Sunday, September 7, 2014

Book I Read: Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar by Moazzam Begg

Today I finished reading "Enemy Combatant: My Imprisonment at Guantanamo, Bagram, and Kandahar" by Moazzam Begg.


I am deeply conflicted by what I read.

To talk about this book I first have to establish my position.  I am a realist.  Terrorists on Islamic Jihad attacked the World Trade Center 1993 and 2001.  They attacked the USS Cole.  They attacked the Pentagon.  All conspiracy theories aside, there is a nontrivial threat to America from radical Islamic Jihad.  Not all Terrorists are Muslim.  Not all Muslims are Terrorists.



Mr. Begg is a Englishman of Pakistani descent holding dual citizenship between England and Pakistan.  In this book he describes his youth, including membership and exploits in a gang.  He describes combating anti-Paki racism growing up, and becoming progressively more religious over time.  He describes running an islamic Bookstore and strong ties to the Muslim community.  He describes involvement in donations and aid work for Muslims in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan.  He describes his visits to multiple war zones including to a militant training camp in the Afghan mountains.  He also describes his decision to move his family to Afghanistan to be in an Islamic state. 

Mr. Begg and his family fled Afghanistan to Pakistan after the start of the US invasion.  His home was raided.  He was pulled from his bed and imprisoned for three years as an enemy combatant in the War on Terror.  The majority of this book deals with the conditions and events of his three year imprisonment in Afghanistan and Cuba.  It also describes his eventual transfer to Scotland yard in 2005 and release.

I cannot honestly say if Mr. Begg is a terrorist.  He might be or he may not.  Suspicion is not sufficient.  I have no evidence beyond his own words and his wiki-leaked Guantanamo file and am unable to make a judgement on his guilt or innocence with the evidence provided.

It is not in question that Mr. Begg was isolated, tortured, imprisoned, and interrogated in a foreign land.  He was not plucked from a battlefield, but from his bed far from any fighting.  He spent years with no legal representation.  He spent years in social isolation.  He was never given the opportunity to confront his accusers, present a defense, or have the evidence against him heard by a nonmilitary judge.  These facts alone are sufficient information to judge my Country's actions. 

I am ashamed of my country.  My America is party to the Geneva and Hague Conventions.  My America does not snatch a man from his bed and imprison him for years without trial.  My America does not resort to torture.  My America was built on the rule of law, even in wartime.  My America certainly does not operate a Cuban gulag worthy of Pyongyang.

Sometimes it feels like I don't live in my America anymore.

The beacon of light is the handful of soldiers in the book that recognized their actions were wrong; they saw the America they swore to defend was not the America of dog cages and orange jumpsuits.  This handful of honest men and women gives me hope that all is not lost.

I recommend this book.  Patriotism is not a starry-eyed white washed flag and national anthem.  It requires honesty in judging your leaders and actions.  This book made me understand our failures in a completely new way.  I am a better American because of this book.

I welcome your comments and opinions.  Please let me know what you think.

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