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Podcast: I Discuss the UK’s General Election, Warmongering, Protest and Julian Assange’s Release with Andy Bungay

25.7.24

Linking to and discussing an interview with Andy Bungay of Riverside Radio, which I’ve published as a podcast on my YouTube channel. In the 50-minute interview, recorded on July 13, and featured on Andy’s weekly show, we spoke about the UK General Election, and my relief at being rid of the cruel, corrupt and incompetent post-Brexit Tories. However, I also expressed my doubts about the incoming Labour government led by Keir Starmer, with worries about his authoritarianism, his approach to protest (and here I discussed the recent draconian sentencing of five climate activists for a Zoom call), and his support for war in Ukraine and Israel’s genocide in Gaza. We also spoke about the new political landscape in the UK — or England in particular — where there are now five main parties, but they are not adequately represented in Parliament because of the antiquated and unjust ‘First Past the Post’ voting system, and how we desperately need a proportional representation system to properly reflect voters’ choices. We also spoke about the release of WikiLeaks’ founder Julian Assange, after five years fighting extradition in Belmarsh, and how his release was a ray of light in an otherwise darkening world, and we also spoke about the ongoing injustices of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, where 30 men are still held, 16 of whom have long been approved for release.

What Now, After the World Court Condemns As Unlawful Israel’s Entire 57-Year Occupation of the Palestinian Territories?

23.7.24

My report on a devastating advisory opinion on July 19 by the International Court of Justice regarding Israel’s presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip) over the last 57 years, and concluding that it is, and always has been in contravention of international humanitarian law. Despite the unprecedented breadth and depth of the opinion, Israel has been ignoring rulings, opinions and resolutions regarding the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 1967, and yet nothing has led to it ever being restrained. This opinion needs to be followed by sanctions — hopefully via the UN General Assembly — or international humanitarian law and the United Nations itself will end up throughly discredited.

After Punitive Sentences of Climate Activists, Labour Must Repeal the Tories’ Draconian Anti-Protest Laws

19.7.24

My response to the draconian and vindictive sentences — the longest ever handed down in the UK for non-violent protest — delivered by a British judge, Christopher Hehir, to five climate activists yesterday. Their crime? Taking part in a Zoom call to plan disruption to the M25 to highlight the climate crisis and to get the British government to commit to a ban on new oil and gas extraction in the UK. The sentences — of four and five years — are, as Michel Forst, the UN rapporteur for environmental defenders, explained, “purely punitive and repressive.” The reason Judge Hehir was empowered to deliver such punitive sentences was because of two horrendous Acts of Parliament, passed by the recently departed Conservative government, via two malignant home secretaries, Priti Patel and Suella Braverman, which specifically targeted the right to protest, and essentially criminalised non-violent, mildly disruptive protest. This legislation needs to be overturned by the new Labour government, but as I explain in my article, I fear that “Keir Starmer — and Yvette Cooper, the new home secretary — fundamentally share the contempt Patel and Braverman had for any kind of protest that causes any kind of inconvenience whatsoever.” The right to engage in non-violent, mildly disruptive protest is at the heart of what separates supposed liberal democracies from autocratic regimes, and it is crucial that it is upheld in the UK, because, otherwise, those engaged in its suppression, to preserve a cosy capitalist status quo, are failing to accept that it is precisely this status quo that is killing us all, because, as I also explain, “man-made climate collapse is the greatest threat humanity has ever known, as is demonstrably true, and as is becoming ever more apparent with every passing day.”

Slow Murder at Guantánamo as Profoundly Disabled Torture Victim Is Sentenced to Another Eight Years

16.7.24

Examining yet another facet of the ongoing chronic injustice at Guantánamo — the recent sentencing, for war crimes, of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, Guantánamo’s most profoundly disabled prisoner, who suffers from a chronic degenerative spinal disease, which, despite seven operations at the prison, has not been adequately resolved, and will in all probability eventually leave him paralyzed. A 62- or 63-year old Iraqi Kurd, whose real name is Nashwan al-Tamir, al-Iraqi has been held at Guantánamo for over 17 years, after being held in a CIA “black site” for six months. Although the US authorities initially tried to tie him to Al-Qaeda and terrorism, the main charges against him ended up relating to his time as a military commander in Afghanistan at the time of the US-led occupation. At his sentencing, al-Iraqi was profoundly apologetic to the family members of those who were killed as a result of his orders in Afghanistan; however, the military jury delivered the maximum sentence, of 30 years, although this was reduced to ten years via a plea deal he agreed to two years ago. Nevertheless, this means that he will not be released until 2032, which still seems hugely punitive, given his contrition, his medical condition, and the fact that, when his sentence ends, he will have been held for 26 years in total.

Radio: I Discuss the Death of the Tories, Labour’s Dubious Victory and Israel’s Guantánamo with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

12.7.24

My recent interview with Chris Cook, on his Gorilla Radio show in western Canada, about the UK’s recent General Election, and also about Israel’s horrendous prisons for Palestinians, following the release of a particular prisoner, Moazzaz Obayat (also identified as Muazzam Obayat), horribly broken by torture, who compared the prisons to Guantánamo. As I explained to Chris, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that they’re even worse.

Horror Beyond Comprehension: Gaza Death Toll Realistically Assessed At 186,000, But Could Be As High As 600,000

11.7.24

My analysis and endorsement of the evidently reasonable assessment, by three health experts, in a letter to The Lancet, that the true death toll in Gaza massively exceeds the 37,396 direct deaths, as most recently reported last month, because of the indirect deaths involved in every conflict — those resulting from disease, the destruction of health facilities, and the absence of food and water, for example — and may be at least 186,000, if not many more. It’s somewhat surprising that it’s taken so long for medical experts to make an assessment, given the long history of research into indirect deaths, which has established that indirect deaths in the ‘90s and 2000s were “between three and 15 times the number of direct deaths.” The experts chose a ratio of 4:1, but, had they chosen 15:1, the estimate for the total number of dead would be 600,000. Shamefully, the western media have almost entirely ignored the assessment, but it’s important that those of us who care about bringing Israel’s genocide to an end publicize it as much as possible, to try to maintain pressure to end this unforgivable slaughter.

Photos and Report: The Ten Coordinated Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo on July 3, 2024

7.7.24

Photos from, and my report about the ten vigils for the closure of Guantánamo that took place across the US and around the world on July 3, 2024, the latest in an ongoing series of monthly coordinated global vigils that began last year. The vigils take place on the first Wednesday of every month, and the next date is August 7.

Despite the Landslide, Labour Have No Vision and Only Won the UK General Election Because the Tories Lost So Spectacularly

5.7.24

My analysis of yesterday’s General Election in the UK, which, after 14 years, swept aside the Tories, and ushered in a Labour government under Keir Starmer, with a huge but disproportionate majority that didn’t reflect the number of votes received (less than Jeremy Corbyn in 2017 and 2019), but rather the collapse of the Tories, finally undone after years of cruelty, incompetence and corruption, and facilitated by the sudden rise of Nigel Farage’s far-right Reform UK Party, which helpfully split the right-wing vote. Wonderful though it is to see the back of the Tories, and also to see noticeable successes for the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats, and a number of independents including Jeremy Corbyn, power is now in the hands of Starmer and his cabinet, including his Chancellor Rachel Reeves, who secured victory despite having almost no policies that distinguish them from the Tories. I discuss my many concerns, criticising Labour’s adherence to neoliberalism, and urging it to be bold on re-nationalisation (especially of water), and expressing my shock that Starmer has so openly declared his opposition to any kind of rapprochement with the EU, even though Brexit has done more to damage the UK than anything else over the last eight years, wrecking trade, and leading to a disgraceful rise in racism, which, in the hands of the Tories’ parade of leaders in the years since, led to a morally repugnant fixation on making it illegal to be a refugee, and seeking to send asylum seekers on a one-way trip to Rwanda. I hope this anti-immigrant hostility will be abandoned, and I also hope that other draconian Tory innovations — in particular, an attempt to ban all meaningful protest, through the criminalisation of climate activism — will be ditched, although on this particular point I fear that Starmer, as the former Director of Public Prosecutions, has troubling authoritarian impulses that may not augur well for civil liberties. I also urge boldness — true boldness — on climate collapse, and end by expressing my fears for foreign policy under Starmer, most noticeably because of his uncritical support for Israel and its ongoing and unforgivable genocide in Gaza.

The Limits of Polite Dissent: The Massive But Largely Ignored ‘Restore Nature Now’ March in London, June 22, 2024

1.7.24

My report about ‘Restore Nature Now’, a massive march and rally in London on June 22 calling for the urgent protection of bio-diversity, which was initiated by the beloved environmentalist Chris Packham, but which, because it was family-friendly and non-confrontational, was almost completely ignored by the mainstream media, unlike the global coverage days before, when two Just Stop Oil activists sprayed harmless cornstarch-based orange paint on Stonehenge, and were compared to ISIS. Although catastrophic climate collapse is already happening — and much earlier than the warnings made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2018, when we were warned that we had until 2030 to reduce emissions by 45% by 2030 to keep alive the prospect of a liveable planet — climate protest is in a parlous state, either sidelined or ignored when it is peaceful, like ‘Restore Nature Now’, or subject to hysteria and hyperbolic outrage when it involves even the mildest disruptive forms of direct action, along with the almost certain prospect of arrest, and possibly prison sentences, because of draconian laws passed in recent years aimed solely at climate protestors. Reviewing the last three decades of climate protest, I conclude that direct action remains the best way to try to effect change, but I struggle to understand how it can be undertaken when it faces increasingly draconian responses from government, and continued indifference or psychopathic hostility from the media and from the bitter and twisted ‘armchair warriors’ of social media. We truly seem to be living in the most demented end times imaginable, just a few years away from major collapse, and yet still encouraged to consume like never before, not to question the insanity of our leaders’ inaction, nor to question their psychically broken response — not dealing with the threat, but instead transferring all our energies into hideous proxy wars, in Ukraine and in Gaza, while our leaders prop up a neoliberal model that is so broken that ordinary people, confused and angry, are everywhere retreating into the false comforting arms of fascists with their dangerous explanations that the blame lies entirely with “the other”: immigrants, Muslims, and, increasingly I fear, everyone on the left. This is not a comforting time to be alive, and those of us with functioning brains, and with empathy, need to start working together like never before to create genuine solidarity as our civilisations collapse and the far-right become ever more empowered.

Via a Fundamentally Devious US Plea Deal, Julian Assange Will Soon Be a Free Man

25.6.24

My response to the extraordinary and unexpected news that WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange has been freed from HMP Belmarsh, where he has been imprisoned for the last five years, fighting his proposed extradition to the US on entirely inappropriate espionage charges relating to the publication, with some of the world’s most prominent newspapers, of classified US files leaked by Chelsea Manning, and is en route to the Northern Mariana Islands, where he will sign a plea deal with the US authorities prior to his release in Australia as a free man. While no one with any compassion could begrudge Assange his freedom, it is, nevertheless, a devious victory on the part of the US government, which has obliged him, via the plea deal, to falsely admit that he “knowingly and unlawfully conspired with Chelsea Manning” to commit espionage against the United States by obtaining and disseminating classified national defence information. Although the deal appears to protect the precious US First Amendment, regarding the freedom of the press, shielding Assange’s mainstream media partners from being held criminally accountable for co-publishing the leaked files with WikiLeaks, which may have been the outcome had a trial gone ahead, it remains to be seen whether Assange’s plea will nevertheless have a chilling effect on journalists working with whistleblowers, who, in future, may fear working with sources exposing classified government information through a valid suspicion that they too may be held to have crossed some invisible line into espionage.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
Email Andy Worthington

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Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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