An interesting and appropriate choice of chair for Amnesty, given that he was one of the 'Lockerbie judges' who stitched up Libya for the Lockerbie bombing on FBI orders. I would've loved to ask him what the other speakers had just said, for his head was rolling and his eyes were shut whenever he wasn't himself mumbling nonsense to himself. I bet he missed half of what was said,I doubt that matters with his judgements though. I could rubbish the old shit all night but I don't feel the need. Needless to say he was applauded and thanked simply for pretending to be a liberal. The lack of a lightning bolt proved to me once and for all Jehovah is as mythical as tinkerbell.
I don't know what possessed Moazzam Begg to appear on the same platform as Sands and Cameron. I'd like to think it was simple naiviety or more informed tactics rather than anything more sinister. Begg himself was the star attraction and would have drawn the same audience on his own, but he spoke the least. Even I couldn't fault anything he said, though I could fault him for the things he never said, for his passive acceptance of what the other two were saying. If you get the chance you should go along to see him but don't clap anyone sitting next to him just for sitting next to him, keep your brain running and your applause selective.
Phillipe Sands is a self-promoting 'Cruise-missile leftist ', a rich London lawyer who is happy to cash in on his contacts with Cherie Blair to sell books criticising the Iraq war - while not actually taking any legal or direct action to stop it. He doesn't even talk the talk. He is the guy who held back information useful to the peace-movement until he was able to profit from it. Sitting next to Begg he had the affrontery to defend the Afghanistan invasion 'as Afghanistan had attacked america' - noone thought to question this blatant lie, and so he went on to claim without supporting evidence that the US was a decent law-abiding country until the PNAC mob formed under Reagans administration. Nobody thought to question his assertion that any country has the right to attack any other country if it possesses WMD. He was of course referring explicitly to Iran rather than the UK or the US which actually do possess WMD, and he said without justification that Iran posed a greater threat than Iraq. The idiot amnesty audience all applauded as I'm sure even Blair would've, obviously impressed with his constant name-dropping and anectdotes of meetings he'd had in the Whitehouse. And constantly mentioning his book, which he'd be signing later.
This is the Propaganda Model brought to life, limiting the arguments to be acceptable to the establishment. Admitting the Iraq invasion was wrong but a momentary and reversable lapse of judgement by a few bad-apples in the current US administration. Justifying at length the Afghan invasion and any future invasion of Iran erroneously, hypocritically but without criticism, covering his war-mongering attitude by platitudes about Iraq.
The crowd numbered less than 500, but the church was full and more folk might've wanted to be there. Mainly white but less so than your average Edinburgh gig. A handful of anarcho-pacifists, I'm guessing just a bit more STW/swp/SSP if you combine them (as I do), loads and loads of Amnesty, even more God Squad, a smattering of Guardian wannabe fakirs. I'm maybe judging them all too harshly by the very few of them who were given a chance to speak before the decripit Lord Coulsfield had had to head home for his 9 o'clock bedtime. I'll try and summarise a few of the questions but my contempt may have tinged my memory.
I think everyone groaned internally when one girl asked why Castro agreed to run Guantanamo, although she obviously didn't feel stupid when it was explained to her that he didn't as she had a follow on question of similar insight ' But maybe there could be more US prisons around the world and we wouldn't know about it?'
I would suggest to that girl, and to everyone, if you are going along to a meeting about anything and you haven't bothered to read up on the subject in advance, you should not feel free to dominate a limited question time with basic questions. Yes, just maybe there are more than 500 illegal US detainees worldwide.
There was a yank who suggested taking Bush to the ICC - with the judge refusing to comment, Begg concurring and the lawyer using it to mention another Whitehouse anecdote. Why anyone would expect real justice from the ICC or even support from a FBI controlled judge is beyond me, but some people are conditioned to believe anything inside religious buildings I guess.
There was a minister who with other god-squad and some Green MSPs had written demanding Blair inspect the CIA torture flights two years ago demanding to know what the group thought of the fact that he hadn't got a reply. 'QUELLE FUCKING SURPRISE you lazy, war funding, pseudo-spiritual statist faker' I wanted to shout out but I just headbutted the pew in front of me instead. If the guy had done anything else in the past two years I'm sure he would've mentioned it, but no, he waiting for that letter from Tony Blairs office saying, 'You know, you are right, I'm off to hand myself in to the ICC'. I mean, airports are reasonablly safe if you stay away from the runways and anything loud. It doesn't take a genius to climb a fence and run 100 metres. And you can close an airport down without even going into it. Maybe Blair will eventually be put under house arrest in his senility, like Pinochet, but I doubt it. Anyway, only dealing with them when they are within office will act as a deterence to other leaders lying their way to war.
Anyway, a few key points I took from what Begg said:
He doesn't regard his treatment as torture or rather even if it legally counts as torture he doesn't resent it as much as he resents the initial kidnap and subsequent illegal detention without any real contact with his family. In general though I got the impression he seems to think of this as his chance to help end this senseless 'clash of civilisations/ long war' whatever you want to call it.
He mentioned that when he was kidnapped that he wasn't searched and so was able to phone friends to care for his wife and kids, and to phone his father. This isn't just odd and sentimental, it proves to my satisfaction that his US kidnappers knew he wasn't a terrorist - any real terrorist subject would of course be searched for phones and weapons. He didn't mention this point himself though although I assume he realises it - this is important to consider so I won't comment on it further.
He is stressing over and over reconciliation. Judging from his company and understated complaint, reconciliation at any cost, I'm sure he must've taken umbrage at the London lawyer trying to justify the Afghanistan occupation but he kept quiet. I thought about asking him if he felt any empathy for Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi simply to embarrass Lord Coulsfield, the Quisling who stitched him up, but out of respect for Beggs quietude I bit my tongue. He after all has been on the sharp end and I have not.
He mentioned making friends with many US guards, but also that one of the nicest went on to kill an Afghani, one of two murders he'd witnessed that were prosecuted and yet only slightly punished. He said the US grunts were just ordinary people undergoing a dehumanising process. My impression is that although Gitmo was designed to dehumanise the inmates it is telling that Begg himself is so humane while the process is dehumanising the Americans themselves, a cancer in the heart of the 'american dream' myth. Begg himself stuck to the facts.
In general, he was the least extremist person I have ever heard speak, given his story. Although he seems to forgive his own treatment I for one do not think he has the right to forgive all this states war-crimes since his detention and I urge him never to join any 'truth and reconciliation' committee until we have punished the war-mongers on behalf of the innocents already killed by our incompetence and our Quislings complicity. If only to prevent the next corporate-genocide.
I'm sorry if I've offended Mr Begg or any of the anarcho-pacifists with my negativity and doubt, I apologise, but the rest of you can go to hell unless you can beat me in argument - especially you, Auntie Iris.
I was too ashamed, I'm not really what you'd call an educator. If you'd beeen sitting next to me and winding me up then I may just have been angry enough but I doubt it.
-Ben -so draw your own conclusions ;-p
- Anyway, while I am at it,
I suspect you would be underpaid even if you were well-paid, I mean that nicely, I was only joshing before.
-Twilight - Hey, Amnesty UK was chaired by one of Blair's New Reich goons. Man, I am soooooo surprised. What the hell is wrong with you people. How dare you turn a matter of life and death for billions of people on this planet into a game of 'trainspotting'. Oh look, there's someone famous, and I was at his meeting pretending to save the planet by rubbing shoulders with another famous name I can enter in my big book of 'trainspotting'.
Yes, I guess I attended the meeting simply for my first chance to listen to a guantanamo detainee directly, if that is what you mean.
-Twilight - If you are political because you want the world to be a better place, for god's sake stop this game of 'trainspotting'.
I'm apolitical but I would go and see a victim of Abu Ghraib if they were speaking locally, just to check them off my 'trainspotting' check-list. Do you drink a lot of coffee by any chance ?
-Twilight - Our knowledge of the nuclear weapons held by Blair, Bush and co basically stops in the 50's.
I've heard they are thinking of upgrading to some American system called 'Polaris; but don't say I told you so.
-Twilight - I have no hope, but then I would ONLY allow real evidence to give me hope. Why do you have hope?
I have hope because I can prove to my own satisfaction that I have free will, which means anything is possible, or quite a lot at least. And if I have free will then there's a good chance at least a few other people still do, there is plenty evidence for that. Anyway if you have evidence for hope then it simply becomes expectation.
-Twilight - "That's floor 99 and hey, I'm still doing fine... damn, floor 61 and I'm still great... wheee floor 9 and I've never felt more alive... SPLATT!!!!!!"
I'm assuming you mean that ironically but I think it shows you are scared of your own mortality. You should work on that - when we left our mothers womb we all started falling from floor 99 and there is no alternative to SPLAT!!!!!!. You are going to die and it will be soon enough but if it's any comfort I'm likely to go first and I would have went long ago if I thought the splat was the end of it.
-M - see: reason boiling down to vitriol and personal slights
I knew an old woman who complained that one of her lovers had threatened for years to kill himself ' but the bastard never did'. I could see her point, but hearing her tell the story I could sympathise with his death wish.