I’m Back, and Catching Up on Two Weeks of Guantánamo and Torture


Yesterday, I was in Napoli, sipping sweet, strong coffee, munching on a sfogliatella (delicious ricotta and candied fruit wrapped in a flaky pastry shell), and sweating in the humid 35-degree heat from which there was little or no escape. A week in this mind-bending city — crumbling and filthy, on the one hand, but proud, vibrant and anarchic on the other — followed a far less challenging week in the pretty, white-washed, hill-top towns of Puglia, on the Adriatic coast, and throughout this whole adventure I resisted the urge to keep up with developments at Guantánamo and in the wider “War on Terror,” and chose instead to immerse myself in the much-needed company of family and friends, to relax, to explore new places, and to dare to dream. It was my longest period away from work since I first began working full-time on Guantánamo in March 2006.

On my return, I find that little has actually happened while I’ve been away. An important Associated Press story that broke as I left for the airport two weeks ago — following up on a report about secret CIA prisons in Poland and Romania, and confirming the existence of a secret CIA prison at Guantánamo between September 2003 and March 2004 — fell on largely deaf ears, which ought to confirm how apathy has become the prevailing characteristic of the Obama years.

Elsewhere, there were no habeas corpus wins or losses for the Guantánamo prisoners, no prisoners were released, and the only action took place in the Military Commissions, where the trial of Omar Khadr was delayed after his military lawyer collapsed, and where Ibrahim al-Qosi, a former driver for Osama bin Laden, received a 14-year sentence that will be reduced after a secretive plea bargain. Just a few days before my return, the new commander of Guantánamo, Adm. Jeffrey Harbeson, revealed how much the closure of Guantánamo has slipped off the radar, stating that he has no idea when he will receive an order to close the prison, seven months after President Obama missed his self-imposed deadline for its closure, and 19 months after he came to office offering such high hopes for a swift end to the Bush administration’s malign project of torture, rendition, secret prisons and imprisonment without charge or trial.

In the days to come, I will be dealing with these topics, and also working with Cageprisoners to publicize the stories of the remaining 176 prisoners at Guantánamo, in the hope of providing a reminder that — less than three weeks before the 9th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — ignoring Guantánamo will not make this bleak icon of the Bush administration’s incompetence, cruelty and lawlessness go away.

In the meantime, if you want to catch an interview I did with Scott Horton of Antiwar Radio, just before I went away, it’s here, along with a convenient transcript.

I’d like to say that it’s good to be back, but it doesn’t feel like it at present. I’m glad to be re-establishing contact with all my readers and friends, and hope that the summer has been treating you well, but I have to admit that I feel somewhat daunted by the struggle ahead, and disturbed and disappointed that there’s still so much work to be done to close Guantánamo and to call the Bush administration’s torturers to account. In a dream world, I’d head back to Napoli for coffee, cakes and the most wonderful pizzas, but this isn’t a dream, and even the best holidays must come to an end. More hard work lies ahead, and I hope you’ll be along for the ride.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

9 Responses

  1. Norwegian Shooter says...

    Welcome back! I hope it gives you a boost of energy to say that you are a vitally important resource to help end the almost 9 year lawlessness of the US government. You’re fighting the good fight, for sure.

    I also noticed the MIA AP report. I wanted a non-Google/AP link, because they expire after 30 days – an awful shame – so I quoted the first paragraph and searched News. The biggest newspaper I found was the Tri-City Herald from Richland etc. WA. (south central – where all the nuclear stuff is) Now I just found out that expired too. So I tried several sentences from the report and MSNBC seems to be the only one besides the AP/Google. Amazing!

    PS – your shorter footer is great.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Norwegian Shooter. Your supportive comments are much appreciated!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Here are a few messages from Facebook:

    A Pierre Yurovski wrote:

    I’m so fed up with Obama not closing our modern day Manzanar, I really am.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Redjade InHungary wrote:

    Welcome back, I look forward to reading your posts and comments

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Carol Anne Graham wrote:

    Welcome back, Andy!

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Yusuf Mohammed Abdullah wrote:

    Welcome back Andy, have missed you.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Mui J. Steph wrote:

    Glad you’re back Andy. Don’t you know? We so-called lefties are to blame for all the Obama administration’s problems. Yes, the WH has taken that tack. It’s like the WH has driven a wedge between themselves and us, the general population, getting us further from closing Gitmo, among other things. It’s positively Nixonian if you ask me.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevin Underwood wrote:

    Thanks for all you do. You’re a hero.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Willy Bach wrote:

    Andy, I was beginning to worry that something had happened to you. Something did — an excess of pastry. Welcome back. Thanks for the hard work, you did deserve a rest, re-connecting with family, the odd nervous breakdown. Thanks.

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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, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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