For the Guardian’s Comment is free, “Remember 9/11, remember Guantánamo” is an article I wrote to provide a reminder that, as we remember the nearly 3,000 people from over 40 nations who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, “much work still needs to be done to address the fallout from the Bush administration’s extraordinary response to the attacks.”
My particular concern is with Guantánamo, for two reasons: firstly, because, on this sad anniversary, we are still waiting for justice to be delivered in the cases of the few dozen men apparently involved in the attacks, or in other acts of international terrorism; and secondly, because the majority of the 225 men still held in Guantánamo had nothing to do with the above, and it is time that their long imprisonment came to an end.
In the cases of the few dozen genuine terror suspects in Guantánamo, I urge President Obama to put them forward for trial in federal courts, and not to revive the Military Commissions that, as former prosecutor Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld recently explained, are “beyond repair.”
In the cases of the other men, I explain how, despite considerable success in their habeas corpus hearings (in which 29 out of 36 appeals have been granted), the prisoners’ quest for justice is still limited by an outmoded review process in which the courts are obliged merely to consider whether the government has proved that they were connected to al-Qaeda and/or the Taliban.
With each passing year, I believe that the rationale for holding genuine terror suspects alongside Taliban foot soldiers, seized in connection with the overthrow of the Taliban government, as though they were one and the same, becomes increasingly intolerable, and I call for swift action to acknowledge that this is the case, and to facilitate the promised closure of the prison by January 2010.
I also discuss Bagram and the fate of those held in secret prisons or rendered to other countries, but my focus is predominantly on Guantánamo, because, on the eighth anniversary of 9/11, it remains the most visible and bleakly iconic symbol of the Bush administration’s hideous response to the terrible events of that day.
As I explain in the conclusion to my article, “Guantánamo remains the most obvious challenge to President Obama’s stated ambition to ‘regain America’s moral stature in the world,’” but as it now stands, “justice is being delivered neither to those regarded as genuinely dangerous, nor to those whose significance has been exaggerated.”
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). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed, and also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009.