Video: Moazzam Begg and I Discuss Guantánamo, Torture and Endless War on the 19th Anniversary of 9/11 on Salaamedia


A screenshot of Moazzam begg and Andy Worthington discussing the legacy of 9/11 on its 19th anniversary with Inayat Wadee of Salaamedia in South Africa.

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On Friday, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, I was delighted to be asked to take part in a discussion, “Unpacking 9/11 19 Years Later,” broadcast on Salaamedia in South Africa, along with former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, now the outreach director of CAGE (formerly Cageprisoners).

The show was hosted by Inayat Wadee, who used to interview me regularly about Guantánamo for Radio Islam International, also based in South Africa, although we had lost touch in recent years, probably because Guantánamo — and the fate of the 40 men still held — has so largely slipped off the radar under Donald Trump, rather sadly confirming the truth of the motto, “out of sight, out of mind.”

Trump has largely ignored Guantánamo, sealing it shut, and refusing to even contemplate releasing the five men unanimously approved for release by high-level US government review processes that he inherited from President Obama, or the limbo of the 26 other men who are not amongst the nine facing (or having faced) trials, and in response most people have behaved as though they have forgotten that Guantánamo ever existed.

And yet, of course, it is still open, its ongoing existence beaming out a relentless message of shame to any and all decent people who recognize that holding people indefinitely without charge or trial is what dictators do, and that torturing people and then trying to give them a fair trial is a non-starter.

Yesterday was also the first time for far too many years that Moazzam and I have appeared together, bringing back memories of the campaigning we undertook together around ten years ago, including a particularly memorable trip to Poland, at the start of 2011, to show a sub-titled version of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo,” the documentary that I co-directed with Polly Nash.

The one-hour show is below, and I hope you have time to watch it, and will share it if you find it helpful. It’s also available on Facebook here.

In the show, Inayat asked us a number of pertinent questions, allowing both Moazzam and I to articulate what the significance of 9/11 is 19 years after those terrible terrorist attacks — the endless wars, the torture program and the continued existence of Guantánamo, as well as discussing all manner of other related topics: the UK’s flawed counter-terrorism policies, for example, and the US’s extrajudicial assassination policy, using drones, which, under Obama, largely replaced Bush’s program of rendition and torture, and which continues under Trump.

We also spoke about the plight of stateless former Guantánamo prisoners, or those who the US felt could not be safely repatriated, who were resettled from Guantánamo in third countries, where there is often no support network, or, in the notorious case of the United Arab Emirates, where they have continued to be imprisoned, under worse circumstances than in Guantánamo, despite having been unanimously approved for release by US government review processes.

This discussion also allowed me to stress a point that has preoccupied me for many years, and will continue to do until it is addressed: the need for the US to, one day, be held accountable for creating a class of people — “enemy combatants” held at Guantánamo — who, fundamentally, have no rights as human beings, subject to arbitrary mistreatment by their own, or by other governments, and, uniquely, regarded with more suspicion, despite never having been charged or tried, than people actually convicted of terrible crimes.

In conclusion, we also spoke about all those who have died in the US’s wars since 9/11, and, as discussed in my article published on Friday, 9/11 at 19: Endless Wars, Guantánamo and 37 Million People Displaced, I also spoke about the recent report indicating that at least 37 million people have been displaced in these wars, terrible facts that reveal quite how damaging the US’s response to the 9/11 attacks has been, and the horrendous damage it continues to cause.

* * * * *

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 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 eight 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.

3 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, linking to and discussing “Unpacking 9/11 19 Years Later,” a one-hour show on Salaamedia in South Africa, on which I appeared with Moazzam Begg and host Inayat Wadee to discuss the sad and shameful legacy of the US’s response to the events of that terrible day.

    As well as discussing the continued existence of Guantanamo, the US’s torture program and the endless wars, we discussed the huge numbers of civilian casualties, and the tens of millions of people displaced by these wars, as well as the US’s extrajudicial assassination policy, using drones, which, under Obama, largely replaced Bush’s program of rendition and torture, and which continues under Trump.

    We also spoke about the plight of stateless former Guantanamo prisoners, or those who the US felt could not be safely repatriated, who were resettled in third countries, where there is often no support network, or, in the notorious case of the United Arab Emirates, where they have continued to be imprisoned, under worse circumstances than in Guantanamo, despite having been unanimously approved for release by US government review processes.

    I hope you have time to watch the video, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful.

  2. Anna says...

    Just watched it Andy, great and not a minute wasted by either of you my friends. Will share it and so many memories. A chocolate wafer mobile phone, Moazzam waiting under the wrong tower to hear the trumpeteer 🙂 so we nearly missed the train, an early morning goodbye to Moazzam on a freezing cold railway platform, wishing that next year we’d meet in a -peaceful- Kabul. Too many years have passed without that being possible, yet I still count on it happening one day. But also your first and very painful symptoms of what would turn out to be a serious illness and the passing away of your Dad.
    And yes, we’re all nearly 10 yrs older and each time I see a video of Moazzam his beard is whiter, but I’m glad he also seems to have regained his natural composure – and retained his charm :-).
    If only in those 10 years the world had changed for the better. Instead the trampling of basic human rights and national & international legislation by us -the ‘civilised, democratic’ western world- has undermined any right we ever had to lecture the rest of the world in these matters and given a free pass to ‘rogue’ governments to do as they please too.
    Europe driving desperate refugees back into the sea, Palestinians once again thrown under the bus for Trump’s reelection, USA hubris, arrogance & entitlement, bullying and blackmailing the rest of the world including the ICC, has shed even any pretense of accountability. The inquiry into the CIA torture prison in Poland still drags on and I wonder whether it is in an induced coma, kept alive only to avoid embarassing questions if it were officially closed. The US refuses any cooperation anyway.
    But there still are people like you and Moazzam, courageous individuals like Chelsea Manning or Colin Kaepernick, undeterred lawyers, serious researchers and a young generation which hopefully will extend and strengthen recent positive social developments. Giving up simply is not an option.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    “Giving up is simply not an option.” I couldn’t agree more. Great to hear from you, Anna, and looking forward to seeing you when it becomes safer to travel.

    It was lovely to appear in an event again with Moazzam, and like you I was remembering our particular adventure – the three of us – nearly ten years again in Poland. I fear you are right about the Polish investigation – that, as you say, feels like it might be “kept alive only to avoid embarassing questions if it were officially closed.”

    I can’t imagine that we would have been able to foresee how bad things would be ten years ago – beyond the continuation of the endless wars, the continued existence of Guantanamo and the continued corrosion of morality caused by the torture program – with the rise of and normalising of the far-right in its various modern manifestations: Donald Trump, a British government committed to lawlessness and destroying the British state and economy, and serious problems in Poland too, which I hope at least seem a little distanced where you are.

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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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