Posts Tagged Andy Worthington

More Talk About Closing GTMO, While Prisoners Treated Abysmally

What’s going on in Guantanamo is still outrageous.  Obama renewed promises to close Guantanamo, although so far, only 3 prisoners have been released since 2010. Last week, a prisoner who the U.S. military has known was mentally ill for over a decade, was released.

Another figure from the Democratic establishment, lawyer Paul Lewis, has been named to work in the Defense Department with responsibility to close Guantanamo.  We shall see where that goes, as we learn more about the lengths the administration/military has gone to subvert the rights of the prisoners and their lawyers, as Andy Worthington writes in: At Guantanamo, a Microcosm of the Surveillance State.

At Guantanamo last week, a pre-trial hearing in the military commission trials of five men allegedly involved in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, descended into chaos when Air Force Col. Karen Mayberry, the chief defence counsel for the Office of Military Commissions, explained how the Defence Department’s computer network was so untrustworthy that 540,000 supposedly confidential emails, between defence lawyers, had been made available to the prosecution, and seven gigabytes of the lawyers’ files had disappeared.

Shaker-petition

Shaker Amer, held for six years now after he’s been cleared for release, is seeking an independent medical evaluation, having lost over hundred pounds on hunger strike, and still being brutally abused by guards.  Andy Worthington publishes his attorney’s statements.

In support of Mr. Aamer’s claim, his lawyers note that, in the eleven years of his imprisonment, “he has been subjected to numerous abuses by his captors,” including “physical and psychological coercion associated with interrogations, prolonged solitary confinement, deplorable sanitary conditions, refusal to treat Mr. Aamer’s various medical conditions properly, and punishment and retaliation in response to Mr. Aamer’s current peaceful hunger strike.”

Ramzi Kassem, who represents Shaker, filed this horrifying account of what happens to Shaker, on CloseGuantanamo.org

9. While in solitary confinement, Mr. Aamer is only allowed out of his cell for two hours a day, which he spends alone in a recreation cage. Each day in solitary, Mr. Aamer stages a peaceful protest, refusing to leave the recreation cage and, each day, he is forcibly removed from the cage by an IRF team. Mr. Aamer is typically beaten and sometimes choked in the process.

10. As Mr. Aamer recounted to me on June 28, 2013, the process typically begins with six IRF members rushing at Mr. Aamer and slamming him face down to the floor. Four of the guards grab his arms and legs, a fifth grabs his head, and a sixth oversees the entire operation, often as others watch and even record what is happening with a handheld video-camera. After handcuffing Mr. Aamer from behind with cutting restraints, they subject him to a humiliating body search.

11. Once the IRF team has forced Mr. Aamer back into his cell, they again slam him face down to the floor, pressing his arms and crossed feet together behind his back with their cumulative weight against his arms, feet, and back. The lead IRF member then holds Mr. Aamer’s crossed feet and arms pressed down together against Mr. Aamer’s back in a single point, against which the other five IRF members again bear down with their cumulative weight.

The London Guantanamo Campaign, a very active support group for Shaker, the only remaining British resident at the prison, and other prisoners, carries on regular protest in London.  See the campaign to Free Shaker Amer to find ways you can act.

In encouraging U.S. response, another group of academics are challenging the legitimacy of U.S. forced-feeding: Health Professionals Who Participate in Force-feeding Prisoners on Hunger Strike at Guantanamo Bay Should Lose Professional Licenses, New Study Reveals.

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We Cannot Give up on Closing Guantanamo

At the rate the Obama administration is “closing” Guantanamo, most prisoners will die of old age before ever being released. Although two were released to Algeria last week — finally — 84 cleared prisoners and 60 others uncharged or facing military tribunals remain. 30 are on hunger strike, 27 of those being force-fed. Ongoing protests in Chicago, San Francisco, London, NYC and Washington, DC have involved dozens of activists, including some who have gone on solidarity fasts. See closegitmo.net.

Undoubtedly, it’s only the prisoner’s hunger strike, which began in February and is ongoing, which has gotten any movement of out of the illegal prison. Andy Worthington provides the personal background of two released prisoners in Who Are the Two Guantánamo Prisoners Released in Algeria. He previously covered

Nabil Hadjarab, by Molly Crabapple 2013 at Guantanamo

Nabil Hadjarab, by Molly Crabapple 2013 at Guantanamo

Nabil’s story on “Close Guantánamo,” in a profile published n May 2012 entitled, “Nabil Habjarab, the “Sweet Kid” in Guantánamo, Was Cleared in 2007 But Is Still Held,” and in July I publicized his account of the hunger strike, the first in which he had taken part. Now 32 years old, he was just 21 years old when he was first seized…

Nabil lived in France until he was nine years old, but then his father then took him back to Algeria, although he spent every summer in France with his uncle Ahmad. Disaster struck in 1994, when Nabil’s father died of cancer, and he was taken in by an abusive aunt.

Nabil’s lifeline was his uncle Ahmed, who sent him money, treating him as though he was one of his own children, and when he turned 21 Nabil returned to France and his uncle’s family, hoping to secure French residency.

However, fearful that he would be deported while waiting for his paperwork to be processed, Nabil made a fateful decision to travel to the UK, and from there to Afghanistan, where he stayed with an Algerian man in Kabul, and then fled to Jalalabad after the US-led invasion began. He then tried to reach the Pakistani border, but was wounded in a US bombing raid and ended up in a hospital in Jalalabad. From there he was sold to US forces, as were many of the men and boys who ended up, pointlessly, in Guantánamo. As one of the guards in Guantánamo explained, Nabil was no soldier and no terrorist; instead, he was “a brilliant artist, a keen footballer, and a sweet kid.”

The other prisoner sent to Algeria, 37 year old Mutia Sayyab was cleared for release twice — first under George W. Bush, in February 2008, and then under Barack Obama in January 2010. His attorney, Buz Eisenberg, said he is

“a poster boy for all that is wrong about Guantánamo Bay,” and an “unwitting and undeserving victim of a misguided response to terrorism.” He described him as “innocent of any conduct remotely related to terror, and in fact abhors and deplores such conduct,” adding, “He has nevertheless been beaten, forced to live in isolation, and stripped of his inalienable right to freedom.”

Another form of resistance to the prison is beginning to take shape from within the medical community. Michael Kirsch writes in Force-feeding prisoners at Guantanamo tortures medical profession that

There have been physicians present during enhanced interrogation events (read: torture) ostensibly to guide interrogators against causing permanent serious injury or worse. Perhaps, these physicians have rationalized their role to be protectors of detainees, but this is nonsensical. This role is so far removed from the medical profession’s healing mission that it deserves no debate. Indeed, this practice tortures the medical profession that is under oath to heal and comfort the sick, not to provide flimsy cover to ‘interrogators’.

Dr. Kirsch, ends

If our Commander-in-Chief wants to force food down someone’s throat, he is free to give the order. But, no doctor or nurse should carry it out.

The systematic torture developed under the Bush regime has only been possible with the collusion of attorneys writing legal justifications, officers devising and enforcing orders, and medical personnel giving ethical cover to the process.

Thank you, Dr. Kirsch!

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Why Obama Can & Should Close Guantanamo NOW

While promoting the message to Close Guantanamo that we are raising funds to publish in The New York Times, we  have been hearing, especially in the Twitterverse, that people think, because Obama promised to close Guantanamo, and says that Congress is not allowing him to do that, the main problem is with Congress.

It is quite true that the U.S. Congress, both when the Republicans led it under Bush, and since the Democrats took over leadership in 2006, has a shameful record in advancing all sorts of repression.  Memorably, they’ve made speeches and passed resolutions — and tried to pass laws — saying Guantanamo, specificially, can’t be closed, nor can the prisoners ever by tried here or released in the U.S.

So appealing to the right-wing Congress is going to continue to be a very hopeless road, absent the kind of mass political movement from the people needed, on all issues of justice, from authorizing un-ending wars, targeted killing, violation of borders for other countries, while further militarizing this country’s borders and infrastructure.

Obama, however, as people rightly point out, has promised to close Guantanamo.  For his own reasons, whatever they may be, he repeats what most of the world thinks, that the continued existence of the illegal prison in Guantanamo, set up to avoid U.S. law by the Bush regime, doesn’t serve the U.S. public image as the land of freedom and democracy.

Obama repeated, in remarks at a press conference last month, that it is Congress who refuses to let him release prisoners who have been cleared for release.  86 prisoners were cleared, some back to 2006, by the Bush administration, and then again by a task force of Obama’s own creation in 2009, after what he’s called a very “thorough review.”

There are 3 main reasons the ball is in Obama’s court on Guantanamo:

1.  Obama put in place the ban on transferring the 56 Yemeni prisoners, out of the 86 who have been cleared for release.  Says Andy Worthington in Eloquent But Unconvincing: President Obama’s Response to the Guantánamo Hunger Strike

it was the President “who issued a ban on the release of Yemenis from Guantánamo after a failed bomb plot on a Detroit-bound plane on Christmas Day 2009, undertaken by a Nigerian man who was recruited in Yemen.”

Not Congress, though they’ve done many other reactionary things.  It was also Obama who in January 2013 closed the office in the Executive Branch run by Donald Fried, which was tasked with resettling the prisoners.

2. It’s the Obama administration which has made life for prisoners worse at Guantanamo after some improvements at the end of the Bush administration.  Glenn Greenwald wrote in July 2012,

“Last week, the Obama administration imposed new arbitrary rules for Guantanamo detainees who have lost their first habeas corpus challenge. Those new rules eliminate the right of lawyers to visit their clients at the detention facility; the old rules establishing that right were in place since 2004, and were bolstered by the Supreme Court’s 2008 Boumediene ruling that detainees were entitled to a “meaningful” opportunity to contest the legality of their detention. The DOJ recently informed a lawyer for a Yemeni detainee, Yasein Khasem Mohammad Esmail, that he would be barred from visiting his client unless he agreed to a new regime of restrictive rules, including acknowledging that such visits are within the sole discretion of the camp’s military commander.”

Obama’s credentials as a protector of the prisoners are non-existent, making his claims to fear for their deaths hollow. Yet, he should be held to follow through on his promise.  You can read more on that in the text of our message.

3.  Obama can use the clause written into the National Defense Authorization Act allowing the executive to release prisoners.
Senator Levin wrote to Obama on May 9, reminding him, “I successfully fought for a national security waiver that provides a clear route for the transfer of detainees to third countries in appropriate cases, i.e., to make sure the certification requirements do not constitute an effective prohibition.”

President Obama seems quite ready to use executive authority when it comes to targeted kill lists.  He doesn’t wait for Congress, or even acknowledge Congressional authority in matters of war and national boundaries for drone war or special operations.  So why is he allowed to hide behind “Congress won’t let me” now?

I would urge people who take Barack Obama at his word that he wants to close Guantanamo, to investigate more deeply what Obama’s policies have amounted to by reading Greenwald’s piece from 2012: The Obama GTMO Myth.

“Every time the issue of ongoing injustices at Guantanamo is raised, one hears the same apologia from the President’s defenders: the President wanted and tried to end all of this, but Congress — including even liberals such as Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders — overwhelming voted to deny him the funds to close Guantanamo. While those claims, standing alone, are true, they omit crucial facts and thus paint a wildly misleading picture about what Obama actually did and did not seek to do.”

Andy Worthington writes in the wake of Obama’s latest statements,

“The best that can be said of President Obama’s performance on Tuesday  is that the words he uttered can be used to hammer home to him the ongoing injustice of the prison, if he tries, as he has before, to lose interest in it. Mostly, though, what is needed is action — action to persuade Congress to drop its restriction on the release of prisoners, and action and honesty by President Obama himself: on his Yemeni ban, on the need to appoint someone to deal with the closure of Guantanamo on a full-time basis, and, if necessary, on releasing prisoners through the waiver in the NDAA.

He also, as an urgent matter, needs to initiate review boards for 46 other prisoners who he consigned to indefinite detention without charge or trial in an executive order in March 2011, on the basis that they are regarded as too dangerous to release, even though insufficient evidence exists to put them on trial. That is, and was an unacceptable decision to take, but the only proviso that tempered it ever so slightly was the President’s promise to initiate periodic reviews of the men’s cases, which, over two years later, have not taken place.

Political speeches and posturing are one thing.  Reality is another.  Greenwald reminded us after Adnan Latif died in Guantanamo earlier this year, “more detainees have died at the camp (nine) than have been convicted of wrongdoing by its military commissions (six).”

Obama needs to release the cleared prisoners, whatever work that takes; charge or release those being held indefinitely without charges, and close the prison.  You can donate to help publish the ad.  And sign it, along with the above writers, and myself.

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State of the Union: War on Terror Goes On and On, and On…

On Tuesday January 25, at the same moment Congress gathered for the State of the Union address from Barack Obama, almost a hundred people gathered to discuss “Torture, Guantanamo and Accountability” at DePaul University Law School in Chicago.  It’s been difficult over the last 2+ years to fill a room for such a discussion, so we were heartened by the participation of 40 law students and attorneys.  Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, a distinguished research professor emeritus at the law school, and founder of the International Human Rights Law Institute; and Candace Gorman, who represents two men imprisoned at Guantanamo, spoke with me on the panel.

Dr. Bassiouni described the “chasm” between the promises made by Obama while campaigning and the actions of Obama as president, regarding the rule of law as represented by the United States.  Candace told the story of one of her clients, still in Guantanamo.  He is apparently one of the 48 who will be detained indefinitely, bringing some of the students to tears of frustration.  We’ll have more on the program soon.  Listen to Dr. Bassiouni and Ms. Gorman in an excellent hour-long discussion on Chicago public radio WBEZ.

Guantanamo prisoners

Many of the men still imprisoned at Guantanamo may never be released

Our colleague Andy Worthington, about to tour Poland with former Guantanamo prisoner Moazzam Begg, took the time to describe the Obama’s administration’s plans for those imprisoned at Guantanamo in Obama’s Collapse: The Return of the Military Commissions:

This year the President’s bitter surprise for the prisoners (which has encouraged a widespread peaceful protest at the prison, as reported here) was two-fold. The first was his failure to veto a military spending bill passed by Congress, which contained cynical and unconstitutional provisions preventing the transfer of any prisoner to the US mainland, in which lawmakers also demanded the power to prevent the release of prisoners to countries regarded as dangerous…

The second bitter surprise for the prisoners was the announcement last week, first mentioned by the New York Times, that, although federal court trials have effectively been suspended, specifically derailing the administration’s stated intention to prosecute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four other men accused of involvement in the 9/11 attacks in federal court, the administration is preparing to push ahead instead with trials by Military Commission for at least some of the 33 men recommended for trials by Obama’s Task Force.

No, none of those plans were part of the State of the Union address.  Those of you listening for “real change” in Obama’s direction on the wars Tuesday night were disappointed.  Rocky Anderson, former mayor of Salt Lake City, and an opponent of torture, spoke on Democracy Now January 26 about the speech:

He didn’t mention human rights at a time when he has assassination lists for the first time in our nation’s history, that include U.S. citizens. No due process—we don’t just have indefinite detention anymore; we just go out, put their name on a list, and kill them. The invocation of state secrets, it’s absolutely obliterated any notion of checks and balances. Our courts have been removed from that equation, by and large, when it comes to torture, when it comes to warrantless wiretapping by our government. No discussion about that, of course. And we’re seeing, really, an institutionalization by this president of some of the worst abuses and what we, a lot of us, thought were just aberrations during the Bush years.

I’d like to note what Obama did say:

…because we’ve begun this work, tonight we can say that American leadership has been renewed and America’s standing has been restored.  Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down, and a new government has been formed. This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept. The Iraq war is coming to an end. (Applause.)

…We’ve also taken the fight to al Qaeda and their allies abroad. In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces. Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home. (Applause.)

Last I heard, the Defense Department is balking at even a 2014 pull out date of Afghanistan.  The unjust, immoral, illegitimate occupations continue, and with them, the “war on terror” against civilians across the region.  It’s up to us to bring out that reality to people.

I saw John Boehner pinch up his face when Obama obliquely mentioned the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”  As much as the reactionaries howled against letting gays be out in the military, I have to say that any gay person who actually decides now to enlist has lost their mind.  Just because one can now serve openly does not mean the whole enterprise of occupying countries and killing civilians should involve you!  I say, “don’t ask, don’t tell….no — DON’T GO!”  It’s a bad thing, as several professors have written me, that because DODT is being repealed, colleges are now planning to open the doors once again to military recruiters.

I’ll see you in Washington D.C. on March 17-19 as we step up the visible protest on the anniversary of the Iraq war.

Crimes Are Crimes - No Matter Who Does Them

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Closing Guantanamo Requires Us

Over an intense week protesting the beginning of the 10th year of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, I continued to learn more.  The situation for the 173 men there is changing, though not towards a just resolution.

After nine years, it got through to me that use of the word “detainees” indicates something impermanent, as if one is “detained” doing an errand.  The men have been imprisoned; they are prisoners.  So we shall call them prisoners and released prisoners.

Many thanks to Andy Worthington for coming to the U.S. last week, speaking and talking with all us involved in trying to end the U.S. regime of indefinite detention, based on torture begun by the Bush regime.  His attention to the cases of 774 men, and grasp of the prison’s history is remarkable.  You can see and support his work here.

Protests last week centered on the demand that Guantanamo be closed, with justice.   A statement still circulating to that effect is here.  Groups in other cities, and 100 fasters around the country, continue to speak out.  World Can’t Wait in Chicago is sponsoring an event January 25 at DePaul University with Dr. M. Cherif Bassiouni, attorney Candace Gorman, and myself.

Thanks to Witness Against Torture, leading an ongoing fast for justice through January 22, two years from the day Barack Obama promised to close Guantanamo.  Thanks to the attorneys who have defended the prisoners, too numerous to name here, and who shared their sense of outrage with us.  And to the Center for Constitutional Rights and Amnesty International for a dramatic and intense protest Tuesday January 11 in front of the White House, and later at the Department of Justice.

The voices of the former prisoners — who of course could not be with us at the protest, as they are still considered “enemy combatants” though they were never charged — came through.  Omar Deghayes, who speaks so movingly in the film Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo, sent a message read in front of the White House by Kathy Kelly:

…This past December 19th just marked three years to the day that I tasted freedom again and was released from Guantánamo to the warm embrace of my family and the community who fought so hard for my freedom. But not a day has passed since in which my thoughts and prayers have not remained with the 173 men who continue to languish in Guantánamo, detained without trial, most of them not facing any charge, and entering their tenth year of being separated from their loved ones. 90 of these men have actually been cleared for release long ago…

January 11, 2011 Andy Worthington speaking to protesters & media in front of the White House

Andy Worthington explained to the hundreds of people standing in the street before the White House, what’s happened to the 173 men left.  In a piece that summarize the pace of closure, Guantánamo Forever? makes the case that the Obama administration, as indicated back in May 2009, is making indefinite detention a permanent feature:

…it is reasonable to propose that Guantánamo is now a permanent institution for a variety of reasons. The first concerns a number of cynical moves by lawmakers in recent months, inserting provisions into a military spending bill that are explicitly designed to keep Guantánamo open — a ban on using funds to transfer Guantánamo prisoners to the U.S. mainland to face trials, a ban on using funds to buy or build a prison on the U.S. mainland to hold Guantánamo prisoners, and a ban on the release of any prisoner cleared for release by the President’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force (composed of representatives of government departments and the intelligence agencies) to countries considered dangerous by lawmakers — including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen…

Andy looks further into this situation in Nine Years Later: The Political Prisoners of Guantanamo, showing some of the complex factors behind the paralysis.  An even larger group of prisoners are held in Bagram, at the U.S. air base, in what the U.S. argues is a “war zone” so that the prisoners may not have habeas corpus, echoing the Bush regime of 5 years ago.  Military tribunals, or “commissions” have been widely derided as unjust.  Obama says some of the prisoners are “too dangerous to release” or to try.  Is it that what would come out in court would be too revealing of the illegitimacy of the war on terror?  And concludes

Until these problems are solved and the Guantanamo prisoners are either tried or released, President Obama’s contribution to this bitter legacy of the Bush administration is to be presiding over the unthinkable: a prison where, however the prisoners have been designated, they are almost all held in indefinite detention and are, indeed, political prisoners.

Over the next year, we will experience the ten year anniversaries of 9/11, the PATRIOT Act, the attack on Afghanistan, and the opening of Guantanamo.  We have something to say now, and over the next year, about whether the outrages associated with the Bush years continue along, or are sharply opposed by more and more people.

World Can’t Wait began its Call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in 2005 with:

YOUR GOVERNMENT, on the basis of outrageous lies, is waging a murderous and utterly illegitimate war in Iraq, with other countries in their sights.

YOUR GOVERNMENT is openly torturing people, and justifying it.

YOUR GOVERNMENT puts people in jail on the merest suspicion, refusing them lawyers, and either holding them indefinitely or deporting them in the dead of night.

And we ended it with, “The future is unwritten.  Which one we get is up to us.”

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What the U.S. Prison at Guantanamo Accomplished

The voices almost never heard in the discussion of torture, indefinite detention and Bush’s Guantánamo are the men who were themselves detained. Over 600 have been released, in a tacit admission by the U.S. that they committed no crimes.  174 are still detained, even though Obama’s own commission found last year that more than 90 should be released immediately.  We should hear these voices.

Andy Worthington published this letter last week, from a Yemini detainee:

A letter from Guantánamo, by Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif

To Attorney David Remes who dedicated his efforts to work on my dead case. The case that has been buried by its makers under the wreckage of freedom, justice, and the malicious and cursed politics.

Testimony and Consolation

I offer my dead corpse to the coming Yemeni delegation.

They agreed on the torture and agonies that I went through all those years.

They knew that I am innocent and at the same time ill and that I left my country to seek treatment.

This is also a message to the Yemeni people who bear the responsibility of my death in front of God and the responsibility of all of the other Yemenis inside this prison. This prison is a piece of hell that kills everything, the spirit, the body and kicks away all the symptoms of health from them.

A Testimony of Death

A testimony against injustice and against the propagandists of freedom, justice and equality.

Adnan Farhan Abdulatif while in the throes of death.

From Close Guantanamo with Justice Now, by dozens of organizations to mark the beginning of the 10th year of Guantanamo on Tuesday, January 11, 2011:

The story of Guantánamo remains the shameful case of the U.S. government rounding up nearly 800 men and boys, indiscriminately labeling them “the worst of the worst,” and throwing them into an island prison designed to exist beyond the reaches of the law, where they would have no right to challenge their detention or abuse. The vast majority of the prisoners at Guantánamo should never have been detained in the first place. Many were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and were fleeing the chaos of war when U.S. forces entered Afghanistan. Only one in twenty was captured by the U.S. military. Most were captured by local civilians and authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and sold to the United States in exchange for substantial bounty. According to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, a senior State Department official who served in the Bush administration between 2002-2005, the Bush administration knew early on that the majority of the men at Guantánamo were innocent but did not release them due to political concerns that doing so could harm support for the government’s push for war in Iraq and the broader “Global War on Terror.”

5 men still detained by the U.S. in Guantanamo January 2011

5 of the men still detained by the U.S. in Guantánamo, January 2011

Andy Worthington and other journalists have spent years documenting the abuse detainees suffered.  See the report by ProPublica, Prisoners’ Recollections Differ from Guidelines, contrasting the “torture memo” report released by the Obama administration in 2009, with its dry and utterly bland descriptions of torture procedures ordered by the Bush regime, with the report of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 2007 which, given the ICRC’s reluctance to criticize governments, was scathing in its criticism of the Bush program.

The problem is not simply that Barack Obama has not followed through on his pledge to close Guantanamo by January 22, 2010.   In many ways, as we said in the Crimes are Crimes – No Matter Who Does Them statement,

this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of “terrorism,” merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of “preventive detention.

Ten weeks after the publication of that statement in The New York Times, Obama, it was reported by Dafna Linzer at ProPublica that

The White House is preparing an Executive Order on indefinite detention that will provide periodic reviews of evidence against dozens of prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, according to several administration officials… the order establishes indefinite detention as a long-term Obama administration policy and makes clear that the White House alone will manage a review process for those it chooses to hold without charge or trial.

This executive order, may be released on or near January 11, putting a close to any faint illusions — or delusions – on the part of those who says that Obama is “really trying” to close the illegal prison.

In another recent piece With Indefinite Detention and Transfer Bans, Obama and the Senate Plumb New Depths on Guantánamo Worthington says:

President Obama is now fulfilling one of Dick Cheney’s great hopes, presiding over a prison in which the overwhelming majority of the remaining 174 prisoners will, in all likelihood, continue to be held indefinitely.

Over at The Talking Dog, dog says:

Every day, in every way, the people of the Obama Administration just want you to know that if there is any material difference between it and the Bush Administration… they must not be doing their jobs right.

Just so we are clear: the continuation of the global “war on terror” continues, now fully endorsed by the administration and the Congress.  As always, it’s up to us to make our demands visible.  Join me in Washington DC on Tuesday, January 11, 2011.

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Going on 9 Guantanamo Years

Lost in the flurry of bills passed as Congress ended was the inclusion in the 2011 National Defense Authorization Act of language that forbids any Pentagon funds being used to transport any detainee from Guantánamo to the U.S. for any reason.   There’s no evidence that the Obama administration really opposed this language; they’ve accepted that detainees such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed won’t be tried in federal courts.  They’ve delineated a group of detainess for indefinite detention for the reason that they’ve been tortured, and such information, from the government’s standpoint, can’t be made public.

Guantanamo protestSo still, 174 men sit in Guantánamo, including the large group of Yemenis who are caught between denunciations by the U.S. authorities of the anti-government forces in Yemen, and U.S. support for same.  The hope many felt two years ago, in anticipation of an end to the Bush torture regime is dead.  Yet courageous lawyers, writers, and activists still struggle for humanity to know the truth about the illegal prison Bush built in Guantánamo, and the need for the wider complex of Bush-era torture, indefinite detention, rendition, and secret prisons to really end.

Andy Worthington, who will be in the States next week to participate in protests of Guantanamo, wrote today, in Christmas at Guantánamo:

I thought I’d take this opportunity to remind readers who may be searching the Internet because they need a break from eating and drinking, or because they want to get away from their families for a while, or because the TV is so relentlessly pointless, or because they don’t celebrate Christmas, about some of the 174 men still held in Guantánamo, for whom concern is particularly appropriate right now, as, between them, the Obama administration and Congress seem to have ensured that the majority of them will be spending many more Christmases at Guantánamo…”

It’s not only that Guantánamo should have been closed, and isn’t, but that the virulent Islamophobia, the illegitimate “war on terror;” the secret renditions begun under Bill Clinton; the covering for torture by the allies in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.  I thank Glenn Greenwald for pulling our attention yet again to Wikileaks, for what they revealed this year on the crimes of our government, past and current, as regards torture, rendition, and detention, in What Wikileaks Revealed to the World in 2010 – a pattern of utter suppression of peoples’ rights, outside the law.

In two weeks, we’ll be in Washington with Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and activists who won’t let this issue go, no matter who the president, or what the promises are.

Please join us in Washington, or where you are, in making visible resistance and protest.  Guantánamo, and the whole torture regime that brought it, must be ended!

Rally and “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice, followed by non-violent direct action.
Date and Time: Tues, Jan. 11, beginning at 11 am
Location: The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The prison at Guantanamo will enter its 10th year of operation on Tuesday, January 11. Witness Against Torture is working to make sure this second decade never begins.

Starting at 11am that morning at the White House, Witness Against Torture launches a Daily Vigil and Fast for Justice that will continue for 11 days and include demonstrations throughout Washington. The days of action will begin on January 11th with a rally of a coalition of human rights and grassroots groups, including the Center for Constitutional Rights and Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition, followed by a “prisoner procession” to the Department of Justice, where members of Witness Against Torture will engage in nonviolent direct action…

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Torture @ Guantanamo: Effects on Detainees & Soldiers

The Berkeley Says NO to Torture Week began Sunday October 10 with a book talk by Andy Worthington who wrote The Guantanamo Files:The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things.  Even for people who have followed the US detention of men at Guantanamo, the stories of the real people involved; both those detained, and those who were part of the functioning, are eye-opening and heart-breaking.

The Guantanamo Files: Stories of the 774 Men in American's Illegal Prison

Andy, who knows as much or more about the individual stories of the men detained at Guantanamo, reminded everyone of the reason we’re doing this Week in Berkeley: John Yoo is here teaching law at Cal, as he has been since 2004, when he returned from his two years spent in the Bush White House arranging the “legal” justification of torture and indefinite detention.  Why stay on the issue of the closure of Guantanamo when, for the time being, it’s disappeared off the radar?  “Just because something’s gone on for far too long, doesn’t make it less wrong,” Andy says.

He gave a quick overview of Guantanamo, 20 months after Barack Obama said he’d close it in 12 months.  598 men have been released with no charges, mostly by the Bush regime.  174 are left.  Of those, the Obama administration plans to charge 35 and try them under the “new” military commissions.  48 are to be held indefinitely — no charges, no trials, no release, in legal limbo.  The rest are all “approved for transfer,” a phrase this administration picked up from Bush, as opposed to “approved for release”  which could indicate they were held without reason.  Andy pointed out that the U.S. has prevailed on 15 countries to take detainees after release, but that the U.S. – the country which detained the innocent men –  won’t take any.

The vast majority of the 774 men were not caught on the battlefield, as the Bush regime said at the time, but were bought for bounty.  The US government didn’t know who they had, why, or what any of them might have done.   General Dunleavy, the first general in charge in 2002 when Guantanamo opened, called a lot of them “Mickey Mouse” prisoners, held without reason.  Nevertheless, while held, one in 6 of them got the “full treatment” of enhanced interrogation procedures, both physical and psychological that we now know to be the Bush/Yoo package of torture.

Andy did not confine his criticism to Bush, who came up with the term “enemy combatant,” but described for us what the Obama administration has done, and not done.  The term is new: “unprivileged enemy belligerents.”  They have habeas corpus rights, but still, many are not being released, much less given an apology or any sort of compensation.  See a post from Andy on October 11, Former Guantánamo Prisoner, Tortured by Al-Qaeda and the US, Launches Futile Attempt to Hold America Accountable.

Justine Sharrock got to know four men who were involved in torture of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.   She writes with much understanding, developed over time with the men, for how they have been destroyed by participating and being trained as part of dehumanizing package of detention and torture.

Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things by Justine Sharrock

She read from her book about Chris Arendt, an anarchist, Jack Kerouac-reading punk from the Midwest who somehow ended up in a National Guard unit sent to Guantanamo. As he learned the pattern of detainee abuse, like the “frequent flyer” program where detainees were moved every few hours to a different cell for months, he began folding the order forms into origami birds which spilled over his whole desk.  He tried to kill himself.

The jacket blurb reads: “Myths about torture abound: Waterboarding is the worst we’ve done. The soldiers were hardened professionals. All Americans now believe that what we did was wrong. Torture is now a thing of the past. Journalist Justine Sharrock’s reporting reveals a huge chasm between what has made headlines and what has actually happened. She traveled around the country, talking to the young, low-ranking soldiers that watched our prisoners, documenting what it feels like to torture someone and discovering how many residents of small town America think we should have done a lot more torture.”

Justine’s work on how torture was shaped, and has come to be accepted, is really important.  She and Any will be speaking again at a program Wednesday about writers on torture.

Lauro Vasquez, a recent graduate of Dominican College read two of his poems.  A member of the Revolutionary Poetry Brigade, he told how he started thinking in poems while working as a dishwasher at college.  I’m going to ask him for the poems to post here.

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Guantamano Turns 8 While More Lives Slip Away

Guantanamo prisonersMonday January 11 is the 8th anniversary of the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo. The emblematic symbol of the Bush regime’s “war on terror,” in which men were openly tortured, kept in isolation, force-fed, and for years deprived of any legal respresentation or contact with the outside world, is still open.

It’s being called “Obama’s prison” now.  On January 22, 2009, the new president announced that he would close Guantanamo in a year because it’s existence was a public relations nightmare for U.S. foreign policy makers.  As of this week, there’s no closing date, but a vague indication it could be closed in 2011.

I learned when reading the new book The Guantanamo Lawyers; Inside a Prison Outside the Law, edited by Mark Denbeaux and Jonathan Hafetz, that the Bush regime opened it on the grounds of a former prison where Haitians and others fleeing poverty were kept in the 80′s and 90′s.  The first detainees were kept in open cages, with almost no shelter from the elements.  Building new structures allowed the jailers to keep some men in complete isolation.

Book TV is showing a talk by the authors twice on Sunday January 10.

Andy Worthington, in Guantánamo: The Definitive Prisoner List (Updated for 2010), called it

a prison in which the overwhelming majority of those held — at least 93 percent of the 779 men and boys imprisoned in total — were either completely innocent people, seized as a result of dubious intelligence or sold for bounty payments, or Taliban foot soldiers, recruited to fight an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and that had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden or international terrorism.

Andy wrote this week about Attorney General Holder’s announcement that Obaidullah, an Afghan held in Guantanamo, will be tried by the Obama-style military commission for “war crimes” in Tortured Afghan Man Faces Trial by Military Commission.

Andy spoke with World Can’t Wait activists in early 2009, stating his hope, and some confidence, that the Obama administration would establish a process to release the innocent.  But he ends the current column on this note

With the news that Obaidullah is to be charged again, when he is not actually accused of harming a single American, and when he may, in fact, have been tortured, through sleep deprivation and “Palestinian hanging,” to produce false confessions against himself and at least one other prisoner, leads me not only to repeat the question, but to actively call for the open mockery of Attorney General Eric Holder and the lawyers and bureaucrats in the Justice Department and the Pentagon who thought that reviving the charges against him was a good idea.

The administration is fighting in federal court on many fronts to continue the Bush detention policies, and just won a victory.  According to Stephen Webster, the decision in al-Bihani v Obama “upholds the Bush administration’s broad claims of executive power to detain non-citizens.  See D.C. Court of Appeals: Obama’s Detention Powers not Limited by Laws.

But we are not just complaining on this anniversary.  There’s a Call to Action to Shut Down Guantanamo.  I’ll be joining Witness Against Torture in protests outside the White House Monday.  We will march to the National Press Club, where some of the lawyers defending detainees in Guantanamo will speak about their clients, organized by the Center for Constitutional Rights.  That evening, we’ll have a public meeting at Georgetown Law School.  I hope you’ll join in.

On a last note, the Obama administration has proposed the idea of relocating the detainees to an unused super-max federal prison in Thompson Illinois.  World Can’t Wait is completely opposed to the indefinite detention of anyone without legal rights, no matter what the location.  Prisoners are held in super-max American prisons already in complete isolation, and I can only imagine that the Guantanamo prisoners could disappear in plain sight along the Mississippi.

Margaret Kimberly, editor at the Black Agenda Report, went on a righteous rant, ending her piece called Guantanamo, Illinois with

In less than one year in office, Barack Obama has firmly established the continuation of Bush regime domestic, foreign and economic policy. While Guantanamo is unseen, Illinois is right in the middle of the United States. None of us can now claim absolution from our government sin. Obama and his supporters have made us all accomplices. The ongoing Guantanamo crime now belongs to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and to every American citizen.

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The Definitive Guantanamo Detainee List

The Guantanamo Files

Andy Worthington's definitive history of Guantanamo detainees and the injustice they've been subjected to

Andy Worthington has spent almost 8 years learning as much as he can about the Guantanamo detainees; all the aspects of their stories before, during, and some after Guantanamo.  World Can’t Wait and other organizations working on stopping the US torture state rely on his work, and we have learned much from his 2008 book The Guantanamo Files: The Stories of the 759 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison and 2009 film Outside the Law; Stories from Guantanamo.

Andy wrote today:

In the hope of providing an antidote to the shameful propaganda and scaremongering that is currently dominating the media (following the failed Christmas plane bombing, and the would-be bomber’s alleged connections to a Yemen-based al-Qaeda group, which includes a former Guantanamo prisoner), I’ve just updated my definitive Guantanamo prisoner list (first published last March), which provides information and links about all 779 prisoners:

I hope that it’s useful not only as a historical document, but also as reference for the cases of the 198 men still held, as those of us opposed to indefinite detention without charge or trial maintain our struggle to close Guantanamo, and to see those still held either charged or released.   Please feel free to cross-post/circulate/publicize.

With the 8th anniversary of Guantanamo’s opening just one week from today, I hope you will study this list, and use it as an indictment of “America’s illegal prison” as Andy calls it.

Beginning Monday, 12 days of a fast, protest, meetings organized by Witness Against Torture and the Center for Constitutional Rights will concentrate on exposing the gap between Barack Obama’s promise to close Guantanamo by January 22, 2010, and the continued detention of 198 men, most all of them without charges, held indefinitely.

I’ll be there!  Join me.

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