It’s over 24 hours since I arrived in the US, with the support of Witness Against Torture, World Can’t Wait and Close Guantánamo, for a series of events to mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of the “war on terror” prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, a shameful anniversary that should not have come to pass.
Four years ago, when he took office, President Obama promised to close the prison within a year, but he failed to fulfil that promise. His lack of courage has been matched by opportunistic intervention from Congress, where lawmakers have passed legislation designed to thwart any efforts to close Guantánamo. To complete the failures of all three branches of the US government, the courts too have added their own contribution, with the D.C. Circuit Court gutting the habeas corpus rights of the prisoners, which lawyers spent many years fighting for, and the Supreme Court refusing to revisit the prisoners’ cases, when given the opportunity last year.
As I — and others who still care about the closure of Guantánamo — continue to point out, the ongoing existence of Guantánamo is an affront to all notions of justice and fairness. Distressingly, of the 166 men still held, 86 were cleared for release by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, and yet, through the combination of cowardice, indifference, opportunism and scaremongering outlined above, they remain held, even though one long-cleared prisoner, Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, died at Guantánamo last September, and even though President Obama won reelection in November, and is now free to act to secure his legacy rather than focusing all his attention on campaigning — and not mentioning anything contentious. If he wants a legacy that doesn’t describe him, amongst other things, as the man who promised to close Guantánamo but then failed to do because it was politically inconvenient, he needs to act now.
Below is a list of events that I will be involved in over the coming week, in which I will be calling on President Obama to revisit his promise, and this time to fulfill it. If you would like to interview me, or want me to take part in an event, please phone me. Until next Wednesday, I’ll be available on 347-581-2677, or, of course, you can always email me.
Thursday January 10, 7.30pm: “Eleven Years of Guantánamo.” A discussion with Andy Worthington and Col. Todd Pierce.
First Trinity Lutheran Church, 501 4th St, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001 (4th & E Streets).
On the evening before the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, Andy Worthington, freelance investigative journalist, author, filmmaker and photographer, will be joined by Maj. Todd Pierce at the church being used as a base by the anti-torture activists Witness Against Torture.
Andy has spent the last seven years researching and writing about Guantánamo, and the men held there. He is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison, and the co-director, with Polly Nash, of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo.” Todd Pierce is a military defense lawyer who worked on the case of Ali al-Bahlul, tried by military commission in 2008.
For further information, see the Witness Against Torture website. Also see the church’s website.
Friday January 11, 10am to 11.30am: “America’s indefinitely detained.” A panel discussion with Andy Worthington, Col. Morris Davis and Tom Wilner, moderated by Peter Bergen.
New America Foundation, 1899 L Street, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036.
Andy Worthington and Tom Wilner, the steering committee of the “Close Guantánamo” project, will be joined by Col. Morris Davis for this event on the morning of the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo.
As the New America Foundation describes the event, “Friday, January 11 will mark eleven years since the United States opened the Guantánamo Bay Detention Center. Almost 800 suspected militants have been held at the prison in that time, and despite White House’s refrain that the administration “remains committed to closing the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay” 166 individuals still remain incarcerated. Has the Obama administration de facto embraced a policy of indefinite detention without trial? Please join the New America Foundation’s Security Studies Program for a panel discussion moderated by Peter Bergen on what the future looks like for Guantánamo.”
Tom Wilner is a Partner at Shearman & Sterling LLP, and represented the Guantánamo prisoners before the Supreme Court in the Rasul v. Bush and Boumediene v. Bush cases. Col. Morris Davis is the former chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantánamo, who resigned in 2007 when he was placed in a chain of command under William J. Haynes II, the Pentagon’s chief counsel, who was a major player in the Bush administration’s torture program. Col. Davis now teaches at Howard University School of Law. Peter Bergen is the Director of the National Security Studies Program at the New America Foundation.
Friday January 11, 12 noon to 1.30pm: Day of Action Against Guantánamo.
Rally and March from the Supreme Court to the White House, via the Capital.
Speakers include Col. Morris Davis, Ramzi Kassem, Pardiss Kebriaei, Michelle Ringuette, Debra Sweet, Jeremy Varon and Andy Worthington.
The centerpiece of the protests on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo is the rally and march beginning at the Supreme Court, and moving on to the White House via the Capitol. 26 organisations are involved in the event, and the speakers will address the crowd at the different locations, representing the failure of all three branches of the US government to close Guantánamo and to bring justice to the me still held there. As the media advisory states, “The organizations are urging President Barack Obama to keep his promise and shut down the detention facility. The activists are calling on the Obama administration and Congress to uphold the rule of law. During the event, activists will be wearing orange jumpsuits and holding a myriad of signs and other visuals expressing their desire to close down the detention center. There are solidarity events occurring in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami and London, England.”
Of the speakers, Pardiss Kebriaei is a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, Michelle Ringuette is Amnesty International USA’s Chief of Campaigns and Programs, Debra Sweet is the director of World Can’t Wait, and Jeremy Varon is an organizer with Witness Against Torture.
To register for the event, please visit the Amnesty International page here.
Saturday January 12, 10am to 11.30am: Vigil at CIA Headquarters Against the Use of Drones.
900 block, Dolly Madison Boulevard, McLean, Virginia.
Andy Worthington will be joining representatives of many other groups, including Witness Against Torture, Code Pink, Episcopal Peace Fellowship DC, Northern Virginians for Peace & Justice, Pax Christi-Pentagon Chapter and World Can’t Wait for this protest against the Obama administration’s shameful replacement for the “black sites,” torture and indefinite detentions of the Bush administration — mass murder in drone attacks.
Sunday January 13, 4pm: “Guantánamo: The concentration camp that won’t go away.” A discussion with Andy Worthington and Ramzi Kassem.
Revolution Books, 146 West 26th Street (between 6th & 7th Ave.), New York, NY 10001.
To mark the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, Andy Worthington and Ramzi Kassem, attorney for a number of Guantánamo prisoners, including Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, will be discussing strategies for securing the prison’s closure and the release of Shaker Aamer, four years after President Obama took office and promised to close the prison. Ramzi Kassem is an Associate Professor of Law at City University of New York, and is the Director of the Immigrant and Non-Citizen Rights Clinic.
For further information, see the Revolution Books website.
Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison.