Every year, I publish an article remembering the men who died at Guantánamo in what, in 2013, I first described as “the season of death” at the prison — the end of May and the start of June, when six men died: three on June 9, 2006, one on May 30, 2007, another on June 1, 2009, and the last on May 22, 2011.
Of the six, only the last death — of Hajji Nassim, an Afghan known in Guantánamo as Inayatullah — appears very clearly to have been a suicide. Nassim had profound mental health issues (as well as being a case of mistaken identity), but although there was no reason to suspect foul play, it is, as I explained last year, “disturbing and disgraceful that a profoundly troubled man, who was not who the authorities pretended he was, died instead of being released.”
Doubts have also been raised about the deaths in 2007 and 2009, as I also explained last year, when I wrote:
My very first articles, in May/June 2007, were written in response to the alleged death by suicide, on May 30, 2007, of a Saudi prisoner, Abdul Rahman al-Amri. Former prisoner Omar Deghayes later told me that al-Amri had been profoundly upset by the sexual harassment at Guantánamo — enough, perhaps, to lead him to take his own life — but Jeff Kaye (psychologist and journalist) later looked into the investigation into his death and found another murky story, as he did for Muhammad Salih (aka Mohammed al-Hanashi), another long-term hunger striker and agitator who died on June 1, 2009.
From January 8-18, I was in the US for a brief tour to highlight the importance of closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, coinciding with the 14th anniversary of the opening of the prison, on January 11. I visited Miami, Washington, D.C. and New York City, and videos of my various escapades can be found here, including appearing with my friend and supporter, the music legend Roger Waters, on Democracy Now!
I also took part in a number of radio shows, and am making those available below. I hope you have time to listen to them, and to share them if you find them useful. I’m keeping my description of them quite brief, as I’m snowed under with other Guantánamo-related work right now — in particular the launch of the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, a new initiative, via the Close Guantánamo campaign I set up with the US attorney Tom Wilner in 2012, asking people to print off a poster calling for President Obama to close Guantánamo before he leaves office in a year’s time, to photograph themselves standing with the poster, and to send it to us to put up on the website and to publicize via social media. I hope you will get involved!
On the morning of January 11, just before I took part in the annual protest outside the White House, and a panel discussion at New America, I spoke to Jerome McDonnell on his show “Worldview” on WBEZ 91.5 in Chicago. The show is available on Soundcloud, and is posted below, and this is how Jerome described it: Read the rest of this entry »
In the wake of the wonderful news that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, has finally been released from the prison, and returned, a free man, to his family in the UK, a couple of old friends from the US — Scott Horton and Peter B. Collins — interviewed me for their radio shows.
Scott and I have been talking — generally several times a year — since 2007, primarily about Guantánamo, but also about torture, Bagram prison in Afghanistan, and other aspects of the “war on terror” that George W. Bush launched after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that President Obama has failed to fully repudiate.
Our 20-minute interview is here, as an MP3. Scott’s own website has been having problems for the last week — it was down for many days, and now it’s back up, but the last few years’ interviews are still missing. Read the rest of this entry »
On September 25, as the news broke that Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, is to be released, the radio host Scott Horton got in touch to ask for a quick interview, and I was, of course, delighted to speak to him, as we have spoken numerous times over the years since he first interviewed me in 2007. Our 15-minute interview is here, as an MP3, and I hope you have time to listen to it, and to share it if you find it useful. You can also find it on Scott’s website here.
Scott asked me to run through Shaker’s story, so I explained how he is a charismatic, eloquent man who always resisted the injustices implemented by the Bush administration in its “war on terror,” and, as a result, came to be regarded as a dangerous individual.
However, although he has persistently caused trouble — righteous, indignant trouble — in US custody, his captors never had a case against him for any activities prior to his capture at the end of 2001 in Afghanistan, where, he has always maintained, he had traveled to provide humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. As a result, in 2007, under the Bush administration, he was told that the US no longer wanted to hold him, and in 2009 he was approved for release by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama shortly after taking office. Read the rest of this entry »
On June 9, Joseph Hickman, a former guard at Guantánamo, posted the following tweet: “9 years ago today I was at Guantánamo Bay. Three detainees were murdered while I was on duty. All should remember those three men today.”
It was a poignant message, and a reminder of how, at Guantánamo, the years may pass but the injustices — horrible injustices involving unexplained deaths, torture and indefinite detention without charge or trial — remain or are inadequately addressed.
On June 9, 2006, as Joe Hickman pointed out, three prisoners died at Guantánamo — 37-year old Salah Ahmed al-Salami (aka Ali al-Salami), a Yemeni, 30-year old Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, a Saudi, and 22-year old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, another Saudi, who was just 17 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan at the end of 2001. The Bush administration claimed that they died in a suicide pact, by hanging themselves, but that always seemed unlikely. How were men who were scrutinized incessantly supposed to get the materials to hang themselves and then do so without anyone noticing? And could it really not be relevant that all three men had been long-term hunger strikers, and a thorn in the side of the authorities at Guantánamo?
I wrote regularly about the men who died in June 2006 — on the second anniversary of their death, when no one in the mainstream media noticed, and in August 2008, after an official and unsatisfactory statement based on the NCIS investigation of the men’s death was released — and then, in January 2010, came a dark and powerful revelation: “The Guantánamo ‘Suicides,'” an article in Harper’s Magazine by the law professor and journalist Scott Horton, based on interviews with former guards, including, in particular, Staff Sgt. Joe Hickman, who had been in charge of the guard towers on the night the men died, and who swore that the official story could not have been true. My immediate response to Horton’s article is here. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael’s show was entitled, “From the Torture Chambers of Guantánamo to the Deadly Streets of the US: American Thugs on the Rampage,” which is a great title, and I was delighted to be on the same show as Larry Siems, the editor of Guantánamo Diary, the extraordinarily powerful book by Mohamedou Ould Slahi, who is still held at Guantánamo (Larry and I were previously on another show, in Chicago, which you can find here). Also on the show was the activist Carl Dix.
The hour-long show is here, and I’m on for the first 16 minutes, bringing Michael’s listeners up to date on the current situation at Guantánamo, and also speaking about We Stand With Shaker, the campaign to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, which I launched in November with the activist Joanne MacInnes. Read the rest of this entry »
As I mentioned yesterday when I posted two videos of TV coverage of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which aims to secure the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, it’s been a busy three-week period — firstly with the launch of the campaign outside Parliament on November 24, and then, last week, with the release of our short film for Shaker for Human Rights Day, featuring Juliet Stevenson and David Morrissey, reading from Shaker’s Declaration of No Human Rights, which he wrote in Guantánamo in response to the US betrayal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also, last Tuesday, with the release of the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA torture program, which I wrote about here for Al-Jazeera.
Last week I undertook a couple of radio interviews to discuss all of these issues, speaking for on the Scott Horton Show, with the Texas-based interviewer with whom I have been talking about the horrors of Guantánamo, executive overreach, arbitrary dentition and torture for more than seven years — a duration of time that has probably come as a surprise to both of us.
Our latest encounter — 23 minutes in total — is here, and I hope you have time to listen to it.
On Friday, I spoke to British ex-pat Pippa Jones, for her show on Talk Radio Europe. Pippa and I have spoken before — although we don’t have quite the history that Scott and I have. It was a pleasure to talk to Pippa as well — about the torture report and We Stand With Shaker — and our 20-minute interview is here. The interview begins at about 7:45 and runs through to 28:15. Read the rest of this entry »
Eight years ago, on June 10, 2006, the world awoke to the news that three men — Yasser Al-Zahrani, Ali Al-Salami and Mani Al-Utaybi — had died at the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. The authorities claimed that the three men had committed suicide, and, notoriously, as I explained in an article last year, “The Season of Death at Guantánamo,” the prison’s commander, Rear Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., “attracted widespread criticism by declaring that the deaths were an act of war. Speaking of the prisoners, he said, ‘They are smart, they are creative, they are committed. They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.'”
Doubts were immediately expressed about whether it was possible, in a facility well-known for the persistent monitoring of the prisoners, for three men to manage to kill themselves without any guards noticing, and questions were also asked about how, even if the men had evaded surveillance, they had actually managed to kill themselves when they were allowed almost no possessions in their cells.
It took until August 2008 for the official report on the deaths, conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), to be made available, but as I explained in an article at the time, the investigators “unreservedly backed up the suicide story” by reporting that “Autopsies were performed by physicians from the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology at Naval Hospital Guantánamo on June 10 and 11. The manner of death for all detainees was determined to be suicide and the cause of death was determined to be by hanging, the medical term being ‘mechanical asphyxia.'” Read the rest of this entry »
That manufactured scandal, as I hope everyone reading this realizes, is the feigned outrage of lawmakers and media pundits regarding President Obama’s decision to rescue a captured US soldier from Afghanistan by exchanging him for five Taliban prisoners in Guantánamo, who were sent to Qatar, which I first wrote about here, and followed up with an article entitled, “Missing the Point on the Guantánamo Taliban Prisoner Swap and the Release of Bowe Bergdahl.” Yesterday, I was invited to discuss the manufactured scandal on Democracy Now! and in the last few days I have also spoken about it on the Scott Horton Show (just days after my previous appearance on the show), and with Peter B. Collins on his show from the Bay Area.
My 20-minute interview with Scott is here, and my 40-minute interview with Peter is here. Although it is for subscribers only, you can pay just $1 for a day pass, although other subscription offers, from $5 a month, are also available.
According to the unprincipled, opportunistic lawmakers and commentators laying into the Obama administration regarding the prisoner exchange, the rescued US soldier, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held by the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network in Afghanistan for the last five years, is a deserter who should have been abandoned, even though no objective investigation has established the truth — or otherwise — of this claim.
With regard to the five Taliban officials released in exchange for Bowe Bergdahl, it is true that these are men who, to varying degrees, held leadership positions with the Taliban and who had not been cleared for release from the prison — unlike 78 of the remaining 149 prisoners, cleared for release for years but still held — but while the critics have been wailing about how they were too dangerous to release, the facts and the justifications for the deal say otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »
On Thursday, just after President Obama had spoken about Guantánamo, for the first time since the global protests on May 23 (the first anniversary of his promise to resume releasing prisoners after two year and eight months in which just five men had been released), the ever-indignant radio host Scott Horton asked if I was free to talk.
As one of the first radio hosts to take an interest in my work (back in August 2007), Scott is someone I always like to talk to, especially as we hadn’t spoken since February, and there was much to discuss. Our half-hour interview is available here, or see here for the link to the show on Scott’s own website. For the first time we used Skype for the interview, and I have to say that the sound quality is wonderfully clear.
President Obama had spoken about Guantánamo in a speech about America’s foreign policy at the US Military Academy at West Point, in which he said, “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions. That’s why I will continue to push to close GTMO — because American values and legal traditions don’t permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.” Read the rest of this entry »
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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