The Terrifying True Story of a Briton in Guantanamo
By Moazzam Begg
Paperback £7.99 (Pocket Books)
Imagine being torn from your home in the middle of the night whilst your
pregnant wife and infant children sleep upstairs. You are then subjected
to years of imprisonment and over three hundred interrogations in subhuman
conditions, which constitute torture, whilst being threatened with further
torture and witnessing the murder of several other prisoners. Then, try
if you will, to imagine that your captors and tortures are the elite forces
of the world's most powerful democracy – the purported 'land of
the free', whose citizens make a pledge of allegiance for 'liberty and
justice for all'. And finally, imagine that upon your release there NO
CHARGES against you; that there will be no apology and that your illegal
confinement has not been kept a secret – as perhaps you had believed
during those years, but that the rest of the world knew and did relatively
little to secure your release.
Do you think, after all of this, that you would be capable of inscribing
the following words:
“One of the more ambitious aims of this book is to find some common
ground between people on opposing sides of this new war, to introduce
the voice of reason which is so frequently drowned by the roar of hatred
Begg has recognized that the British Muslim community require a figurehead
speaker who can articulate their concerns in the wider community and has
stepped up to this role, despite all he has suffered. He is a methodical,
calm, intelligent writer, but my reaction to the book was one of violence;
I sobbed, raged and fantasized about vengeance upon the physical facilities,
if not the human facilitators. I imagined Tony Blair and Idiot Bush being
put through such an experience and grimly noted all the errors and inconsistencies
perpetrated by supposed 'intelligence services'. I fear that after such
treatment my response would be to add to the roar of hatred and intolerance,
rather than to offer my voice and experience for the good of informed
dialogue, as Moazzam has so capably done.
There is no hint of hatred, fanaticism or melodrama throughout this measured
response to becoming an enemy statistic in the 'War on Terror'; but it
serves as a pertinent reminder that almost 400 men remain incarcerated
in these hopeless conditions. Most of them, if and when released, will
not be in the same relatively privileged position as Begg and their anger
is unlikely to be resolved in such an articulate fashion. 'Enemy Combatant'
brings to the fore the central paradox of this phantom 'war on terror'
– who are these supposed terrorists? – as well as questioning
the responses of a human being to injustice and torture.