Andy Worthington’s “Close Guantánamo” US Tour — San Francisco, Chicago and Six More Radio Interviews
Last week, I was in the US for a series of events to mark the 10th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, which I wrote about here and here. I also made three TV appearances, and undertook seven radio interviews, one of which was covered here. Three other appearances took place while I was in Washington D.C.
On January 10, I was obliged to leave the Q&A session following a screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (the documentary film that I co-directed with filmmaker Polly Nash) to speak to the veteran progressive radio host Dennis Bernstein on his “Flashpoints” show on KPFA in Berkeley. The interview is available here (or here), and it starts just before 6 minutes in and lasts for ten minutes, with me talking to Dennis in the entrance of Busboys and Poets, with a cellphone clasped firmly to my ear, as people entered and left the premises, often speaking far louder than me.
I’ve also embedded the interview below:
Click to listen (or download)
And this is how Dennis described the show:
Today on Flashpoints, we continue our series on ten years of torture at Guantánamo: we’ll be joined by Andy Worthington, author of the book The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and producer of the film “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Also we’ll be joined by Bay Area anti-torture activist Stephanie Tang: and we’ll feature an extended interview with Emmy award winning talk-show host Phil Donahue who will talk about politics, war, Bradley Manning, and why he’s on the stump for congressional candidate Norman Solomon.
On January 11, during the day of events to mark the 10th anniversary, I was interviewed twice on WBAI in New York: firstly, on a cellphone on the steps of the Supreme Court by Andrea Sears, for inclusion in the WBAI Evening News. That seven-minute interview is available here, and in it I had the opportunity to address all the issues raised by the anniversary, and also to mention the “Close Guantánamo” campaign and website, and the petition on the White House’s “We the People” website, calling on President Obama to close the prison as he promised three years ago, which I encourage readers to sign, as 25,000 signatures are needed by February 6 to secure a response and to show the strength of feeling that exists.
After the walk from the White House to the Supreme Court, and the powerful speeches there, I went for a late lunch with Jen Nessel and Kevi Brannelly of the Center for Constitutional Rights, and Debra Sweet of The World Can’t Wait, and afterwards, as I made my way in a cab to Russia Today, for the interview available here, I spoke for ten minutes to Robert Knight for his show, Five O’Clock Shadow. That interview is available here, and it starts about 29 minutes into the hour-long show, which also features Frida Berrigan of Witness Against Torture.
After the RT show, I wandered downtown D.C., which gave the appearance of being permanently swathed in rain, in something of a daze, wandering into Chinatown, and then back downtown until I finally figured out my bearings, and, rather absurdly, walked all the way to Union Station in the rain, where I finally picked up a cab for the shortish ride back to where I was staying.
The next morning, when the rain miraculously departed as swiftly as it had arrived, I was picked up for a half-hour TV interview for Atlantic Television news, which is not yet available online, and then returned to the house for a half-hour interview with an old friend, Linda Olson-Osterlund of KBOO FM in Portland, Oregon. That interview is available here, and, as Linda explained:
January 11th 2012 is the 10th anniversary of the opening of the Guantánamo Prison. Protests against this monument to Imperial impunity are happening in London, New York City, Washington D.C. and San Francisco, Portland OR and other cities around the US. London journalist, activist and author Andy Worthington joins host, Linda Olson-Osterlund to talk about closing Guantánamo and freeing the prisoners that are not convicted of a crime. He reports on Wednesday’s protests and the growing movement to close Guantánamo as well as the challenges it faces.
Linda also featured the logo of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign on her site, linked to the website, and spoke to me about that ongoing campaign.
After that interview, Robert, a supporter of The World Can’t Wait, picked me up and drove me to Dulles International Airport for my six-hour flight to San Francisco, which gave me an opportunity to catch up on some lost writing opportunities. At the airport, I was met by an old friend from previous visits, Curt Wechsler of The World Can’t Wait, and we then met up with WCW supporter MaryAnn Thomas, who was putting me up for the night in Oakland. After a meal and an opportunity to catch up, I caught a few hours sleep at MaryAnn’s in preparation for a very early start the next day.
In Berkeley, I appeared on KPFA’s “Morning Mix,” hosted by Mickey Huff of Project Censored, in an hour-long show, co-hosted by Peter Phillips, Professor of Sociology at UC Davis and Abby Martin of Media Roots, which also featured Pardiss Kebriaei calling in from the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, Almerindo Ojeda, the director of the Center for the Study of Human Rights in the Americas at UC Davis, which has an excellent, ongoing Guantánamo project, and the singer-songwriter David Rovics, who I had not met before, who performed two of his powerful songs in the studio. The show is available here, and I’ve also embedded it below:
Click to listen (or download)
As soon as the KPFA show was over, MaryAnn drove me across the Bay to the hills above San Francisco, for an appearance on “Your Call” on KALW, with Rose Aguilar. Rose and I had met on a previous visit, and I was delighted to have the opportunity to discuss Guantánamo with her again, and also with Scott Horton, law professor and contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine, who was calling in from New York. The show is available here, and afterwards I met up with two more old friends from previous visits, Stephanie Tang and Joey Johnson of The World Can’t Wait, and we drove back down the hill to UC Hastings Law School, for “Ten Years of Guantánamo: A Discussion with Andy Worthington and Jason Leopold.”
That event, which took the form of a fascinating conversation, was filmed, and will hopefully be available soon. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to catch up not only with Jason (the lead investigative reporter of Truthout), but also with other old friends who had arrived especially for the day — psychologist and blogger Jeff Kaye and former SERE instructor Michael Kearns.
That evening, Jason and I — and David Rovics — attended a fundraising dinner for The World Can’t Wait, when I was reunited with other friends from my last visit in October 2010, for “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week — but I had to leave rather sooner than I would have wished, to take another flight, this time to Chicago, where I was met by another WCW activist, Jay, and where I stayed with Candace Gorman, the attorney for two Guantánamo prisoners (one of whom, Abdul Razak Ali, is still held), whose outspoken blog is here, and took part in a successful screening of “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” at Loyola University Chicago School of Law with a panel of Guantánamo attorneys including Candace, Len Goodman (who represents the Afghan prisoner Shawali Khan) and Andy Moss (who represents Umar Abdulayev, the last Tajik prisoner in Guantánamo).
Afterwards, we went out for a meal in a great seafood restaurant with other friends, including Joe Scarry, an associate producer of the Guantanamo film “The Response,” Marissa, a formidable activist with Occupy the Southside, and activist Gregory Koger, and then Joe, Jay, Debra and I took a drive around Chicago, involving a walk down to the shore of Lake Michigan, which was the unadulterated tourist moment of my trip — the visit to the Hill three days before being rather more politically charged.
On Sunday, as I began to lose my grip on what day of the week it was, Debra and I flew back to New York, and were picked up by my old friend The Talking Dog, who looked after me in Brooklyn for my last 24 hours, where, although politics were pretty consistently on the agenda, my public events were over, and I also found time to do some last minute shopping for my family, before the long, jet lag-inducing return home, from which I’m still recovering.
I do, however, wish to thank everyone who helped to facilitate my trip and to make me so welcome, and I also hope to visit again soon. After all, just because it’s a Presidential election year, it’s no reason not to mention Guantánamo, and to call repeatedly for its closure. To do anything less would be to capitulate to the most cowardly form of political manoeuvring, and some outrages — like the ongoing existence of Guantánamo — are too important for that.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.