects” without charge or trial in the UK, and exactly four months after the attacks, the Bush administration opened Guantánamo, its showcase prison for what happens when a vengeful nation led by belligerent ideologues historically fixated with the exercise of unfettered executive power and disdain for domestic and international laws and treaties rounds people up without competent battlefield reviews, instigates torture and embraces indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial on an industrial scale.

Two and a half years after 9/11, the Bush administration’s ideological “crazies,” aided and abetted by Tony Blair, compounded the Afghan quagmire by invading Iraq on the basis of lies, endorsing regime change over the rights of sovereign nations not to be invaded without good reason, and confirming 9/11 as the conduit for endless war — a dream for the military-industrial complex’s bureaucrats and arms manufacturers, and the growing mercenary armies of the west, but a disaster for everyone else. 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 »

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 »

Trump’s Victory Confirms 2016 as the Year WASPs Began, Alarmingly, to Embrace the Far Right in Significant Numbers

A photo taken by Andy Worthington in New York in January 2016, used as the cover image for Andy's band The Four Fathers' song "Neo-Liberal Bullshit Blues," which features a verse about Donald Trump.

Please listen to “Neo-Liberal Bullshit Blues” by my band The Four Fathers, with its verse about how “Donald Trump is no answer / He’s just a selfish and dangerous fool / He’s just another version / Of the Neo-Liberal Bullshit Blues.”

Like June 23, 2016, November 8, 2016 will go down in the history books as a day when dreams of progress and tolerance and hope were brutally dashed. On June 23, in the UK, a slim majority of voters who could be bothered to turn out to vote in the EU referendum gave a kicking to the British establishment and endorsed racism and xenophobia, damaging the economy for no discernibly important reason whatsoever, making us a laughing stock around the world, and resetting the UK’s default position on tolerance to one in which foreigners can be openly abused, and anyone foreign-born, or appearing to be foreign-born, can be treated as “the other.”

In the US, as Jonathan Freedland wrote for the Guardian today, “We thought the United States would step back from the abyss. We believed … that Americans would not, in the end, hand the most powerful office on earth to an unstable bigot, sexual predator and compulsive liar.”

And yet, that is exactly what happened, and the parallels with the UK are, unfortunately, illuminating. Voters gave a kicking to the establishment, represented by Hillary Clinton, and white voters turned to Trump, the showman who, like Nigel Farage, pretended to be a “man of the people,” even though that was patently untrue. Read the rest of this entry »

As Theresa May Becomes Prime Minister, A Look Back at Her Authoritarianism, Islamophobia and Harshness on Immigration

Theresa May, Britain's new Prime Minister, making her first speech as PM. I slightly edited the banner behind her.First off, it says little for democracy that, after the biggest constitutional crisis in most of our lifetimes (the result of the EU referendum, which may take years to resolve), the Conservative Party has responded by having just 199 MPs anoint a new leader to run the country after David Cameron, aging 20 years overnight, bumbled off into the sunset of a poisoned legacy.

Cameron, it is assumed, will forever be known as the worst Prime Minister since Neville Chamberlain (or Anthony Eden), a so-called leader who, because he was too cowardly to face down critics who were even more right-wing than him — in his own party, and in UKIP — called a referendum that he was then too arrogant to believe he could lose. I was fearful at the time Cameron announced the referendum, in January 2013, that it could all go horribly wrong, and on the morning of June 24 my fears were confirmed as 17 million voters — a weird mix of political vandals, racists, xenophobes, left-wing idealists and the ill-informed — voted for us to leave the EU.

Cameron left his mess for others to clear up, and within days most of those who had run with his idiocy and had campaigned to get us out of Europe fell too. Nigel Farage announced that he was standing down as UKIP leader, hopefully doing us all a favour by, as a result, diminishing UKIP’s weird reptilian personality cult. Read the rest of this entry »

As the Leaderless UK Begins Sinking, MPs, Media and British Citizens Don’t Seem to Care

A drawing of the Titanic sinking in 1912.Two weeks after the EU referendum, the situation in the UK is even more depressing than it was at the time, for a variety of reasons, primarily to do with having no leadership whatsoever, with few people seemingly caring that we have no leadership whatsoever, and with our political class and our media failing to understand that the ramifications of the referendum result mean that is is not business as usual, and will not be ever again.

Since the result was announced (51.9% for Leave, 48.1% to Remain, on a 72% turnout) we have constantly been told, by those with power and influence, that the will of the people must be accepted, but it remains apparent that the referendum should never have been called, and was only called because of David Cameron’s pathetically narrow political concerns and his cowardly refusal to challenge UKIP and Eurosceptics in his own party. It also remains apparent that it was primarily won because of outrageous lies by the Leave campaign, led by someone — Boris Johnson — who didn’t want to leave the EU and only did so to further his own political aims.

I don’t mean to suggest, by the way, that people only voted Leave because they were lied to. I understand that millions of people made up their own minds, although I don’t believe in general that proper consideration was given to the myriad ramifications of severing our involvement with the EU, by those who weren’t either acting on racist and xenophobic impulses, or false notions of sovereignty (the “us v. them” scenario, even though as a member of the EU, we were part of “them” and, in any case, most decisions about our spending and policies were still taken by our own government), or some essentially counter-productive notion of giving a kicking to the out-of-touch political elite in Westminster. On our sovereignty, by the way, I would just like to remind anyone reading this that Chatham House (aka the Royal Institute of International Affairs) noted, in “Britain, the EU and the Sovereignty Myth,” an important briefing before the referendum, that, “Apart from EU immigration, the British government still determines the vast majority of policy over every issue of greatest concern to British voters – including health, education, pensions, welfare, monetary policy, defence and border security. The arguments for leaving also ignore the fact that the UK controls more than 98 per cent of its public expenditure.” Read the rest of this entry »

Not Giving Up: Photos from the March for Europe in London, Saturday July 2, 2016

Stop-Brex-sh*t: a placard from the March for Europe in London on July 2, 2016 (Photo: Andy Worthington).See my photos on Flickr here.

On Saturday July 2, I attended a March for Europe, and took the photos in my latest album on Flickr. The march took place in central London, attracting around 50,000 people, calling for Britain to remain in the EU, supporting the pan-European community that it has allowed to come into existence, opposing racism and xenophobia, and calling for MPs to refuse to pass the legislation that is needed for our departure to actually take place, rather than, as at present, being the preferred course of action of a slim majority of the 72.2% of the electorate who actually bothered to vote.

The march took place just eight days after a shocked Britain woke up to discover that, after the most ill-advised referendum in UK history, those voting to leave the EU had secured more votes than those who wanted to stay in. Those attending were just a fraction of the 16,141,241 people who voted to remain in the EU, but the march was an important sign of hugely important dissent that, I fervently hope, will not go away.

We need to maintain pressure on our MPs not to accept the result — not out of any anti-democratic sentiment, but because: 1) leaving the EU would be disastrous for our economy and our standing in the world; 2) isolationism has already led to a rise in racism and xenophobia, apparently normalised by the result; 3) the referendum should never have been called, and was only called because of the narrow party political concerns of David Cameron, and not because of any need for it; 4) the Leave campaign’s efforts to secure victory, with the collusion of large parts of the media, involved telling voters disgraceful lies, and Boris Johnson, who did so much to ensure its success, didn’t even believe in it, and only supported it in the hope of furthering his own political aims; 5) most importantly, Parliament has to endorse it before it can happen, and MPs’ obligation is to vote in the best interests of the country, not to rubber-stamp the result of a unjustifiable referendum; and 6) as some lawyers are arguing, the process of triggering our departure from the EU, if enacted, would be unlawful. Read the rest of this entry »

Life in the UK After the EU Referendum: Waking Up Repeatedly at a Funeral That Never Ends

An apocalyptic view of London (image via Reddit).Three days into this disaster, and the fallout is so immense that it colours everything. Bereaved-looking people are everywhere, talking about their disbelief, unable to process it. I had a migraine on Friday, and I don’t normally even get headaches. Many people are reporting similar symptoms — of colossal stress, of an unprocessable shock. Every time we distract ourselves for a moment from the awful reality — that we’ve left the EU and that everything is now in freefall; not just our economy, but basically every certainty we had before Friday morning — we wake up again to the horror of it all, like having endless deja vu at a funeral without end, like being in a real-life version of a film in which aliens have taken over, even though they look just like us.

My funereal encounters are taking place in London, where a majority of those who could be bothered to vote — 60% — called for us to remain in the EU. I live in Lewisham, where the portion of Remain votes was even higher — 70% — so I can presume that I am not surrounded by the deluded, or by those with hideously misplaced anger, however justifiable that anger may be, although I accept that even that is difficult. I have been ambushed in recent weeks by the odd middle class, educated person my age (circa 50) supporting the Leave campaign, and I can’t help but be instinctively suspicious of older white people.

However, I also know it’s not just a white issue. About two years I was in a queue in a service station in Brixton, and I struck up a conversation with a black man about my age, who seemed to me to be a Windrush descendant. I started some small talk, leaning it leftwards as soon as I could, as is my wont, and thinking he would agree with me, until he started talking about how it was all the fault of the immigrants. Since that encounter and others, I have grown to be wary of casually chatting with my fellow citizens on the street. Read the rest of this entry »

UK Votes to Leave the EU: A Triumph of Racism and Massively Counter-Productive Political Vandalism

"Don't blame me, I voted Remain": my response to the UK's EU referendum on the morning of June 24, 2016. What a disaster. In the UK referendum on EU membership, 17.4 million of my fellow citizens (52% of voters) voted to leave the EU, while 16.1 million (48%) voted to remain. Turnout was 71.8%, the highest turnout at a UK election since 1992, and by region the strongest support for the Remain camp was in Scotland, which voted 62% to 38% for Remain, London, which voted 60% to 40% for Remain, and Northern Ireland, which voted 56% to 44% to Remain.

In England as a whole, Leave secured 53.4% of the votes, compared to 46.6% for Remain, and in Wales Leave secured 52.5% of the vote, with Remain on 47.5%.

In London, breaking down the figures still further, 28 boroughs voted to remain, and just five voted to leave (Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Sutton, Havering and Hillingdon), with 2,263,519 votes in favour of remaining in the EU, and 1,513,232 Londoners voting to leave. See the full London breakdown here.

In Lewisham, where I live, I’m glad to report that 86,995 people (70% of voters) voted for Remain, and just 37,518 voted for Leave, but these results, and similar results across London weren’t enough to prevent a victory for the Leave campaign. Read the rest of this entry »

The End of Reason: Lies, Distortions and Misplaced Anger in the EU Referendum’s Brexit Camp

Andy Worthington showing his support for the campaign for Britain to remain in the EU.I thought it was time to make my feelings clear about the EU referendum vote. I know the EU is a profoundly flawed entity, but as I’ve been saying since David Cameron, demonstrating supreme cowardice, agreed to a referendum to placate UKIP and far right critics in his own party, the only way leaving the EU would be acceptable would be if we immediately had a socialist revolution — and that’s not going to happen. Instead, as former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has explained, we must reform it from within.

A leave vote will be a vote for the terrible racism and intolerance that has been ramped up as a result of the referendum, but that has been cynically promoted by the media and politicians for far too long. A leave vote is not only an unwise leap into the dark economically, but will legitimise the leadership ambitions of Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith and Nigel Farage — who are all disgraceful, self-seeking, deluded and/or sociopathic figures — and the racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia that they have been so shamefully promoting. In addition, please don’t think for a moment that I’m defending David Cameron and other ministers who are currently calling for us to remain in the EU, because they have criticised Europe relentlessly over the years, and have undertaken more than their fair share of immigrant-bashing and Islamophobia.

What depresses me profoundly is how, through self-delusion, as well as the encouragement of the media and politicians, far too many of my fellow citizens have concluded that immigration and the EU are the reasons they are feeling so put upon and isolated, when the truth is that everything they are complaining about is actually the fault of the bankers who caused the global crash in 2008, the politicians of all the main parties who have unquestioningly supported big business and the banks over the needs of the people, and the Tories (whether Leave or Remain supporters) who, since 2010, have presided over an “age of austerity” designed to cynically dismantle the British state in an unprecedented manner, which has involved punishing the poor, the unemployed and the disabled while further enriching those who are already well-off, and pandering relentlessly to the global super-rich. 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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