Moazzam Begg Responds To His Critics

21.2.10

Moazzam BeggThe following article, originally published on Cageprisoners, is Moazzam Begg’s first detailed response to the campaign directed at his relationship (and that of Cageprisoners) with Amnesty International, which I reported in an article entitled, “Defending Moazzam Begg and Amnesty International.” I am pleased to be cross-posting it here, and hope that readers pay attention to Moazzam’s report that he and Cageprisoners have recently received death threats, and that, for his own safety, he is withdrawing from public events for the foreseeable future. From my own point of view, I maintain that Gita Saghal is mistaken in her view of Moazzam and Cageprisoners, and that she should dissociate herself from the opportunists who have seized on her complaints, and whose lust for war and Islamophobia make them the most unprincipled bedfellows for someone who claims to respect universal human rights.

Hatred and Another Agenda: A Response by Moazzam Begg

In the Name of Allah Most Compassionate Most Merciful,

I had not imagined that the poorly researched Sunday Times article last week with the suggestion that it promised to expose a tangible link between Amnesty International, the Taliban and I was actually a prelude to something far more sinister against Cageprisoners and I in the days to come.

What I’ve found most puzzling about this whole episode is the timing and what the argument claims to be about. So here I wish to point out some glaring facts that have been purposefully neglected by those leading the charge against me, including, I’m afraid, Gita Sahgal, who I’d really hoped would have applied a little more wisdom before she began her crusade.

The first and only time I’ve ever met Ms. Sahgal was on a BBC Radio 4, Hecklers programme hosted by Mark Easton, in 2006. She made a presentation which alleged that the Blair government was pandering to fundamentalists in its fight against terrorism by engaging with groups like the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) — who she alleged were linked to “some of the most dangerous movements of our time.” Responding to her I joined a panel that included Daud Abdullah (MCB), Tariq Ramadan, Tahmina Saleem of the Islamic Society of Britain (ISB) and Nazir Ahmad of the House of Lords.

Ms Sahgal now avers that Amnesty’s relationship is damaged through association with me, but her ideas seemed a little more paradoxically amenable when I suggested that her thesis was flawed because the MCB, ISB, Mr. Ramadan and Ahmed — with all due respect — were largely regarded as sell-outs by some of the very people we needed to engage. I gave her the example of the British government’s banning the BBC from broadcasting Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams’ voice during the Irish “Troubles.” I said, based on this experience, that the government should in fact be speaking to people like Abu Qatadah, no matter how unpalatable that sounded. Ms Sahgal responded unexpectedly by saying she had no quarrel with my analysis.

So if Gita Sahgal in fact does not oppose dialogue with “extremists” then why all this fuss now? I have been harking on about engagement for years. This seems even more bizarre because only a couple of weeks ago Gordon Brown met in London with Hamid Karzai and outlined a new policy to engage with the Taliban. How ludicrous it seems therefore that I am described the very next week as “Britain’s most famous supporter of the Taliban.” Does anyone really believe this? Surely if that was the case I’d have been invited to the discussions with Messrs. Brown and Karzai about talking to the Taliban, being their “most famous supporter”?

If this matter was not so serious I’d be rolling over in laughter. But it is — deadly serious. Over the past few days we have received numerous death threats at Cageprisoners — and this is just the beginning. No doubt, the police will be trawling through the copious hate-mongering posts on right-wing, anti-Muslim blogs but I doubt that will solve anything.

I think much of it can be traced back to when Cageprisoners launched a report on the detention of terrorism suspects in the UK last year entitled “Detention Immorality” (PDF), which was hijacked by a seemingly unhinged lawyer-cum-blogger who has openly stated that he aims to destroy Cageprisoners and me — though I still don’t understand why. He regularly blogs and cross-posts attacks against Cageprisoners, Islamic organisations and me — amongst others — in an effort to “expose” us. But that is only a part of the problem.

In a BBC discussion with my colleague Asim Qureshi last week, Ms. Sahgal said, “I feel profoundly unsafe … talking to Asim Qureshi and Moazzam Begg, but I’m more than willing to meet them.” This sits very strangely with the fact that Asim was already seated next to her during the discussion and that she expressed no such sentiment when she actually did meet me in 2006. In reality it is we who are and have been living in fear for a very long time. We are afraid not only of Britain’s anti-terror measures, which are amongst the most draconian in the world — that would see, for example, a girl convicted of terror offenses for writing poetry — but we have to accept, on a daily basis, the vilification of all things Muslim by certain politicians, a public that increasingly sees Muslims as a “fifth column,” fuelled by a media and blogosphere that vilifies us as a matter of routine. Still, I’d be more than happy to sit with Ms. Sahgal, safety permitting, and put to her some of the things I’ve written here.

I could insist that she first disassociate from the support and association she has from the pro-war lobby as they have cemented and justified, through the media, illegal wars of occupation which have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and created severe human rights abuses for many — not least women — or her status as universal human rights advocate should be publicly called into question. However, it is my code of life that my oppressor does not become my teacher. And guilt by association does not mean moral bankruptcy. I am more interested in the work I do — and I had hoped the same of Ms. Sahgal, a lot of whose work she might be surprised to discover I would support.

In May last year I appeared alongside Colonel Tim Collins (famous for the stirring speech he gave to British soldiers on the eve of the 2003 Iraq invasion) on a televised panel discussion about Barack Obama’s attempt to censor the publication of photographs of alleged prisoner abuse which included images of apparent rape and sexual abuse of Iraqi women by US soldiers. Col. Collins opined that these pictures should be made public so that the world becomes aware of the abuses and that the culprits are brought to book. Again, there was a deafening silence on this issue — especially from the journalists who promoted the war, the same ones who now champion Ms. Sahgal’s work on women’s rights.

Sadly, Ms. Sahgal, and subsequent columnists and bloggers, have wilfully misled people into believing that I am somehow opposed to women’s rights. During the mid-90s I took several aid convoys to Bosnia, motivated to help the people there after genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass rape was used as a weapon of war against women. Bizarrely, my decision to go there too has been described as part of a mindless “jihadist” fantasy, overlooking completely that an entire Muslim population, in the heart of Europe, was being systematically put to the sword, under the noses and “protection” of European nations.

It is by now public knowledge that I was involved in the establishing and running of a school for girls in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the rule of the Taliban. The Taliban did not give us a licence to operate but neither did they impede us from having the school — openly — or from having the girls collected to and from the school in buses clearly marked with the name of the girls’ school. There is a deliberate attempt by my detractors to neglect this point each time I mention it — and I can only assume why: it doesn’t fit the stereotype, or the agenda.

Then there is the repeated allegation that because I went to live in Afghanistan — with my wife and children — I deserve what happened to me because I chose to live under a regime that was known for abusing women’s rights — amongst other things. I have never denied the Taliban were guilty of abusing women’s rights, but my presence there should not be equated as an endorsement of their views regarding them. A similar charge however is not put to the numerous white, Caucasian and non-Muslim NGO workers who were living there during the time of the Taliban — sometimes with their families — well before I ever arrived. I wonder why?

It might come as a surprise to some that the executive director of Cageprisoners for over six years was a Muslim woman — someone who was regarded as the backbone of the organisation and an immense source of pride for us all. Since my return from Guantánamo, Cageprisoners and I have been very closely involved in organisations which assist the silent victims of anti-terror measures (utilised against men detained without charge): their wives and children. These organisations help to empower women to face the harsh reality of life without a partner. Cageprisoners’ patron, Yvonne Ridley, has been the most active and vociferous in this regard whilst I am a patron of one of these support groups for women. But what support, if any, have this section of our population received from the great women’s rights defenders who claim to champion their cause?

I’m not sure why, after having spent years in Bagram and Guantánamo and being subjected to innumerable human rights violations and abuses — including witnessing two murders — I might be expected to be an expert on women’s issues, especially when almost every single prisoner I encountered was male, even though some of the abuses were carried out by female soldiers. There was, however, one woman whose screams I still hear sometimes in my head. I was led to believe she was my wife being tortured in the next room while photographs of her and my children were waved in front of me as I lay tied to the ground with guns pointing at me and interrogators asking: “What do you think happened to them the night we took you away? Do you think you’re going to see them again?”

Several months later I received news via the ICRC that my wife and kids were, thankfully, safe, but I knew the screams had been real, that it had been somebody’s wife, sister, daughter or mother I had heard. After my return from Guantánamo I began investigating who that person might have been but have been unsuccessful in my findings. However, through my own investigations I discovered that there was a female prisoner once held in Bagram and her number was 650. After years of denial of the existence of women prisoners the US administration finally admitted that there had indeed been a female held in Bagram — but only after I’d asked a colleague to request the US administration’s official policy on detaining women in Afghanistan.

Shortly after his return from Guantánamo Binyam Mohamed told me that he believed prisoner 650 was in fact Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. This is the same Dr. Siddiqui that last week’s Times extraordinarily provides as evidence of Cageprisoners’ campaigns for convicted terrorists. And while I’m making the point, Cageprisoners has not campaigned for anyone who has received a fair, transparent and appropriate sentence as a result of proper due process. As I’ve stated previously, Cageprisoners is an information portal which merely carries information and reports on the cases of all held as part of the War on Terror. In no place does Cageprisoners ever claim that some of these convicted prisoners are “innocent” or faced a “miscarriage of justice.” Cageprisoners has raised the cases of those held under control orders, deportation, detention without trial, US extradition — making them no different from other human rights organisations that similarly do not face the same accusations as a result. The people we do campaign for are highlighted clearly on our “Campaigns” page on the site. But we also recognise that not everyone who is convicted of terrorism is always necessarily an “embodiment of evil” — Nelson Mandela serves as the greatest reminder of that.

In October last year I attended a conference in Malaysia where I met survivors of the Abu Ghraib prison. Amongst them was a woman who told me about some extremely disturbing experiences she and others had gone through. She now runs a women’s refuge in Syria for Iraqi refugees. Cageprisoners intends to do more work on the cases of such women and it is an issue I discussed with some Amnesty UK members who were very keen to bring her over and start highlighting issues related to sexual violence against women during incarceration. In fact, I discussed this issue at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Centre only in November on a panel with Professor Joanna Bourke, who spoke about “Sexual Violence in the War on Terror.” Ms. Sahgal, oddly, was nowhere to be seen. After countless events with Amnesty — or any of the 600-plus I’ve spoken at around the country — I’ve still never encountered Ms. Sahgal since meeting with her in 2006 when she had “no quarrel with my views.”

I may be no expert on women’s rights issues but I think I have a little idea and sympathy to some of their causes — as a husband and father. Take Johina Aamer for example, a 12-year old girl whose father, Shaker Aamer, has been held for over eight years without charge or trial in Guantánamo. Johina’s mother has undergone repeated psychiatric treatment since her husband’s abduction all those years ago. I went with Johina, Vanessa Redgrave, Victoria Brittain, Helena Kennedy, Gareth Peirce, Kate Hudson and Kate Allen to Downing Street so she could deliver a letter to the Prime Minister, asking that her father finally be allowed home. None of those who attack me now were there — from media or otherwise — to show their support for this innocent little girl. That really is shameful, because this is the sort of thing they are opposing when they address my relationship with Amnesty.

There is another charge implicitly laid against me (and Cageprisoners): that I am only concerned with the rights of Muslims. Just a few months after my release from Guantánamo I saw on the television images of four hostages in Iraq, dressed in orange Like-like suits, facing threats of execution. I contacted all the former Guantánamo prisoners I knew and issued a televised and written statement in all our names calling for their release. Sadly, the only American hostage was killed but the others, a Briton, an Australian and a Canadian (all non-Muslims), all lived and are safely back home. All of them have written to me the warmest messages of support I’ve ever read. I told them it was the orange suits that did it.

I find incredible too that there is a new re-reading of my book, Enemy Combatant — after having been in print for over four years — as some kind of handbook for the propagation of the Taliban, fanaticism and a latent Islamic extremism. That sits very peculiarly with the fact that it has received very positive reviews from the likes of Tony Benn, Jon Snow, David Ignatius (the Washington Post), Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (the Independent) and, ironically, Christina Lamb (the Sunday Times). Did I fool them all? The book — and I — has been scrutinised at every literary festival I can think of, from Hay-on-Wye to Edinburgh and Dartington to Keswick. The common response I get is that it (and I) lacks bitterness, is devastatingly reasonable, conciliatory in nature and, as Desmund Tutu says: “I feel that Enemy Combatant has the capacity to win hearts and minds.”

Unfortunately some minds are not accompanied by hearts in order that they can be won. I would have thought that the pioneering work done by Cageprisoners and myself might also have served to create more understanding and less hatred by engaging in dialogue with former US soldiers and interrogators — but I seem to have been proved wrong. Up until now I have spoken all around the country addressing over 50,000 people with a view to educate, debate, understand and be understood so that hatred is eroded through interaction and knowledge.

The numbers of people who have told me they’ve been inspired to learn more, get involved, join human rights groups like Amnesty International, raise awareness and develop a new and nuanced understanding is countless. But, in spite of all the blatant anti-Muslim feeling and the rise of the far-right Islamophobic sentiments it is only now, after this episode with Ms. Sahgal and her protagonists, that I am reconsidering my entire approach towards engagement and dialogue to create understanding and acceptance. The fact is the climate of fear has just been raised a level — and I am no longer immune. I will continue to campaign for the men suffering in the concentration camps of Bagram, Guantánamo and the secret prisons. But withdrawal to a place of safety, my own Muslim community, seems to be the best option right now. It seems, at least to some, that engagement has its limits.

Before I do though, it is worth noting how we have reached this point.

The Times led the libellous charge straight after the failed Detroit bomb plot by suggesting that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had become radicalised by attending a couple of Cageprisoners’ lectures, without offering one shred of evidence, and once again, choosing to completely ignore Cageprisoners’ response. This charge was parroted again last week in David Aaronovitch’s contribution to the attack.

A quick look at how the Sunday Times has dealt with the latest issue almost beggars belief: an article written by Richard Kerbaj, who quotes almost nothing of what I say and uses language to suggest the Taliban is actually involved in the whole affair as a headline. I write an immediate response, registering a complaint with the Press Complaints Commission, his editor and my lawyers. The following Sunday another two articles appear in the same paper: the first, a more sober one by Margaret Driscoll, which actually uses my responses that Kerbaj had so deliberately omitted the week before. The second, by Kerbaj again, claims that “Second Amnesty chief attacks Islamist links,” showing clearly the Sunday Times sees the problem isn’t even about the Taliban anymore, rather it’s about having Islamic ideals. The only problem is that Sam Zarifi, upon whom the article is based, also says Kerbaj has mischaracterized his views. It is strange that Mr. Kerbaj and the Sunday Times make careers out of this sort of thing, calling it “news.”

The fuse, however, had been lit and out came the others, the way they had done before, demonstrating their credentials in supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — and everything that came with that. This is what it comes down to in my estimation. The attacks have been very personal, questioning everything I’ve done in my life in the same way as the US/UK intelligence services had sought to when they colluded in my abduction, false imprisonment, torture and abuse. What no one had bargained for though, not even me, was what would happen after my release. The motto of Cageprisoners is “giving a voice to the voiceless.” That voice has echoed across the world and has even reached the ears of some very influential and powerful people, who recognise just how appalling this whole process has been.

Cageprisoners’ previous work on reports like “Off the Record” (PDF), which details the cases of “ghost prisoners” and enforced disappearance and the secret detentions network discussed in “Beyond the Law” (PDF) illustrate the levels of criminality we have stooped to in the name of fighting terrorism. The extent to which our own government has been involved in this is quite breathtaking too. Our report last year, “Fabricating Terrorism II” (PDF), highlighted the cases of 29 individuals — one of them before September 11 — who had been tortured and abused with the complicity of British intelligence services, while “Detention Immorality” showed the extent to which prisoners are held without charge or trial in the UK under secret evidence.

The cases we, the former Guantánamo prisoners and torture victims, have against our own government for complicity in torture is so troubling that I have actually been questioned at UK airports if I had travelled abroad in pursuance of my case against the intelligence services.

Last week’s revelations that British intelligence was involved in the torture of Binyam Mohamed came as no surprise to me. It is something I’ve been saying publicly, at Amnesty meetings, in my book and my writings since my return. Cageprisoners and I have also led the campaign for Shaker Aamer who I believe was not only tortured in the presence of MI5 but the government is very worried that revelations of complicity in his torture might be even worse than Binyam’s.

Ms. Sahgal has, perhaps unwittingly, become a cause celebre for some of the pro-war hacks in this country — and around the world (who, as a result, are pro-by-products of the wars: targeted assassinations, “collateral damage,” refugee crises, secret and military prisons, torture etc.) They are a tool for the intelligence services or people like Paul Rester, the director of the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantánamo, who says, “[Begg] is doing more good for al-Qaeda as a British poster boy than he would ever do carrying an AK-47.” I firmly believe this, more than anything else, is the reason why people want my voice and that of Cageprisoners silenced. But it won’t be — not as long as I can help it.

It has been my great pleasure to break many a stereotype one would assume of a Guantánamo terrorism suspect who believes in Islam as a way of life. As a child I had studied at a Jewish primary school and as an adult I married a Palestinian woman. Both have given me fond and loving memories. Last week I was walking with a friend in the streets of Berlin, where Adolf Hitler had once created — and ultimately destroyed — the capital of his Nazi wonderland. My friend is an observant Jew whose family had fled the pogroms in Eastern Europe around the same time. The experience was surreal for both of us: for him, the knowledge of the sort of hatred that once spewed out on these very streets so many years ago changed the world; for me, the growing feeling that hatred of a comparable sort, albeit in a subtler guise, is on the march once again. I can’t help but to think now, as we passed what was once the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, what Joseph Goebbels once said about the truth: “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

My God, was he right.

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). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in January 2010, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

19 Responses

  1. kabuli says...

    Dear Moazzam Begg,

    What is happening to you and your fellow ex-prisoners is too vile for words, each new wound reopens the old ones. All I can do is apologise for it and understand that you have no choice right now but to withdraw from the public eye and maybe simply have a well-deserved rest.

    However, don’t give up, and most of all don’t ever doubt your beliefs and the rightness of your approach. For not only would it give your detractors great satisfaction, but what is much more important, it would undermine your own faith, hope and love and that of the countless people whom your attitude inspires, and who are indispensable if this world one day is to become a better one, for all of us.

    In many ways you embody the best of what we European Caucasians, in our usual Euro-centric arrogance tend to call ‘Christian’ values, such as treating our fellow human beings as we would want to be treated ourselves, turning the other cheek, going out of our way to help those who are less fortunate than we are. Not because they are less good, or less intelligent or less hard working, but simply because they were born in a place and at a time where they did not receive the same opportunities as we did, or are powerless victims of oppression.

    This is what you did when you took your family to Afghanistan, when you already wished to establish a dialogue with the oppressive rulers and open their minds to the world, and evidently succeeded, as they allowed you to provide practical, constructive support to those whom they most oppressed, to girls who were denied education. This is what you have been doing in the past years for your fellow-prisoners (and their families) who were even unluckier than you and still are imprisoned or cannot cope with life after their release.

    As a matter of fact, that might well be at the core of the hatred of some of us. The subconscious realisation that you and your fellow Cageprisoners, Muslims, put into practice -often at a very high price to be paid by yourselves- what many of us only preach. The idea that a Muslim could have higher moral standards than we do, apparently is unacceptable to some and can only be turned into hatred.

    According to the preconceived notions of some of my fellow Caucasians, it would seem that only Christians or Jews are capable of compassion and self-sacrifice, not Muslims. It has never even occured to them, that those taliban rulers might much better understand and trust reasonable advice from fellow-Muslims, even if they are from another part of the world, than from us, who think that we can buy their hearts and minds by bribing them. If lately ‘dialogue with the Taliban’ has become politically correct, that’s all it is, for the dialogue is not ment to serve the civilian populations of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but to save our own skins. And that is why it does not work, for those whom we intend to bribe know this.

    Your approach in Afghanistan was the only effective one to abolish totalitarian regimes, as history shows us. Encouraging the oppressed to take up arms against their oppressors without at the same time mollifying the latter, is a crime, as we have seen in the Russian revolution and so many others, while the awfull South-African apartheid regime had understood just in time, that if it would not give in to some extent it would loose all, and reverted to dialogue. The alternative would inevitably have been bloodshed.

    The problem is that those who wage the ‘War on terror’ do not want solutions, but conflicts. That after the fall of the Soviet Union the western world needed a new Enemy, something that would inspire irrational fear, so that their societies would let themselves be manipulated by their governments. Unfortunately a few terrorists who claimed to be inspired by their faith, have supplied them with an excuse to turn all Muslims into that Enemy.

    The tragedy in your particular case is, that ‘giving Afghans democracy, liberating their women’ and all the other politically correct phraseology, is not the real motive for our presence there. We pretend that we want to liberate them in order to hide our real motivations, which include power, making fortunes, training armies and providing the voters back home with an Enemy.
    While your purpose truly was -and is- to help those who are oppressed by educating not only themselves but also -more importantly- their oppressors.

    Let this state of affairs never stop you and your colleagues from following what you -correctly- believe to be the only honest and effective approach. On the contrary, may it motivate you even more to continue your peaceful struggle, for without people like you the Islamophobic hawks will win.

    In Kabul there are theatre performances by war victims, based on their own traumatic experiences. One of the performers had been jailed for several years and had lost six brothers during the Soviet occupation. His motivation for participating in the -painful- project was to ‘turn his tears into energy’.
    I do hope that both of you will continue to find the strength to do this.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Kabuli. I’ve taken the liberty of forwarding it to Moazzam.

  3. Connie says...

    I am MOST grateful to all three of you, Andy, Moazzam Begg and Kabuli because you have poured out your hearts, souls and minds in such a way as to confirm my own conclusions after doing research on this debate last night.

    Just like after the Dr. Aafia Siddiqui trial I attended throughout … there are some insidious workings which would see, to be infecting the kind of analysts and human rights folk who’ve been our best people. Maybe the worst component of these infective bacterias is fear for IF those who want to keep doing what they’ve been doing in the hellish realm of torture can merely plant the bio-weapon of fear of any manner of association with those unlike us – even for means of understanding – then they can go about doing more dirty work…

    In time, all these fears creep down into the very fabric of every society to await uprooting for the brave. They affect and infect even the closest of relationships and the strongest of efforts.

    Yet, you speak my language…you speak for my heart too. We used to have a saying I heard pretty often among the spiritual elderly in my community: “that which satan (and his fellow-deceivers) meant for your destruction, Allah can turn into good.” That is what I see you have been doing all along and will find a way to continue to do in your writings, prayers and life.

    Yes, do get a much needed rest and may your family provide you the comfort and love you may need at this time.

    Allah Hafiz!

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Connie. Good to hear from you.

  5. eurail pass says...

    Moazzam Begg, your story is most touching and totally dismantles the notion of you being a demon as so widely built up in the maistream media. Criminals that do what you outlined to other fellow human beings are the ones deserving of the title “worst of the worst” – not noble people such as yourself.

    God bless.

  6. philip rogers says...

    Moazzam,
    May your torch of truth burn brightly through this murky darkness!
    Thank you.

  7. Susan Thompson says...

    Moazzam, all of your nitpicking, trying to score points on petty details and all the rest, does not hide the fact that you, and people like you, are an enemy of humanity and a vociferous supporter of tyranny.

    Just because you are capable of pointing out and criticizing mistakes, shortcomings and occasional outright immoral behavior of the West, does not make you some kind of superior angel.

    The fact that you can say something so incredibly stupid, narrow-minded, self-serving and perverse like “the people of Afghanistan have the right to fight the occupation” says all that anybody needs to know about you.

    It is arrogant, conceited idiots like yourself that have caused the killings of tens of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan. Who are you to speak for the Afghans and Iraqis who do not agree with or think like you? Those who understand that it is not an “occupation”, it is an attempt to stabilize and liberate countries who on their own have proven so incompetent, dysfunctional and downright primitive and backward that they cannot do it on their own.

    You are just one of thousands of disgusting parasitic hypocrites, who attempt to destroy and tear down the modern world, and the West, and its beliefs and values, all the while living in it, sucking off of its freedoms, progress, protections, its technologies. You want to have Afghanistan fall back into the control of sub-humans who destroyed human culture like Bamiyan? You say it’s okay to “resist the occupiers” who are trying to prevent their return?

    Your hypocrisy is so clear…. why do you live in the West if you find it so awful? Please, go live in Afghanistan, nobody wants you in our world.

    You are one sick, sick, sick man, just like every other narcissistic religious delusional, whether Muslim, Christian or Jew. You waste your life praying to a non-existent, invisible deity, and consider yourself superior to others by doing so.

    Surprise! Your’re not better than anybody.

    Because of your support for the forces of darkness, you deserve everything that happened to you, and one can only hope you will suffer even more consequences in the future.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    I fail to understand your point of view, Susan, but I allow all comments through unless they”re particularly offensive. All I’ll say is that no one should go through what the prisoners in Guantanamo have been through, and that, when thinking of Afghanistan, imagine if it was this country that was occupied. Wouldn’t you want to resist? And if so, why shouldn’t Afghans want to resist occupation? Is it because you think they’re inferior to colonial-minded white people?

  9. Susan Thompson says...

    Typical knee-jerk liberal response, and I consider myself a liberal, one tainted by the extreme left.

    What part of “IT’S NOT AN OCCUPATION” do people like you not understand??

    If the French had sent a peacekeeping force to prevent the Northerners and Southerners from killing themselves by the hundreds of thousands (700,000 dead) during our own Civil War, I and others like me would have the intelligence to not apply some utterly sick and perverse label to it like an “occupation”. Personally, I would have been grateful to the French soldiers for putting themselves in harm’s way. People like you can’t understand that.

    Trying to keep the peace between warring factions is not an occupation to unbiased, intelligent people. Otherwise, you can call all United Nations peacekeeping deployments to be “occupations”.

    If there are prisoners in Guantanamo who have worked, conspired, plotted, aided an abetted the murder of innocent people in furtherance of trying to get their way, like spoiled brats who think they have a right to force their world view on everyone, then, sorry, I and any non-starry-eyed naive idiot fully believe they deserve everything they’ve “been through”, and more.. People like you are so enamored of your own “goodness” and superior “morals” and wonderfulness that you clearly care more about sick murdering terrorists than you do of the victims and their families, whose lives have been irredeemably damaged by this detritus of humanity. No one? Not even Hitler? Stalin? Ghaddafi? Saddam? Bin Laden? Unfortunately persons like you cannot see your own blind, self-righteous and twisted ideology.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    This is my final reply. It’s only the absence of foul language that’s preventing me from deleting this. I don’t really need to put up with being called “blind, self-righteous, and twisted” by someone who clearly cannot have a civil discussion.

  11. Susan Thompson says...

    I’m perfectly capable of having a civil discussion. Is there not even a 1% chance that maybe your ideology is in fact “blind”? Or that maybe your relentless embrace of a world view that is not shared by most successful people is perhaps 1% due to self-righteousness? Or that there is perhaps a 1% chance that it is a “twisted” mindset to call peacekeepers “occupiers”?

    You may take offense at the labels, since it is unflattering, but that doesn’t make the discussion “uncivil”.

    I once was told something valuable by a professor in college when I myself was manifesting a bit of self-righteousness: “why not try to LEARN SOMETHING instead of insisting the whole world is wrong and you’re right?”

    I can guarantee you, the vast majority of people who have normal lives and families to protect, and who may have lost loved ones to the monsters your heart bleeds for, think like I do, and do not agree with your world view.

    I know little about you, Andy, but I see “Andy Worthington continues his 70-part, 700,000-word series telling, for the first time, the stories of 776 of the 779 prisoners held at Guantánamo since the prison opened….”

    Question, Andy, have you ever written a single word about the agonies of the families who were torn apart by losing a loved one on 9/11?

    By your actions, and your literary crusades, again, you are far more concerned with what happens to the monsters that you are working so hard to protect and exalt, than you are with the real victims.

    Can you not grant that perfectly “civil” people might therefore think that perhaps, at least 1%, your ideology (for that’s what it is, clung to just like a religious belief) is perhaps “blind, self-righteous and twisted?”

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Susan, it’s quite simple. There’s no justification for the actions taken by the Bush administration following 9/11. Torture is a crime, soldiers should be held as prisoners of war, and criminals — as terrorists are — should be tried in federal courts. My position defending the law, and those subjected to the Bush administration’s policy of holding them as “enemy combatants” without rights, has nothing to do with any disregard for the victims of terrorism, which you imply exists on my part. Others deal with these topics; I deal with the broken laws, and the problems with that.

  13. Susan Thompson says...

    While I despise the Bush administration, and consider Dick Cheney a typical conscienceless sociopath, things like 9/11 are perfect “justification” for perhaps not slavishly following practices and procedures that were established to deal with more conventional, nation-to-nation aggression.

    You are British, and unfortunately that makes you incapable of understanding why so many Americans are not as exercised over Guantanamo as you and other Europeans are. That is because when you live here and grow up in this culture, one sees far, far, too many examples of obvious criminals getting off scot-free (O.J. Simpson is but one more famous example) because of the extreme over-protectiveness of our system. We Americans are almost united in our contempt of our legal system, which we inherited from you Brits. We see far too much time and public resources wasted on utter scumbags, mass murderers, freed because of some technicality.

    Since you are not an American with this knowledge, I would propose that you are not qualified to judge what should and should not be tried in our Federal courts. You know nothing about them.

    So all you care about is “broken laws”? Laws are highly imperfect, often made by the same corrupt and incompetent politicians you so stridently rail against. So I take it you would uphold the Nuremberg Laws, simply because they are laws? How about the laws in the old Soviet Union, requiring children to turn in their parents for anti-state activities? Or laws imprisoning people for adultery?

    I would propose instead of slavishly worshipping “the law”, and stridently obsessing on its violations, real and imagined, one might be a better person to rely on more nebulous concepts, such as “common sense” and “justice”.

    If a captured terrorist had kidnapped and his accomplices were about to kill your family, would you still be so sure that torturing the slimeball to find their location was so clearly a ‘crime’?

    Perhaps the biggest difference between people like you and me is that your mindset is more comfortable with, and requires for its security, a rigid, ideological, black-and-white approach to the world. People like me can deal with ambiguity, shades of gray, and fluidity. I can say that *most* of the time, torture is a crime, and an abomination to be avoided, but there are perhaps the occasional instances where righteous and moral people may have little choice. I’d torture Bin Laden in a heartbeat, and you are no more a righteous or ‘better’ person than I am.

    And if Bin Laden and his cohorts would to have ever been imprisoned at Guantanamo, I’d be perfectly happy for them to have “no rights”. Did they care about their victims’ families, and *their* rights?

    And I’d look again at your attitudes towards the victims of terrorism that I point out. Your disclaimer sounds decidedly breezy and dismissive, so unfortunately the evidence, just from your behavior, is that you do in fact care more about the monsters than the victims.

    Personally, I think your mistake is in your blanket condemnation of the entire process. You’d be a more impressive, and more defensible and respected voice, if you were to make the effort to distinguish between *innocent* persons falsely imprisoned and harshly interrogated by mistake, and those who are not. If you were to campaign to free the wrongly imprisoned, you’d have all of decent humanity on your side.

    As it is, the shrill one-size-fits-all criticism, meaning you often get in bed with the devil and exalt him, means that most intelligent people will just write you off and dismiss your efforts as naive, and knee-jerk liberal.

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    You obviously haven’t read my work at all, have you, Susan, or you’d understand that I consistently “make the effort to distinguish between ‘innocent’ persons falsely imprisoned and harshly interrogated by mistake, and those who are not.” As you haven’t actually read anything I’ve written, it seems that the purpose of all this is to project things onto me. I write about the prisoners in Guantanamo and the flight from laws and treaties, and the chaotic policies of the Bush administration, that got them there. As that’s what I do, it’s ridiculous that you should chastise me for not doing something else — namely, writing about the victims of terrorism. And I’m sorry, but when people are rounded up without tried and tested checks on who they are, as happened in Afghanistan, then innocent people get swept up with terrorists, and when a “war” on criminals is declared, and soldiers get confused with terrorists, then you get the mess that is Guantanamo. I’d like there to have been justice for the victims of 9/11, as would have happened had they been tried in a federal court, which could have happened years ago had it not been for the Bush administration’s refusal to do so. I actually care about the 9/11 victims, who want justice, rather than seeing the men who allegedly killed their loved ones held indefinitely without a trial.
    I have to sleep now. I’ve spent far too much time attempting to discuss these issues with you, when all you’ll do is find another way of hurling abuse at me and not take in a word I’ve written. That’s not only pointless, but when you’re supposed to be engaging me in discussion and miss the point, or constantly seek ways to insult me, it’s actually offensive.

  15. Susan Thompson says...

    Ok, you arrogant, narcissistic hypocrite…… I’ll take you on and publish my expose of you in public forums… here’s a clue — you’re in love with yourself and your own wonderful crusades… oh, what a good boy am I, eh? And anyone who doesn’t agree with your infallible opinions can be silenced, eh?

    You want a war, you got one. I really don’t take kindly to censorship.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Before the comment from Susan Thompson above, I decided not to accept any more comments from her, and deleted two that covered the same ground, with the same slights on my character, the same descriptions of prisoners of the “war on terror” as terrorists, without any acknowledgment that there has been no screening process to ascertain whether or not they are terrorists at all, and with the same refusal to acknowledge that anyone whose country is occupied by a Western power might be allowed to have a grievance.

    I’m not going to answer the comment above, as I stated my final opinion regarding her approach in my final comments to her above, but I will continue to allow her comments through, so that I can’t be accused of censorship, although I have no intention of engaging any more with someone who clearly bears me ill will, and actually on a very personal basis, which, to my mind, is actually intolerable behavior.

  17. Susan Thompson says...

    Now, that’s better. And may I suggest you restore my censored posts. Again, I was not in any sense abusive or vulgar. Merely unflattering.

    Just to correct you, I do in fact “acknowledge” that there are, and very regrettably so, a number of unjustly-imprisoned individuals at Guantanamo and elsewhere in the “war on terror”. And that all decent, well-meaning people should be concerned to make sure they are identified and freed.

    However, a person like Moazzam Begg is not among them. He is not one of those who people like me care terribly about if they got ‘mistreated’ somewhere. By his own admission, according to Wikipedia: “Begg admits spending time at two Islamic militant training camps in Afghanistan, supporting militant Muslim fighters, buying a rifle and a handgun, that he “thought about” taking up arms in Chechnya, and being an acquaintance of people linked to terrorism (most notably, Khalil al-Deek, Dhiren Barot, and Shahid Akram Butt)”

    A person like this does not deserve the concern of people like me, or you, or any other decent human being. If for nothing more than “supporting Muslim ‘fighters’ ” (read: murderers who will kill to get their way and violently impose their world-view on others), he deserves everything that happened to him, and more. There are far more pitiable, *truly* innocent victims of injustice and misfortune who should get in line way ahead of him, as people for us to be concerned about.

    Moazzam Begg is not “innocent” by any objective stretch of the imagination. He may have had second thoughts once he saw the dangerous game he played and paid some consequences. And he certainly was quite skilled in using the basic decency of the western legal system he worked so hard to destroy to get a lot of money for himself. Quite clever. Bravo, Moazzam!

    My point with respect to the *truly* innocent, however, and this is ignored with the same stridency that you accuse me of, is that the ‘obvious and easy’ solution, which you say is to charge the culpable ones as normal “soldiers” (give me a break, these are cold-blooded killers and insane sociopathic fanatics, in no normal person’s mind a “soldier”), and in Federal courts, is in my opinion, and the opinion of the overwhelming vast majority of knowledgeable people, ignorant, naive, uninformed, and starry-eyed in the extreme.

    You yourself stated: “I’d like there to have been justice for the victims of 9/11, as would have happened had they been tried in a federal court, which could have happened years ago had it not been for the Bush administration’s refusal to do so.”

    And this is what I mean by the 4 adjectives above. This reveals complete ignorance of the reality of the American legal system. And the basic reason why few Americans are terribly concerned about closing Guantanamo, and why few of us would be interested in listening to you. You would strike most of us as, I’m sorry, but this is the truth, ignorant, naive, uninformed, a rabidly ideological left-wing extremist, anti-American, and more enamored of your own opinions than to ever risk examining them or changing them.

    Again, Andy, why not try to LEARN something instead of insisting you’re right and everybody else (in this case, the vast majority of perfectly decent and moral Americans) is wrong?

    My point is proven by the rather poor sales of your Guantanamo book. Amazon says it’s something like 856,598th in popularity. People are far more interested in Paris Hilton’s biography, ranked in popularity 122,397th, than in what you have to say.

    It’s not because we’re bad people. It’s because we can recognize a highly-biased ideological extremist when we see one.

    The FACT is that very few terrorist victim’s families would receive anything like justice, and certainly not on a timely basis (“years ago”). It is one of the great irritants of our society, that instead of what you JUST ASSUME WITHOUT KNOWING ANYTHING ABOUT IT, we have obvious criminals, including murderers, going off scot-free because of some trivial technicality. And the process takes years and years and years, and consumes sometimes millions of dollars of public money PER CASE! And victims’ families go on for years and years of further torture by the whole process; appeals, motions, hearings, on and on and on.

    Surprise, Andy, the vast majority of Americans and others do not in fact like Guantanamo being an apparent necessary evil. But we like the alternative (such as what you naively think is the solution) even less.

    Until you understand this REALITY, I’m sorry, you will continue to be dismissed by people like me, and hundreds of millions of others that you might otherwise be able to interest in your “cause”.

    Again, you understand little about the U.S. In your own words, you never even set foot in this country until 3 years ago!

    We’re not as stupid and lacking in decency as you think. What it IS, is that things are in reality a whole lot more complicated, far less cut-and-dried, than is the world view that you possess where you think things are just so obvious and the choices are easy.

  18. Steph says...

    Thanks Andy for your impartial, fact and evidence driven journalism. Thanks also for deciding not to delete posts from people like Susan. I came upon your blog trying to find logical arguments for and against Moazzam, in order to try and work out why he has been detained again. The only logical fact-based arguments are coming from people who support Moazzam, and Moazzam himself, while those against him tending towards the inflammatory, with arguments without logic or evidence, and rhetoric that often contradicts itself (a la Susan). Thanks again.

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Great to hear from you, Steph, and I’m very glad to hear that you have been finding my opinion useful – and that of others who are deeply suspicious about the government’s position. We will see soon if the government can make a coherent case against Moazzam.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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