Visiting the US for the 15th Anniversary of the Opening of Guantánamo, and for Donald Trump’s Troubling Inauguration
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Dear friends and supporters,
I’m delighted to be writing to you from Heathrow Airport — despite a seriously disruptive Tube strike in London — awaiting a flight to New York City, for what will be my seventh annual visit at this time of year, to campaign for the closure of the prison at Guantánamo Bay on and around the anniversary of its opening, on Jan. 11.
I’m not delighted to have to keep calling for Guantánamo’s closure, of course, and this year, the 15th anniversary of the prison’s opening is a particular difficult occasion: simultaneously, a definitive black mark against President Obama for having failed to fulfill the promise to close the prison — within a year! — that he made when he first took office eight years ago, and the introduction to Guantánamo under a third president, the worryingly unpredictable Donald Trump, who has vowed to keep Guantánamo open, and to “load it up with bad dudes,” and who, just days ago, tweeted that there should be no more releases from Guantánamo.
Trump’s comments came in spite of the fact that 19 of the 55 men still held have been approved for release by high-level, inter-agency review processes, and others may well be approved for release in future by the latest review process, the Periodic Review Boards, unless he decides, unwisely, to scrap them.
I will be talking about these topics, and reflecting on Guantánamo’s history, what it means, who is held, and why the closure of the prison remains so essential, during my visit.
On the anniversary itself (Wednesday January 11), I’ll be joining — and speaking at — the annual protest by numerous rights groups, which normally take place outside the White House, except in inauguration years, when it is off-limits. As a result, the protest, featuring rights groups including Witness Against Torture, Amnesty International, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Code Pink, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture and World Can’t Wait, will begin with a rally and speeches outside the Supreme Court at 11.30am, and will continue at 12:15 with a march around the Senate Buildings.
At 2.30pm, I’m part of a panel discussion, Guantánamo Bay: Year 15, at New America, 740 15th St NW #900, Washington, D.C. 20005. Also speaking are the attorney Tom Wilner, with whom I co-founded the Close Guantánamo campaign, Jim Moran, former congressional representative for Virginia’s 8th district and one of the representatives who led opposition to Guantánamo Bay, and Rosa Brooks, a Senior ASU Future of War Fellow at New America who also served in the Obama administration. Moderating is Peter Bergen, the Vice President of New America and the Director of the International Security Program. Please RSVP if you wish to attend.
I’ll then be on Al-Jazeera at 6pm, and then I return to New York City for an event on Friday January 13, “Trump, Torture, and Guantánamo,” at Revolution Books in Harlem, at 437 Malcolm X Blvd./Lenox Avenue, New York City, NY 10037, beginning at 7pm, with special guests tbc. The Facebook page for the event is here, so please sign up if you’re coming.
This is how Revolution Books describes the event:
The prison at Guantánamo, now open almost 15 years, remains a living symbol of U.S. torture and human rights abuses. The fascist Trump has promised to keep it open and to expand the use of torture — waterboarding and worse.
On January 13, Revolution Books will host an evening with Andy Worthington, the British journalist and author who has relentlessly exposed the crimes against humanity being committed by the U.S. government at Guantánamo. He has introduced the world to the stories of the men who have been imprisoned there — most of whom have never been charged, let alone tried for any crime — and he’s a leader in the international battle to close this notorious prison. Andy will speak on what has gone on there over these long 15 years, and what can be expected under Trump if he and Pence are allowed to come to power and bring in the fascist regime they are promising the world.
This evening is one in the current series of RB programs called “In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America!: 65 Defiant Days — Talks, Dialogue and Culture.” These events are aimed at helping people to understand what is driving this fascist regime, how to stop it, and what this situation tells us about the necessity, possibility and desirability of an actual revolution.
I’m in the US until January 21 — CONTACT ME HERE — and available for TV and radio interviews and to take part in events, and if you have access to a guitar, I’m also happy to sing and play some of the political songs I generally play with my band The Four Fathers (on Twitter here). Check out our recordings here, and see this video of me playing ‘Song for Shaker Aamer’ in Washington, D.C. last January, the day before the 14th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo.
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose debut album ‘Love and War’ and EP ‘Fighting Injustice’ are available here to download or on CD via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Countdown to Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2016), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — 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. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.