Saturday 22 August 2015

Friends reunited

I felt uncomfortable listening to The Reunion about Guantanamo the other day.
“In 2002, a detention camp was hastily built in a remote corner of Cub,(sic) to house the men captured in America's "war on terror". Thirteen years later, it is still there. And in the intervening time, Guantanamo Bay has become a byword for controversy, a place Amnesty International called "the gulag of our time".
(I do wish the BBC would stop quoting Amnesty International. Their opinion is no longer meaningful after a hatful of scandals and impropriety.)

We know Moazzam Begg attended a terror training camp in Syria alongside other notorious individuals, and he makes no secret of the fact that he is a campaigner for Islamist causes. Charges of terrorism against him were dropped amid cloak-and-dagger claims that Ml5 knew all about his activities.  The other ex-inmate of Guantanamo featured in this programme, Sami al Hajj, is also a devout Islamist; the human rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith specialises in defending Islamists and alleged terrorists, and Colonel Mike Bumgarner appeared somewhat remorseful about his role as guard at Guantanamo.

Sue MacGregor questioned the two men about their ill-treatment during their detention in Guantanamo. Her sympathetic manner seemed more appropriate for interviewing traumatised bystanders who’d unexpectedly witnessed an atrocity; say, people caught out 'at the wrong place at the wrong time', like holiday-makers at a Tunisian idyll. Or survivors of a tsunami or a natural disaster. 
All the participants in this reunion appeared to agree that the detainees were innocent. They were unfortunate victims of injustice rather than associates of enemies of the West and opponents of democracy. 
We know that Guantanamo Bay was controversial, and that torture and cruelty were allegedly inflicted upon the inmates. It’s not something the west is proud of. In an ideal world the civilised West would be above that, and suspects would be treated humanely, given a fair trial, and either imprisoned or released. However there is nothing ideal about this world now that Islamic terrorism is firmly established and growing.

I felt the presence of  a massive elephant in the studio. Other episodes of this series have featured individuals with different perspectives on a given incident, at least when the occasion is as controversial as Guantanamo. This time everyone in the studio was on the side of Islam and its apologists.  


  1. Why didn't they reunite Begg with Al Qaeda man Dhiren Barot? Oh sorry, they can't. He's serving 30 years in Frankland prison.

  2. When was the last time prisoners of war were given a 'fair trial' and imprisoned or released while the war was still going on? Issues of treatment and the extra-legal stretch of locating the prison out of bounds aside, the definition of 'prisoner' is the biggest obstacle to understanding. They are not criminals, they are prisoners of war.

    I'm not going to bother listening to this, as I've heard this same story told too many times already by the BBC. But did they mention that Obama declared his intent to close Gitmo as soon as he took office, and did they blame Republicans exclusively for the fact that it's still open?

    1. I listened so that you don't have to. Yes they did, beginning at 32:50. They used a clip of an unnamed American voice to tell us that failure to close Guantanamo was all the Republicans' fault. I like this new BBC quiz format. Can you put a name to the liar used to push their narrative? I can't.

    2. Narrative? What narrative?

  3. I think the worst part, and the most telling, was the apparent refusal to challenge any of the accounts given by Moazzam Begg and Sami al Hajj. They were all taken at face value. Even, dare I say it, Clive Stafford Smith OBE wasn’t entirely convincing. I sensed a great deal of exaggeration and bending of truth all the way through.
    Colonel Mike Bumgarner did make a rebuttal of sorts, but it was somehow separate from the rest of the program and more or less disregarded by Sue MacGregor.
    In other words, more of the same from the BBC.


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