Enemy Combatant

The Terrifying True Story of a Briton in Guantanamo
By Moazzam Begg
Paperback £7.99 (Pocket Books)

Reviewed by Hana Leaper

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 and intolerance.”?

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.

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