The Ghosts of Guantanamo: In Support of 173 Men Detained without End…

January 16th, 2011 - by admin

Debra Sweet/ World Can’t Wait & Andy Worthington and Katie Gallagher / Democracy Now! – 2011-01-16 23:39:53

(January 11, 2011) — Protests [were held] around the country to mark the beginning of the tenth year of the US detention center at Guantanamo, from which, it appears, some men will never leave.

A detainee who had been there for nine years, Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, was forcibly removed to Algeria last week, in spite of ongoing legal efforts to prevent his return. Psychologist Jeff Kaye explains the outrage in Obama’s “Stealth Transfer” Of Guantanamo Prisoner; Algerian Forcibly Repatriated: 

The Obama administration has shown a blatant disregard for international treaties and basic human rights in its second forcible deportation from Guantanamo of an Algerian national in the last six months.

On January 6, the administration secretly and forcibly repatriated 48-year-old Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed to Algeria, which he reportedly fled in the 1990s, trying to escape threats from Islamic extremists.

In a press release from Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), which condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the deportation, CCR noted that “Mr. Mohammed has long been cleared of any connection with terrorism….”

Nine years since Rumsfeld announced “the worst of the worst” would be locked away, there are 173 men still behind Guantanamo’s walls, including 90 set for release, most of whom even the Bush regime admitted had done nothing criminal.

173 people STILL sitting in of Guantánamo two years after President Obama said it would close. Now Congress is set to keep it open. Guantánamo is a vivid symbol of a harrowing crime — and not of what happened on 9/11.

It crystallizes so much of the torture state’s depravity, the Bush administration’s codification of torture and the Obama adminstration’s moving that agenda forward while forcing the public’s gaze elsewhere.

There are 173 voices and stories not heard by most of the people in whose name they are detained. The government has done a very good job of changing the conversation, of suppressing the truth and reality of these 173 men.

World Can’t Wait is committed to re-focusing the lens on the crimes of this government, crimes we know that only the people can stop. We will not be okay with indefinite detention. We will not allow 173 lives to be on hold in the name of “our national security.” 

On this ominous anniversary let’s re-commit ourselves to closing Guantánamo amd holding those responsible accountable. Let’s listen to the stories of these men, and let’s challenge others to confront this reality and to make our resistance visible. World Can’t Wait is working hard to turn public attention to the fact that despite what you hoped for, Guantánamo is still open. We don’t need silent prayers but public outcry.

We are making the silent and invisible seen and heard through sharing the names and stories of the 173 people still in Guantánamo at events throughout the country and through important civil resistance in DC. And by bringing author and Guantánamo expert Andy Worthington to the US to show his film Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo, to speak to people at public events, and bring out the truth about torture at Guantánamo to light. This is precious stuff — and we can only do it with your support.

I’ve been getting interesting queries lately from people who are thinking about what one person can do to help change the political climate and challenge other people to think.

Emma B., 19 yrs. old, writes:

Being an American citizen in 2011, I often question among millions of others what we can do to put a positive dent in our country’s misbehavior that is going on right now. How is it that the media gets to focus only on what it wants us to hear or see?

Doesn’t that allow our attention to go elsewhere and forget what we should be standing and fighting for? Shouldn’t they keep the public informed of updates of the inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning? This is not an issue the American public should forget so quickly. This is how our government is treating a US citizen.

We entrust our money into our country when it gets used for such things as the amount of money used to operate and run multiple fighter helicopters armed heavly and create an airstrike in Yemen resulting in tragic deaths and the injuring of children. But the government never told us. That’s how our government is it’s US citizens.

What small steps can we take to put a stop to this? If we stopped shopping corporate would that help? If we stopped watching the media all together and did our own research about what’s really going on would they notice? Can we trust the government is always going to do things for the citizens best interest? No, and that’s why we can’t wait any longer to start making small steps.

Debra Sweet is the Director of World Can’t Wait, initiated in 2005 to “drive out the Bush regime” by repudiating its program, forcing it from office through a mass, independent movement and reversing the direction it had launched.

Based in New York City, she leads World Can’t Wait in its continuing efforts to stop the crimes of our government, including the unjust occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and the torture and detention codes, as well as reversing the fascist direction of US society, from the surveillance state to the criminalization of abortion and immigrants. She has worked with abortion providers for twenty-five years, organizing community support and helping them withstand anti-abortion violence.

Since the age of 19, when she confronted Richard Nixon during a face-to-face meeting and told him to stop the war in Vietnam, she has been a leader in the opposition to US wars and invasions. Debra says, “Stop thinking like an American, and start thinking about humanity!”

The Failure to Close Guantánamo and Spanish Investigations into US Torture
Andy Worthington and Katie Gallagher / Democracy Now!

(January 7, 2011) — This morning, as part of my current US tour to raise awareness of Guantánamo, in the week that the 173 men still held in the “War on Terror” prison begin their tenth year of detention, I was delighted to be invited to speak to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now!

Amy and Juan had also invited Katie Gallagher of the Center of Constitutional Rights, and our segment of the show, which lasts about 12 minutes, is available below:

In the time available, I was pleased to have the opportunity to explain, briefly, how, as the 9th anniversary approaches, we face the shocking possibility that very few prisoners at all will be released before the 2012 elections.

With reference to the findings of the Obama administration’s own Guantánamo Review Task Force, I explained how the 89 men cleared for release are, for the most part, going nowhere, because 58 are Yemenis, whose repatriation has been prevented by both President Obama and by Congress, and 31 others are awaiting third countries prepared to offer them a new home.

As I explained with regard to the Yemenis, “It’s been a year now since the President announced a moratorium on releasing any prisoner from Guantánamo to Yemen because of the uproar that came about because, at Christmas 2009, a Nigerian man tried to blow up a plane, and it came out that he was apparently recruited in Yemen. So Yemen is now this entire terrorist country. Nobody cleared for release from Guantánamo can be released there because of these fears that they will join some terrorist cell. That’s guilt by nationality. It’s collective punishment. However you want to look at it, it’s grossly unfair.”

Speaking of the other 31 men and the need to secure third countries prepared to offer them homes, I pointed out how, in the recent WikiLeaks revelations about the international horse-trading regarding these men, the failure of the US to take responsibility for any of these men had been overlooked.

As I told Amy and Juan, “It remains a problem that, at every level, at the highest levels of government in the United States, everybody who could — the courts, Congress, President Obama — refused to accept cleared prisoners to be brought to live on the US mainland.”

Moreover, just this week, President Obama showed his disdain for those seeking justice for the Guantánamo prisoners by forcibly repatriating the first prisoner released since last August — Farhi Saeed bin Mohammed, an Algerian who had won his habeas corpus petition, but was desperate not to return home, and who, shockingly, was repatriated while a legal challenge to his forcible repatriation was underway.

I also spoke about the 48 men proposed for ongoing indefinite detention without charge or trial, noting how this designation — and the recent suggestion that President Obama will sign an executive order formalizing their indefinite detention, while providing for some sort of review process — is also fundamentally wrong.

I also mentioned how the Task Force’s findings — through a secretive process initiated by the Executive — conflicts with the prisoners’ ongoing habeas corpus petitions, or involves designating for indefinite detention men who have lost their habeas petitions, even though the majority of the 19 men who have lost their petitions “were very peripheral foot soldiers in the military conflict that took place before the 9/11 attacks, in Afghanistan,” and are, explicitly, “not terrorists.”

Katie spoke about two submissions, filed in Spain today, relating to ongoing investigations of the US torture program, which are pending in the National Court of Spain.

In the first, CCR and the Berlin-based European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) “submitted a dossier regarding former commander of Guantánamo, Geoffrey Miller, which collects and analyzes the evidence demonstrating his role in the torture of detainees at Guantánamo and in Iraq,” requesting that a subpoena be issued for Miller to testify before the court, and in the second, CCR and ECCHR “submitted an expert opinion that sets out the legal basis for holding the ‘Bush Six’ criminally liable under international criminal law,” which summarizes the key evidence against the defendants — David Addington, William J. Haynes II, Douglas Feith, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee.

Further information about both cases — including the submissions — is available here, and also see this op-ed in the Guardian by CCR’s President, Michael Ratner.

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) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield.

Also see Worthington’s 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