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Video: Andy Worthington Tells President Obama Why His Failure to Close Guantánamo Is Akin to Dictatorship

Andy Worthington

January 14, 2014

"Andy Worthington rips President Obama for failing to close Guantánamo" is the heading that the Baltimore-based filmmaker Bill Hughes gave to his video of my speech outside the White House in Washington D.C. on Friday January 11, on the 11th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo. The video is available on YouTube, and I’ve posted it below.

Bill filmed me as I addressed the passionate group of protestors — many in orange jumpsuits — who had gathered on President’s Park South (aka the Ellipse), just south of the White House, at the end of a march from the Supreme Court, when, inspired by the vigorous and almost palpable spirit of indignation that was the driver of the protests, I called on President Obama to fulfill the promise to close Guantánamo that he made when he took office four years ago, and was justifiably critical of the failure fog all three branches of the US government to deal with the poisonous legacy of Guantánamo with justice and fairness, instead demonstrating — in the administration, in Congress, and in the courts — a disgraceful combination of cowardice, indifference, and cynical obstruction and fearmongering.

I explained, with some passion, why the failure to fulfil the promise to close Guantánamo is disastrous, both in the present and in the future, because, now that he has won his second and final term in office, President Obama can no longer bury anything that it was inconvenient to discuss on the campaign trail, and, most significantly, his legacy is now being written. If he does nothing, he will be remembered as the President who promised to close Guantánamo, an internationally reviled stain on justice, simply because it was politically inconvenient.

It also needs stating that what makes this even worse is the fact that, of the 166 prisoners still held at Guantánamo, 46 are being held indefinitely without charge or trial, regarded as "too dangerous to release" even though the administration concedes that it does not have the evidence to put them on trial. This is a disgraceful endorsement of indefinite detention — holding people in a legal, moral and ethical black hole, in other words.

It is compounded by the fact that 86 others were cleared for release at least three years by President Obama’s interagency Guantánamo Review Task Force, a collection of around 60 sober and responsible government officials and representatives of the intelligence agencies, who spent a year assessing all the prisoners’ cases. In addition, some of these cleared prisoners were first cleared for release under President Bush as long ago as 2004, and in other cases in 2006 and 2007. Imagine being held for three, five, six, eight since you were told you were going home, and then comprehend the state of mind of Adnan Latif, a Yemeni cleared in 2006 and again under Obama, who died in Guantánamo last September.

Continuing to hold men who were cleared for release makes the US worse than a dictatorship that throws people in a dungeon and then throws away the key. America has thrown people in a dungeon called Guantánamo and thrown away the key because of the obstacles raised to releasing cleared prisoners by all three branches of the US government — President Obama and his administration, Congress, and the courts (and specifically the D.C. Circuit Court and the Supreme Court) — but they have made this even worse by pretending that there is a review process in operation by which prisoners are cleared for release. Doing so and not releasing them is, I argue, even more cruel than the actions of dictators, and pointing this out was the conclusion of my speech outside the White House on Friday.

Note: The photo at the top of this article is by Palina Prasasouk, a member of Witness Against Torture.

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 — 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. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed — and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg, Flickr (my photos) and YouTube. Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in April 2012, "The Complete Guantánamo Files," a 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011, and details about the documentary film, "Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo" (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and available on DVD here — or here for the US). Also see my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and please also consider joining the new "Close Guantánamo campaign," and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.



:: Article nr. 94354 sent on 15-jan-2013 21:39 ECT

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