To coincide with my induction as a trusted author on Op-Ed News, I spoke to Rob Kall, Op-Ed News’ executive editor and publisher on Tuesday, for a 75-minute podcast, which will also be broadcast, in some form or other, on Rob’s Bottom Up Radio Show on WNJC 1360 AM, which runs from 9-10 pm EST on Wednesday evenings.
The show is available here, and it was excellent to have the opportunity to talk with Rob at length about the history of Guantánamo, and why, two years after taking office, President Obama has not only found himself unable to close the prison, but may also go down in history as the man whose efforts ground to a halt in 2011, leaving the majority of the 174 men held today still imprisoned at the time of the next Presidential election in November 2012.
In running through the prison’s history, I spoke about the huge gulf between the Bush administration’s claim that the prisoners in Guantánamo were “the worst of the worst,” who were all “captured on the battlefield,” and the rather less glorious truth: that the majority of the men — and boys — were sold to the US military by its Afghan or Pakistani allies for bounty payments averaging $5000 a head. I also pointed out how, on capture, none of the men were screened according to the Geneva Conventions’ competent tribunals, held close to the time and place of capture, and used to separate combatants from civilians when those detained are not wearing uniforms, even though, during the first Gulf War, around 1200 of these tribunals were held, and in three-quarters of the cases the men were sent home.
This led to the filling of Guantánamo with “Mickey Mouse prisoners,” as an early commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Dunlavey explained, and resulted in a prison that has never held more than a few dozen genuine terrorist suspects, with the majority of the prisoners being either completely innocent men, or foot soldiers for the Taliban, recruited to fight the Northern Alliance in an inter-Muslim civil war that began long before 9/11 and had, for the most part, nothing to do with al-Qaeda or international terrorism.
Rob and I also spoke about the conflict between the prisoners’ ongoing habeas corpus petitions, and the findings of the Guantánamo Review Task Force, established by President Obama to review the Guantánamo cases in 2009, and how the mainstream media in the US has not focused enough on the court’s rulings in the habeas cases. This is in spite of the fact that the judges have regularly revealed that the goverment’s supposed evidence consists of nothing more than unreliable statements — many extracted under duress, or through the use of torture — made by the prisoners themselves, or by their fellow prisoners, and how the ongoing habeas litigation has, shamefully, been sidelined by their administration — with the evident cooperation of Attorney General Eric Holder — in favor of the Task Force’s findings.
Turning to those findings, I explained how 90 of the 174 men still held have been cleared for release, but are still held because 58 are Yemenis (prevented from being freed by an unprincipled moratorium issued by President Obama last January), and the rest await third countries to offer them an alternative to their home countries, where they face the risk of torture. I also explained how the Task Force recommended that 33 should be put forward for some kind of trial, but that the administration is unwilling to push for federal court trials (and has recently been prevented from doing so by Congress), and is also wary of criticism from progressives regarding its revival of Bush’s Military Commissions. I also explained how the Task Force had recommended that 48 prisoners should be held indefinitely without charge or trial — even though such a notion ought to be an abomination to any American who believes in the rule of law, rather than merely genuflecting to its shadow.
There was much, much more in the show than I’ve been able to run through above, including the disgraceful and cynical fearmonering of lawmakers (Democrats as well as Republicans), and their unconstitutional interference with the President’s power to do as he sees fit regarding the closure of Guantánamo, and, towards the end, a lively exchange about the significance of WikiLeaks, including reference to my article about Julian Assange, and to the leaks revealing the suppression by the US of torture inquiries in Germany and Spain, and I do encourage you to listen, if you have the time and the inclination to know more abut Guantánamo past, present and future, as the prison is about to enter its tenth year of operations, with no end in sight.
My thanks to Rob for being an excellent host, and, once again, I’m delighted to have established a working relationship with Op-Ed News.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in July 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, currently on tour in the UK, and available on DVD here), and my definitive Guantánamo habeas list, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.
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