Archive for July, 2024

Podcast: I Discuss the UK’s General Election, Warmongering, Protest and Julian Assange’s Release with Andy Bungay

The graphic for my podcast with Andy Bungay on July 13, 2024.

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I’m pleased to have just posted on my YouTube channel the full audio recording of an interview I undertook on July 13, nine days after the UK’s recent General Election, with Andy Bungay of Riverside Radio, a community radio station in Wandsworth, in south London. Some of what we discussed drew on the article I wrote just after the election, Despite the Landslide, Labour Have No Vision and Only Won the UK General Election Because the Tories Lost So Spectacularly.

Parts of the interview were broadcast live that evening, with the full interview subsequently included in a longer version of the show posted on Andy’s MixCloud page, as the latest instalment of a monthly show, the Colin Crilly Takeover, incorporated into Andy’s weekly show, The Chiminea.

It was a great pleasure to chat to Andy about the relief that so many people were feeling about being rid of the cruel, corrupt and incompetent Tory government, and I was pleased to have the opportunity to explain how so much of this derangement was because of Brexit, when, after Theresa May lost her struggle to try and make it work in a rational manner, we were burdened with a succession of dreadful Prime Ministers — Boris Johnson, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak — who fundamentally gave up on governing, and focused instead on deranged fantasies: treating the UK as a tabula rasa, a lawless blank slate which they intended to remake as little more than a corrupt kleptocracy and an authoritarian nightmare, a place where refugees would all be treated as criminals, and flown on a one-way trip to Rwanda, and any kind of protest was akin to terrorism.

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What Now, After the World Court Condemns As Unlawful Israel’s Entire 57-Year Occupation of the Palestinian Territories?

A supporter of Palestine outside the International Court of Justice in The Hague on May 24, 2024 (Photo: Johanna Geron/Reuters).

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In a devastating opinion issued on Friday (July 19), the International Court of Justice (one of the six organs of the United Nations, also known as the World Court) condemned as illegal Israel’s presence, and its behavior, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip) ever since they were first militarily occupied in 1967. The case, “Legal Consequences arising from the Policies and Practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem,” was initiated by a request from the UN General Assembly in 2022.

This was, of course, prior to the attacks by Hamas and other militants on October 7, 2023, and Israel’s extraordinarily violent and ongoing military response, in which, according to a recent assessment, it would be reasonable to expect that the final death toll, even if hostilities ended tomorrow, would be no less than 186,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel’s actions are subject to a separate case brought to the ICJ by South Africa, in which the Court first issued “provisional measures” against Israel in January, on the basis that what it has initiated and is engaged in is a “plausible genocide.”

What the Court decided, and how the judges voted

The 15-member court, whose judges are drawn from across the member states of the United Nations, declared, by eleven votes to four, that it was “of the opinion that the State of Israel’s continued presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is unlawful,” and was also “of the opinion that the State of Israel is under an obligation to bring to an end its unlawful presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as rapidly as possible.” Judges from countries including Israel’s staunchest allies, the US and Germany, agreed, as they did for every other decision taken by the Court, along with the recently-appointed Lebanese President, Nawaf Salam, and judges from Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Mexico, Somalia and South Africa.

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After Punitive Sentences of Climate Activists, Labour Must Repeal the Tories’ Draconian Anti-Protest Laws

The five climate activists who were, outrageously, jailed for between four and five years on July 18, 2024, for taking part in a Zoom call regarding protests on the M25 in 2022. The photo is from an Action Network petition to the new Attorney General, Richard Hermer KC, calling for a meeting “to discuss an end to the persecution and imprisonment of truth tellers and the current practice of courts concealing evidence from juries on climate science.”

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In a profoundly disturbing example of draconian judicial overreach in the UK, based on punitive anti-protest laws passed by the recently-departed Conservative government, five climate activists were yesterday given prison sentences of between four and five years for their role in organising climate protests on the M25 in November 2022 via a Zoom call.

Four of the protestors — Daniel Shaw, 38, Louise Lancaster, 58, Lucia Whittaker De Abreu, 34, and Cressida Gethin, 22, all members of the campaigning group Just Stop Oil — were given four-year sentences, while Roger Hallam, 57, the co-founder of Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil, was given a five-year sentence.

Hallam was sentenced even though he insisted that he wasn’t one of the organisers, and was, as he explained in a powerful post after his sentencing, speaking as an advisor, “recommending the action to go ahead to wake up the British public to societal collapse” if urgent action isn’t taken to address the climate crisis. He also explained his hope that the protests would, as the Guardian described it yesterday, “cause ‘the biggest disruption in British modern history’ in an effort to force the government to meet Just Stop Oil’s core demand, an end to new oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.”

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Slow Murder at Guantánamo as Profoundly Disabled Torture Victim Is Sentenced to Another Eight Years

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi (Nashwan al-Tamir), in a photo taken at Guantánamo by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

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I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the 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.

Three weeks ago, a grave injustice took place at Guantánamo, when Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, a 62- or 63-year old Iraqi citizen whose real name is Nashwan al-Tamir, and who is Guantánamo’s most profoundly disabled prisoner, was given the maximum sentence possible by a military jury at his sentencing for war crimes in the prison’s military court. The jury gave him a 30-year sentence, although, under a plea deal agreed in June 2022, that was reduced to ten years, meaning that he will not, apparently, be freed from the prison until June 2032.

The reason this is a problem is that al-Iraqi suffers from a chronic degenerative spinal disease, which has not been been dealt with adequately despite the seven surgical interventions he has received in the medical facilities at Guantánamo. Shamefully, prisoners are forbidden, through US law, from being transferred to to the US mainland to receive specialist medical treatment even though grave physical problems like al-Iraqi’s cannot be properly addressed in Guantánamo’s limited medical facilities. All of these problems were highlighted in a devastating 18-page opinion about al-Iraqi’s treatment, which was issued by number of UN Special Mandates on January 11, 2023, the 21st anniversary of the prison’s opening, and which I wrote about here.

The sentence seems particularly punitive because there is no guarantee that al-Iraqi will even survive until 2032, and it is certainly possible, if not probable that, if he does survive, he will by then be completely paralyzed. Two years ago, when the plea deal was announced (which I wrote about here), sentencing was delayed for two years to allow the US government “to find a sympathetic nation to receive him and provide him with lifelong medical care,” and also to hold him while he serves out the rest of his sentence, as Carol Rosenberg explained at the time for the New York Times, given that he cannot be repatriated because of the security situation in Iraq.

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Radio: I Discuss the Death of the Tories, Labour’s Dubious Victory and Israel’s Guantánamo with Chris Cook on Gorilla Radio

On the left: Keir Starmer and Rishi Sunak, and, on the right, before and after photos of Moazzaz Obayat (also identified as Muazzam Obayat), a Palestinian from Bethlehem, held for nine months in Israel’s Negev Prison, and released as a broken man.

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Many thanks to my truth warrior colleague Chris Cook, in western Canada, for having me on his Gorilla Radio show again to discuss last week’s General Election in the UK, following up on my article, Despite the Landslide, Labour Have No Vision and Only Won the UK General Election Because the Tories Lost So Spectacularly.

Our interview, available on Chris’s Substack here, took place in the second half of the one-hour show, following his interview with journalist and author John Helmer about Russia and Ukraine.

Chris and I spent most of our half-hour interview discussing the collapse of the Conservative Party — who lost two-thirds of their seats — after the 14 unbearably long years of their increasingly deranged rule, which became noticeably more septic after the vote to leave the EU in 2016, and also discussing the largely empty promise of their replacements, the Labour Party under Keir Starmer, who, because of the vagaries of Britain’s antiquated and anachronistic ‘First Past the Post’ voting system, won a landslide victory, despite securing less votes than Jeremy Corbyn did as Labour’s leader in the General Elections of 2017 and 2019.

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Horror Beyond Comprehension: Gaza Death Toll Realistically Assessed At 186,000, But Could Be As High As 600,000

Medical experts, in a letter to The Lancet, have finally broken through the medical community’s silence regarding the deaths caused by Israel’s genocide in Gaza, adding an estimate of the number of indirect deaths to the confirmed number of direct deaths, indicating that the minimum total death toll will be 186,000.

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Many thanks to three medical experts, research scientist Rasha Khatib, Professor Martin McKee and Professor Salim Yusuf, who have finally broken the global medical establishment’s silence regarding the true death toll of Israel’s genocidal assault on the Gaza Strip, now in its tenth month, pointing out, in correspondence printed in The Lancet, one of the world’s most respected academic medical journals, that, at a conservative estimate, the total death toll is likely to be at least 186,000, and maybe much higher.

The experts’ assessment is based on multiplying the known, direct deaths of Israel’s unprecedentedly brutal assault on the nearly 2.4 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip (2,375,259, as of 2022), which is widely understood to be around 37,000 (37,396, as of June 19, according to the Gaza Health Ministry), by a factor of five, to include the indirect deaths that, as established through detailed research into armed conflict since the 1990s, always exceed direct deaths many times over.

The experts’ main source for indirect deaths in wartime appears to be the Geneva Declaration Secretariat’s ‘Global Burden of Armed Violence’ report, published in 2008 after the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development was adopted by 42 states at the conclusion of a ministerial summit in June 2007, which “recogniz[ed] that the fight against the global scourge of armed violence and the prospects for sustainable development are closely linked.”

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Photos and Report: The Ten Coordinated Global Vigils for the Closure of Guantánamo on July 3, 2024

Photos from the ten coordinated monthly global vigils for the closure of Guantánamo on July 3, 2024. Clockwise, from top L: Washington, D.C., London, New York City and Mexico City.

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My thanks, as always, to the campaigners in ten different locations across the US and around the world who came together on Wednesday (July 3), to call for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay — in Washington, D.C., London, New York City, Mexico City, Brussels, San Francisco, Detroit, Cobleskill, NY, Minneapolis and Los Angeles, from organizations including Amnesty International, Witness Against Torture, the World Can’t Wait and the UK Guantánamo Network, and with supporting organizations including the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights and September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

Campaigners with Witness Against Torture outside the White House on July 3, 2024. Responding to a question about the recent Supreme Court decision — that any “official acts” a president takes, even beyond the office’s “core constitutional functions”, enjoy “presumptive immunity” from prosecution — Helen Schietinger wrote, “Well, they still let us stand here: so far, so good, but who knows how much longer we’ll be allowed to stand in front of this gigantic fence?”
Eight campaigners with the UK Guantánamo Network gathered in Parliament Square on July 3, 2024, Including campaigners from across London and the south east, and Anna Fauzy-Ackroyd from the Isle of Wight (3rd from left), who joined the vigil before moving on to Australia House (with another three of us) for a celebration of Julian Assange’s freedom on his 53rd birthday. For the five years that Julian Assange was held in Belmarsh, campaigners held a vigil there every Wednesday, as well as holding vigils in Piccadilly Circus and outside Belmarsh itself. (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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Despite the Landslide, Labour Have No Vision and Only Won the UK General Election Because the Tories Lost So Spectacularly

A composite image of the outgoing Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, and his replacement, Sir Keir Starmer.

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So the good news is easy. After 14 years of cruelty, incompetence and corruption, the Tories were wiped out in yesterday’s General Election in the UK, suffering their worst ever result, and ending up with less MPs than at any other point in their 190-year existence.

Of the 650 seats contested, the 365 seats that the Tories had when Rishi Sunak unexpectedly called a General Election on May 22 were slashed to just 121 (a loss of over two-thirds), with their vote almost halved, from 13,966,454 in 2019 to just 6,814,469 yesterday.

High-profile Tory losses included Liz Truss, the disastrous 43-day Prime Minister, whose vote plunged from 35,507 in 2019 to 11,217 in South West Norfolk, the absurd and offensive pro-Brexit toff Jacob Rees-Mogg, and a number of ministers until six weeks ago including the vacuous Tory pin-up Penny Mordaunt, the empty Grant Shapps and Mark Harper, the far-right ideologues Liam Fox and Johnny Mercer, and the offensive Thérèse Coffey and Gillian Keegan.

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The Limits of Polite Dissent: The Massive But Largely Ignored ‘Restore Nature Now’ March in London, June 22, 2024

The ‘Restore Nature Now’ march on Piccadilly in London on June 22, 2024, with Chris Packham on the edge of the photo. (Photo: Andy Worthington).

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They came in their tens of thousands, on Saturday June 22, to send a message to an uncaring government and a largely indifferent mainstream media: ‘Restore Nature Now.’

The march and rally, attended by at least 60,000 people, was, essentially, a follow-up to ‘The Big One’, last year’s massive, family-friendly, non-confrontational three-day event in central London, which I wrote about here (with numerous photos), and which mixed targeted environmental protest (outside government departments and the far-right think-tanks in Tufton Street) with education and celebration.

For ‘The Big One’, for the first time, Extinction Rebellion, which had renounced “public disruption as a primary tactic”, at least temporarily, at the start of 2023, created an extraordinary alliance of over 200 organisations, under the slogan ’Unite to Survive’, including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Avaaz, Earthday, the influential youth movement Green New Deal Rising, the environmentally conscious clothing firm Patagonia, the Fairtrade Foundation, the PCS union, Don’t Pay UK, DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts), CND, Global Justice Now, NHS workers, War on Want, Stop Ecocide and CAFOD.

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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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