I’m honoured that the investigative journalist Kevin Gosztola has promoted “Song for Shaker Aamer,” played by my band The Four Fathers, as his “Protest Song of the Week” on Shadowproof, the website he set up three months ago, after FireDogLake, where he’d been working for several years, ceased operations.
It is wonderful to have a serious political website actively promoting protest music, as the gutting of politics from music is one of the more baleful developments in the dumbing-down of culture over the last two decades. Growing up in the late 70s and early 80s, politics permeated music. A common reference point was the social and political upheaval of the 1960s, and my adolescence also coincided with the politics of the punk and post-punk period, with particularly significant songs being the Clash’s “London Calling” and the Specials’ “Ghost Town.”
I’m delighted that “Song for Shaker Aamer” is being celebrated by Shadowproof. Check out the other “Protest Songs of the Week” here, including, recently, “Omar” by “riot folk” singer-songwriter Ryan Harvey, about the refugee crisis, and “Innocent Criminals” by the Palestinian hip-hop group DAM. Read the rest of this entry »
Just a quick note to let you all know that, on Saturday, my band The Four Fathers were filmed playing a revised version of my “Song for Shaker Aamer,” to reflect Shaker’s release from Guantánamo on Friday.
Primarily, it was heartening for me to change the words of the chorus from the present to the past tense, but also not to have to sing, any more, that he was “stuck in a cell alone, although the US says it wants to let him go.”
Here’s the revised chorus:
They chained your body but they could not chain your mind
You told truth to power
Even though you were behind the wire
The recorded version of the song (featuring Shaker’s voice, recorded in Guantánamo) is featured on our debut album, “Love and War,” and is available as a download — for 80p ($1.23), although you can pay more if you like. 25% of the takings will be donated to Shaker’s family.
To coincide with some renewed activity in connection with the Bush administration’s torture program — namely, the ACLU suing James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, the former military psychologists who set up the program — I’m taking the opportunity to make available a video of my song ‘81 Million Dollars‘ about the torture program, and about Mitchell and Jessen.
$81m is the amount Mitchell and Jessen were paid for taking their experience as psychologists involved in the US military’s SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) program — which involved subjecting US personnel to torture to prepare them if they were seized by a hostile enemy — and reverse-engineering it for use in real-life situations, something for which they were abjectly unqualified.
The result, as the executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s CIA torture report made clear last December, was unspeakably brutal and pointless, producing no information that could not have been produced without the use of torture. It also involved the CIA lying about its actions.
See below for the video, of myself and Richard Clare of my band The Four Fathers, playing the song last month while my friend Todd Pierce (the former military defense attorney who represented Guantánamo prisoners in their military commission trials) was staying with me. Please note also that the version by the full band is available here on Bandcamp, where those interested can buy it for just 60p ($0.93), or as part of the whole of our album ‘Love and War’ — as a download or on CD. Read the rest of this entry »
Many thanks to RT for their excellent coverage of Thursday’s press launch, opposite Parliament, of the Fast For Shaker campaign set up by myself and Joanne MacInnes, the founders of the We Stand With Shaker Campaign that we launched 11 months ago, with a giant inflatable figure of the last British resident in Guantánamo that grabbed people’s attention, with celebrities and MPs happy to Stand With Shaker and to call for his release, as the years roll on since he was first approved for release — in 2007 under George W. Bush, and in 2009 under Barack Obama.
I was fasting on Thursday, with 75 other people around the world — a few of whom were also in London for the launch, including Jo — and it was quite demanding, as a result, running around trying to make sure it all ran smoothly, although I’m glad to say it did. See my photos here, and my report here.
RT interviewed me, John McDonnell, the comedian Sara Pascoe, and Shaker’s father-in-law Saeed Siddique, and I recommend all those interviews as well as the interview with the actor and director Mark Rylance, who took place a few days before. Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday was busy. In the morning, there was a meeting of the All-Party Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group, chaired by David Davis MP, with Andrew Mitchell, Andy Slaughter, Tania Mathias and other MPs attending, and representatives of Reprieve, Amnesty International UK (and Naureen Shah visiting from Amnesty International USA), the Save Shaker Aamer Campaign, the London Guantánamo Campaign and Joanne MacInnes and myself from We Stand With Shaker.
I then cycled to Kensington to be interviewed on London Live, the TV channel of Evgeny Lebedev, owner of the Independent and the Evening Standard, by presenter Reya El-Salahi prior to tomorrow’s launch. This was a great little interview, in which I was able to run through why Joanne and I set up Fast For Shaker, launching outside Parliament (in Old Palace Yard by the George V statue) at 1pm on October 15, an initiative that involves asking celebrities, MPs and concerned citizens around the world to fast for Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, who’s taking part, and what it might mean for Shaker’s family in Battersea.
The interview is posted below, and I hope you have time to watch it, and to share it if you find it useful: Read the rest of this entry »
Yesterday morning, I appeared on the Victoria Derbyshire show on BBC2, to discuss the launch of Fast For Shaker, the new initiative launched by activist Joanne MacInnes and I, the co-directors of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, calling for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison. I’m delighted to report that over 200 people — 188 on the calendar, plus others on the celebrity schedule — have so signed up to Fast For Shaker. The relay fast, with people pledging to fast for 24 hours on a day of their choice — and with a commitment to continue until Shaker is released — begins on Thursday October 15.
When I posted it on Facebook, I wrote, “Follow the link and see a two-minute clip of me on Victoria Derbyshire’s show on BBC2 this morning, talking about Shaker Aamer, as the co-founder of the We Stand With Shaker campaign, my hopes that he will be released from Guantánamo within the next two weeks, and our determination to keep pressure on the Obama administration to honour its commitment to release him as soon as the 30-day notification to Congress is up, which we’re doing by encouraging supporters to Fast With Shaker, who is on a hunger strike, for a 24-hour period starting on Thursday.”
The entire show is also on iPlayer for the next month, starting at 36:15 and ending at 43:45. Read the rest of this entry »
The last week has been so busy for me with developments relating to the announcement of the imminent release of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in Guantánamo, that I didn’t have time to cover the Labour Party Conference, and to express my delight at seeing Jeremy Corbyn as the new leader of the Party and John McDonnell as the shadow chancellor delivering their message of hope and change — yes, really! — to the conference.
Jeremy’s election, by a landslide, came about because of his refreshing honesty and decency, something that I know about through following his work for many years — and that of John McDonnell, his closest Parliamentary colleague — and being involved with them in the campaign to free Shaker Aamer (John set up the Shaker Aamer Parliamentary Group last November, and Jeremy, as a member, visited Washington D.C. in May as part of a cross-party group of MPs calling for Shaker’s release). It is fair to say that everyone who cares about injustice — in issues of social justice, the unfettered greed of the banks and the housing market, the persecution of minorities, workers’ rights, and many more issues — will have discovered over the years that John and Jeremy have taken up their cause, along with another indefatigable opponent of injustice, Caroline Lucas, Britain’s sole Green MP.
It has been wonderfully refreshing to know that, everywhere I go, people I know and care about are delighted that Jeremy has been elected, and are also delighted that John is the shadow chancellor. 60,000 people have joined the Labour Party since Jeremy’s victory on 12 September, and his appeal to the young and the disenfranchised and those fed up with the greed and cynicism of most politicians means that he might well be able to draw in a significant number of the 15.7 million people in the UK who don’t vote. There are, I think it’s fair to say, millions of us in this country who care about all kinds of injustice that are firmly established in the political status quo, and finally we have elected representatives taking on the government and presenting an alternative view that is so refreshing that I can’t help reflecting regularly on the fact that there has been no robust opposition to the prevailing neo-liberal world view, with its focus on selfishness and enriching the rich, since before Tony Blair became the leader of the Labour Party over 20 years ago. Read the rest of this entry »
I’ve just launched a YouTube channel for my band The Four Fathers. We’re based in Lewisham, in south east London, and we’re four fathers, as the name suggests — myself on lead vocals and guitar, Richard Clare on guitar and backing vocals, Bren Horstead on drums and percussion and Andrew Fifield on flute and harmonica — plus, last but by no means least, Louis Sills-Clare, Richard’s son, on bass.
The first video I’ve uploaded (see below) features myself and Richard Clare playing an acoustic version of ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, the song I wrote last year that was used in the campaign video for We Stand With Shaker, the campaign I launched last November with my activist friend Joanne MacInnes, which has just met with considerable success, as it was announced on Friday that Shaker will soon be released, after nearly 14 years in US custody without charge or trial, and over eight years since he was first told that he would be freed.
The version played by the full band is the opening track on The Four Fathers’ debut album, ‘Love and War,’ which we released on CD in July. It’s available here as a download, for 80p ($1.25), although you can pay more if you want, and 25% of the money received will be donated to Shaker’s family. The other songs on the album are also available to download for 60p ($0.93) each, or you can buy the whole eight-track album as a download for £4.50 ($7) or on CD, with two extra tracks, for £7 ($10.85). As with ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’, you can pay more if you wish for any of the songs or for the album, and if you do so that will be very greatly appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »
I remember, ten years ago, being profoundly shocked by the almost indescribably inept response of the Bush administration to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which struck New Orleans on August 29, 2005, and thinking that it showed two things above all: firstly, that racism remained a horrendous blight on the nation, as it was New Orleans’ poor and black population that suffered the most, and that, I was convinced, would be socially cleansed as the clean-up began; and, secondly, that this is what happens when governments put private profit and the slashing of federal budgets before the common good.
I recall, in particular, the tens of thousands of displaced residents crammed into the Superdome in apocalyptic fashion, as though the US was some sort of failed state, and the incongruous images of soldiers with guns treating citizens as criminal suspects as a humanitarian disaster engulfed the city because of incidences of looting in some of the few parts of the city that were not drowning.
In all, the flooding from Hurricane Katrina led to about 80% of New Orleans being submerged. More than 400,000 residents were displaced out of a total population of about 470,000, and 1,800 people died across the whole of the Gulf Coast hit by the hurricane. The economic cost was around $100bn, but figures don’t reveal the human cost of the destroyed and displaced lives, or, indeed, the cost to the credibility of the Bush administration, which callously showed the American people and the world how little it cared about poor black people in New Orleans. Read the rest of this entry »
Last Saturday, the new Tory government was confronted by a massive anti-austerity protest, when 250,000 people marched through central London to express their dissatisfaction and disgust with the current political situation — one in which a party that gained the support of just 24.4% of the electorate, and 36.1% of those who voted, nevertheless secured 50.9% of the seats, and is committed to more of the ruinous policies implemented over the last five years — more privatisation of essential public services, including the NHS and our schools, more persecution of the poor, the unemployed and the disabled, and more enriching of the already rich, widening the chasm between the rich and poor with every day that passes.
I wrote about the anti-austerity march here and here, and my photos from the day are on Flickr here, and I hope that another opportunity for people to express their rage in significant numbers will be organised in the not too distant future. We need to meet up regularly, to reassure ourselves that we are many, and they are few, and to find ways in which we can work towards the creation of a better world.
At the end of the march last Saturday, protestors filled Parliament Square, where a succession of speakers addressed the crowd, including Labour leadership contender (and We Stand With Shaker supporter) Jeremy Corbyn, Owen Jones, Mark Steel, Caroline Lucas and Russell Brand. Also speaking was Charlotte Church, the Welsh singer-songwriter, actress and television presenter, who was a child star as a classical singer, and who delivered a powerful speech against austerity and in defense of public services. I’m posting the video of her speech below, as well as a transcript of it from her website: Read the rest of this entry »
Writer, campaigner, investigative journalist and commentator. 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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