May 20, 2007

Enemy Combatant

This past week, or has it been two, I finished Enemy Combatant- The Terrifying True Story of A Briton In Guantanamo by Moazzam Begg. Begg was one of the six Englishman held in the American Gulag, without trial, or even any charges brought against him for nearly three years. He spent two of those years in solitary confinement in a six by eight foot steel cage with no access to fresh air, sunlight, or other people.

His story is a harrowing tale of injustice, vengeance, and hypocrisy. He claims, “ It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so terrifying, being in the power of these people who actually believed their own fantasies.

Begg begins his book with a recap of his altogether normal childhood growing up as a second-generation Pakistani in Birmingham England. After an adolescences experimenting in a few gangs (apparently there was a lot of skinhead racism toward people if Asian decent in England. Imagine that!) he eventually started to seek out his roots and became a devout Muslim. His faith became politicize a bit as he start to work with several charities trying to help Muslims who were suffering from Bosnia, to Chechnya, to Afghanistan. This was all in a pre-911 era. To make a long story short, he moves his family to Afghanistan to help build a school. 911 happens he escapes the bombing, sets up house in Pakistan and a few weeks later he is captured in his house, taken to prison where he spent the next three years of his life with access to a lawyer, and without any charges against. After three years he is released still never charged and given no apology or compensation for his sentence.

Throughout the book, Begg has a unique perspective on what is happening to him because he can speak English. He often talks of the relationships he built with the young soldiers that where guarding him. He puts a very human face on such an inhumane predicament.

As always I have listed a few quotes that struck me as important. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to look deeper into the War on Terror and the implications this type of ignorant justice will have on East West relations and common human decency.
I had begun to realize the power and rigidity of the US military system, and its ability to consume any individual.
We are not begging for clemency; we are not pleading for mercy. We are simply demanding justice. If someone has committed a crime, charge him, and put him through a transparent system of justice. But since it is my experience that that will never happen, return them to their loved one, compensate them, close Guantanamo and all the other black holes of detention.

Talking about military tribunals…how on earth was it possible for a soldier to defend me? A soldier who’d given his oath of allegiance to the United States of America, and to George Bush, the Commander-in-Chief, who had already labeled us as killers and terrorists?

The American public doesn’t care. And American public opinion is what counts.
They are still there, and according to Begg some are as young as thirteen, some as old as eighty, some are even mentally incompatent to know what is happening to them. This is a travesty and illegal. Begg quotes Malcolm X and I will leave you with it now:
I am not anti-American, and I did not come here to condemn America. I want to make that very clear. I came here to tell the truth and if the truth condemns America, then she stands condemned...

1 comment:

  1. Wow, sounds like a fantastic book. I will look for it here but as good lit can be hard to find, there is always Amazon :-) Cheers for the review - as always, your posts are inspiring and point me in a new direction for reading.