Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Andy Worthington's Coverage of Berkeley "Just Say No to Torture" Week Events

Andy Worthington has been reporting on his participation in the City of Berkeley's "Just Say No to Torture" week. As reported earlier, the event was sponsored by World Can't Wait, School of the Americas Watch (SOAW) East Bay/SF, National Lawyers Guild, Boalt Chapter (NLG-Boalt), Code Pink, Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian Universalists Social Justice Committee, Progressive Democrats of America, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, and

Andy's latest posting is from day five of the event. (I appeared at some events on day six, and will post on that later.) Here's a bit of Andy's coverage, and one of the posted videos.
Humanizing the prisoners has been a harder sell in the United States than, say, in the UK, where 14 former Guantánamo prisoners — nine British nationals, and five British residents — have told their stories, and, in some cases, appear regularly in public to talk about their experiences, and I was vividly reminded of the power of personal testimony on Thursday morning — Day Five of “Berkeley Says No to Torture” Week — when, as part of a round of media appearances, I was invited onto Rose Aguilar’s “Your Call” show on KALW Public Radio in San Francisco with Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured: When Good Soldiers Do Bad Things (with whom I had previously appeared at a book reading and a panel discussion on torture), and Patricia Isasa, a survivor of the reign of terror in Argentina from the 1970s until 1983.

When she was just 16 years old, Patricia was seized and tortured, and in profoundly moving testimony she described how she had been determined that her torturers would not destroy her. She also spoke animatedly, and with great authority, about how torture does not produce the truth, and only produces lies.

Patricia also spoke with Rose about how, 30 to 35 years after these atrocities, those responsible for the torture in Argentina are finally being held to account for their crimes against humanity, which gave us all the hope that, although the struggle for justice may take decades, it is possible to imagine a world in which the Bush administration’s torturers are finally brought to account.

Patricia’s testimony also reinforced my notion (sharpened by the week’s events) that the battle to hold America’s torturers to account — which is part of the wider struggle against endless war, the sidelining of the Geneva Conventions, and the acceptance of arbitrary detention without charge or trial at Guantánamo — is nothing less than a battle for the soul of America.

After Patricia spoke, Justine and I discussed our work and our aims with Rose, who was a wonderfully engaged presenter. I was pleased to have the opportunity to explain how important it has been this year to travel throughout the UK showing the documentary “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and myself) with former Guantánamo prisoner Omar Deghayes (still, like all the former prisoners, regarded as an “enemy combatant”), and how disappointing it was that plans to bring two cleared prisoners to live on the US mainland were shelved by President Obama last year, in the face of Republican opposition, when their presence in the US would have done more than anything to puncture the prevailing myths about the prison holding “the worst of the worst,” and would also have demonstrated, without a shadow of a doubt, that enormous mistakes were made in rounding up the 779 men held in the prison over the last eight years and nine months.

I’m delighted to report that the whole show is available here as an MP3 (introduction here), and to note that, after the show, Rose asked me to elaborate on some of the points I had made in a further interview that she filmed on a funky little Flip video recorder. This two-part interview, in which I presented a brief synopsis of who the Guantánamo prisoners are, and told a few particularly pertinent stories (of Fayiz al-Kandari, a Kuwaiti aid worker who is still held, and of Adel Hassan Hamad, a Sudanese hospital administrator freed in December 2007) is posted below.

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