Radio: I Discuss Guantánamo’s Shameful 21st Anniversary on the Scott Horton Show


Andy Worthington with the Close Guantánamo campaign’s poster marking 7,671 days of Guantánamo’s existence on Jan. 11, 2023, the 21st anniversary of its opening, and the logo of the Scott Horton Show.

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Last week, as part of my concerted efforts to publicize the ongoing and unjustifiable existence of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on the 21st anniversary of its opening, I was delighted to be asked by the indefatigable radio host Scott Horton to appear on his show, in an episode that he gave the appropriate heading, “The US is Still Running an Illegal Prison at Guantánamo Bay.”

Scott and I have been dissecting the iniquities of Guantánamo and the “war on terror” on a regular basis for over 15 years, and I’m impressed by his astonishing dedication to amplifying critical voices that are generally ignored by the mainstream media. This was his 5,831st interview, in a career as a radio host spanning 20 years, and he has somehow also found the time to write and publish two books about US militarism and the “war on terror” — “Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan,” and “Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism.”

As Scott explained in his introduction to the show on his website, where you can listen to our half-hour interview, and also download it as an MP3, “Andy Worthington returns to talk about the 35 men who remain imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay as we pass the 21st anniversary of the prison. Of those 35 men, 20 have already been cleared for release, yet they remain in custody with no release date. Scott and Worthington talk about the shameful history of the prison, consider all the reasons it’s stayed open so long and discuss what must happen for this disgraceful chapter of America’s history to finally be brought to an end.”

Scott also makes his interviews available on YouTube, and I’ve embedded the video below:

I was particularly concerned, on the anniversary, to stress how significant it is that, although only 35 men are still held at Guantánamo, 20 of these men have been approved for release, but are still held because no mechanism exists to compel the Biden administration to actually free them. This is because they were only approved for release through administrative processes that have no legal weight, and, as a result, they continue, fundamentally, to have no rights, just as was the case when George W. Bush set up the prison in the first place, 21 long years ago.

The Bush administration, notoriously, refused to hold the men (and boys) rounded up and sent to Guantánamo either as criminal suspects to be charged with crimes, or as prisoners of war protected by the Geneva Conventions, but designated them instead as “unlawful enemy combatants,” and pretended that, as a result, they had no rights whatsoever.

I also explained how, even when prisoners are released from Guantánamo, they continue to have no fundamental rights, and can be harassed, deprived of having a passport and prevented from traveling, prevented from being reunited with their families (or even having visits from them), prevented from working or studying, deprived of medical care, and even arbitrarily imprisoned.

This is particularly so in the cases of some former prisoners who couldn’t be safely repatriated, and were resettled in third countries under secretive arrangements between the US and these host counties, and I pointed out how a particularly grim example of resettlement failure was recently reported by Elise Swain for The Intercept, looking at the case of Sabri al-Qurashi, a Yemeni resettled in Kazakhstan in 2014, who has stated, “I’m living as if I’m dead and being told I am free when I am not,” and who explained to Swain, “I have no official status, no ID card, no right to work or education, and no right to see my family. I have been married for eight years, but my wife is not allowed to come and live with me.”

Scott also wanted to discuss with me a recent article of mine, “Convicted Guantánamo Prisoner Ali Hamza Al-Bahlul Seeks An End to His 14 Years of Solitary Confinement,” covering a court submission by his lawyers — completely ignored by the mainstream media — in which they are seeking to have his 2008 conviction overturned, or, at least, remanded for resentencing, because of subsequent blows to the credibility of the military commission trial system.

As his lawyers also pointed out, no one foresaw, at the time of his conviction, that he would end up “serving a sentence of life without parole in solitary confinement” in a cell block on his own, because no one foresaw that the commissions would end up so discredited that very few other prisoners have been through the process and have ended up imprisoned alongside him, and even those who have have not stayed long, because their imprisonment has involved short sentences via plea deals.

Imagine spending 14 years in solitary confinement — with no end in sight — not even because of specific cruelty, but because of the collapsing legitimacy of the military commissions themselves.

There was much more in the show, and I hope that you have time to listen to it, and that you’ll share it if you find it useful. 

* * * * *

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer (of an ongoing photo-journalism project, ‘The State of London’), 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 you can watch it online here, via the production company Spectacle, for £2.50).

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 struggle for housing justice — and against environmental destruction — 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 my recent half-hour interview about the 21st anniversary of the opening of Guantanamo with Scott Horton, with whom I’ve been discussing Guantanamo and the “war on terror” on a regular basis for over 15 years.

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

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Tamzin Jans wrote:

    Maybe Biden needs to be tagged too? 🙂 I hope he listens but so far there doesn’t seem to be the slightest move on his part to close this camp!

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    I’m hoping we’ll be hearing about some positive developments in the not too distant future, Tamzin. In summer, Biden finally got round to appointing an official in the State Department – Tina Kaidanow, a former ambassador – to deal with transfers out of Guantanamo, and I’m assured that she’s taking her job seriously.

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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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