Video: “Guantánamo in 2020: What is the Future of the Prison Camp after Eighteen Years?” at New America, Jan. 13, 2020

31.1.20

A screenshot of New America’s page for the “Guantánamo in 2020” event that took place on January 13, 2020.

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Today I’m delighted to be posting, via YouTube, the hour-long video of a panel discussion and Q&A session about the prison at Guantánamo Bay — and the need to close it — which I took part in at the New America think-tank in Washington, D.C. on January 13, two days after the 18th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

Also taking part was the attorney Tom Wilner, with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign in 2012. Tom was Counsel of Record for the Guantánamo prisoners as they successfully sought habeas corpus rights before the Supreme Court in 2004 and 2008 — although those rights have since been gutted by ideologically malignant appeals court rulings — and we are grateful to New America for hosting a panel discussion about Guantánamo with us every year on or around the anniversary. The moderator for this year’s anniversary event was Melissa Salyk-Virk, Senior Policy Analyst in New America’s International Security Program.

As I hope readers have realized via my various articles about the anniversary, and my ten-day US visit to call for the prison’s closure — this year there was a real urgency, indignation and passion to the calls for the prison’s closure and of the need for urgent change in the political leadership in the US expressed by myself and other campaigners.

The video is below, and I hope you have time to watch it, and will share it if you find it useful.

As I explained when I posted a link to the video on Facebook, “Tom and I were resolute in our anger and disappointment that this monstrous failure of justice is still open, and scathing about Donald Trump’s refusal to consider the need for it to be closed, or even to consider releasing any of the 40 men still held under any circumstances, even though five of them were unanimously approved for release by high-level review processes under Barack Obama, and even though only nine of them are facing or have faced trials.”

I added, “When it comes to Guantánamo, sadly, the men held, for the most part indefinitely without charge of trial in defiance of what the US claims to be its own values and its respect for the law, have not only been failed by the president, but also by Congress and also by the courts.”

I believe that Tom and I made clear the failures of all three branches of the US government to deal properly with Guantánamo, as well as the failures of the US media, and, sadly, the American people themselves, in general, to appreciate what Guantánamo is and why its continued existence is so unacceptable.

We also, I hope, managed to convey the human reality of what it means to have a prison that will stay open forever if there is no significant political change: a reality of men never charged with a crime, never — in many cases — even accused of anything more than having fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago, getting older, getting ill, and being consigned to death in Guantánamo, ten, 20, 30, even 40 years from now. Faced with this future, how can any decent American not demand significant political change in this election year?

* * * * *

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 music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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, or you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.55), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from seven years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of the documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June 2017 that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London. For two months, from August to October 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody. Although the garden was violently evicted by bailiffs on October 29, 2018, and the trees were cut down on February 27, 2019, the resistance continues.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, 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.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to the video of the panel discussion about Guantanamo that I undertook at the New America think-tank in Washington, D.C. with the attorney Tom Wilner on Jan. 13, two days after the 18th anniversary of the opening of the prison.

    I co-founded the “Close Guantanamo” campaign with Tom in 2012, and we’re grateful that New America has been hosting panel discussions about Guantanamo every year for many years.

    This year there was a real urgency and anger to our call for the prison to be closed, brought about by three years of Donald Trump effectively sealing the prison shut, even though holding people indefinitely without charge or trial is profoundly unacceptable, and our recognition that, unless there is serious political change, the men still held, who are getting older and getting ill, will be consigned to death in Guantanamo ten, 20, 30, or even 40 years from now.

  2. Anna says...

    Hi Andy, not quite the topic but all about climate change and the fuel mafia.
    Am I wrong to remember a judge called Lewis A. Kaplan passing judgements in Guantanamo cases? Unless there are more judges called Kaplan, you’ll be shocked to read about his role in this environmental court case :
    https://theintercept.com/2020/01/29/chevron-ecuador-lawsuit-steven-donziger/?

    I’ll watch you and Tom later, just got some news I first must digest.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    The story of Steven Donziger is truly shocking, Anna. Thanks for alerting me to it. There are so many extraordinary stories that are so easily missed.
    As for Judge Kaplan, I recognised his name, and a search established that he was the judge in the only case of a Guantanamo prisoner prosecuted in federal court – Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, given a life sentence in January 2011 for his role in the US Embassy bombings in Africa in 1998.
    As Reuters explained at the time, “Judge Lewis Kaplan declined to grant Ghailani any leniency on defense arguments that he was repeatedly tortured while in U.S. custody and shared valuable information with his Central Intelligence Agency interrogators.
    Kaplan said, “Whatever Mr. Ghailani suffered at the hands of the CIA and others in our government … the impact pales in comparison to the suffering and the horror he and his confederates caused” – which I think is a rather dubious analogy.
    See: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-security-guantanamo-ghailani/u-s-judge-sentences-ex-guantanamo-detainee-to-life-idUSTRE70O0SN20110125

  4. Anna says...

    Looks like this judge is not someone you would ever want to encounter in a courtroom…
    And in the same Intercept issue there was the latest article from Guantanamo which you probably know, but some of your readers maybe not. The author focuses on the obfuscation of various euphemisms, but also torture specifics.
    https://theintercept.com/2020/01/29/guantanamo-9-11-forever-trials/? All in all I think a useful reminder why our conscience should remain alert. As she can be mailed, I did so and suggested you and the Unredacted link for more background info :-).

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, the judge definitely sounds like one to avoid, Anna. As I noted yesterday, I was genuinely shocked by his behaviour in Steven Donziger’s case.
    Also, thanks for the link to the Margot Williams article, which I picked up on when it came out. I’m planning to write something soon about the Mitchell hearings, but still searching for my angle. As for Williams, whose name rang a bell with me, it turns out that she’s a journalist and research historian, and has some Guantanamo history, having put together the New York Times’ Guantanamo Docket, back in 2008.

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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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