Guantanamo Voices


Obama Promises to Shut Gitmo & Secret Prisons
January 22, 2009, 7:37 pm
Filed under: gitmo policy | Tags: , ,

Yesterday Obama announced that he would call an end to the military tribunals in Guantanamo, but today came even bigger news: he issued executive orders to shut down Guantanamo within the year AND shut down the CIA’s entire secret prisons program.

Chris, Moazzam and other detainees have often expressed skepticism that Obama would actually follow through on his campaign promises about Guantanamo, but today’s news was a big step in the right direction.

The two discuss the news as they drive through Liverpool, England, to the night’s speaking gig at a university in town.

“He’s mentioned Guantanamo twice now and the fact that he’s calling for its closure within a year is fantastic,” says Begg. He thinks on it for a few moments. “But a year is a long time if you’re a prisoner. If you were told now, ‘You’ll be free in a year after you’ve been here for seven years’ – how do you feel about that? It’s good in a sense because at least you know how long you’ve got left.”
“You’ve got some finite limit,” adds Chris.
“I wonder if the guys inside know though?” I asked.
“Oh I’m sure they’ll find out,” says Moazzam.
“All it takes is one guard that can’t keep his mouth shut and the whole camp’ll know,” affirms Chris.

Chris’s roots in rural Libertarian Michigan and six years in the National Guard have reared him an absolute cycnic when it comes to government, however. He still feels much the same way he did on Obama’s inauguration day, when he sounded off about the politician in the lobby of a Sheffield hotel.

“I know I sound like a pessimist. I know Obama comes from this cool background and I know just him being in office means a whole lot, but seriously it’s going to take actual actions until I believe he’s done anything worthwhile. Politicians talking, it’s nothing new.”

Moazzam, Chris and Omar Deghayes instage in Sheffield

Moazzam, Chris and Omar Deghayes instage in Sheffield

Closing Guantanamo is a step, says Chris, but he believes it may be the easiest step of many Obama will need to take to right the wrongs of the last seven years. Chris starts ticking off the things Obama needs to do before Chris will consider him successful. “Complete withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan, openly criticizing US detentions policy and issuing some kind of reparations or apology to those guys who were illegally detained, rebuilding our legal system so that things like this can’t happen again. This has proven the Supreme Court impotent, it’s proven Congress impotent, it’s pretty much given complete authority to the president and the president alone.”

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Tour Updates
January 22, 2009, 7:05 pm
Filed under: speaking event | Tags:

For the first time during the eight panel discussions that Moazzam and Chris
have led during the last two weeks, I actually didn’t get to see them speak. That’s because I showed up late to the Manchester Metropolitan Lecture Hall (thanks to the impossibility of tracking down a cup of coffee after 6PM in Manchester) and the event was so packed I could not get in. The room was absolutely stuffed full of a mostly young, student crowd. This is the view through the back door:

How to fit 500 people into a 300 person lecture hall

How to fit 500 people into a 300 person lecture hall

But there’s some good news for people who haven’t gotten the chance to hear Moazzam and Chris speak at all. The organizers of Tuesday’s event in Sheffield uploaded audio of the whole on-stage conversation between Moazzam, Chris and former detainee Omar Daghayes. Check it out at Sheffield Indymedia.