Video: Andy Worthington Tells President Obama Why His Failure to Close Guantánamo Is Akin to Dictatorship


“Andy Worthington rips President Obama for failing to close Guantánamo” is the heading that the Baltimore-based filmmaker Bill Hughes gave to his video of my speech outside the White House in Washington D.C. on Friday January 11, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo. The video is available on YouTube, and I’ve posted it below.

Bill filmed me as I addressed the passionate group of protestors — many in orange jumpsuits — who had gathered on President’s Park South (aka the Ellipse), just south of the White House, at the end of a march from the Supreme Court, when, inspired by the vigorous and almost palpable spirit of indignation that was the driver of the protests, I called on President Obama to fulfill the promise to close Guantánamo that he made when he took office four years ago, and was justifiably critical of the failure fog all three branches of the US government to deal with the poisonous legacy of Guantánamo with justice and fairness, instead demonstrating — in the administration, in Congress, and in the courts — a disgraceful combination of cowardice, indifference, and cynical obstruction and fearmongering.

I explained, with some passion, why the failure to fulfil the promise to close Guantánamo is disastrous, both in the present and in the future, because, now that he has won his second and final term in office, President Obama can no longer bury anything that it was inconvenient to discuss on the campaign trail, and, most significantly, his legacy is now being written. If he does nothing, he will be remembered as the President who promised to close Guantánamo, an internationally reviled stain on justice, simply because it was politically inconvenient.

It also needs stating that what makes this even worse is the fact that, of the 166 prisoners still held at Guantánamo, 46 are being held indefinitely without charge or trial, regarded as “too dangerous to release” even though the administration concedes that it does not have the evidence to put them on trial. This is a disgraceful endorsement of indefinite detention — holding people in a legal, moral and ethical black hole, in other words.

It is compounded by the fact that 86 others were cleared for release at least three years by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, a collection of around 60 sober and responsible government officials and representatives of the intelligence agencies, who spent a year assessing all the prisoners’ cases. In addition, some of these cleared prisoners were first cleared for release under President Bush as long ago as 2004, and in other cases in 2006 and 2007. Imagine being held for three, five, six, eight since you were told you were going home, and then comprehend the state of mind of Adnan Latif, a Yemeni cleared in 2006 and again under Obama, who died in Guantánamo last September.

Continuing to hold men who were cleared for release makes the US worse than a dictatorship that throws people in a dungeon and then throws away the key. America has thrown people in a dungeon called Guantánamo and thrown away the key because of the obstacles raised to releasing cleared prisoners by all three branches of the US government — President Obama and his administration, Congress, and the courts (and specifically the D.C. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court) — but they have made this even worse by pretending that there is a review process in operation by which prisoners are cleared for release. Doing so and not releasing them is, I argue, even more cruel than the actions of dictators, and pointing this out was the conclusion of my speech outside the White House on Friday.

Note: The photo at the top of this article is by Palina Prasasouk, a member of Witness Against Torture.

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, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new “Close Guantánamo campaign,” and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

35 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Monique D’hooghe wrote:

    you tell it as it is, Andy….even sugarcoating this shit wouldn’t make it anymore palatable

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Monique. Very indelicately and appropriately put!

  3. Tom says...

    Good for you for utilizing various avenues to get your message out. I’ll post and link where I can to help out.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. I am aiming to be as multimedia as possible in 2013!

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Monique D’hooghe wrote, in response to 2, above:

    lulz….. nobody ever has accused me of being delicate without bursting into frantic giggles right away….

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Sayyidah Salam wrote:

    Well said! And a great point made about clearing prisoners and not releasing them being worse than throwing away the key. Injustice upon injustice. The devil’s greatest trick, convincing the world he doesn’t exist

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Radmila Nastic wrote:

    Bravo Andy.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Zilma Nunes wrote:

    don’t be so angry you can have a heart attack …keep calm your job is too much stressful …

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Afifah Kuddah wrote:

    Very succinctly put Andy…one day their chickens will come home to roost!

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Sayyidah, Radmila, Zilma, Afifah, and everyone who has liked and shared this. It’s very much appreciated!
    And Zilma, I’m not generally as possessed by a spirit of pure and powerful indignation as I was on Friday, so close to the White House. Believe me, I take care to look after my health these days …

  11. Damo says...

    Believe it or not Andy America was at one time an incredable place it realy was as a child I worshiped all things American and believed in the American dream in which anyone could have had a fair chance..that America is gone it was dead by the late 70s greed money and the war machien took over isn’t that sad.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Great comments, Damo. Sad but true. However, in my field, at least when I come here I get to meet up with the best Americans. This last week has been like an extended family reunion. These people should be running America – just as we should be running the UK!

  13. Tom says...

    How’s your media contact network these days? I don’t know everyone you talk to/work with here. However, if you’re looking for some new sources, let me know and I’ll post a few suggestions.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Always interested in new contacts, Tom!

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Zilma Nunes wrote, in response to 10, above:

    Good ..take care of you.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Shaker Elsayed wrote:

    You are one of a kind Andy Worthington. Standing for justice, u r not alone. But because of media cowards, it seems sooooo lonely to stand for justice. I respect you. When u plan to com to DC I’d love to host you & have you meet with justice loving people.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Ruth Gilburt wrote:

    well said again Andy x

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Evie Starr wrote:

    Well done Andy! You tell ’em! I hope he could hear you from the white house. We need to get you into a helicopter and drop you into his dining room. It’s appalling! How have they become so blind to what is right!? How on earth do they think that they have right to ruin people’s lives!? Keep telling them Andy. You’re an inspiration to us all!

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks again, Zilma, and thank you, Shaker, Ruth and Evie – and everyone who keeps liking and sharing this! I’d love to meet with you the next time I’m in DC, Shaker, if at all possible. Thank you for the supportive words, although I have to say that the least lonely times are these, when I meet with other wonderful people devoting their lives to ending injustice.
    And Evie, the helicopter and dining room idea is lovely, except I suspect the heavies assigned to guard the President wouldn’t be so amused!

  20. Damo says...

    It’s not the American people its as usual it’s the polititions ,Americans are generally great they will always help ,give a second chance,champion the underdog there generally fair my American friends are a joy even when times are rough there still optermistic..they shame the British and our small mean country,lol,lol

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    Nice thoughts, Damo, as I prepare to leave the US, and return to the horrors of Tory Britain!

  22. Damo says...

    As I’ve SAID Andy there’s something magical and epic about America and its a shame mired in corruption I hope the American people wake up,I was looking at a great photograph recently taken in 1913 it’s on the deal of a liner going to America and it shows a group of stearidge passengers handled together on the poop deck all beaming smiles amongst them is ..stan laurel..and Charles Chaplin ..going to America for the first time to seek there fame and fortune …and that’s why I’ll always love America and its people..dxx

  23. Damo says...

    And that’s Wotan magical about America and her people they gave people a chance bring me your poor ,destitute,huddled masses,it was a level playing field without the class bullshit of the country I mean for good or bad look at all the people who went to America with nothing but hopes,dreams and determination and had to hassle and work there arses of the list is endless,lol like him or loath him but someone like arnold schwartzenegger arrived in America in 68 with his gym bag one set of clothes holes in his pumps and 20 dollars. Forget the politics what an incredable self made man and that’s the chance America used to be able to give to everyone …a chance…..I hope that the American dream never’s about hope

  24. Damo says...

    Have a listen to Harvey gotta give em hope speech it’s on YouTube,you’ll love it now that’s the real America not this one

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Just checked it out, Damo. Thanks.

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    And thanks also for your comments about America in general, Damo. A very powerful analysis of how it used to be possible for people to make it in America. Sadly, rampant hyper-capitalism got in the way of that. I have lots of very dear friends in the US, but the country is not what it used to be – or, indeed, what those who praise it so lavishly internally pretend that it still is today. Unchecked capitalism sucks the heart out of a country.

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    Evie Starr wrote, in response to 19, above:

    I’ll distract the heavies, you just plan the speech.
    I’ll compose some music for your dramatic entrance as well.

  28. Andy Worthington says...

    For my dramatic assassination by said heavies, Evie? I think I’ll stick to my current way of operating!

  29. Andy Worthington says...

    Richard Osbourne wrote:

    Passionate speech Andy. Great stuff.

  30. Andy Worthington says...

    Rita Pal wrote:

    Well done

  31. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Richard and Rita. Lovely to hear from you both.

  32. Andy Worthington says...

    Rita Pal wrote:

    You are the only guy I know who keeps this vital issue alive. You do an amazing job. Keep it up – you are and always will be an inspiration to all of us.

  33. Andy Worthington says...

    Thank you, Rita. Your support means a lot to me.

  34. damo says...

    the curse of hyper capitalisum it realy fucks up everything i lived in new york from 93 96 illegaliy of course ,lol but that old america was still there just ..not this one i hope we change and wake up before its to late i realy do

  35. Andy Worthington says...

    I think the old America is still there, Damo, but people are forced to work ever harder just to get by – just what the Tories want here!

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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).
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