On Sunday I got back from my US tour to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, which was on January 11, and I’m posting the video below of a powerful event I took part in during my visit — a panel discussion, on “Trump, Torture and Guantánamo” (and Barack Obama’s legacy) at Revolution Books in Harlem.
I was delighted to take part in the event with another speaker I had invited, Ramzi Kassem, a law professor at City University of New York (CUNY), with whom I have appeared at events many times before (see here, for example), and who, back in 2012, provided me exclusively with unclassified notes of meetings with Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, which I published on my website and on the website of the Close Guantánamo campaign that I co-founded with the attorney Tom Wilner in January 2012, marking the 10th anniversary of the prison’s opening.
Because of the uncertainties surrounding the transition from Barack Obama’s presidency to that of Donald Trump’s, I was involved in fewer events than usual on this visit — my seventh in a row to coincide with the anniversary of Guantánamo’s opening, all of which have been arranged by Debra Sweet of the World Can’t Wait — although everything I took part in was extremely worthwhile. I have previously posted the video of my speech outside the Supreme Court on Jan. 11, and the video of the panel discussion I initiated on Jan. 11 at New America, which also featured Tom Wilner, former Congressman Jim Moran, and Rosa Brooks and Peter Bergen of New America, and I’m pleased to be posting the video below, via Vimeo: Read the rest of this entry »
On Wednesday, I was outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. for the annual protest against the continued existence of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, with representatives from rights groups including Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, plus some powerful spoken word pieces by The Peace Poets.
I spoke about the double disappointment of this depressing anniversary, with Obama just days away from failing to fulfill the promise to close Guantánamo that he made on his second day in office nearly eight years ago, and Donald Trump about to take the prison over with his wild promises to “load it up with some bad dudes,” and I urged those gathered to make it a priority, from Day One of the Trump presidency, to demand that Trump frees those men still held who have been approved for release (19 at present, although we are told that between 13 and 15 will be freed by Obama in his last week), and also to demand that he continues with the latest review process, the Periodic Review Boards, for which 26 of the remaining 55 prisoners continue to be eligible.
The PRBs, which function like parole boards, have reviewed the cases of 64 men in the last three years, and 38 have been approved for release. The 26 other men had their ongoing imprisonment upheld, but their cases are regularly reviewed, and some of them will almost certainly also be approved for release — unless Trump repeals Obama’s 2011 executive order establishing the PRBs. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday was the 15th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and a typically busy day for me. My seventh annual visit to Washington, D.C. to call for the closure of Guantánamo on the anniversary began with a protest outside the Supreme Court with representatives from rights groups including Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. As usual, there were speakers from all the groups involved, plus some powerful spoken word pieces by The Peace Poets, and video of my talk will hopefully be available soon.
The day continued with a panel discussion, Guantánamo Bay: Year 15, at New America, with my friend and colleague Tom Wilner, counsel of record to the Guantánamo prisoners in their Supreme Court cases in 2004 and 2008, with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign five years ago, Jim Moran, former congressional representative for Virginia’s 8th district and a longtime opponent of Guantánamo, and Rosa Brooks, a Senior ASU Future of War Fellow at New America who also served in the Obama administration. The moderator was Peter Bergen, the Vice President of New America and the Director of the International Security Program.
I’m pleased to report that the panel discussion was streamed live, and that a video is available on YouTube. It’s cross-posted below and I do hope you have time to watch it, and to share it if you find it useful. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
I wrote the following article (as “New Close Guantánamo Video Reminds President Obama He Has Just 70 Days Left to Close the Prison Before He Leaves Office”) for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.
Video features photos of some of the 500+ celebrities and concerned citizens who have sent in photos this year for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, and a new song, “Close Guantánamo,” by The Four Fathers.
Following the news that Donald Trump has won the Presidential Election, the Close Guantánamo campaign has launched a new promotional video, urging President Obama to do all he can to fulfill the promise to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay that he made on his second day in office back in January 2009.
We believe that the need to close the prison is more urgent than ever, given that, on the campaign trail, Donald Trump promised to keep Guantánamo open, to send new prisoners there, and to reintroduce torture.
Yesterday, I visited Shaker Aamer at his home in London, to record a short video message to President Obama, of Shaker urging the president to close the the US prison at Guantánamo Bay before he leaves office in January.
Shaker was the last British resident in Guantánamo until his release last October, and I, along with many others, worked hard to secure his release — via the We Stand With Shaker campaign, the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign and the London Guantánamo Campaign, and through working with supportive MPs and the media.
The video I recorded yesterday was for the Close Guantánamo campaign that I set up in January 2012 with the US attorney Tom Wilner, and, specifically, for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative that I launched in January this year with music legend Roger Waters (ex-Pink Floyd). Read the rest of this entry »
Just before my recent fortnight’s holiday in Spain with my family, I was interviewed by the long-standing liberal radio host Peter B. Collins, on America’s West Coast, for a new feature, Newsbud Report, on former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds’ Boiling Frogs Post website.
The Newsbud Report is recorded via Skype, taking the form of a video interview rather than the audio interviews we’re all so used to. And I suspect that it’s a very helpful innovation. The video of our 20-minute interview, on YouTube, is posted below, and I’m pleased to see that it has already received over 1,800 views.
Last week, I was delighted to take part in an hour-long Guantánamo special on RT America, presented by Simone del Rosario, who had recently visited the prison. Simone began by noting that it was the tenth anniversary of three deaths at Guantánamo — 22-year old Yasser Talal al-Zahrani, a Saudi, who was just 17 years old when he was seized in Afghanistan at the end of 2001, 37-year old Salah Ahmed al-Salami (aka Ali al-Salami), a Yemeni, and 30-year old Mani Shaman al-Utaybi, another Saudi.
The deaths were described by the authorities as a triple suicide, but there have always been doubts about that being feasible — doubts that were particularly highlighted in 2010, when the law professor and journalist Scott Horton wrote an alternative account for Harper’s Magazine, “The Guantánamo Suicides,” that drew in particular on a compelling counter-narrative presented by Staff Sgt. Joseph Hickman, who had been in the prison at the time of the men’s deaths, monitoring activities from the guard towers. Hickman’s book Murder in Camp Delta was published in January 2015, and he was also a contributor to RT America’s show.
After this opening, the show dealt in detail with the case of Mohamedou Ould Slahi, Mauritanian national, torture victim and best-selling author (of Guantánamo Diary). Slahi is one of the prisoners still held who were designated for prosecution by the Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after first taking office in January 2009, until the basis for prosecutions largely collapsed after a number of critical appeals court rulings and he was, instead, put forward for a Periodic Review Board, the latest review process, which began at the end of 2013. Slahi’s PRB took place on June 2, and, in discussing his case, Simone del Rosario also spoke to one of his attorneys, Nancy Hollander. Read the rest of this entry »
Next Saturday, February 13, my band The Four Fathers are playing a gig at Vinyl, a wonderful record shop with an old school rock and roll basement located at the bottom of Tanners Hill in Deptford, in south east London. The full address is 4 Tanners Hill, London SE8 4PJ, phone number 07930 421113. There’ll be a bar, plus tea and coffee and some special pre-Valentine’s Day snacks, so if you’re anywhere near, come and check out our rocking, roots reggae sounds first-hand! If you’re coming, please let us know on the Facebook page (just click “Going”).
The gig is free, and we’ll be playing our first set — of topical songs about love and loss — at 8pm. At 8.30 there’ll be a beatboxing set from my son Tyler (aka the Wiz-RD), and at 9pm we’ll be playing a political set of original songs including live favourite Fighting Injustice, Tory Bullshit Blues, Song for Shaker Aamer (featured in the video for the We Stand With Shaker campaign), 81 Million Dollars (about the US torture program) and several brand-new songs, including Riot and London, which we played live for the first time at our recent gigs at Deptford Cinema and at the Bird’s Nest, also in Deptford, and guitarist Richard Clare’s song She’s Back, about Pussy Riot.
Below, I’m re-posting a video I made available yesterday of me singing “Song for Shaker Aamer” at an event in Washington, D.C., after I had also spoken about the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, during my recent US tour to call for the closure of Guantánamo on and around the 14th anniversary of its opening. The version I played has lyrics I amended to reflect Shaker’s release in October, and I hope we’ll be able to record the new version in the not too distant future. Read the rest of this entry »
On January 10, while I was in Washington, D.C. as part of a short tour to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the 14th anniversary of its opening, I was delighted to be asked to speak at “Visions of Homecoming: Close Guantanamo!” an event put together by Witness Against Torture and Code Pink, and also featuring Bronx-based spoken word performers The Peace Poets.
The event — at a place called Impact Hub DC, around the corner from the church where the Witness Against Torture activists were staying — was mainly to recall the visit the groups made to Cuba, in November, to call for the closure of Guantánamo, and also to prepare us all for the protest outside the White House the day after, and I was honored that I was asked to also talk about the success of the campaign to free Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, and in particular my work with the We Stand With Shaker campaign, which I set up in November 2014 with the activist Joanne MacInnes.
After a short discussion of the campaign, I also played an acoustic version of “Song for Shaker Aamer,” the song I wrote and recorded with my band The Four Fathers, which was featured in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker. Since Shaker’s release, I have amended the words to reflect his freedom, and this was the version I played. 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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