Today, I made my way to a TV studio in central London to hook up with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez in New York to discuss the recent uproar over the release of Yemeni prisoners from Guantánamo, and the Pentagon’s most recent claims that 1 in 5 released prisoners have engaged in terrorist activities, for Democracy Now! The segment, entitled, “After Years in Guantánamo Prison Without Charge, Future Even More Uncertain For Yemeni Detainees,” is available below, and is featured here on the Democracy Now! website:
I have covered both stories in a number of recent articles — Why Obama Must Continue Releasing Yemenis From Guantánamo (which contains profiles of the six men released before Christmas), Guantánamo and Yemen: Obama Capitulates to Critics and Suspends Prisoner Transfers, Yemenis in Guantánamo are Victims of Hysteria and Guantánamo Recidivism: Mainstream Media Parrot Pentagon Propaganda (Again) — but was delighted to have the opportunity to discuss them with Amy and Juan, as they demonstrate some of the worst lies, distortions and fearmongering (and cowardice on the part of the administration) that have occurred since Barack Obama came to power nearly a year ago.
Essentially, the Yemeni story involves inflated claims about the failed Christmas bomber’s links with Saudis released from Guantánamo, an almost total aversion to recognizing that the “Saudi recidivists” were released by George W. Bush, despite the advice of the intelligence agencies, a similar aversion to recognizing that, in contrast, Obama has been extremely careful about releasing prisoners from Guantánamo, and a complete disregard for the fact that the cleared Yemenis have now been made a victim of political maneuvering.
I also spoke about how Obama’s capitulation to criticism was sadly typical, despite the fact that, on TV shows at the weekend, John Brennan made a great case for the government’s record on releasing Yemenis, and ran through a few of the men’s stories, to demonstrate how innocent men — some of them students seized in a house raid in Pakistan — are being made to pay the price for political opportunism and presidential cowardice.
With reference to the claims of recidivism, I ran through the whole sordid story of how the mainstream media uncritically reports whatever nonsense the Pentagon chooses to leak at strategic moments like this, despite the fact that genuine investigations have demonstrated that no more than 12 to 20 prisoners have engaged in any form of terrorism since their release. This allowed me to ask how it was possible that 80 to 90 men had “returned to the battlefield” since last May, when the last “report” was issued, and also gave me the opportunity to question the Pentagon’s timing, and, perhaps most crucially, to ask whether Obama is actually in charge of the Defense Department.
Updated: Jan. 9, 2010
Andy Worthington Discusses the Yemenis Trapped in Guantánamo on the Peter B. Collins Show
On Wednesday I was delighted to talk once more to veteran progressive radio host Peter B. Collins, for another of his mercifully ad-free podcasts, which allow interviewer and interviewee the breathing space to discuss important stories in detail.
In his introduction to the one-hour interview, available here, Peter wrote:
Yemenis trapped at Gitmo, Accountability for BushCo? British journalist Andy Worthington is our expert on America’s Gulag and wrote The Guantánamo Files. [He] talks about the new hysteria produced by the failed terrorist action on Christmas Day and the fear projected by American politicians of both parties. He corrects the record about the former Gitmo prisoners released under Bush who are now leading al-Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula, about Liz and Dick Cheney’s rants and about the six Yemenis released in December and more than 80 who remain.
After a preamble about the recent suicide bombing by an alleged al-Qaeda triple agent in Afghanistan, which killed eight US operatives, Peter and I discussed the shameful publicity given by the mainstream media to the latest Pentagon claim (unsubstantiated by any documentation whatsoever) that 1 in 5 prisoners released from Guantánamo have engaged on terrorist activities, which I then followed up with in an article, “Guantánamo Recidivism: Mainstream Media Parrot Pentagon Propaganda (Again),” and also talked about in an interview on Democracy Now! on Friday.
Peter and I then discussed the debacle of the scaremongering about the Yemenis in Guantánamo, as mentioned above, and as I discussed in my articles, “Guantánamo and Yemen: Obama Capitulates to Critics and Suspends Prisoner Transfers” and “Yemenis in Guantánamo are Victims of Hysteria,” and also on Democracy Now! I talked about the stories of the Saudis who are allegedly involved with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, pointing out that President Bush released them, in spite of advice from the intelligence services that they were a threat to the United States.
We also spoke about the terrible coarsening in US society, fostered so remorselessly in the Bush years, and how it led, in the case of the would-be Christmas bomber, to a poll in which over half the people questioned advocated waterboarding Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, rather than allowing FBI interrogators to question him non-coercively, which they apparently did with some considerable success.
Peter also asked me to run through the stories of some of the six Yemenis released before Christmas, which I reported at length in my article, “Why Obama Must Continue Releasing Yemenis From Guantánamo,” and I talked about Ayman Batarfi, a doctor, and Jamal Mar’i, who both worked for a Saudi charity, and Farouq Ali Ahmed, a missionary whose innocence was first established by a military officer during his tribunal at Guantánamo in 2004, but ignored by the panel, who decided that he was an “enemy combatant” anyway.
It was a pleasure to talk to Peter, as ever, and on the podcast, my interview is followed by an interview with Charlotte Dennett, a journalist and lawyer, whose book The People v. Bush has just been published. Charlotte was a candidate for Vermont Attorney General in 2008, and based her campaign in part on Vincent Bugliosi’s legal strategy to prosecute George W. Bush for murder. She talked about her campaign and the ongoing struggle for accountability, which is largely being resisted by the Obama administration. Both Charlotte and I are members of the Robert Jackson Steering Committee, which has just filed a FOIA request for the long-awaited internal Justice Report on the lawyers who compiled the notorious “torture memos” that purported to redefine torture.
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 I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about my film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.