As the prison-wide hunger strike continues at Guantánamo, having reached the three-month mark on Sunday, it is more important than ever that the voices of the prisoners continue to be heard, to maintain the pressure on the Obama administration to act.
For meaningful action to be taken, President Obama needs to find ways to release the 86 men (out of 166 prisoners in total) who were cleared for release by the sober and responsible inter-agency task force he appointed to review the prisoners’ cases in 2009.
Two-thirds of these men are Yemenis, so the President needs to drop his ban on releasing any of these men, which he imposed in response to hysteria following the foiled Christmas bomb plot in 2009, when a Nigerian man recruited in Yemen tried and failed to bomb a plane bound for the US with a device in his underwear.
As I wrote in response to President Obama’s discussion of Guantánamo at a news conference last week, he can choose to tackle Congress — as he said he would — and to tell lawmakers that they need to drop the obstructions they have raised to prevent the release of prisoners over the last two years — in the National Defense Authorization Act. However, if Congress refuses to engage with him, he needs to use the waiver in the NDAA, which allows him to bypass Congress if he and the defense secretary regard it as being in America’s best interests.
Releasing men already cleared for release from the abominable open tomb that is Guantánamo — where all the prisoners are suffering indefinite detention without charge or trial, whether cleared for release or not — needs to happen as soon as possible, before some poor soul in Guantánamo dies. That, I am compelled to say, would most emphatically not be in America’s best interests. Read the rest of this entry »
UPDATE MAY 7: It has just been confirmed that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will now be taking part in this event, via video link from the Ecuadorian Embassy, from 7.30 to 8.15pm.
It’s almost three years since Pfc. Bradley Manning, who had been working as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, was arrested by the US military and imprisoned in Kuwait for allegedly making available — to the campaigning organization WikiLeaks — the largest collection of classified documents ever leaked to the public, including the “Collateral Murder” video, featuring US personnel indiscriminately killing civilians in Iraq, 500,000 army reports (the Afghan War logs and the Iraq War logs), 250,000 US diplomatic cables, and the classified military files relating to the Guantánamo prisoners, which were released in April 2011, and on which I worked as a media partner (see here for the first 34 parts of my 70-part, million-word series analyzing the Guantánamo files).
In July 2010, Manning was transferred to the Marine Corps Brig, Quantico, Virginia, where the conditions of his confinement began to cause international concern. I first wrote about his case in December 2010, when he was being held in solitary confinement, in an article entitled, “Is Bradley Manning Being Held as Some Sort of “Enemy Combatant”?” and I followed his story into 2011, and his transfer to less contentious conditions of confinement in Fort Leavenworth on April 20, just five days before WikiLeaks released the Guantánamo files.
In the last two years, I have largely deferred to other writers, researchers and activists, dedicated to Bradley Manning’s story, to cover developments in his case, particularly relating to a series of pre-trial hearings. His trial begins on June 3 (preceded by an international day of action on June 1), and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to revisit his story this Wednesday, May 8, at an event in London organized by Naomi Colvin and Katia Michaels, at which I am honoured to be sharing a stage with Chase Madar, the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning, and Ben Griffin, a former SAS soldier and conscientious objector. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
If you have the time, please look at “Abu Ghaith and All Terror Suspects Should Be Tried in Federal Courts,” an article I wrote that was published yesterday as part of US News & World Report’s “Debate Club.” In the article, I support the decision to prosecute alleged Al-Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, recently extradited from Jordan, in a federal court in New York.
If you like the article, please vote for it (click on the “up” arrow just below the heading).
There are seven articles in total in the debate, comprising a variety of viewpoints, and it is important that those of us who believe in justice and the rule of law send a message to those who advocate military commissions, military custody, sending Abu Ghaith to Guantánamo and/or subjecting him to torture, by voting them down in the debate, as their poisonous opinions are groundless and damaging to all notions of justice.
As I point out in my article, terrorism is a crime, and federal courts are the correct venue for trying crimes. The military commission system — which should never have been revived by the Bush administration — is a broken, discredited system that is not fit for purpose, and the suggestion, by lawmakers including Mitch McConnell, that Abu Ghaith should be sent to Guantánamo, where he can be “fulsomely and continuously interrogated,” is a disgrace. Read the rest of this entry »
The power of Islamophobia, it seems, is such that when a tabloid newspaper — the Daily Star — published an article with the headline “Mosque terror doc fundraiser,” claiming that “Britain’s biggest mosque is under investigation after it scheduled a fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” it led to the event being moved.
The mosque in question was the East London Mosque, in Whitechapel, and the alleged investigation was by the Charity Commission. The Star reported that the Charity Commission “said it had started a probe into the mosque,” and had “not yet launched a full investigation,” but was “looking into the issue.” That sounds very vague, but it was enough to get the mosque jumpy, and the event has, as a result, been moved to another venue in Whitechapel.
As for the “fundraising event for a convicted would-be killer,” another way of putting it would be that the Justice for Aafia Coalition (also see here) is putting on a fundraising event for a US-educated Pakistani neuroscientist who disappeared for nearly five and a half years, from March 2003 to July 2008, when, they contend, she was kidnapped and she and two of her three children were held in secret prisons run by or for the CIA and the US government. The third child, a baby at the time of her disappearance, may, it appears, have been shot and killed at the time of Dr. Siddiqui’s kidnapping. Read the rest of this entry »
On January 11, the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo, I was in Washington D.C., with various human rights groups, lawyers, mainly religious anti-torture groups, and other concerned individuals, calling on President Obama to fulfill the promise he made to close the prison when he took office in 2009.
It was my third Guantánamo anniversary in the nation’s capital, but unlike in previous years, we were not allowed to protest in front of the White House, as preparations were being made for President Obama’s Inauguration, and, instead, we spoke in the middle of President’s Park South, with the White House in the distance.
It was only after the official event ended that activists with Witness Against Torture, in orange jumpsuits and hoods, dared to make their way to the fence at the back of the White House, to tie 166 orange ribbons to the railings — one for each of the men still held in Guantánamo — and to stage a peaceful sit-in. The activists only narrowly avoided arrest, which would have been particularly ironic, given that they were only reminding President Obama of his failed promise. Read the rest of this entry »
Eleven years ago, on January 11, 2002, the Bush administration proudly presented to the world one of its major responses to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 — a prison on the grounds of the US naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, designed to hold hundreds of men and boys seized in the “war on terror” that was declared in the wake of the attacks, where the prisoners were to be neither criminals not soldiers, but “enemy combatants” without any rights whatsoever.
The base was chosen because it was presumed to be beyond the reach of the US courts, and when the prisoners were deliberately excluded from the protections of the Geneva Conventions, in a directive issued by President Bush on February 7, 2002, it became a genuinely evil experiment, devoted to torture and other forms of coercion, indefinite detention without charge or trial, and the extraction of false statements from the prisoners that were then dressed up as evidence to justify holding them.
This was in spite of the fact that, for the most part, the prisoners knew nothing about Al-Qaeda or international terrorism, and were sold to US forces for bounty payments by their Afghan and Pakistani allies, or seized as a result of inept US intelligence. Many of the prisoners were living in Pakistan or visiting Pakistan, or were visiting Afghanistan as missionaries, humanitarian aid workers, refugees or economic migrants. Read the rest of this entry »
Friday January 11 is the 11th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, an ongoing legal black hole, and an experimental prison for holding Muslim men and boys without rights, and subjecting them to torture and other forms of coercion and abuse, and medical and psychological experimentation.
At Guantánamo, the US authorities manufactured a rationale for holding these men and boys — calling them “the worst of the worst,” and disguising the fact that the majority of them were sold to the US military for substantial bounty payments by their Afghan and Pakistani allies. They did this through the extraction of false statements in which pliant prisoners — whether tortured or otherwise abused, or bribed or pushed until they could take the pressure no longer — made false statements about their fellow prisoners, and/or themselves, which continue to be regarded as something resembling evidence by all three branches of the US government, even though the closest analogy for what this information is in reality can be found in the false statements uttered by the victims of the witch hunts in the 17th century.
For those who are concerned about the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, this is a worthwhile time to write to the remaining 166 prisoners, to let them know that they have not been forgotten. Disturbingly, they have largely been abandoned by the Obama administration, by Congress, by the courts, by the media and by the American public, even though 86 of them were cleared for release three years ago by an interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama to review the cases of all the prisoners, and even though around half of them were previously cleared for release, between 2004 and 2007, by military review boards established by President Bush. Read the rest of this entry »
As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches (on January 11, 2013), I wanted to make sure that I made available an interview I undertook recently with the respected progressive radio host Peter B. Collins, in San Francisco. Peter’s site is here, and our 50-minute interview is here, as an MP3.
Peter and I have spoken many times over the years, and it is always a pleasure to talk to him, as he is such a well-informed host, and his shows allow complex issues — like Guantánamo — to be discussed in depth.
Out latest conversation followed the reelection of Barack Obama, and gave us an opportunity to catch up on where we stand nearly four years on from the President’s failed promise to close Guantánamo within a year. Read the rest of this entry »
The invented war crime is “providing material support to terrorism,” and on October 16, 2012, a panel of three judges in the D.C. Circuit Court (the Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.) threw out the conviction of Salim Hamdan, a driver for Osama bin Laden, who had received a five and a half year sentence for “providing material support to terrorism” at the end of his trial by military commission in August 2008 (although he was freed just five months later, as his sentence included time already served).
In its ruling, the court stated, “When Hamdan committed the conduct in question, the international law of war proscribed a variety of war crimes, including forms of terrorism. At that time, however, the international law of war did not proscribe material support for terrorism as a war crime.”
For anyone who has followed the history of the military commissions in any depth, the result was not completely unexpected. Revived by the Bush administration in November 2001, specifically for trying prisoners seized in the “war on terror,” the commissions were struck down by the Supreme Court in June 2006, but were then revived by Congress, when “providing material support to terrorism” and “conspiracy” were included as war crimes, even though there was no precedent for doing so. Read the rest of this entry »
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