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Monday, August 13, 2007 

Scum-watch: Calling for the continuation of systematic injustice.

Just how does one become a Sun journalist? Is it nature or nuture? Were they too once idealistic young men and women who dreamed of becoming investigative hacks, exposing the corrupt, the injustices, the lies and scandalous behaviour of the most powerful in our society? Did they imagine that one day they'd be called a cunt by a flame-haired editor because they hadn't got the latest scoop on the relationship drama between a crack-head and sometime model? Do they believe the bile they have to write up, or is it purely out of the love of the pay cheque?

Why am I asking these daft rhetorical questions? Well, here's one more for good measure: just how do some of them sleep at night? Andrew Porter today delivers an abject lesson in how to write an almost typical tabloid scare story:

FIVE men set to be returned to Britain from Guantanamo Bay will cost a staggering £7.5million a year to monitor, security sources revealed last night.

First thing to note is that this comes from a "security" source. Seeing as their job involves lying to everyone around them, regardless of the reason for doing so, anything they say and most especially provide to a Sun hack has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Is it really true that monitoring one man for a year will cost £1.5 million? Are the other former Guantanamo detainees under such surveillance? Almost certainly not - not only have none of them been charged with any crime upon repatriation, some of whom had almost identical or more serious allegations made against them, but apart from Moazzam Begg and the "Tipton Three" they've completely dropped off the radar, apparently no threat to anyone.

Let's not pretend that these men are necessarily completely innocent of some of what might be alleged against them. One of the "Tipton Three" has since confessed that he entered Afghanistan and did spend time at a training camp, where he learned how to use an AK-47, somewhat different to the rosy account in the Road to Guantanamo, where their reasons for visiting Afghanistan were because of the err, huge naans, and little else. Even so, objectionable and criminal as that was, potential ill-treatment and the nightmare of indefinite detention without charge which they faced in Guantanamo was, as Lord Falconer previously called it, a "shocking affront to the principles of democracy."

Keeping this in mind, the Scum goes on to tell us of just what it's alleged two of the five Britons who either had indefinite leave to remain or refugee status in this country were up to:

Shaker Aamer, 38, a Saudi, is accused of being an interpreter for Osama Bin Laden. Jordanian Jamil el-Banna, 44, is alleged to have known Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was in charge of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Those two, along with three others, have been been held in Cuba since 2002.

An interpreter for bin Laden? Really? Aamer is an interesting case: according to Reprieve, he was abducted in Pakistan and sold to US authorities for $5,000, a different account to that given on Wikipedia, which contends that he was captured in Afghanistan, working for a charity which is now banned by the United Nations as a front for al-Qaida. After 5 years of keeping stum on exactly what he's meant to have done, he's now become a interpreter and translator for bin Laden, which you would have thought they just might have mentioned before now. Aamer, apparently a master terrorist, is meant to have lived with Zacarias Moussaoui, the supposed 20th 9/11 hijacker in London in the late 90s, and also have met with Richard Reid, the idiot shoe bomber. Not only that, but he's also alleged to be trained in the use of surface to air missiles and explosives.

One has to wonder if these allegations have anything to do with Aamer's reputation, both with the guards and fellow detainees at Guantanamo. Speaking English, articulate and charismatic, he became a natural leader: he negotiated an end to one of the first mass hunger strikes, in return for the guards setting up a grievance committee and agreeing to abide by the Geneva conventions. The military authorities quickly disbanded the committee, and Aamer was subsequently put in solitary confinement, of which he has now been in for 2 years. Reprieve claims that this has had a "substantial" effect on his mental health. If released, Aamer most certainly has a story to tell, and with his acknowledged communication skills he could quite easily follow in the same footsteps as Moazzam Begg.

The new allegation against al-Banna is that as well as having links with Abu Qutada, who he knew through Bisher al-Rawi, since released after it was revealed that he had helped MI5 keep tabs on him, (al-Banna was also offered the opportunity to help MI5 but declined) he also had a "long-term association" with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. While al-Banna and Zarqawi shared Jordanian nationality, it's unclear just how long-term this association could have been. al-Zarqawi turned up in Afghanistan right at the end of the jihad against the Soviets, meeting the filmmaker Richard Stanley amongst others. Between 1989 and 1992, when Zarqawi was imprisoned in Jordan, he is reported to have traveled to Europe. This doesn't give much time for al-Banna to have a "long-term association" with him, as he came to Britain in 1994. Was the association prior to Zarqawi's jihadi days? Was it a "long-term association" conducted over the telephone? Or is it, as the lawyer for both men Clive Stafford Smith says, "a blatant attempt to smear [his] clients"?

The argument about Guantanamo has never been about what the men imprisoned there are accused of doing, although when we know now that vast numbers of them have been completely innocent of any actionable offence that does begin to enter into it, but about the moving of prisoners outside of any legal authority, the failure to allow any organisation other than the Red Cross to visit the detainees, and the indecent, beneath contempt treatment with which they have dealt with since the camp was first opened. Amnesty International called it the gulag of our times, which was heavily criticised by some, but while the detainees are not worked to death, most of those in the gulag at least knew how long they were meant to be there; to jail someone indefinitely is one thing, but to do it without a trial is to remove all hope entirely.

The Sun, despite having a "justice" sub-page mostly dedicated to fighting the scourge of nonces, has no such qualms about silly concerns like the right to a fair trial and habeas corpus. Its leader is titled, erroneously, "Kick 'em out":

GORDON Brown’s efforts to bring back five UK residents from Guantanamo Bay are ever more bewildering.

Tony Blair made no effort to help them and with good reason.

Yeah, because he was a hypocritical bastard who let his ministers call in effect for its closure while doing nothing to help those still there who we have a responsibility towards.

The Pentagon claims they are “extremely dangerous individuals”.

After two years in solitary confinement? After being force-fed? After losing all hope that they would ever be released, caught in limbo between two countries that have disowned them? Even if there were once dangerous, something itself very much open to question, to pretend they are now is a joke.

The Pentagon warns they are a real risk to Britain. Yet Foreign Secretary David Miliband has unaccountably bent over backwards to secure their release.

Unaccountably bent over backwards as in told the United States that they'd like it if they were returned. Considering the Americans had been making noises about wanting to close the place down, you'd expect that they'd be more than happy for them to be taken off their hands. The Guardian had also previously reported that the US had offered to repatriate them but that the Blair government had refused to accept them. Instead they've realised after making them spend 4 years or more in good old fashioned American hospitality that they might just have some uncomfortable things to say, like Bisher al-Rawi and the others before him have. Releasing prisoners to the Middle East or elsewhere is one thing, where they're unlikely to have the media chasing them: doing it in Britain is another.

To add insult to injury, taxpayers will have to shell out £7.5million a year to monitor them.

These men aren’t even British. They merely have residency status.

And you know what else? They're not even white!

So revoke it. If the Pentagon’s right, they’re the last people to give a home to.

It might be slightly glib to remind everyone, but this was the same Pentagon which told everyone that there was weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, something the Sun was also more than happy to believe. It lied about two prominent soldiers dying not "heroic" deaths, but in friendly fire incidents. It couldn't run a piss-up in a brewery, but it sure can destroy a country if you give it a few months and a budget of hundreds of billions. The Scum really couldn't be doing much more to earn its nickname.

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