For Feb. 4, Send Us A Photo for the “Countdown to Close Guantánamo,” Telling Obama He Now Has Just 350 Days to Close It

3.2.16

The musician David Knopfler supports the new Countdown to Close Guantanamo campaign, and stands with a poster telling President Obama that, on February 4, 2016, he has just 350 days left to close Guantanamo before he leaves office.I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012 with 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.

Two weeks ago, as the co-founder of “Close Guantánamo,” I launched a new initiative, the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, with music legend Roger Waters, on Democracy Now! with Amy Goodman. See the video of that show here.

We encouraged people to take photos of themselves with posters counting down to the end of the Obama presidency, urging President Obama to fulfill the promise he made to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, as he promised on his second day in office in January 2009, and to send them to us — with personalized messages, if they wish. Supporters can also let us know where they are, to demonstrate the breadth of support across the US, and around the world.

Following the launch, we set up two dedicated pages for photos of supporters — Celebrity Photos and Public Photos — and also posted photos on social media, on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Support initially came from Roger, from Brian Eno, from British MPs including John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, and from five former Guantánamo prisoners, including Shaker Aamer, the last British resident held in the prison, who was released in October.

I had co-founded another campaign, We Stand With Shaker, in November 2014, to call for Shaker’s release. That campaign had focused on getting celebrities and MPs to be photographed standing with a giant inflatable figure of Shaker Aamer, but it had also involved concerned members of the public, from around the world, sending in photos of themselves with signs in support of Shaker — later replicated in the Fast For Shaker initiative just before his release — and these were the inspiration for the Countdown to Close Guantánamo.

Since the launch two weeks ago, almost a hundred people have joined the Countdown to Close Guantánamo — many, we’re glad to note, from across the US. These supporters took photos of themselves with our first poster, which reads, “President Obama, you have just 1 year left to close Guantánamo.”

The next stage of the Countdown is this Thursday, February 4, and our new poster reads, “President Obama, you have just 350 days left to close Guantánamo.”

Please join us — and the musician David Knopfler, who sent in the photo above. A founding member of Dire Straits, David is a longtime supporter of the campaign to close Guantánamo, and also supported the We Stand With Shaker campaign.

Print off the poster, take a photo of yourself with it, and send it to us — and then, please, ask your family and friends to join you.

The next poster — 300 days — will be on March 25, then 250 days on May 14, and so on.

Why Guantánamo must be closed

91 men remain at Guantánamo — and, as we are pointing out, President Obama has just 350 days left to fulfill the promise he made, on January 22, 2009, to close the prison within a year.

It is hugely important for the US’s claim to respect justice and the rule of law that Guantánamo is closed once and for all, and we believe that President Obama must continue to push for its closure without any delays.

Of the 91 men still held, 34 have been approved for release, and should be sent home, or found new homes, as swiftly as possible. Just ten are facing, or have faced trials, but it is the fate of the 47 others that is most pressing. These men are all  eligible for Periodic Review Boards, a process set up in 2013 that, to date, has approved for release 17 men (out of 20 reviewed) who were previously described as “too dangerous to release” by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama established shortly after taking office.

That success rate — 85% — demonstrates how ill-advised was the description of prisoners as “too dangerous to release,” as should have been apparent when the task force acknowledged that it had insufficient evidence to put these men on trial. What that meant, of course, was that the so-called “evidence” was no such thing, as was made clear by the other co-founder of “Close Guantánamo,” the attorney Tom Wilner, in a recent article about Guantánamo in Rolling Stone:

“If you look at the evidence against these people, it’s absolutely bullshit,” says Tom Wilner … “In most cases, there is no evidence that a detainee committed a crime or trained for terrorist activities other than the word of another detainee who may, himself, have been tortured, or who told his interrogators what they wanted to hear.” Many of these informants have recanted, he says. “None of this would hold up in court. At best, it raises suspicions. And you cannot, in a democratic society, hold people based on suspicion.”

Around the same time we launched the Countdown to Close Guantánamo, defense secretary Ash Carter appeared on CNN with Fareed Zakaria, where he said, “I’ve said from the day I was nominated to be secretary of defense [that] I think, on balance, it would be a good thing to close Gitmo.” He added, however, “There are people in Gitmo who are so dangerous that we cannot transfer them to the custody of another government, no matter how much we trust that government.” Carter also said, “The reality is, this portion of the Gitmo population has to be incarcerated somewhere,” adding later that “it would have to be in the United States.”

Here at “Close Guantánamo,” we accept that Guantánamo can only be closed by bringing some men to the US mainland, overcoming a ban by Congress against bringing any Guantánamo prisoner to the US mainland for any reason. While we wait to see if this might happen through Congressional cooperation or though an executive order, we are concerned by Carter’s words about the dangerousness of an unspecified number of individuals. We believe that the US can continue to hold men under the laws of war, but we also believe they will be able to challenge their detention through the courts, and that the number moved to the U.S. should be as small as possible — hence the need for the Periodic Review Boards to be speeded up.

In closing, for now, the last thing we — or anyone concerned with justice — should accept is a claim that some prisoners remain “too dangerous to release,” and that elaborate arguments must be made for continuing to justify their indefinite detention without charge or trial, when no such justification exists.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album, ‘Love and War,’ is available for download or on CD via Bandcamp — also see here). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s the musician David Knopfler promoting the Countdown to Close Guantanamo​ in my latest article. Tomorrow, Feb. 4, there will be just 350 days left for President Obama to close Guantanamo before he leaves office. Please print a poster, take a photo of yourself with it and send it to info@closeguantanamo.org with a personalized message to Obama if you want: http://www.closeguantanamo.org/dyn/1453919937012/CloseGuantanamoCountdown350Days.pdf

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Andy – I sent one on the 29th of January. Did you receive? I can resend it…

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, going up tomorrow, Jan! I thought I had thanked you – and said how nice it was to see you. Perhaps a missed message …

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Jan Strain wrote:

    Probably… Running hard here, Andy. Had to go pick up a guitar yesterday for my friend’s 70th B-Day tomorrow (A Fender American Tele). We are going all out.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Wish I was there for it, Jan! Did you see me playing “Song for Shaker Aamer” in DC, btw? https://www.facebook.com/witnesstorture/videos/1299363036756136/

  6. Martin says...

    The PRB has proven to be firm but fair. I think the PRB will clear most of the remaining detainees but about 30 prisoners (i.e. the high value detainees, the 20th hijacker and a few other detainees who have made threats) will not be released due to being very dangerous. It’s ridiculous that there’s opposition to transfering these dangerous prisoners to the U.S. No prisoner has ever escaped from the super max prison in Florence, Colorado. I look forward to January 2017. Hopefully Omar Abdulayev and Malik Abdul Wahab will be transferred by then.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    The hysteria about prisoner transfers is either real, Martin, in which case it is indeed ridiculous, or it could be part of the fear card that unscrupulous lawmakers have been using incessantly since 9/11, or it could be to distract people from realizing that what some lawmakers – and others – want is to keep Guantanamo open because they like holding people without charge or trial.
    I’d prefer the total number of men transferred – including those facing trials – to be no more than 20, but we’ll see.

  8. Martin says...

    Well, the White House plans to keep 24 and send about 12 to other countries for prosecution. That sounds good to me.

    http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/quieter-smaller-guantanamo-debate-rages-prisons-fate-36740544

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes very interesting indeed, Martin. This is the first I’ve heard of overseas prosecutions, but it makes sense. The Indonesians were asking for Hambali, for example, back in October 2003, shortly after his capture:
    http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/23/1066631567650.html

    US President George W Bush promised to return Southeast Asia’s top terror suspect Hambali to Indonesia for trial once American investigators have finished questioning him, an Indonesian government spokesman said yesterday.

    The White House confirmed that Bush agreed to try to make sure Hambali was handed over to Indonesia.

    “He committed to work with them at an appropriate time, that he would work to make sure that Hambali was handed over,” White House communications director Dan Bartlett told reporters in Canberra during Bush’s visit there.

    “He did not set a timetable for that. Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri seemed reassured by that commitment,” Bartlett said.

    Hambali, the alleged operations chief of the al-Qaeda linked Jemaah Islamiah network, was arrested in August in Thailand. The Indonesian citizen has been interrogated by US agents at an undisclosed location ever since.

    “Absolutely, Bush promised to hand over Hambali to Indonesia for trial,” Indonesian foreign ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa told The Associated Press. “The only condition is that the process of interrogation (by US agents) has to be completed. Bush said that still needed more time.”

    As for 24 being moved to the US mainland, it’s a lower number than any of us had been led to believe would be proposed at this point. I’m more inclined to think it should be no more than 18, but overall, I have to say, it’s starting to look very promising.

Leave a Reply

Back to the top

Back to home page

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 (The State of London).
Email Andy Worthington

CD: Love and War

The Four Fathers on Bandcamp

The Guantánamo Files book cover

The Guantánamo Files

The Battle of the Beanfield book cover

The Battle of the Beanfield

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion book cover

Stonehenge: Celebration & Subversion

Outside The Law DVD cover

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

RSS

Posts & Comments

World Wide Web Consortium

XHTML & CSS

WordPress

Powered by WordPress

Designed by Josh King-Farlow

Please support Andy Worthington, independent journalist:

Archives

In Touch

Follow me on Facebook

Become a fan on Facebook

Subscribe to me on YouTubeSubscribe to me on YouTube

The State of London

The State of London. 16 photos of London

Andy's Flickr photos

Campaigns

Categories

Tag Cloud

Afghans in Guantanamo Al-Qaeda Andy Worthington British prisoners Center for Constitutional Rights CIA torture prisons Close Guantanamo Donald Trump Four Fathers Guantanamo Housing crisis Hunger strikes London Military Commission NHS NHS privatisation Periodic Review Boards Photos President Obama Reprieve Shaker Aamer The Four Fathers Torture UK austerity UK protest US courts Video We Stand With Shaker WikiLeaks Yemenis in Guantanamo