Last week, Frank Harper, an activist with the campaigning group World Can’t Wait interviewed me by phone (via Skype) for Revolution newspaper. An edited version of the transcript of that interview has been published on Revolution‘s website, and is published in the latest issue of Revolution, cover date April 7.
Below, for readers who want a more detailed analysis of Guantánamo past and present — and, in particular, the prison-wide hunger strike that is about to enter its third month (and which I have written about here, here, here, here and here) — I’m reproducing the full text of the interview, in which I discussed the hunger strike and the reasons for it, as well as, more broadly, the failure of all three branches of the US government to bring anything resembling justice to the 166 prisoners who are still held — the Obama administration and Congress for blocking the release of 86 prisoners cleared for release by the President’s own inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and the Supreme Court for failing to overturn the ideologically motivated decision by judges in the court of appeals, in Washington D.C., to gut habeas corpus of all meaning for the prisoners, who were granted habeas rights by the Supreme Court on two occasions under President Bush — in 2004 and 2008.
For almost two months now, prisoners at the US’s Guantánamo torture center have been on a hunger strike. Lawyers for some of the prisoners reported that the strike began because of “unprecedented searches and a new guard force.” In particular, prisoners were angry and anguished at the way the guards handled the prisoners’ Korans. Read the rest of this entry »
Exactly one year ago today, on September 17, 2011, activists began camping out in New York’s Zuccotti Park, the spearhead of a new movement that soon spread around the world. Known as Occupy Wall Street, and inspiring a movement that became known as the Occupy movement, the New York encampment was inspired by an Adbusters article in July, which was in turn inspired by the revolutionary movements that had swept the Middle East at the start of the year — in Tunisia and Egypt, where two dictators had been toppled by people power.
“#OccupyWallStreet,” Adbusters announced. “Are you ready for a Tahrir moment?” they asked, continuing, “On Sept 17, flood into lower Manhattan, set up tents, kitchens, peaceful barricades and Occupy Wall Street.”
One year on, and the Occupy movement’s novel power — taking over public spaces and refusing to go home — has been defeated, often with violence, and much of the mainstream media is either ignoring the movement or deriding it, but that, to be honest, is irrelevant, as the mainstream media, more often that not, are part of the problem and not the solution. Read the rest of this entry »
There was a point, during yesterday’s Occupy protest in the City of London, with hundreds of people flowing down High Viaduct from Holborn Circus, high above Farringdon Street, and heading towards Newgate Street, Cheapside and the Bank of England, when there was a real power to the message that protestors around the world are sending to their leaders, and to the bankers and corporations they serve — that their greed is still the problem, and that austerity targeted at the poor, the young and the disabled is unacceptable and unforgivable.
With a mobile sound system pumping out pounding militant dub music, there was, for a while, an energy surge that reminded me of the spirit of creative dissent that was such a feature of Britain when I was younger — in the free festivals of the 1970s, the class war of the 1980s, when Margaret Thatcher took on the miners, the travellers and the printers, and the late 80s and early 90s, when the free party movement and the road protest movement emerged, and when, most resonantly in an urban context, the theatrical activists of “Reclaim the Streets” started a global movement of occupying high streets in cities around the world.
In the late 90s, until the universal distraction of the “war on terror” conveniently took over, allowing Western governments to clamp down more heavily on the civil liberties of their citizens than ever before, the anti-globalisation movement brought together all the elements of the dissenters from the 60s onwards — anti-capitalism, environmental activism, social liberalism, all driven by utopian, revolutionary and anarchist impulses — which are largely reconfigured in the current movement for global change. Read the rest of this entry »
After returning to the streets en masse on May 1, the global Occupy movement will be active in towns and cities worldwide from Saturday May 12 to Tuesday May 15, as the next phase of what Occupy supporters, and those in other allied movements, are calling the “Global Spring.” Below is an introduction to the events, as published on the Occupy Wall Street website, which is followed by the “Global May Manifesto” that was conceived and written by numerous activists around the word over the last four months. For further information, see the People’s Assemblies Network, the May 12th 2012 site, Acciones 12M/15M and the 12M15M map.
As both the introduction and the manifesto are self-explanatory, I’ll refrain from further comments, except to note that it sounds like a first attempt to create a Universal Declaration of Human Rights for the times we find ourselves in — not the post-World War II community of idealists concerned to make sure that genocide and torture were outlawed (although that, sadly, still remains horribly relevant), but the 99 percent and the indignados faced with governments that serve only the interests of the very rich, whose criminal plunder is essentially unchecked. This is in spite of the fact that those directing this plunder bankrupted the world in 2008, and had to be bailed out by the rest of us, but it is, I believe, appropriate to consider, here and now, that bankers, corporations, the wealthiest individuals and their servants are now committed to using the rest of us — the 99 percent — as scapegoats and pawns in a new game, one of allegedly necessary “austerity” (although that is largely an ideological construct) in which all but the very rich will, within a decade or less, be driven into savage poverty.
I’ll also just add that I’ll be in London tomorrow, and will be posting information about the events planned for London in an article to follow. See you there, literally or metaphorically, and, as we used to say in the 1990s, it’s time to “Reclaim the Streets.” Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve known about the Occupy movement’s May Day General Strike for ages, ever since a good friend, an activist in Denver, posted an excellent promotional poster back in the middle of February (see the bottom of this article), and while I didn’t need any reminding about the date, as I’ve been a May Day supporter for my whole adult life, I had intended to post something about it sooner than the day before.
However, I’m sure you know all about what can happen to the best-laid plans — and it’s not like I haven’t been busy! — so here, just in time, is my supportive message for all workers — the employed and the self-employed — to down tools tomorrow, along with everyone else who is part of the 99 percent — parents, children, the unemployed and the disabled, as well as those who have retired — to let the 1 percent who still lord it over us from their tax havens and gated communities, and in board rooms and parliaments, know that the inequality that caused the Occupy Wall Street movement to spring to life last September and to become an international phenomenon last October has not diminished in the last seven months.
Governments may have acted to shut down the extraordinary Occupy camps in public spaces, in coordinated raids across the United States at the end of last year, and by various means elsewhere, but it remains as true now as it was last year that you can”t kill an idea, and also that, if you’re part of the 1 percent, you can’t get away with presiding over a program of endless enrichment for those who are already rich — when doing so involves increasing unemployment and destroying the middle class — without some people deciding to fight back, and others waking out of a slumber of self-obsession and materialism to realize that all is not well with the world, and that those who claim to be in charge bear the lion’s share of the blame that they’re trying to shift onto us instead. Read the rest of this entry »
A year ago, when the Arab Spring began — or, as the events were then called, the revolutionary movements in the Middle East (which had already toppled two western-backed dictators in Tunisia and Egypt) — I remember being surprised, and also worried, when Syrian activists held a “Day of Rage” in Damascus on March 15, and, the day after, other protestors in Damascus — mostly well-established human rights activists — called for the release from prison of other human rights activists, many of whom had been held for many years.
I was surprised, because Syria had a reputation for almost unparalleled brutality, torture and disappearances, and worried because I feared the authorities’ response, and sure enough, many of the human rights activists were imprisoned after their protest, although most — though not all — were soon released. However, almost immediately it became apparent that there was another front to Syria’s revolutionary impulses, which was not focused on the capital, but on the town of Daraa, with a population of nearly 100,000, which is in the south east of Syria, near the border with Jordan.
There, a group of schoolchildren had scrawled graffiti on the walls of their school, which stated, “The people want the overthrow of the regime.” The boys, aged between 10 and 15, were taken away by President Bashar al-Assad’s security forces, and tortured and abused, but instead of quelling revolt, the torture of the children, and the subsequent killing of civilians at protests after visits to the mosque on Fridays, and then at funerals for those killed, spread to other towns and cities as the weeks rolled by. Read the rest of this entry »
Since March 2006, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have analyzed the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.
As recent events marking the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo have shown, this remains an intolerable situation, as Guantánamo is as much of an aberration, and a stain on America’s belief in itself as a nation ruled by laws, as it was when it was opened by George W. Bush on January 11, 2002. Closing the prison remains as important now as it did when I began this work nearly six years ago.
Throughout my work, my intention has been to puncture the Bush administration’s propaganda about Guantánamo holding “the worst of the worst” by telling the prisoners’ stories and bringing them to life as human beings, rather than allowing them to remain as dehumanized scapegoats or bogeymen.
This has involved demonstrating that the majority of the prisoners were either innocent men, seized by the US military’s allies at a time when bounty payments were widespread, or recruits for the Taliban, who had been encouraged by supporters in their homelands to help the Taliban in a long-running inter-Muslim civil war (with the Northern Alliance), which began long before the 9/11 attacks and, for the most part, had nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »
For nearly six years, I have been researching and writing about Guantánamo and the 779 men (and boys) held there over the last ten years, first through my book The Guantánamo Files, and, since May 2007, as a full-time independent investigative journalist. For three years, I focused on the crimes of the Bush administration and, since January 2009, I have analysed the failures of the Obama administration to thoroughly repudiate those crimes and to hold anyone accountable for them, and, increasingly, on President Obama’s failure to charge or release prisoners, and to show any sign that Guantánamo will eventually be closed.
As the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo approaches, this is an intolerable situation, as the prison remains as much of an aberration, and a stain on America’s belief in itself as a nation ruled by laws, as it was when it was opened by George W. Bush on January 11, 2002. Closing the prison remains as important now as it did when I began this work in 2006.
Over the last six years of researching Guantánamo and writing about it on an almost daily basis, my intention has been to puncture the Bush administration’s propaganda about Guantánamo holding “the worst of the worst” by telling the prisoners’ stories and bringing them to life as human beings, rather than allowing them to remain as dehumanized scapegoats or bogeymen. Read the rest of this entry »
Back in March, when, in my article, “Revolution in the Middle East: Brave Protestors in Syria Call for Freedom,” I picked up on reports of protests in Damascus, firstly by those inspired by the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, and then by supporters and relatives of 21 jailed human rights activists (many of whom were then seized and imprisoned themselves), I praised their bravery, because the Syrian regime has a long history of violently suppressing dissent.
This was something that was more than abstract to me, because, via a good friend, who is Syrian, i had been given an insight into the use of torture by the al-Assad regime, and had also been horrified by the use of torture on prisoners in the Bush administration’s “war on terror” — and by the fact that President Bush had sent prisoners to Syria for torture, and the Canadian government had also arranged for its own citizens to be seized and tortured.
After this initial protests in Damascus, the ripples of dissent in Syria spread rapidly, leading to major unrest in the southern city of Dara’a, where, as I noted, “protests about the arrest of a group of 15 schoolchildren who had dared to scrawl graffiti on a wall explaining that ‘the people want the overthrow of the regime’ escalated into something far more grave, when the security services opened fire, killing three protestors in cold blood. Dubbed ‘Dignity Friday’ by protestors, who had been using social networking sites to coordinate their activities, the clampdown in Dara’a immediately echoed throughout the region, where other protests had been taking place, and the next day, as the Guardian explained, “a much larger, angrier crowd — estimated to number as many as 20,000 — turned out for the burial of the previous days’ victims.” Read the rest of this entry »
A year ago, only those looking closely realized that huge cracks were developing in the facade of stability maintained by the West, and echoed, in the Middle East, by the ageing dictators who had helped preserve the status quo for decades. Only those looking closely heard about the mobilization of workers in North Africa to protest against the stagnation of their economies, or realized the full impact of the sacrifice of Greece at the altar of the neoliberal Euro project.
A year ago, hints of unrest emerged in the UK, when an “age of austerity” implemented by the Conservative-led government, who couldn’t even hide their delight at being presented with an opportunity to destroy the British state under the pretence of slashing the deficit, met with resistance, in large numbers, from the students and schoolchildren whose futures were being sold off.
By early December, however, when Parliament approved the government’s proposals to triple university tuition fees, and to end all state support for arts, humanities and the social sciences, the students capitulated, and went home instead of staying on the streets. That lesson ultimately played a part in feeding the Occupy Wall Street movement that established itself in New York two months ago, and then spread across America and around the world, but the true inspiration for change were the people of Tunisia and Egypt, who, last January, mobilized in huge numbers, and, unfazed by the risk of death at the hands of the security forces whose sole purpose was to protect the dictators from the people, overthrew those dictators — first, after 24 years, Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, who ran away from Tunisia to Saudi Arabia, and then, after 30 years, Hosni Mubarak. Read the rest of this entry »
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