Thursday, March 02, 2006

this is us 


Moazzam Begg was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2002. As the Guardian notes in an accompanying story: "During his internment, he spent virtually two years in solitary, was kicked and beaten, suffocated with a bag over his head, stripped naked, chained by his hands to the top of a door and left hanging, and led to believe he was about to be executed." The only "evidence" against him was the statement by a Pakistani captive that his instructor in an al-Qaeda camp had been named "Abu Umamah." This is a common Arabic construction, whereby parents are called after the names of their children: "Abu Umamah" means, "father of Umamah," which was the name of Begg's oldest daughter. (Similarly, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is usually referred to as "Abu Mazen." Although this is often called his "nom de guerre" in the Western press, as if it were the kind of sinister nickname that Bolshevik terrorists took to cloak their true identity – "Stalin," the man of steel, "Molotov," the hammer, etc. – it is in fact just a homely way of saying that Abbas is the father of a boy named Mazen.)

From this tidbit of meaningless information -- there are countless Muslims known as "Abu Umamah" – American interrogators spun a wild fantasy of Begg – a British teacher born and raised in Birmingham, where his secular parents sent him to the Jewish King David School for years – as an international mastermind, a veritable Doctor Evil: "Two FBI agents began the questioning, convinced I was involved in some nefarious web of plots, from planning to assassinate the Pope to masterminding al-Qaeda's finance operation in Europe, or being an instructor in one of its Afghan training camps. They had their perceptions about me and were searching for ways to confirm them - preferably from my own mouth. By now I'd been raised to the status of some rogue James Bond-type figure. They thought I was a graduate from some prestigious British university, that I was fluent in a dozen languages, that I was an expert in computers and several martial arts….Had it not been for this ludicrous situation I'm in, I would have been flattered," I once said to them. "I should ask you to write my résumé - I'd find a job anywhere."

But it was no joke, of course. One of the tools they used to torment Begg was photos of Umamah herself, which they had somehow obtained – stolen from his family home perhaps? – shortly after his capture. When that didn't work, the beatings and bindings described above began.

As I wrote two years ago, describing the plight of three other innocent British Muslims who'd been ensnared in Bush's global net: "The treatment of these three innocent men, chained and beaten for two years, is not just a crime, but also – like that other crime, the invasion of Iraq – an enormous waste of time and resources in the "war on terrorism." We saw the grim fruit of this waste in Madrid on March 11.

"But of course, the Pentagon Archipelago wasn't designed to fight terrorism; it's designed to advance terrorism – state terrorism. Its purpose is to establish the principle of arbitrary rule – in the name of "military necessity" – above the rule of law, in America and around the world. It's part of an overarching system of terror – aggressive war, assassination, indefinite detention, torture – employed to achieve the Regime's openly-stated ideological goal: "full spectrum dominance" of global politics and resources, particularly energy resources. Al Qaeda has the same goal, and uses the same methods, albeit on a smaller, "asymmetrical" scale.

"Now we are all at the mercy of these entwined terrorist factions – both led by fundamentalist sons of two financially linked elitist clans. We will see more Guantanamos, more Madrids, before this long, dark night is over."

Moazzam Begg was released from captivity in January 2005, with all the false charges against him dropped.

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