I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January with 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.
CORRECTION: Please note that the panel discussion at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. On January 11 will now take place at 10am, and not at 3pm, as listed below.
As the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay approaches, we at “Close Guantánamo” are making our preparations for being in Washington D.C. to call on President Obama to fulfill the promise he made four years ago, when he took office, to close the prison for good.
At 12 noon on Friday January 11, 2013, the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, the attorney Tom Wilner and the journalist Andy Worthington, who make up the steering committee of “Close Guantánamo,” will be joining members of 24 other groups outside the Supreme Court to call for the closure of Guantánamo. See Amnesty International’s page here, and the flyer here. Read the rest of this entry »
For those of us who have been arguing for years that senior officials and lawyers in the Bush administration must be held accountable for the torture program they introduced and used in their “war on terror,” last week was a very interesting week indeed, as developments took place in Strasbourg, in London and in Washington D.C., which all pointed towards the impossibility that the torturers can escape accountability forever.
That may be wishful thinking, given the concerted efforts by officials in the US and elsewhere to avoid having to answer for their crimes, and the ways in which, through legal arguments and backroom deals, they have suppressed all attempts to hold them accountable. However, despite this, it seems that maintaining absolute silence is impossible, and last week one breakthrough took place when, unanimously, a 17-judge panel of the European Court of Human Rights ruled in favor of Khaled El-Masri, a German used car salesman of Lebanese origin, who is one of the most notorious cases of mistaken identity in the whole of the “war on terror.” See the summary here.
Describing the ruling, the Guardian described how the court stated that “CIA agents tortured a German citizen, sodomising, shackling, and beating him, as Macedonian state police looked on,” and “also found Macedonia guilty of torturing, abusing, and secretly imprisoning [him],” also noting, “It is the first time the court has described CIA treatment meted out to terror suspects as torture.” Read the rest of this entry »
While I was in the US two weeks ago, for the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, there was great deal of understandable outrage amongst activists — both those on the left, and libertarians — because of outrageous provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 (PDF), which was passed by the Senate on December 15, and was signed into law by President Obama on December 31.
I discussed these provisions in a number of articles — most recently in an article entitled, “A Tired Obsession with Military Detention Plagues American Politics” — in which I wrote about the shameful provisions requiring the mandatory military custody, without charge or trial, of anyone allegedly associated with al-Qaeda, and also wrote about the provisions preventing the release of prisoners from Guantánamo, which have stopped anyone being released in the last year.
In addressing concerns about the NDAA, I made a point of stressing that, although it is important that criticism should continue to be directed at lawmakers for subverting the entire basis of America’s foundation as a country based on the rule of law with their military detention provisions (for which they should all be hounded out of office), and although it is also of significance that the restrictions on releasing Guantánamo prisoners are based on fearmongering for nakedly political reasons, two other details should not be overlooked. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I was in the US for a series of events to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, which I wrote about here and here. I also made three TV appearances, and undertook seven radio interviews, one of which was covered here. Three other appearances took place while I was in Washington D.C. On January 10, I was obliged to leave the Q&A session following a screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (the documentary film that I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash) to speak to the veteran progressive radio host Dennis Bernstein on his “Flashpoints” show on KPFA in Berkeley. The interview is available here (or here), and it starts just before 6 minutes in and lasts for ten minutes, with me talking to Dennis in the entrance of Busboys and Poets, with a cellphone clasped firmly to my ear, as people entered and left the premises, often speaking far louder than me.
I’ve also embedded the interview below: Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, I was in Washington D.C., attending events to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, as part of a 12-day US tour organized by some of my great friends in the US — the activists of The World Can’t Wait, and their national director Debra Sweet, who is largely responsible for making sure that I don’t get lost, that I can find coffee when I need it, and that I don’t get too much sleep! — as well as being a tireless campaigner for justice.
In a progressively busier and busier schedule, Debra and I followed up on events in New York, which I wrote about here, with a bus trip to Washington D.C. on Monday, and a warm welcome at the house of Medea Benjamin of Code Pink, where we were very well looked after. On Tuesday lunchtime (January 10), we made our way to the first of two events that day, a panel discussion, filmed by C-SPAN, at the New America Foundation, moderated by my old college friend Peter Bergen, and featuring, as well as myself, Congressman Jim Moran, Col. Morris Davis and Tom Wilner, which I wrote about here (where there is also an embedded video of the event).
That was an excellent event, and afterwards Debra and I, and some other friends old and new, including Todd Peirce and Derek Poteet, military attorneys in the defense team for the Military Commissions at Guantánamo, whose lawyers I have met with, spoken with and occasionally briefed over the years, went for lunch, prior to Debra and I making our way to Busboys and Poets at 5th and K, for a screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary film that I co-directed with Polly Nash. The film, it seems, never fails to convey to audiences the tragic human cost of Guantánamo, as is made particularly clear in the testimony of former prisoner and British resident Omar Deghayes, whose statements are at the heart of the film. Read the rest of this entry »
See the entire event on C-SPAN here (and also via UStream below, from the website of the New America Foundation, where it was later replaced by a YouTube version, made available at the foot of this article).
On the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Bush administration’s prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which belonged to George W. Bush for seven of those ten years, but has belonged to Barack Obama for the last three, there is no reason for anyone with a heart, a conscience or a respect for America and the rule of law to be cheerful.
On Tuesday lunchtime, however, as part of my ongoing US tour, when I met up, at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C. with Tom Wilner, Counsel of Record in the Guantánamo prisoners’ habeas corpus cases in the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008, and Col. Morris Davis, the former chief prosecutor of the Military Commissions at Guantánamo, who resigned in 2007 in protest at the use of torture, Col. Davis found it impossible not to crack a joke about it. “We must stop meeting like this,” he said, referring to the fact that, exactly a year ago, he and Tom and I were on a panel discussing Guantánamo on the 9th anniversary of its opening. Read the rest of this entry »
Last week, when the Senate voted, by 93 votes to 7, to pass the latest National Defense Authorization Act (PDF), they passed legislation that not only approved a budget of $662 billion in military spending for the next fiscal year, but also demanded mandatory military custody for all terror suspects seized in future.
The military custody provisions were conceived, in a secretive manner, by the Senate Armed Services Committee, which also updated previous provisions preventing the closure of Guantánamo. This was achieved through two measures: banning the use of funds to purchase or adapt any other prison to hold the 82 prisoners that the Obama administration has said it wants to hold (for trial or indefinite detention), and imposing conditions on the transfer of any of the other 89 prisoners that the administration does not want to hold.
These designations were made through the careful deliberations of the interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force established by President Obama, which included career officials and lawyers not only from various government departments, but also from the intelligence agencies. However, while critics on the left and the right have long criticized any plan to move prisoners from Guantánamo to the US mainland, Congressional restrictions on releasing prisoners have become progressively more onerous over the last two years, since lawmakers first voted to prevent Guantánamo prisoners from being brought to the US mainland for any reason, except to face a trial. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday the shameful dinosaurs of the Senate — hopelessly out of touch with reality, for the most part, and haunted by specters of their own making — approved, by 93 votes to 7, the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (PDF), which contains a number of astonishingly alarming provisions — Sections 1031 and 1032, designed to make mandatory the indefinite military detention of terror suspects until the end of hostilities in a “war on terror” that seems to have no end (if they are identified as a member of al-Qaeda or an alleged affiliate, or have planned or carried out an attack on the United States), ending a long and entirely appropriate tradition of trying terror suspects in federal court for their alleged crimes, and Sections 1033 and 1034, which seek to prevent the closure of Guantánamo by imposing onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners, and banning the use of funds to purchase an alternative prison anywhere else. I have previously remarked on these depressing developments in articles in July and October, as they have had a horribly long period of gestation, in which no one with a grip on reality — and admiration for the law — has been able to wipe them out.
The four sections are connected, as cheerleaders for the mandatory military detention of terror suspects want them to be sent to Guantánamo, and have done, if I recall correctly, at least since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed Christmas plane bomber in 2009, was arrested, read his Miranda rights, and interrogated by the FBI. Recently, Abdulmutallab, who told his interrogators all they wanted to know without being held in military custody — and, for that matter, without being tortured, which is what the hardcore cheerleaders for military detention also want — was tried and convicted in a federal court.
Hundreds of other terror suspects have been successfully prosecuted in federal court, throughout the Bush years, and under Obama, but supporters of military custody like to forget this, as it conflicts with their notions, held since the aftermath of 9/11 and the Bush administration’s horrendous flight from the law, that terrorists are warriors. Underpinning it all is the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), the founding document of the “war on terror,” passed the week after the 9/11 attacks. This authorizes the President to pursue anyone, anywhere who he thinks was involved in the 9/11 attacks, and it is a dreadfully open-ended excuse for endless war whose repeal I have long encouraged, but which some lawmakers have been itching to renew, even after the death of Osama bin Laden, and the obvious incentives for the winding-down of the ruinous, decade-long “war on terror.” Read the rest of this entry »
“Some issues,” the New York Times declared in an editorial on June 25, “require an unwavering stand. Preserving the role of law enforcement agencies in stopping and punishing terrorists is one of them. This country is not and should never be a place where the military dispenses justice, other than to its own.”
Fine words, indeed, although the Times itself has, over the last ten years, in common with most, if not all of the American establishment, failed to thoroughly and repeatedly condemn efforts, first by George W. Bush, and then by the Obama administration, to hold military trials for the mixed bag of soldiers and terrorist suspects held at Guantánamo.
This is where the rot set in, for which everyone in a position of authority, whether in politics or the media, bears responsibility. However, the failure to stem the poison flowing from this wound to the established order — in which terrorists are criminals, and soldiers are not terrorists — has led to an outrageous situation in which lawmakers (both Republicans and Democrats) have decided that the aberrations introduced by the Bush administration, which should, by now, have been thoroughly discredited, were, instead, just the first steps in the creation of an all-encompassing military state.
In this dystopian future, coming to America within months, if lawmakers are successful, anyone regarded as a terrorist must be held in military detention, where, it is planned, they may be subjected to abuse with impunity, and, if required, held forever without a trial and without any rights. Read the rest of this entry »
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