Andy Worthington Discusses Donald Trump and Guantánamo with Brian Becker on Sputnik Radio’s “Loud and Clear”
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I’ve been so busy recently that I’ve overlooked, until now, my last media appearance in the US, during my recent tour to call for the closure of Guantánamo.
The show was Loud & Clear, an hour-long Sputnik Radio show presented by Brian Becker, which is available here.
The show began with an interview with CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou, who was jailed under President Obama for exposing details of the CIA torture program, and who was representing 20 US intelligence, diplomatic and military veterans, who, as Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), “signed a statement calling on President Obama to present the proof of allegations that Russia was responsible for hacking during the election.”
As Donald Trump attempts, on as many fronts as possible to remake America in his image, this story now seems like something from another age, as does Guantánamo under President Obama. My segment with Brian starts at 18:40 and ends at 36:00, and I ran through why I was in the US, and Obama’s legacy — his eloquent explanations for why Guantánamo should be closed, but also his failure to prioritize Guantánamo sufficiently so that when Congress raised cynical obstructions to prevent the prison’s closure, he refused to challenge lawmakers as robustly as he should have done, moving so slowly that he ended up releasing men approved for release the day before he left office, and, of course, failed to close the prison, leaving 41 men still held — five approved for release, just ten facing trials, and 26 others eligible for Periodic Review Boards, the latest review process, established in 2013.
We then spoke about Donald Trump, who I described as “a dreadful, unqualified, unprincipled man … who has no sound grasp of what is required of a president,” and I spoke about how, although I was relieved to hear Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, Trump’s defence secretary, talk about how he had no interest in torture, Mattis has also spoken about how prisoners — like those at Guantánamo — can and should be held until the end of hostilities. I was very concerned to make the point that, although prisoners can indeed be held until the end of hostilities, that is only acceptable under the Geneva Conventions, which is not the basis for the endless imprisonment without charge or trial of men at Guantánamo, because, since 9/11, the Geneva Conventions have gone AWOL.
I also spoke about my belief that a new war authorization would be required to send new prisoners to Guantánamo, and I hope I’m correct, and that no new authorization will be forthcoming, but if the last week is anything to go by then, unfortunately, anything is possible. As I explained, there is no reason to send people to Guantánamo unless you want to start torturing people again and hiding evidence of that — and I can only hope that wiser heads will be able to prevail if Trump and his advisors start seriously thinking about torture.
At the end of the interview, I also mentioned how we must not forget that, although Obama made Guantánamo a legacy issue, by refusing to send anyone new there, he didn’t exactly turn his back on the Bush administration’s global kidnapping and rendition program; rather, he replaced it with drone killings, which, like Bush’s innovations, are also an indefensible innovation — technology-enabled assassinations in countries with which the US is not even at war, used even to kill US citizens. And just ten days into his presidency, Trump has already engaged in drone killings, including the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki’s eight-year old daughter, Nawar.
The last interviewee was Helen Yaffe, Economic History Fellow at the London School of Economics, discussing how, “[o]n the eve of Donald Trump becoming president, Cuba and the US have been scrambling to sign a series of accords that would make it more difficult for [Trump] to roll back moves toward normalizing relations.”
I hope you have time to listen to the show, and to share it if you like what I had to say. With so much going in Trump’s dystopian vision of America, in his first ten days in office, Guantánamo is likely to fall off the radar, unless Trump issues an executive order on the prison, and on torture, following up on the draft order that was leaked last week. I promise, however, to try to keep the Guantánamo story alive, both here and on the Close Guantánamo website, while also continuing to monitor and resist his dangerous rogue presidency.
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.