“Forever Prisoner” Muhammad Rahim, the Last Afghan in Guantánamo, Eloquently Pleads For His Release


Muhammad Rahim, photographed at Guantánamo in recent years by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

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On August 15, completely unremarked on by the mainstream media, Muhammad Rahim, the last Afghan held at Guantánamo, issued a heartfelt and eloquent plea for a panel of military and intelligence officers to approve his release from the prison, where he has been held for over 15 years without charge or trial.

Rahim, who is 57 years old, and in poor health, made his plea at a Periodic Review Board hearing, a process described by the media, when they can be bothered to pay attention to it, as a type of parole hearing — disregarding the crucial aspect that distinguishes it from parole hearings in the federal prison system, where the men given an opportunity to ask for their freedom have been convicted of a crime in federal court, and have received a prison sentence as a result.

Established under President Obama, the Periodic Review Boards were created to review the cases of men regarded as “too dangerous to release,” but against whom insufficient evidence existed to put them on trial — men accurately described as “forever prisoners.” Since November 2013, 58 men have been approved for release by PRBs, with 20 of those decisions taking place since President Biden took office (although most of those 20 men, shamefully, have not yet been freed).

Rahim, however, is one of three remaining “forever prisoners” — out of the 30 men in total still held at Guantánamo — whose efforts to persuade the board members that they should be freed continue to fall on deaf ears. A PRB approved his ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in 2016, in 2019 (when, under Trump, he boycotted his hearing, along with the majority of the other prisoners, who correctly concluded that, under Trump, the PRBs had become a sham), and again in 2022.

Who is Muhammad Rahim?

The last man to arrive at Guantánamo, in March 2008, Rahim was kidnapped in June 2007 in Pakistan, where he had been living with his wife and seven children (five sons and two daughters) since the end of 2001. He was then subjected to nine months of torture in an undisclosed facility run by the CIA — as the last prisoner in the CIA’s torture program (formally known as the Rendition, Detention, and Interrogation Program (RDI) — before his transfer to Guantánamo, where he has been held ever since as a “high-value detainee.”

The US authorities allege that he “served as a translator, courier, facilitator, and operative for al-Qa’ida’s senior leaders, including Usama Bin Ladin,” also alleging that he “had advance knowledge of many of al-Qa’ida’s attacks, including the 9/11 attacks, and progressed to financing, planning and participating in Taliban, al-Qa’ida, and other anticoalition group attacks in Afghanistan against US and coalition targets.”

However, no evidence has ever been provided to back up these serious claims, and there are numerous reasons for believing that they are fundamentally baseless. Rahim, as his military defense attorney, Maj. James Valentine, stated in a submission on his behalf to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2017, “was the son of a tribal chief in Chaparhar district, Nangarhar province,” which “lies between the Tora Bora mountains, which serve as the frontier to Pakistan and contain numerous points of passage between the two countries, and the city of Jalalabad.”

Nangarhar province holds a unique position in Afghanistan’s political ecology. As Maj. Valentine explained, Rahim was “politically loyal” to Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), a paramilitary organization, and political party, established in the 1970s by the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the largest recipient of CIA funds during the resistance to the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. As such, Rahim was not aligned with either the Taliban or Al-Qaeda, although the geography of his home district, as the gateway to Pakistan, meant that some sort of association with Arabs connected with Al-Qaeda was likely.

In Rahim’s case, his connection — such as it was — came in the 1990s, after he had fled to Peshawar with his family during the Soviet occupation, where he became a teacher, and after he had returned to Afghanistan, where he had spent some time as a finance officer in a UN drug control office in Jalalabad.

Because of his intelligence, and his language skills, he also became a translator for some of the Arab mujahideen who had stayed behind after the Soviet occupation came to an end, and, as Maj. Valentine explained, “When some of the Arabs from Jalalabad moved to Tarnak Farms, the Al-Qaeda compound near Qandahar, Mohammad Rahim accompanied them and continued to serve as a translator and facilitator for the group but he is not alleged to have undergone or administered any type of training at the compound.”

In October 1999, he moved again to Peshawar, “after learning that his father had developed cancer,” and “stayed there until his father died in June of 2001.” Returning to Afghanistan, he then worked as taxi driver in Kabul, where he was when the 9/11 attacks occurred, and, after returning again to Nangarhar, he apparently aided Arab Al-Qaeda members, who “came to [his] ancestral home and requested assistance in guiding [them] through the Tora Bora mountain regions,” which he undertook, for money, in November and December 2001.

While this narrative reveals some association with Arabs connected to Al-Qaeda, it is a far cry from the US authorities’ unsubstantiated claims that he was deeply involved in the organization, and it was unsurprising that, in his statement to the Periodic Review Board last week, he declared, “I am not an enemy to the United States,” thanked the US for having “assisted me and other Afghans against the Russian invaders,” and noted his work on “drug eradication,” as well as mentioning that he had “assisted at the American Ambassador’s visit to Jalalabad.”

Also unsurprising — demonstrating his position as an Afghan with no fundamental allegiance to either the Taliban or Al-Qaeda — was his assertion that Al-Qaeda “ushered in a generation of war, pain, and death in which Americans, Afghans, and many others suffered,” which “led to many horrors inflicted on innocent people,” and his defense of human rights, in which he spoke about the importance of education, and expressed his hope that “Afghanistan will open its high schools and universities to girls and women as soon as possible.” This, of course, is a position that is, sadly, completely at odds with the ban on girls attending high school or universities, which the Taliban has implemented since returning to power following the US withdrawal from Afghanistan two years ago.

Rahim also, poignantly, spoke about his hopes that “the United States and Afghanistan will become friends again” and that he might be “a small part of that process.”

Given the current situation in Afghanistan, and in the US, this is sadly unlikely, as, even if Rahim is released from Guantánamo, he cannot currently be repatriated, because of a ban by Congressional Republicans on any Afghan prisoner being sent home from the prison, although it is, unfortunately, by no means certain that he will be approved for release, even though he clearly should be.

Rahim’s enduring sense of humor, and his talent for cooking

As all the lawyers who have represented him over the years have noted, Rahim has a wicked sense of humor and a playful engagement with US popular culture that is completely at odds with the US authorities’ portrayal of him as member of Al-Qaeda. In 2012, Carlos Warner, his civilian defense attorney at the time, released letters from him showing his cheeky intelligence. “I like this new song Gangnam Style,” he wrote, adding, “I want to do the dance for you but cannot because of my shackles.” In another letter, after he heard that millions of passwords had been stolen from the infidelity dating website Ashley Madison, he joked, “This is terrible news about Ashley Madison please remove my profile immediately!!! I’ll stick with Match.com … There is no way I can get Tinder in here.”

Rahim is also a talented chef who could doubtless find work if he were to be released, as his latest civilian defense attorney, James Connell, who has represented accused 9/11 co-conspirator Ammar al-Baluchi for the last 12 years, asserted last week in his first submission to the Periodic Review Board as his attorney. Connell, who told the board that ”it has been my privilege to eat food prepared by many of the men” held as “high-value detainees” at Guantánamo, said, “I can tell you that Rahim is the best cook among a field of good cooks. Working with limited equipment and supplies, Rahim prepares a wonderful array of dishes drawing on a range of cuisines.” He added, “His spinach curry is the best anywhere,” and further noted that, “After release, if Rahim has a food truck or restaurant, I can tell you that I would be first in line.”

The US has no basis whatsoever for continuing to hold Muhammad Rahim

Most shockingly, although Rahim was subjected to shameful torture after his capture — including prolonged sleep deprivation, which involved him being shackled in a standing position for extended periods of time, with the longest recorded duration being 138.5 hours, or nearly six days straight — his detention and interrogation “resulted in no disseminated intelligence reports,” as the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in the unclassified 500-page summary of its devastating report about the CIA’s torture program, which was released in 2014. As Maj. Valentine added, in April 2008, after his arrival at Guantánamo, “the CIA conducted an internal investigation to learn why, despite months of torture, Mohammad Rahim provided no intelligence — overlooking the obvious conclusion that he did not know what he was alleged to have known.”

Writing further about his torture, Maj. Valentine noted that he “was beaten, hanged for days at a time, deprived of sleep and starved in a fruitless attempt to gain intelligence related to the activities of people who were far above him in positions of social and organizational authority,” adding, “A common torture method that was implemented during this time consisted of the interrogator crushing [his] testicles while asking questions. For the entire nine month period he was kept in a small, windowless cell where he was chained to either the wall or the ceiling and subject to deafening, ambient noise that masked the sounds of his screams even to his own ears.”

For James Connell, Rahim’s significance has been grotesquely overplayed — or even, one might say, completely invented. As he explained to the PRB, “In the four current military commission cases, the Office of the Chief Prosecutor has named nearly 100 co-conspirators in al Qaeda attacks; not a single case names Rahim as a co-conspirator, which casts significant doubt on the allegation that Rahim played any significant role in al-Qaeda,” especially because, as Connell adds, specifically refuting the US authorities’ insinuations about his alleged “advanced knowledge” of the 9/11 attacks, he “is not alleged to have been involved in 9/11 or any other attack on the United States or its allies,” and “is not alleged to have personally committed any act of violence against any person.”

Perhaps, as Maj. Valentine suggested back in 2017, Rahim’s continued imprisonment without charge or trial, allegedly justified by opaque and unsubstantiated allegations, is based not on what he is alleged to have done, but as a deeply cynical attempt to hide the truth about what was done to him — the torture to which was subjected by the CIA before his transfer to Guantánamo.

In his submission to the IACHR, Maj. Valentine stated, unambiguously, that the “only reason” Rahim was designated as a “high-value detainee,” and was held with other “high-value detainees” in Guantánamo’s secretive Camp 7, was “to conceal the history of his torture by the CIA.” As he added, “His character and personality are anomalous compared to the other Camp 7 detainees and he is very much out-of-place there.” This is an opinion reinforced by James Connell, who suggested at Rahim’s latest hearing that his “position as an uncleared detainee is an anomaly, probably a result of the circumstances which brought him here,” and who added that he was “a poor candidate to be one of the last uncleared detainees.”

The other “forever prisoners” and the continuing imprisonment of men approved for release

Of the three remaining “forever prisoners,” Rahim is definitely the prime candidate to be recommended for release, although that comment shouldn’t be construed as signifying that the US authorities have any reason whatsoever to continue asserting that they can persist in holding the other two men indefinitely without charge or trial.

One of these two men, who had a Periodic Review Board hearing two days after Rahim, on August 17 (although no submissions have been made public), is Abu Faraj al-Libi (Mustafa Faraj Muhammad Masud al-Jadid al-Uzaybi), a ”high-value detainee,” seized in Pakistan in 2005 and held in CIA “black sites”for 18 months, who had refused to engage with the PRB process until last June, but had his ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial approved in August. I wrote a detailed article about al-Libi at the time, noting how US claims that he was the No. 3 in Al-Qaeda at the time of his capture appear to be unverifiable, and also noting concerns about his health.

The other “forever prisoner”, also initially described as the No. 3 in Al-Qaeda, is Abu Zubaydah (Zain al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), for whom the CIA’s torture program was first developed, even though some people in US intelligence, sidelined by the Bush administration and the CIA, knew from the beginning that this was a lie. Zubaydah’s torture, however, was so horrendous that CIA operatives sought reassurance from their headquarters in Langley that he would “remain in isolation and incommunicado for the remainder of his life.” This is a request that, while not entirely fulfilled, to the extent that Zubaydah has legal representation, has largely been adhered to, because, despite never being charged — along with Rahim and al-Libi — and despite the US authorities having walked back from all the sweeping terrorist claims made against him over the years, his ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial has been persistently upheld by the Periodic Review Boards, most recently on June 26 this year— shockingly, 23 months since his last review board hearing.

Shamefully, however, even if Rahim is approved for release, it will only mean that he will join a queue of other men approved for release who have — as of August 2, as I noted in a poster showing how long these men have been held since their freedom was first approved — been waiting between 313 and 978 days for release, and in three cases for 4,940 days.

Far from bringing them into any kind of legally binding process, these long and seemingly interminable waiting times have, shamefully, come to pass because the PRBs are purely administrative, and carry no legal weight. The men held cannot appeal to a judge if, as is clearly the case, the US authorities drag their heels in securing their release, and I’m reminded that, in June 2022, lawyers at the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights were entirely accurate when they stated, in a court submission, that the men approved for release are actually reliant upon the “discretion and grace” of the authorities, as though centuries of legal precedent have no meaning, and they are, instead, subject to the whims of some sort of medieval king.

Below, I’m posting Muhammed Rahim’s full statement to the board in his PRB hearing, but, to conclude this tour through his dispiriting story, and what it reveals about the US government’s persistent cruelty and fundamental lawlessness at Guantánamo, I’d like to leave the last word to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which delivered a devastating condemnation of Abu Zubaydah’s ongoing imprisonment without charge or trial in April this year, in a report whose conclusions also apply to Muhammad Rahim and Abu Faraj al-Libi.

As the Working Group declared, Abu Zubaydah has never been “provided with a legal basis for his detention,” and that “[t]he failure to lodge criminal charges, or to release him, amounts to arbitrariness.” The UN experts also noted that his time in the extraordinary rendition program “constituted enforced disappearance,” and also noted that, “In the extreme circumstances of his indefinite detention without charge or trial, and with no apparent prospect of release,” his right to life was being violated.

This really ought to persuade the US authorities to immediately approve Rahim and al-Libi for release, as well as hanging their heads in profound shame for having subsequently defended Abu Zubaydah’s ongoing imprisonment (and reversing that decision), but it is not even the end of the UN’s withering criticism. In June, another devastating report, by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, based on her visit to the prison in February (the first by a Special Rapporteur), found that considerations of numerous aspects of Guantánamo’s operations amount to “ongoing cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” and “may also meet the legal threshold for torture.”

The Biden administration issued only a terse and thoroughly inadequate response, but what they really need to do is to move swiftly to release the 16 men approved for release, to also approve the “forever prisoners” for release, and to work towards plea deals for the other men still held — the handful actually charged with crimes, who cannot be successfully prosecuted because of their torture — so that this uniquely vile facility can finally be closed for good.

Statement of Muhammad Rahim

In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

My name is Muhammad Rahim. I want to begin by thanking you for this opportunity to show you what I know in my heart: that I pose no threat to the United States or its interests.

I am not an enemy to the United States. In the 1980s, Americans assisted me and other Afghans against the Russian invaders. In the 1990s, I worked alongside the DEA on drug eradication and assisted at the American Ambassador’s visit to Jalalabad.

I want to be clear: the terrible attacks of 9/11 were acts of al Qaeda. The government and people of Afghanistan did not and would never agree to attacks on civilians. Al Qaeda ushered in a generation of war, pain, and death in which Americans, Afghans, and many others suffered, so soon after the Russians were driven out of Afghanistan. It led to many horrors inflicted on innocent people.

There is a long history of conflict in Afghanistan, and an equally long history of friendship emerging afterward. As the United States became friends and allies with Germany and Japan after World War II, God willing, the United States and Afghanistan will become friends again. I’m the last Afghan in Guantánamo, and I hope to be a small part of that process.

As a 57-year old man in poor health, I am confident that the United States does not fear that I would return to a battlefield that no longer exists. But I can understand that you might fear what I would say if released, so I will tell you the lessons I learned at Guantánamo.

First, from the violations I experienced, I learned the importance of respecting the human rights of every man, woman, boy and girl. One of those human rights is education. I have two daughters, who graduated high school, but could not attend college. I hope that Afghanistan will open its high schools and universities to girls and women as soon as possible.

Second, from my long imprisonment, I learned the virtue of patience. Violence looks like an immediate solution, but in reality it only prolongs the suffering. At an Afghan jurga where conflicts are resolved, the people involved often wish they had learned the lesson of peace earlier. In Guantánamo, I have struggled with patience, and sometimes let my frustration get the better of me. But I learned that every conflict can be resolved with patience.

Finally, from meeting hundreds of Americans, I learned that the positive view of America I had as a young person was mostly justified. As a young person, virtually every book or agricultural product I saw had its origins in the United States. During the darkest times of my captivity, the biggest shock was that Americans could be doing these things to me. But during these fifteen years in Guantánamo, I learned that many of the Americans I interact with have big hearts and reciprocate kindness and respect. Not just attorneys and personal representatives, but also guards, officers, and medical staff. I especially want to thank the medical staff who treated me with kindness, respect, and humanity during my recent hospital stay.

What would I do if eventually released? I would pursue my love of cooking and hope to open a small booth or food truck. We don’t have much here, but it is wonderful what one can accomplish with a microwave and a passion for food. Sharing food is an experience that brings people together, no matter where they are from.

I know that you have a job to do, to keep your country and families safe. I appreciate you doing that job, and hope you understand that I am no threat to you or those that you love. I humbly ask you to clear me for release, so that one day I may return to those whom I love.

* * * * *

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 (see the ongoing 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, in 2018, he was part of the occupation of the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden in Deptford, to try to prevent its destruction — and that of 16 structurally sound council flats next door — by Lewisham Council and Peabody.

Since 2019, Andy has become increasingly involved in environmental activism, recognizing that climate change poses an unprecedented threat to life on earth, and that the window for change — requiring a severe reduction in the emission of all greenhouse gases, and the dismantling of our suicidal global capitalist system — is rapidly shrinking, as tipping points are reached that are occurring much quicker than even pessimistic climate scientists expected. You can read his articles about the climate crisis here.

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.

14 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, my report about a recent Periodic Review Board hearing in Guantanamo, not reported in the mainstream media, for Muhammed Rahim, the last Afghan in the prison, and one of the last three “forever prisoners,” who delivered a heartfelt plea for his release.

    Despite claims that he was connected with Al-Qaeda, the US authorities have never provided any evidence to back up their claims, and Rahim is particularly noteworthy for his enduring sense of humor, his witty interest in US politics and culture, and his cooking skills. It really does seem clear that he is not who the US has persistently but opaquely tried to claim that he is, and that he should be recommended for release.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Kevin Hester wrote:

    Thank you, sir, for your dedication to the human rights of these victims of imperialism.
    “No one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.” Nelson Mandela.
    Let’s not forget this is what they want to do to Julian Assange.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks as always for the supportive words, Kevin – and you always find some great quotes, in this case from Nelson Mandela, with his deep understanding of facilities used for political prisoners. He would have understood the horrors of Guantanamo, but I don’t know if he ever spoke about it publicly – although Amy Goodman wrote about Guantanamo and Obama’s hypocrisy in visiting Robben Island while a huge hunger strike was raging in Guantanamo in 2013, the year of Mandela’s death: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/18/nelson-mandela-birthday-america-racism

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Asiya Muhammad wrote:

    Hard to belive this is still ongoing 💔 the resilience of these men is really something, the injustice is just unbearable 😔💔

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Asiya, and yes, the resilience of men like Muhammad Rahim is extraordinary, although I don’t know how many of the other men still held are faring as well in terms of their mental resilience.

  6. Ethan Winters says...

    Thanks for the article, Mr. Worthington. Like you, I agree that Rahim has a chance of being approved for transfer because unlike Abu Zubaydah and Abu Faraj al-Libi, Rahim is not a notorious prisoner. He was, at most, a facilitator. I don’t think Rahim has been denied transfer in order to hide his torture. If that were the case, Guled Duran would have never been approved for transfer and Majid Khan would have never been transferred. More likely, the U.S. authorities are afraid of Rahim because of anti-American expressions he made in the past.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for your thoughts, Ethan, and for taking the time to read the article. I genuinely find it hard to gauge why Rahim is still held. You may be right about the anti-American sentiments, which have persistently been referred to in his PRBs, but I find it difficult to take those claims seriously because I’ve never heard any corroboration of this supposed position in his public statements, which have always seemed quite witty and worldly, with no evident anti-American stance at all.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    Khandan Lolaki-Noble wrote:

    Thank you Andy. It saddens me deeply every time reading about how horrifically these men have been treated two decades plus on and no one is holding the US accountable.
    I am in awe of the resilience the detainees have shown inside or outside of Guantanamo.
    Thank you for all you do to shine light on these important matters. 🙏

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks for the supportive words, Khandan. The men’s resilience is certainly extraordinary, but it remains as dispiriting as ever to realize how little US politicians and the US media care. Not only is no one paying attention to cases like that of Muhammad Rahim, but the unprecedentedly damning reports this year by UN Rapporteurs – while briefly being covered by the media – have failed to provoke any noticeable concern within the Biden administration, even though, if these kinds of abuses were undertaken over a 21-year period by someone regarded as an enemy, they would cause an international outrage.

    Check them out here:


  10. anna says...

    Hi Andy, “subject to the whims of some sort of medieval king” indeed ! Muhammad Rahim being obliged to “humbly ask” his jailors to acknowledge his innocence as opposed to getting a professional and fair trial, being additional proof (as if that was still needed). It really is another form of torture, forcing people with dignity to ‘crawl’ and beg for favours, to auto-police themselves into such submission, as any expression of perfectly justifiable anger would be considered additional ‘proof’ of their ‘guilt’. Whatever that is supposed to be.

    There are moments when my brain refuses to absorb this, how can this be true in a country which constantly claims moral and legal superiority and keeps lecturing everyone else about these matters.

    But then again, maybe I should not be surprised, as after all it is today only 60 years ago that US institutional racial Apartheid got a major dent …

    I do hope that against all odds Muhammad Rahim will manage to get back to Jalalabad and open a food truck/restaurant there. And that I will live long enough to be able to go back there too and taste his cooking. Maybe fish from the river 🙂

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Good to hear from you, Anna, and thanks for sympathising with the plight of Muhammad Rahim, and recognising the fundamental injustice of the parole-type system established at Guantanamo for men who have never even been charged with crimes, let alone convicted. I too share your hope that one day, somehow, he will be able to return to Jalalabad or his home elsewhere in Nangarhar Province, and establish the food truck or restaurant that he dreams of, and that you’ll be able to visit.

    That does, however, seem a remote hope, as we can’t even predict at the moment whether he will actually be approved for release, despite the evident lack of a case against him, and, of course, even if he does get approved for release, it will only be to join the queue of 16 other men awaiting their freedom, who, in most cases, must be resettled in third countries because of Republican lawmakers’ ban on repatriating Guantanamo prisoners to certain proscribed countries, including Afghanistan, which has, yet again, been endorsed in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ version of what will become next year’s National Defense Authorization Act. The Biden administration’s criticism of the Guantanamo provisions is here (p.7): https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/07/H.R.-2670-NDAA.pdf

    The Senate, where Democrats are in a more favourable position, is now considering its version of the bill, after which the two versions will be consolidated, but it seems pretty safe to say that all the current restrictions will stay in place; namely, a ban on using funds to close Guantanamo, to build a facility to replace Guantanamo on the US mainland or to bring any prisoner to the US mainland for any reason, and a ban on sending prisoners back to Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia and Sudan – on pp.491-493: https://www.congress.gov/118/bills/s2226/BILLS-118s2226es.pdf

    I have heard that there is some hope that the ban on bringing prisoners to be US for any reason could be amended in the case of grave medical issues that cannot be dealt with adequately at Guantanamo. I can’t find any reference to this online, but it would seem to be the only adequate response to the UN Rapporteurs’ devastating opinion about medical failures at Guantanamo, which I wrote about here, in relation to the case of Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi: https://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2023/05/22/the-broken-old-men-of-guantanamo/

    As for US Apartheid, thanks for that reminder of the 60th anniversary, tomorrow, of the 250,000-strong March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, at which Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech. There’s Guardian report here about its significance: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2023/aug/26/march-on-washington-60-anniversary-martin-luther-king-civil-rights

    Sadly, however, yesterday’s annual march was far less well-attended. As the AP reported, “For some, the contrasts between the size of the original demonstration and the more modest turnout Saturday were bittersweet. ‘I often look back and look over to the reflection pool and the Washington Monument and I see a quarter of a million people 60 years ago and just a trickling now,’ said Marsha Dean Phelts of Amelia Island, Florida. ‘It was more fired up then. But the things we were asking for and needing, we still need them today.'” https://apnews.com/article/march-on-washington-mlk-dream-speech-anniversary-washington-7639b60f26948fe614978dc6a763cc84

    The AP also noted that, “As speakers delivered messages, they were overshadowed by the sounds of passenger planes taking off from Ronald Reagan National Airport. Rugby games were underway along the Mall in close proximity to the Lincoln Memorial while joggers and bikers went about their routines.”

    That paragraph, sadly, captures for me the success of the marginalisation of the struggle for fundamental rights via the distractions and indifference that have been deliberately encouraged for many decades now to replace indignation and action, and I can’t help but compare it to Guantanamo as well, where what should have been a vast groundswell of anger, has, from the beginning, never been more than a trickle.

    I don’t expect Guantanamo will ever become the topic of major concern that it should be – despite this year’s astonishing UN Rapporteurs’ reports and opinions – but perhaps the spirit of 1963 will eventually be revived when it comes to climate change.

    We can but live in hope.

  12. Anna says...

    Hi Andy, yes, we all must continue to live in hope.
    And thanks for paying due attention to the racial injustice still very much alive in the US – and of course not only there – and the saddening decline of people standing up against it. In Poland the right-wing government is once more weaponising anti-immigrant tropes in a ‘referendum’ to take place in October, linked with three other questions & general elections.

    Yesterday’s latest mass shooting by a white supremacist called a hate crime but not a terrorist attack, while this of course not only killed three persons but also very much terrorises a major part of US society.

    Or this horror : https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/8/14/ex-law-officers-plead-guilty-to-charges-of-torturing-two-black-men-in-us Seems they copied disgusting ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques …

    If you find any time to read any book other than for professional reasons, I highly recommend this ‘thriller’, in which white supremacists are murdered in Mississipi and these crimes are investigated by black police. An intelligent mirror image of a reality still very much alive, as the link above demonstrates, with as historical backdrop the lynching of 14 years old Emmett Till by the KKK. The novel is situated in the town where that happened.

    Percival Everett : The Trees

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    So many horrors in so many places, Anna. That police story you sent the link to is absolutely vile. Thanks for the recommendation of ‘The Trees’, which really does look very good, although I hesitate to say that I’ll buy it because it will probably only sit in a pile of unread books that I can’t find the time to read. Sometimes I long for the pre-internet era …

    I’m sorry to hear that the dire state of ‘populist’ politics continues in Poland. Sadly, both our countries continue to suffer from a broken system whereby a combination of miserable racism on the one hand and apathy on the other enables those on the far-right, or with far-right leanings or intentions, to take power. I see that in 2019 the Law and Justice party got 43.6% of the vote – the highest share since the return of democracy in 1989 – but the turnout was less than 62% of the registered electorate. Here Boris Johnson also got 43.6% of the vote in 2019, but the turnout was only 67.3%. In both countries, our governments actually only have the support of less than 30% of the electorate, but no one in politics or the media wants to mention this, or the fact that the largest group of people in both our countries are those who can’t even be bothered to vote in the first place. What does that say about the state of our precious so-called ‘democracies’?

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    For a Spanish translation, on the World Can’t Wait’s Spanish website, see ‘Muhammad Rahim, un “prisionero para siempre”, el último afgano en Guantánamo, elocuentemente suplica por su liberación’: http://www.worldcantwait-la.com/worthington-muhammad-rahim-prisionero-para-siempre-gtmo.htm

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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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