Sunday, March 04, 2007

Worst of the worst

Moazzam Begg is one British national swept up in the post-invasion frenzy in Afghanistan and found himself imprisoned in Kandahar, Bagram air force base and finally Guantanamo Bay for years before US officials summarily released him and several other British citizens who had been held without charges since 2001. His book, Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar, details his time in these various hellholes.

The Sideshow points out that the talking dog has just interviewed Begg, something that, to this date, our incurious media has apparently failed to do. I'm thinking Begg's pronouncements about the US system of justice are probably a little too spicy for those folks who might not yet be disabused of the notion that American foreign policy and its attendant justice is all about spreading freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

The tales of innocent people stuffed away in Gitmo are numerous and we know that the CIA distributed fliers throughout Afghanistan offering a bounty for information leading to the arrest of anyone associated with al Qaeda. The bounties offered were quite substantial and led to a flurry of locals pointing to unliked neighbours in the hopes of garnering some of the sweet CIA cash. Farmers, goatherds, hosts of people were picked up and detained. Though the Bush administration continues to assert that, after releasing hundreds of these detainees, the remaining prisoners are now the really, really bad ones, the "worst of the worst," as Rummy oft liked to say. Begg was picked up by the Pakistani ISI and to this day has no idea why he was picked up. Humanitarian workers aren't normally arrested, although with Bush at the helm, such work may actually be considered terrorist activity:
The Talking Dog: Too many Americans are willing to just assume that a European Moslem in Afghanistan in 2001 was up to some kind of mischief. Please describe what you were actually doing there. Also, please correct me if I am wrong, but did not a fair number of men doing what amounts to humanitarian work get swept up in the so-called war on terror and ended up at Bagram, Kandahar and/or Guantanamo Bay, where many are still held to this day?

Moazzam Begg: I went to Afghanistan in the summer of 2001. We had planned, funded and supported a school in Kabul– a girl’s school. The program was to go to help, teach, expand and advance and to get some social value. I was also involved in digging some wells and a water project in a drought stricken region in NorthWestern Afghanistan.

The Talking Dog: Did working with a girl’s school make you unpopular with the Taliban?

Moazzam Begg: The school would take girls– my own daughter was to attend the school... the Taliban actually didn’t allow education of females by what they believed to be non-Moslem groups... But the Taliban didn’t stop us, they certainly knew what we were doing. There were quite a few Moslems doing humanitarian work and Moslem NGOs. There were also lots of non-Moslem organizations working in Afghanistan. Of course, after the American bombing, only Moslems were picked up... Like an Al Jazeera camera man [Sami Al Hajj] who had nothing remotely to do with terrorism. But it can certainly be said that a number of those detained by the Americans were doing humanitarian work.
Beaten, pulped and tortured for three years.


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