Winning hearts and minds with our superior values.
Famously, when Mahatma Gandhi was asked what he thought of Western civilisation, he replied that it would be a good idea. Jamil el-Banna, after spending the last five years of his life experiencing the very worst that our superior values have to offer, would surely be loth to disagree with that sentiment.
His first mistake was to decline the kind offer of MI5 for him to inform on his friends, who included Abu Qutada, currently being held indefinitely pending potential deportation to Jordan, in exchange for his family being comfortably provided for in another country. His second mistake was to believe the MI5 agent who visited him who told him that if he had a valid travel document they would not stop him from leaving the country. Not only was he detained when he and Bisher al-Rawi attempted to leave for the Gambia, when they were finally allowed to leave MI5 sent to the CIA completely unfounded allegations that they were carrying with them bomb parts. The Gambian authorities detained them on arrival and the CIA then rendered them to Guantanamo. In the shameful whitewashing of MI5's involvement in the rendition programme produced by the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, the panel of MPs moved the goalposts so that their detainment without charge for 4 years was not an "extraordinary rendition" in that they had been rendered to a place where they were destined to be tortured by the CIA's lackeys or its above the law officers, but rather a "rendition to detention". The British security services were therefore cleared of any involvement by the committee in extraordinary rendition.
If el-Banna had been British and involved in any crime other than say, paedophilia or terrorism, he'd of been welcomed home, everyone would have been sympathetic or even outraged at his four years of detention without charge or trial, at one point being force-fed by his American military captors, and nothing more would have been said. Compare for instance the fanfare that Kenny Richey is deservedly receiving with the treatment that el-Banna has had. The little fact that the Americans even admitted that el-Banna was no threat to anyone and that he was cleared by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal as the case against him was so laughably thin, which has been almost completely ignored by the media, would have been trumpeted from every available rooftop. The case itself amounted to little more than he was an acquittance of Abu Qutada, with the previous Spanish indictment also held against him.
Instead he's been subjected to ridiculous questioning from the Tories about the "threat" he, Omar Deghayes and Abdennour Samuer might pose to "national security". "Dame" Pauline Neville-Jones, appointed the Tories' security minister by David Cameron, a career member of the "UK Diplomatic Service", or in other words, a spook, who had also formerly served as chairman of the joint intelligence committee, popped up and started demanding answers to the most asinine and inane questions she could think up, knowing full well that the government never comments on matters of national security anyway. Her pathetic, exasperating perfomance, slurring her sentences and ordering to be listened to in the way that only a lady of her stature and class can only exemplified how the establishment she belongs to had almost completely abandoned these men. As for the Scum, it informed everyone not to succumb to "anti-American sentiment" and that whether the men were a risk or not, they need to be watched for years to come, taking away surveillance teams from other vital work. In other words: welcome home, now fuck off and die so we can get back to watching the real terrorists.
First and foremost, all three of these men have been victims of the most shameful miscarriage of justice. Deghayes has lost the sight in one of his eyes as a result of his detention, while both he and el-Banna were force-fed after taking part in the hunger strikes organised after the beating of detainees, a backtrack on a promise to extend the rights of the detainees nearer to those within the Geneva convention and the desecration of Koran by guards on a number of occasions. Clive Stafford-Smith described the conditions in Cuba as the worst he had ever seen, despite his working on death row in America for 20 years. As a direct result, el-Banna, a man aged 45, could more easily pass for someone 20 years older, his hair prematurely grayed by his time spent at Guantanamo. Dress him up in a red suit and he'd look like a kindly Santa Claus, reunited with his children. To think he could be considered any kind of security risk is just as a much a fantasy as Father Christmas himself.
The attempt by Spain to extradite both el-Banna and Deghayes, which the British government must have known about and which they did nothing either to prevent or to inform the men's lawyers about is little short of disgraceful. The callous obtuseness of the government's abandoning them once again would be shocking if it wasn't so predictable. The Spanish request relies on the exact same evidence used by the Americans to justify their detention in Guantanamo in the first place. The Deghayes plea even involved the comprehensively discredited claim that he was shown in a Chechen rebel video, similar to that used against the Tipton Three that was also proven to be false, with the man in the video identifed as Abu Walid, a well-known and now deceased Saudi mujahid. Even if the requests are eventually denied, they have been thrown once again into limbo for no good reason.
It is of course understandable that people are concerned about the three detainees' pasts, but the disquiet about their release is almost certainly down to the way that el-Banna especially ended up where he was. He is owed a debt by the government because of MI5's direct involvement in his detention, through a desire to be rid of him and al-Rawi, who had informed on Abu Qutada, which they thought they could get away with. Even though all the previous detainees returned to Britain to Guantanamo have never been charged with any crime and all have returned to their previous lives, still the chorus is of how this might be endangering our safety. The real threat has been and continues to be from the home-grown extremists which we don't know about, or at least MI5 pretends not to have known about as in the case of the 7/7 bombers. Increasingly, it will also come from the "university of terrorism" in Iraq, where those either finished with their involvement there, returning or traveling here with the intention of attacking foreign targets. To own up to this though would be for the government to acknowledge its own culpability in the worsening of the threat, and that's something which it has no intentions of doing, as shown by their treatment of el-Banna. Hearts and minds; superior values; so easy to discard and to deny to those judged to be our enemies.