- Torture and Detention
Yesterday, I was delighted to talk to Michael Slate on his long-standing progressive show, on KPFK in Los Angeles, about Guantánamo past, present and future. The show is here, as an MP3, and our interview lasts for around 20 minutes.
If you have the time, I hope you can listen to the show. Michael and I have spoken before (see here, here and here) and he is always very well-informed. On this occasion, our discussion was timed to coincide with the aftermath of the Presidential election, and the focus on President Obama to fulfil his promise to close Guantánamo within a year, which he made in January 2009, and then, of course, failed to achieve.
Michael asked me about the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, which I established in January this year with the attorney Tom Wilner, and I explained our mission, and how the main focus is on educating people about the fact that 86 of the remaining 166 prisoners in Guantánamo have been cleared for release but are still held, and how securing the release of these men is the most urgent demand for campaigners.
I also explained how two-thirds of these men are Yemenis, and how the Yemenis have been subjected to “guilt by nationality” ever since Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed underwear bomber, was seized on Christmas Day 2009, and it was discovered that he had been recruited in Yemen. The moratorium that President Obama announced in January 2010, refusing to release any cleared Yemenis until further notice, needs to be withdrawn as soon as possible, so that these men can resume their lives.
Michael also asked me about Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, whose plight is one that I have repeatedly highlighted, and whose ongoing detention remains a particular insult. Shaker has been cleared for release for many years, and may well be the only prisoner from a country that right-wing lawmakers, who have imposed onerous restrictions on the release of prisoners, cannot argue is a haven for terrorists, and yet he remains held.
I was also able to stress how Guantánamo — and its closure — remains of huge importance: firstly because it is a prison where indefinite, arbitrary detention was put in place by President Bush, and hasn’t been stopped by Barack Obama, even though only dictatorships hold people indefinitely without charge or trial; and secondly, because the existence of Guantánamo is the reason why last year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with its notorious sections requiring the mandatory military custody of terror suspects, possibly to include Americans, was able to be initiated.
No Guantánamo, no NDAA — and as I also explained, the existence of indefinite detention should trouble Americans deeply because it provides a template for tyranny, which, in America, has been used for the last eleven years.
I hope you have time to listen to the show, and thanks, as ever, for your support.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison. This article originally appeared on his site on November 17, 2012.