The idea that the British government, which cowers in terror before Islamic supremacists and does everything it can to appease them, is endeavoring to criminalize Muslim political dissent is howlingly absurd. Still, this article is worth reading for the ways in which it illuminates the Leftist/Islamic supremacist mindset. Greenwald’s coauthor is Murtaza Hussain, an Islamic supremacist smear merchant who has hysterically claimed that “anti-Muslim violence” is “spiralling out of control in America.” The paranoid victimhood fantasy is no less thick here.
“The Moazzam Begg Arrest: Part of the Effort to Criminalize Muslim Political Dissent,” by Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain at The Intercept, February 27:
Moazzam Begg, a native-born British citizen of Pakistani descent, spent three years incarcerated in the most notorious detention camps created in the post-9/11 “War on Terror”: all without ever being charged with any crime.Arrested in Pakistan in 2002, he was transferred to Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, where he suffered torture and witnessed U.S. interrogators beat an innocent taxi driver to death, and then onwards to Guantanamo Bay where he would be detained for the next three years in conditions he’d describe as “torturous”.
The fact that he describes conditions as “torturous” doesn’t make it so. As it happens, al-Qaeda tells its operatives always to claim that they were tortured when they are imprisoned. That doesn’t mean, of course, that every Muslim who claims to have been tortured in prison is an al-Qaeda member, but in Begg’s case there is reason to believe he is of that mindset. Thomas Joscelyn noted in the Weekly Standard in 2011: “Moazzam Begg and his organization, Cageprisoners, have proselytized on behalf of al Qaeda cleric Anwar al Awlaki and spread jihadist propaganda….Moazzam Begg’s own book confirms he is a jihadist….The Department of Justice’s investigation failed to substantiate Begg’s claims of torture, and found that his damning confession at Gitmo was voluntarily given….A recently leaked assessment of Begg prepared at Gitmo shows that military authorities recommended he remain in American custody….Amnesty International, which has partnered with Begg to demonize Guantanamo, endured a crisis when one of its top officials objected to the relationship.”
Throughout this time Begg, now 45, was repeatedly deprived of legal counsel and was prohibited from even viewing the alleged evidence against him. After public outcry in his home country resulted in his repatriation to England in 2005, Begg went on to become a human rights activist — writing books, and advocating for other post-9/11 detainees through his organization Cageprisoners, whose self-described mission is: “working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror”; “campaigning against the War on Terror”; and “working with survivors of abuse and mistreatment across the globe.”
“Campaigning against the War on Terror.” A blinkered doctrinaire Leftist like Greenwald may think that there is no jihad terror and that the entire War on Terror, such as it was, was an exercise in Western imperialism and racism, but Moazzam Begg, with his intimate familiarity with the activities of jihadis such as Anwar al-Awlaki and others, knows better. He has to be aware that when he campaigns against the war on terror, he is working to enable jihad activity and clear away obstacles to it.
Much of this work has included investigating the claims of others who were tortured with the complicity of the British government. It is in retaliation for this activism, he says, that he has been repeatedly harassed, including repeated interrogations and the confiscation of his passport last December at Heathrow Airport, when agents told him it was “not in the public interest” for him to retain it. In an article he published about that incident, Begg two weeks ago wrote: “I am certain that the only reason I am being continually harassed….[is because of] investigations and assertions based on hard evidence that British governments, past and present, have been wilfully complicit in torture.”
Wildly unlikely. “Journalists” of Greenwald’s ilk have been claiming for years that the U.S. and British governments have been willfully complicit in torture. Not only do they not get “continually harassed,” they get lionized, feted, celebrated and praised everywhere the Leftist intelligentsia holds sway — which is almost everywhere these days. The other possibility is that Begg has been “continually harassed” because of genuine suspicion that he is engaged in jihad activity. Given his history, that suspicion seems entirely reasonable.
On Tuesday, Begg was arrested in an “anti-terror raid” on his home outside Birmingham, charged with “terrorism” offenses for having allegedly traveled to Syria to assist Syrian rebels. He was among four other people arrested that day, all due to Syria-related offences.
Curiously, however, Begg’s last visit to Syria was in the relatively distant past. He visited the country last in December 2012 — for what he said were advocacy purposes and to continue his investigation on torture victims renditioned to the country by Western intelligence agencies. Several individuals of Syrian descent were notoriously renditioned to the Assad regime by the U.S. for interrogation and torture, including the Canadian citizen Maher Arar, whose treatment resulted in a formal apology from the Canadian government and compensation of close to $10 million.
Crucially, it appears that Begg was given explicit permission to take this trip to Syria by Britain’s MI5. In his last article, he described:
[I]n October 2012, I was called by an MI5 officer who said they wanted to talk to me about my views on the situation in Syria…I agreed to speak to them and meet at a hotel in East London. Both MI5 and I had our lawyers present. At the end of the meeting I was assured by MI5 that my proposed return to Syria to continue my work would not be hindered, and it wasn’t.
This raises the obvious question: if the British government had concerns about his involvement with militant groups in Syria, why did it specifically meet with him to green-light his trip there? Furthermore, if his arrest was related to his December 2012 trip, why would the government wait more than a year to arrest him for it?
This “obvious question” has two equally obvious possible answers: one is that they green-lighted his Syria trip because they thought he was “moderate” and harmless now, but discovered that when he went there, he made contact with jihad terrorists. The other is that they knew he was involved with jihad terrorists and green-lighted his trip while monitoring his activities, so as to find out more about the jihad groups in Syria and the people involved in them.
That’s all independent of the bizzare [sic] spectacle of charging someone with “terrorism” offenses for allegedly helping rebels which the U.S. government itself is aiding and for whom intervention was advocated by the U.S. president as recently as last year. Indeed, in 2012, the year Begg made his trip, the widespread view in the West of Syrian rebels was that they were noble freedom-fighters who deserved as much help as possible, not “terrorists” whom the law made it a crime to assist. In the same year another major visiting supporter to the opposition movement was John McCain – an indication of how much mainstream Western support the uprising enjoyed at the time.
Greenwald and Hussain don’t bother to mention that the U.S. government is aiding the Syrian rebels while insisting that they are not jihadis — indeed, the line is that we have to help them, or they will be “driven into the arms of the jihadis.” Those of us who oppose aiding the Syrian rebels think that the government vastly overestimates the numbers and power of the “moderate” rebels, and underestimates the presence of jihadis in Syria, but Greenwald and Hussain are eliding over the entire question of the different camps among the Syrian rebels in order to exonerate Begg. But everyone acknowledges that there are, in fact, jihadis among the Syrian rebels. So it is really very simple: the British may have thought that Begg was aiding the “moderate” Syrian rebels and then discovered that he was aiding jihadis.
Begg has long been a vituperative critic of the British government’s conduct during the War on Terror but throughout this time he has always been a public figure under constant media and government scrutiny. The notion that he’d be able to engage in terrorism surreptitiously on a trip sanctioned by MI5 — then hide this for over a year — seems dubious in the extreme.
Nonsense. Here is a man whose organization, Cageprisoners, several times featured talks by jihad terror leader Anwar al-Awlaki. Yet Begg himself was lionized and lauded and regularly appeared on the BBC. He was a poster boy for the supposed horrors of Guantanamo, and consequently a darling of the British media. He might have started to think, quite rightly, that the British intelligentsia just didn’t care if a Muslim had ties to jihad terror ties, as long as he mouthed the requisite anti-American and anti-British propaganda. It would be easy to get careless in such a situation.
While the timing of his arrest makes little evident sense from a national security perspective, it does appear to correspond remarkably to his advocacy work. Cageprisoners’s media officer, Cerie Bullivant, yesterday noted: “Moazzam has been very open about his international travel and his objectives, including importantly exposing British complicity in rendition and torture. …[T]he timing [of his arrest] coincides with the planned release of a CAGE report on Syria and a major news piece that was due to be televised soon.”
In his last, seemingly prescient Facebook post, published just hours before his arrest, Begg wrote: “Sometimes knowing too much can be a curse.” UK-based human rights investigator Nawaz Hanif told The Intercept that the charges against Begg are a transparent attempt at silencing political dissent:
The arrest of Moazzam Begg under British anti-terror laws is eerily similar to the detention of David Miranda a few months ago – both utilizing vague terror allegations to stifle investigations into abuses of power….It is pertinent to ask British authorities why Moazzam is being arrested a day before his report on torture and rendition is to be released, and over a year since he last stepped foot in Syria.”
Is his arrest going to stop the release of his report? No. Is it going to impugn its credibility — no. As is clear from this piece, Begg’s arrest only makes him a martyr in the eyes of Leftists like Greenwald and Hussain, and thus enhances the credibility and importance of the report. If Britain is trying to stifle political dissent, they’re not targeting people like Begg, but rather critics of their abject capitulation to Islamic supremacism such as Pamela Geller and me, barred from the country as the result of a smear campaign from Leftist and Muslim groups. We aren’t allowed in, while Begg is a BBC media star. Whose dissent is being ruled out of the bounds of acceptable discourse? Not his. Ours.
This explanation is all the more credible given the exploitation of terrorism charges by both the U.S. and UK governments throughout the post-9/11 era. There has been a consistent attempt by government authorities to stifle political activism among those criticizing civil rights abuses as well as foreign military expansionism. Predominantly, the brunt of this suppression has focused on Muslim minority communities in the West.
The No Separate Justice campaign, along with the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms, have documented numerous cases of Muslim political activists who have been arrested and detained for their public criticisms of the conduct of the War on Terror — usually under the guise of highly-tendentious terrorism charges. Individuals such as Tarek Mehanna, Fahad Hashmi, Jubair Ahmad, Emerson Winfield Begolly, and others have come to the attention of authorities for their highly public expressions of dissent, charged with terrorism, and then handed long prison sentences under extreme circumstances of incarceration rivaling those at Guantanamo.
Are these people really political prisoners, in prison on trumped-up terror charges — for saying what a thousand Leftist journals say every day? Well, let’s see. Tarek Mehanna “had spoken of joining jihad, praised the ‘blood donations’ of suicide bombers, and posed in celebratory fashion at the site of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in New York City.” He called Osama bin Laden a “true father,” said the 9/11 attacks were legitimate, and tried to get jihad terror training. He went to Yemen to try to join al-Qaeda. Emerson Winfield Begolly pleaded guilty to soliciting people for jihad attacks against police stations, military facilities, and Jewish schools. If he was being railroaded, why did he plead guilty? (No doubt Greenwald would say that he had to — he was tortured or pressed by mad, Islamophobic law enforcement officials. But with law enforcement officials taking such pains to show that they’re not “Islamophobic,” to the extent that they’re now forbidden to study the motives and goals of jihad terrorists, this is, to put it mildly, virtually inconceivable.
The largest civil rights organization in the U.S., CAIR, was smeared by the DOJ in 2003 as “an unidicted co-conspirator” in a terrorism case (but given no opportunity to contest the innuendo), while the nation’s largest Muslim charity was prosecuted on terrorism charges for the crime of sending money to Palestinians deemed terrorists by the U.S. Government. Federal courts in the U.S., and to a lesser extent in the UK, have been subservient in the extreme to national security claims by the government, all but ensuring that accused Muslims are convicted even when the evidence is at its flimsiest. All of this, coupled with widespread community surveillance, has sent a message that aggressive political dissent among Muslims will not be tolerated and can easily be criminalized as “terrorism”.
“Palestinians deemed terrorists by the U.S. Government” — they mean Hamas, which celebrates its murders of Israeli civilians. And as for Hamas-linked CAIR, it did contest the “innuendo,” and lost. In 2010, a judge reviewed and retained CAIR’s unindicted co-conspirator status, which involved collecting funds for the Holy Land Foundation that ended up going to Hamas.
For his part — and despite his horrific experiences — Begg has always maintained that whatever animosity he has felt has not been towards America but to the government which abused him, saying in a 2006 interview: “I’m absolutely clear in my mind that there are a great number of American soldiers who are good, decent people. … Do I hate Americans? No. Do I hate the administration? I think unreservedly.”
While government suppression of activists usually begins by targeting unpopular minority groups such as Muslims, it is clear that the dragnet is already beginning to expand, as exemplified by the recent threats and detentions of journalists, whistleblowers and other activist groups under terrorism laws.
The arrest of one of the West’s most prominent Muslim war on terror critics is almost certain to further stifle political activism within the Muslim community and more broadly as well. Utilizing extremely dubious terrorism charges against domestic dissidents has been a hallmark of the national security state in the post-9/11 era. That such tactics are commonly condemned when implemented by authoritarian governments such as China, Egypt and Russia – and yet enthusiastically implemented at home with little objection – exemplifies the corrosive measures and accompanying mentality which are undermining the foundations of Western freedoms.
Whether or not Moazzam Begg is guilty, what Greenwald and Hussain are trying to do here is truly insidious. By claiming that Begg is being targeted for his politics, as risible as that is given that his views are essentially those of the dominant political and media elites, and by claiming the same thing of convicted jihad terrorists with even more ties to jihad terror than Begg himself has, they’re essentially suggesting that there is no significant jihad terror activity at all, and that those convicted of trying to murder Americans and Britons in the cause of Islam are really just political targets of the government. Then the next time anyone is arrested for jihad activity, there will be the suspicion that nothing was really happening, and that the arrested person is being unjustly persecuted. The goal for Greenwald and Hussain is for the U.S. and British governments to shut down all counter-terror operations, for they’re all just manifestations of “Islamophobia.”
And then the actual jihadis will be able to operate unhindered. That’s why this piece is, in a word, monstrous, and if it is widely heeded, deadly. The surviving victims of the next jihad terror attack will have Glenn Greenwald and Murtaza Hussain to thank for their missing limbs and shattered lives.