By Debra Sweet
Last week the New York Times finally reported the story of Sami al-Hajj, who was held for seven years in Guantanamo, and then suddenly released. He was a cameraman for Al Jazeera in December 2001, taken by US forces on the border of Pakistan & Afghanistan.
He was tortured at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, and eventually moved to Guantanamo. But the US never charged him with anything.
The Times wrote about him because he’s working for Al Jazeera again, this time as an on-air commentator on human rights and public liberties. The article is notable for what it doesn’t say: the "t" word, torture, in describing what was done to al-Hajj.
And what about prosecution of the Bush architects of the torture regime? Read an interview with Sami last year after his release.
More on Guantanamo on the Mississippi: Based on reader comments and questions to this newsletter, Jill McLaughlin posted some answers to why holding detainees indefinitely in Illinois is no more just than holding them in Guantanamo Cuba. The locale change doesn’t take away the taint of years of indefinite detention without charge.
As the January 22 deadline to close Guantanamo comes (and as it will go by), Andy Worthington wrote last week in Serious Problems With Obama’s Plan To Move Guantánamo To Illinois:
"The reason why it was so important to close Guantánamo in the first place was to bring to an end the ruinous and unjust policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial, and it amazes me that President Obama has, apparently, fooled himself into thinking that a sleight of hand that perpetuates the same policy as that established by George W. Bush will be any more acceptable when he is its architect, or that a change of scenery – from Guantánamo Bay to Thomson, Illinois – can help to accomplish such a brazen betrayal of the fundamental values on which the United States was founded."
Betrayal it is, although many of us would say that with a history running from slavery to chain gang imprisonment in the Jim Crow south, to the SuperMax sensory deprivation prisons of today, the United States has always enshrined injustice in its prison system.
World Can’t Wait, and other groups like Witness Against Torture, the Center for Constitutional Rights & Amnesty International won’t let the US government continue this, no matter who the President is.
World Can’t Wait 2010 plans, starting in two weeks:
Monday January 11 through Friday January 22: Witness Against Torture fast to close Guantanamo.
Monday, January 11: 10-11am – Witness Against Torture Vigil with Guantanamo lawyers and Center for Constitutional Rights @ the White House. 11am procession to the National Press Club. 12 pm Vigil continues during press conference at National Press Club.
7:00 pm: Evening Gathering @ Georgetown University Law School: Guantanamo, Torture, Accountability and Organizing in the Obama age.
World Can’t Wait calls for people everywhere to mark the 8th anniversary of Guantanamo with street protests and showings of the film Outside the Law: Stories of Guantanamo. Write for details.
NO DRONES! Protest at CIA Headquarters Langley VA
Saturday January 16
Cindy Sheehan, as part of Peace of the Action, is organizing a protest at C.I.A. headquarters to stop the use of un-manned drones in the war on terror. See this informative slideshow.
The Obama administration has made 3 drone strikes on Yemen, broadening the war on terror, in the last 10 days. US news reports generally claim these strikes killed high-level al Queda operatives. Read Glen Greewald Saturday on those claims and the reality of civilian casualties.
January 16 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm. Download the flyer for more information on what are now called by the US military "unarmed aircraft systems."
Drones are produced and based all over the US now, from upstate NY to Nevada. Protests could happen around the country on January 16, or anytime afterward. Let us know where protests are scheduled!