Amnesty and defensive jihad


5:53 pm - April 6th 2010

by Conor Foley    


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I have been away in Angola for the last couple of months and out of email contact, but there has been a recent exchange of letters between Claudio Cordone of Amnesty and Amrita Chhachhi, Sara Hossain and Sunila Abeysekera which is worth reading.

Claudio says:

There are victims with whom we would not associate, while unreservedly campaigning against any abuses of their rights. For example, we denounced the waterboarding of Khaled Sheikh Muhammad, the Guantánamo detainee credited with the 9/11 and other atrocities. But we would never share a platform with someone like him who openly espouses an ideology predicated on hatred and the killing of civilians – in short, views that are clearly antithetical to human rights. The answer in this case is easy.

However, he notes that Amnesty has, on occasion, shared a platform with the Catholic Church, against the death penalty despite its differences on other issues. He then comes to the nub of the argument:

Moazzam Begg is one of the first detainees to have been released from Guantánamo and to disclose information when much of what was going on in the camp was shrouded in secrecy. He speaks powerfully from personal experience about the abuses there. He advocates effectively detainees’ rights to due process, and does so within the same framework of universal human rights standards that we are promoting. All good reasons, we think, to be on the same platform when speaking about Guantánamo. Now, Moazzam Begg and others in his group Cageprisoners also hold other views which they have clearly stated, for example on whether one should talk to the Taleban or on the role of jihad in self-defence. Are such views antithetical to human rights? Our answer is no, even if we may disagree with them – and indeed those of us working to close Guantánamo have a range of beliefs about religion, secularism, armed struggle, peace and negotiations. I am afraid that the rest of what we have heard against Moazzam Begg include many distortions, innuendos, and “guilt by association” to which he has responded for himself.

Sara, et al, respond

We believe that the question you raise in your letter as to whether the concept of ‘defensive jihad’ is antithetical to human rights, and your categorical statement that the response of Amnesty International to this question is ‘NO’, raises very serious concerns. We are dismayed by this statement. Our considered opinion is that this is a highly contentious issue and not one which can be answered as firmly as you have done. . . . . . It has been shown that ‘defensive jihad’ results in indiscriminate attacks on civilians, attacks which are disproportionate and attacks which are targeted for the purpose of discrimination such as those on schools, shrines and religious processions. As you know, international humanitarian law prohibits all such attacks under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Given this it is shocking to us that in your letter you appear to endorse ‘defensive jihad’ as a public position of Amnesty International position.

Sara et al call for more discussion about the concept of ‘defensive jihadism’ and more analysis of Mozzam Begg’s own views on the subject, but this seems to me to be fairly simple, at least in relation to Afghanistan. We know that Begg has condemned some of the Taliban’s actions but also called for dialogue with them. That is a respectable position which I (reluctantly) share. However does Begg define the Taliban’s campaign as a ‘defensive jihad’? If he does, then I do not think that Amnesty should be giving him a platform.

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About the author
Conor Foley is a regular contributor and humanitarian aid worker who has worked for a variety of organisations including Liberty, Amnesty International and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He currently lives and works in Brazil and is a research fellow at the Human Rights Law Centre at the University of Nottingham. His books include Combating Torture: a manual for judges and prosecutors and A Guide to Property Law in Afghanistan. Also at: Guardian CIF
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Reader comments


“However does Begg define the Taliban’s campaign in these terms?”

I think you might want to clarify that sentence. I can’t understand what you mean there.

Ok – I guess what you mean is “Does Begg define the Taliban’s campaign as defensive Jihadism”.

3. Conor Foley

Irie – yes – I made a slight alteration to the post to try and make that clearer

4. Shatterface

Prepare to be denounced as a McCarthyite Zionist stooge of the Neocons, or some such drivel.

It’ll be interesting to see how those who support both Begg AND the invasion of Afghanistan define ‘defensive Jihad’.

Oh, and AI shouldn’t be sharing a platform with Catholics who oppose abortion or homosexuality, or who covered up for paedophiles either.

5. Conor Foley

Shatterface: indeed. I see that Harry’s Place have a post up about this (and they seem to have their comments facility back as well). I don’t usually read their blog or comments any more, but there is one nice one from someone talking about Pamela Geller following the link to her site in the original post

“I find it very hard to distinguish people like Geller, who see the world in utterly black-and-white terms, from the Manichean world of the SWP and the Islamists themselves.”

Could not have put it better.

Surely whether ‘defensive jihad’ is antithetical to human rights depends entirely on how it’s carried out. If the ‘jihad’ involves violations of human rights, then those particular acts of jihad are antithetical to human rights. If they manage to carry out even an offensive ‘jihad’ without infringing human rights, then it’s not really Amnesty’s job to worry about it.

Unless of course you use ‘jihad’ as a snappy piece of shorthand that means ‘violence by Muslims’ that means ‘suicide bombings’ that means ‘suicide bombing against civilian targets’, in which case, yes, even defensive “jihadis” are very naughty indeed.

I’m actually appalled at the response to the Amnesty letter. The letter was measured, intelligent and thoughtful.

In return he got some hysterical reaction based on one line, twisted around to imply that he supports terrorism.

FFS, is their implication that no one can defend their nation if being invaded?

Sunny, I think that the questions that Sara Hossain, et al, are posing are legitimate.

Unlike Nick Cohen and the various ragbag of neocons and apologists for torture, who have been using this issue as a stick to beat Amnesty with, they have an excellent track record of campaigning for human rights and the concerns that they raise are valid. I also don’t think they were trying to twist Claudio’s words.

This is a political argument amongst human rights activists, about the ‘joint platform’ issue. These sort of arguments happen within the organisation all the time and my criticism of Gita’s original action was that she took her disagreements public and did so in a way that was calculated to do Amnesty maximum damage.

They are asking for more discussion of what the term ‘defensive jihad’ means – and has come to mean – in both its religious and political terms. I fully accept that it can be used in terms which are not antithetical to human rights and so saying that Claudio has given it ‘a clean, unqualified bill of health’ is just stupid. However, if Amnesty’s defence of a joint platform with Begg rests on his interpretation of the term than we should ask what he means by it and, in particular, if it is a term that he would use in relation to Afghanistan.

I do not think that there is any basis, whatsoever, in which the Taliban can pose as a ‘national resistance movement’ opposing a ‘foreign invader’. The Taliban were a creation of the Pakistan Secret Service, who used the term ‘defensive jihad’ as a cover for what was really an aggressive invasion of Afghanistan in the 1990s. The ISI continued to provide the Taliban with extensive logistical support in destabilising Afghanistan up until a couple of years ago. The Taliban have a fascist ideology, minimal support in Afghanistan and have waged a campaign of brutal terrorism. The success of their campaign to date is almost entirely due to the ineptitude of George Bush’s policy towards the country and his tolerance for the corrupt, narco-trafficking warlords who were installed into its government.

Sunny seems to think that the 7/7 bombings were some kind of “defensive jihad” based upon the supposed “transnational links” of the bombers.

http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/8191#comment-198894

10. Golden Gordon

“I do not think that there is any basis, whatsoever, in which the Taliban can pose as a ‘national resistance movement’ opposing a ‘foreign invader’. The Taliban were a creation of the Pakistan Secret Service, who used the term ‘defensive jihad’ as a cover for what was really an aggressive invasion of Afghanistan in the 1990s”
True but lets not forget the CIA’s role in helping defensive jihad and MOSSADs role in setting up the other world famous defensive Jihad organisation HAMAS.
The HP right wingers, like Alex conveniently forget those alliances.

11. John Meredith

“FFS, is their implication that no one can defend their nation if being invaded?”

If Amnesty simpy wanted to state that they did not, on principle, oppose the right to national self-defence, they could have simply said so. The use of the term ‘defensive jihad’ is, to say the least, obfuscatory and confusing. I agree with Conor that Amnesy need to clarify what they mean very quickly, and giving some examples of what they consider to be acts of ‘defensive jihad’ and what they don’t, would be a help. I think it is clear that Begg does support the Taliban, with reservations, as a ‘defensive jihadist’ organisation, but if I am wrong he could very easily dispel these misunderstandings by categorically denoucing the Taliban’s campaign.

True but lets not forget the CIA’s role in helping defensive jihad and MOSSADs role in setting up the other world famous defensive Jihad organisation HAMAS.

The CIA, of course, have also committed torture. Is Amnesty going to be indifferent to that, provided only the people doing it claim they were defending America?

@Connor – I wrote the piece on HP – and I thought the comment about Pamela Geller was well made! I only linked to Atlas Shrugs as an example of the kind of hysterical reaction the letter has met with from the right. I agree with John Meredith that the invocation of jihad was extremely distracting although I did think it was a much better response that Amnesty’s previous efforts to date. As a member of Amnesty I think it’s good to see this letter being looked at critically by the centre/left as well frothed at by the right.

The use of the term ‘defensive jihad’ is, to say the least, obfuscatory and confusing. I agree with Conor that Amnesy need to clarify what they mean very quickly

Only if you assume Amnesty deliberately want to form alliances with suicide bombers. Given the earlier contents of the letter, frankly I don’t think clarification is needed. It’s clear what they are opposed to. Is anyone seriously arguing Amnesty may potentially support suicide bombers?

but if I am wrong he could very easily dispel these misunderstandings by categorically denoucing the Taliban’s campaign.

He has done so. Repeatedly. People just don’t bother listening or reading.

Begg: I’ve changed my mind; please believe me. And now, for your listening pleasure, here’s the “inspirational” Anwar Al-Awlaki.

Who are CP going to put on their website now?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/apr/07/obama-assassination-cleric-christmas-bombing

16. John Meredith

“Only if you assume Amnesty deliberately want to form alliances with suicide bombers. Given the earlier contents of the letter, frankly I don’t think clarification is needed. It’s clear what they are opposed to. Is anyone seriously arguing Amnesty may potentially support suicide bombers?”

It is naive at best to think the word ‘jihad’ is not problematic in the debate abouthuman rights. Youb take for granted that Amnesty will not side with anti-humaan rights organisations and activities, but that is precisely the accusation made against them, so your comment just begs the question. If Amnesty (as I think you claim) simply meant ‘self defence’ why mention ‘jihad’ at all? They must know that at least some people out there use ‘defensive jihad’ to mean something very unpleasant and that they will be very glad to be able to claim that Amnesty endorses their politics.

‘He has done so. Repeatedly. People just don’t bother listening or reading.’

I have listened and read and he does not seem to have categorically condemned the Taliban. In fact he seems to me to condone them and defend them as a legitimate force for nationl liberation, although he crtiticises some of their tactics. If I am wrong I would be relieved to know it. Can you post the link to one of the many times that he has made it clear that he does not consider the Taliban to be a legitimate force or their ‘struggle’ to be a legitimate fight?

17. Charlie 2

I thought Amnesty did not support the use of violence ?

18. John Meredith

I really wish Amnesty would just get back to just campaigning for prisoners of conscience, which they were and are good at and needed for.

Sarah: thanks. There were some good pieces in the comments – amongst the usual rants of frothing right-wing weirdos that the site attracts. I thought that Mettaculture’s discussion of the term ‘defensive jihad’ was interesting.

Sunny: I think that the problem is that he has not emphatically denounced the Taliban and he appears to be using the term to cover them. If you have a link to the contrary I would be interested in seeing it.

Charlie: Amnesty is a human rights organisation – not a pacifist one. It neither supports nor opposes the use of violence – although it only adopts PoC’s who have not used or advocated violence. I am also not a pacifist in that I can think of several circumstances where the use of physical force would be justified. We can assume that Begg is also not a pacifist, but to date I don’t know in which circumstances he thinks that the use of violence is justified.

He was detained without trial at Guantanamo. He has not been charged with any offence and he has certainly criticised the Taliban. But I find the use of the term ‘defensive jihad’ worrying.

20. John Meredith

“He was detained without trial at Guantanamo. He has not been charged with any offence and he has certainly criticised the Taliban. But I find the use of the term ‘defensive jihad’ worrying.”

All that is true. But he has praised the Taliban as well, which makes the ‘defensive jihad’ veil all the more suspect.

Sunny seems to think that the 7/7 bombings were some kind of “defensive jihad”

Hello Chris – I really hope this isn’t an attempt to smear me because that reads very much like an outright libel. You know how people try and distort what you say on the internet – especially when it comes from people who try and remain anonymous.

Conor, this is what Begg says on the Taliban:

It is by now public knowledge that I was involved in the establishing and running of a school for girls in Kabul, Afghanistan, during the rule of the Taliban. The Taliban did not give us a licence to operate but, neither did they impede us from having the school – openly – or from having the girls collected to and from the school in buses clearly marked with the name of the girl’s school. There is a deliberate attempt by my detractors to neglect this point each time I mention it – and I can only assume why: it doesn’t fit the stereotype, or the agenda. Then there is the repeated allegation that because I went to live in Afghanistan – with my wife and children – I deserve what happened to me because I chose to live under a regime that was known for abusing women’s rights – amongst other things. I have never denied the Taliban were guilty of abusing women’s rights, but my presence there should not be equated as an endorsement of their views regarding them. A similar charge however is not put to the numerous white, Caucasian and non-Muslim NGO workers who were living there during the time of the Taliban – sometimes with their families – well before I ever arrived. I wonder why?

http://cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=31061

Is that not clear enough?

22. Luis Enrique

Sunny,

Clear yes, relevant to the question in hand, no.

Sunny: he says ‘the Taliban were guilty of abusing women’s rights’, but that is a completely separate issue.

As you know support for the Taliban and other jihadi groups was a key part of foreign policy of the most reactionary elements of the Pakistan military for over a decade (between 1995 when they created to the movement until about 2008 when they finally turned on it). This policy was based on the concept of ‘defensive jihad’. It is also the policy of groups like Jamiat-e-Islam whose links to the ISI and the Pakistan military are well-known.

What it meant in practice was that ISI operatives directed, trained and fought alongside the Taliban even after 9/11 and a large number of them were airlifted out of Kunduz as part of the deal that Musharaf did with Bush. The Pakistan military provided logistical support for Taliban cross-border operations between 2003 and 2006, which included transporting them to the border, setting up field hospitals for them and providing covering fire for them when they retreated. The Taliban’s tactics during these attacks were to kill civilians indiscriminately, but to particucularly target tribal elders, government officials, aid workers, girls schools and religious leaders who had denounced them. To anyone who is worked in the Pakistan/Afganistan regions that is what the term ‘defensive jihad’ means.

The term may have other meanings, in other contexts, but if that is the context in which Begg is using it than I think that is antithetical to a human rights position. As Claudio says ‘There are victims with whom we would not associate, while unreservedly campaigning against any abuses of their rights.’ I do not know whether Begg belongs in that category or not, but the use of the term ‘defensive jihad’ set of thousands of alarm bells in my head.

but that is a completely separate issue.

Ok, what would you like him to say?

Sunny, I’m afraid I read through Begg’s various statements a couple of months ago, and I didn’t read a single thing by him condemning the Taliban attacks on civilians (which are continuing, and are shocking).

Neither did I read anything by him that recognises that the Taliban leadership state that their aim is to rule the whole of Afghanistan again: that is, to establish a wholly-Pashtun Islamic fundamentalist dictatorship over a population which is not majority Pashtun and which suffered greatly under Taliban rule.

If I’m wrong and you can find me such a statement, I’ll gladly apologise and admit my error. But if you can’t, it’s time to admit that Amnesty should not be working with a man like Begg.

Yes, I think a great many Taliban footsoldiers, and many of the lesser leaders, are likely to be fighting because of the corruption of the Karzai government or the presence of heavily-armed, non-Muslim foreign troops. That’s why a great many of us that have actually been to Afghanistan, including myself and I think also Conor, would support talking to some of the Taliban. T

But the Quetta leadership of the Taliban, and their allies in Pakistan’s ISI, are not ‘defending their nation’. They are imposing an unwelcome Pashtun Islamicist dictatorship on a country the majority of whose population is neither Pashtun nor Islamicist. The Taliban campaign is causing a great many civilian casualties and some of the people at the top of the Taliban have aims which are far from defensive.

I would expect Amnesty to condemn and investigate every incident where Nato troops- including British soldiers- kill Afghan civilians. That’s their job- to oppose any breach of human rights. That means they have to work only with those groups who also oppose any breach of human rights.

And let’s not dismiss this as a ‘will-you-condemn-athon’. Someone who condemns some rapes and says that others are okay, depending on who the rapist was, can’t call themselves a feminist. Someone who doesn’t say a word about Taliban or ISI war aims, or about Taliban attacks on civilians, can’t call themselves a human rights advocate. I’ve never had a problem condemning British soldiers who abuse or kill civilians: people like the uniformed thugs who kicked Baha Mousa to death should be condemned. But Begg seems to have a pretty serious problem

Finally, there’s no doubt about one of Begg’s co-workers at ‘Cageprisoners’. Yvonne Ridley has publicly defended the brutal repression of Iranian pro-democracy demonstrators, and herself works for the Iranian Government-funded ‘Press TV’.

Given Ridley’s record, it was simply wrong for Amnesty to say that ‘Cageprisoners’ was a ‘respected human rights organisation’. Cageprisoners is a partisan body which has at least one senior member prepared to defend human rights abuses so long as she approves of the abusers.

26. Luis Enrique

Sunny,

I hope I’m not being obtuse, but, from what I gather from the OP and subsequent comments, what’s being looked for is an answer to the question of whether Begg regards the Taliban in Afghanistan as waging a “defensive jihad”, which he supports (albeit whilst criticizing some things the Taliban does). Or not.

I think Dan has covered it Sunny

Sunny, I’m afraid I read through Begg’s various statements a couple of months ago, and I didn’t read a single thing by him condemning the Taliban attacks on civilians (which are continuing, and are shocking).

I’ll see if I can try and get this clarified one way or another. I’ve not focused on this because it strikes me slightly as ‘when did you stop beating your wife’ – if Begg has approved of Taliban attacks on civilians then obviously he’s in the wrong. I have little sympathy for the Taliban at any rate.

But if you can’t, it’s time to admit that Amnesty should not be working with a man like Begg.

If he’s ok with the deaths of innocent civilians then you have a good case for this. Otherwise we need some sort of standard because, as Amnesty have pointed out, they’ve worked with the Catholic Church on poverty related campaigns. And frankly the Church also has blood on its hands. So I’d prefer a campaign that has equal standards.

I would expect Amnesty to condemn and investigate every incident where Nato troops- including British soldiers- kill Afghan civilians.

Would you say then it shouldn’t work with the army at all if that were to happen?

Given Ridley’s record, it was simply wrong for Amnesty to say that ‘Cageprisoners’ was a ‘respected human rights organisation’.

This I agree with. I think CP itself by virtue of Ridely is beyond reproach. I’ve refused to share a platform with Ridley in the past.

Cheers, Conor. I think too many people have been so disgusted by some of Gita Saghal’s supporters- or have disapproved of Saghal taking her complaints to the press- that they haven’t asked what the fundamental question: ‘Should Amnesty be working with Moazzam Begg and Cageprisoners?’

In my view, the mere fact of Ridley’s support for Iranian human rights abuses means the answer must be ‘no’.

Amnesty shouldn’t ‘work with the British Army’ in the way that it’s been working with Cageprisoners. I’m a soldier (part of the time) and am rather proud of this: but the horrible fact is that armies can and sometimes do commit atrocities. The ‘relationship’ Amnesty should have with the British Army is to monitor its activities and to report if it finds out that it might have committed any crimes.

I never saw any criminal behaviour by British soldiers in Afghanistan- on the contrary, I saw humane treatment of detainees and medical aid given to all who needed it- but it’s the job of Amnesty to keep an eye on the military, not buddy up to it.

What Amnesty should never do is (in the phrase it used) ‘partner’ with a group like Cageprisoners, which is led by Begg, with his very equivocal stance on human rights, and supported by Ridley, who is an outright apologist for Iranian abuses.

And yet Amnesty did do this, which is surely indefensible.

My guess is that Begg will condemn the killing of innocent civilians – by all sides – and say that all such deaths are tragic, etc. That is why I would focus the question on whether he sees the Taliban’s campaign as fitting within the framework of a ‘defensive jihad’ which he supports.

I understand the word ‘jihad’ is used in lots of contexts – including that of national liberation struggle by Muslims against the foreign occupation of their lands. I regularly – and completely unconciously – used the term when I lived there referring to the national liberation struggle after the Soviet invasion. But that was an illegal invasion and it was resented by the vast majority of Afghans.

I do not think the US intervention in Afghanistan after 9/11 is comparable for a number of reasons.

As Dan says, the Taliban are an ultra-conservative, ultra-nationalist Pashtun fundamentalist grouping whose political ideology closely resembles fascism. They were created and supported by the most reactionary elements in the Pakistan state – under the stated policy of ‘defensive jihadism’ – and the war crimes that they committed during the civil war included genocide, particularly against the Hazara in Bamyan and Mazar Sharif.

They permitted Al Qaeda to establish its headquarters there and fought alongside its fighters in several battles.

Al Qaeda’s actions on 9/11 constituted an ‘armed attack’ on the United States and its government was legally justified in responding to that attack with a military intervention on the doctrine of self-defence. The US intervention basically consisted of dropping special forces into the country to provide logistical support to the Northern Alliance, bribing milita commanders to change sides and then coordinating air strikes on the rest. I have lots of criticisms of the US actions in Afghanistan but it was not an ‘illegal invasion’.

After the ousting of the Taliban an interim government was established, which organised an election in 2004 that most external observers considered to be fair and free (their were more problems with the parliamentary elections the following year and, as we know, the latest election was blatantly rigged).

The Taliban reorganised themselves, with ISI support, and started mounting cross-border attacks from September 2003 onwards. I was in the country at the time and remember many of the attacks vividly because I saw so many of them up close and so many of my friends and colleagues were killed in them. To label this a ‘defensive’ campaign is nonsense.

As we all know the Taliban’s attacks have been growing in scale and scope over the last seven years. There are some signs that the change in tactics by the Obama administration (more troops on the ground, tighter rules of engagement to protect civilians and more targeted assassinations of Taliban leaders) may bring more success. Crucially also the government of Pakistan has finally realised that the monster it created is also a threat to its own state.

Conor – your point still leaves me unclear. What exactly should I be asking him? Asking to explain ‘defensive jihad’ won’t really cut it because the focus there should be Amnesty, not Begg. And even then – as you said ‘jihad’ means a lot of things. And frankly I’m not opposed to people defending their country. So I’m not sure what that question will resolve.

Dan:
Amnesty shouldn’t ‘work with the British Army’ in the way that it’s been working with Cageprisoners.

It’s not working with CP in any capacity.
But let me give you another example – would you be opposed to Amnesty sharing any info with the British Army or doing some humanitarian work with them if the situation requires it, at all costs?

I also made the point about the Catholic Church, which no one is addressing. Should Amnesty break off all links with the Church too?

I think the very best interpretation one can put on Begg’s statements is that he has no strong views one way or another about whether the Taliban has the right to reconquer Afghanistan and violently impose their version of Islamic rule on its population. Which is exactly the same as someone billing themselves as a ‘women’s rights advocate’ and saying they don’t have a view on whether rape is always wrong because it depends on who the rapist is.

The second-order question in all this is ‘should Saghal have gone to the media with her concerns instead of keeping them in-house?’ Too many of us have been treating that as if it’s the most important question, which it isn’t.

The fundamental question is ‘Should Amnesty have worked with Cageprisoners?’

There’s a world of ambiguity in Begg’s statements on human rights. There’s no ambiguity at all in Ridley’s: human rights abuses are OK by her if they’re carried out by the Iranian government. Amnesty should never have worked with Cageprisoners and it should stop doing so now.

This should have been clear to all of us. Instead, too many people who should have known better have said ‘if the Decent Left are supporting Saghal, I’m against her’. As Orwell pointed out, some things are right even if the Daily Telegraph says so.

34. Shatterface

‘I also made the point about the Catholic Church, which no one is addressing. Should Amnesty break off all links with the Church too?’

I answered that point @ 4.

For heaven’s sake, Sunny, Amnesty has not only worked with Begg and Cageprisoners on a campaign and a number of meetings, but it has issued statements explaining why it has done so- including its silly remark that CP is ‘a respected human rights organisation’.

Amnesty should never share a platform with the British Army endorsing it as an organisation (not that the Army would want this anyway). If the Army does something that might be wrong, Amnesty has to condemn it and investigate. That’s it. Soldiers can and sometimes do commit atrocities: therefore it’s Amnesty’s job to monitor armies.

Humanitarian agencies (not human rights orgs like Amnesty) do sometimes have to work with armies on the ground, and humanitarian aid workers and soldiers usually get on very well together, as they face much the same challenges- but it’s simply not the job of, say, Oxfam or SCF to endorse everything the British Army does or mount joint campaigns with it. They are, and have to be, separate organisations.

The question to Begg is in the article – does he define the Taliban’s campaign as a ‘defensive jihad’?

On your question to Dan about Amnesty I can answer easily and the answer is no. Amnesty is a research-based, office-base organisation and so the scenarios would never actually apply.

For humanitarian agencies, though, you raise an issue that gets debated a lot in conflict zones and the answers are really clear. Humanitarian organisations can work alongside military forces without compromising their own neutrality, but there are strict rules which cannot be crossed. There is, for example, no way in which any humanitarian agency could provide militarily significant information or support to one side in a conflict. This is explicitly prohibited by the Geneva Conventions.

One of my drivers in Sri Lanka was murdered because he refused to give a lift to soldiers there. I have personally told soldiers that they cannot bring weapons into compounds and refused offers of support from military forces – for my own protection – because it would compromise our humanitarian neutrality.

I have absolutely no problems working with the military when I am not wearing my humanitarian hat. I have received basic safety awareness training from the British army and am on the roster of Deployable Civilian Experts who could get posted to conflict ‘hot spots’ for the UK Stabilization unit. It is quite likely that my next consultancy job will be in Afghanistan where I will be working with a US-led ‘mixed’ military and reconstruction team. In such situations, however, I am not a humanitarian aid worker and so not protected by the Geneva Conventions. I am in fact a legtimate target to attack under the accepted rules of war.

These rules exist for a reason and it is to provide ‘space’ within which humanitarian agencies can operate. Similarly, Amnesty has always had very clear rules about who it will and will not share platforms with. If the organisation is now saying that it does not have a problem sharing a platform with supporters of the concept of ‘defensive jihadism’ and this concept is regularly used as a euphemism for supporting the broad aims of the Taliban (while perhaps criticising the odd bit of acid-throwing, limb-hacking, suicide-bombing and mass-murdering) then I have got a problem with it.

Thank you Dan and Conor for your sensible stuff here.

Sunny has a ridiculous bee in his bonnet on this issue because he associates support for Gita with “Decents”, Nick Cohen and HP. How pathetic.

I imagine he doesn’t have an issue with opposing the war on Iraq because the BNP also are against it as well so God knows what his problem is here.

This kind of partisan blogwarism just gets people down. As you probably know HP is under threat from lawfare atm from both the BNP AND George Galloway. I imagine most people on LC and PP know which side they’re on. Sunny seems not to.

The danger is that Amnesty is losing it’s credbility. The Taleban have killed teachers and dancing girls – how is this defensive jihad?

MMN: have you never thought why people hate Harry’s Place so much?

Personally I would shed as few tears for its demise as I did for the disappearance of the Drink Soaked Trots or – going back a bit – the magazine that tried to make out that the ethnic cleansing camps in Bosnia were a fake.

If you publish lies, deliberate misrepresentations and puerile abuse about people; if you try and get people sacked from their jobs; if your targets include a 17 year old school girl; if you spread ridiculous conspiracy theories about the Red Cross blowing up their own ambulances; and if you show not the slightest comprehension that the hate site that you are running can cause real harm then sooner or later you are going to get hit by blowback.

Just a thought.

Conor – have you considered more than one view to all this? I don’t go along with much of what you have written, especially at 31. Have you read this – http://progpak.wordpress.com/2010/03/14/left-of-the-taliban/ However, I do agree with your comment at 39.

41. Golden Gordon

This kind of partisan blogwarism just gets people down. As you probably know HP is under threat from lawfare atm from both the BNP AND George Galloway. I imagine most people on LC and PP know which side they’re on. Sunny seems not to.
NMN
To be honest I am not on the BNP, Galloways or HPs side.
BNP , well let forget it.
Galloway is a blowhard self publicist
HP and their posters are neo conservative and economic liberals. They are
neo thatcherites looking forward to the privatisation of health and education
They have more in common with Gove and Moore than any other political group.
In fact they are th shock troops of Conservative Home and Migration watch
A plague on your houses

Well fine Conor I know you very much dislike HP.

Glad to see you’re still correct on the Gita issue tho and not taking the other side for partisan reasons along the lines of “Gita should be opposed because Nick Cohen supports her” and “she went to the Sunday Times”. That is just comical.

Sunny @28 – think you mean CP is beyond the pale rather than beyond reproach?!

Conor Foley,

Have I missed something here?

Has Moazzem Begg ever used the term ‘defensive jihad’?

If he has not, why should he be asked about it?

It seems to me that there is a hysteria around this case which has little to do with Moazzem Begg, who has apparently merely, (ha!, merely) witnessed the abuse of process and person within the War on Terror.

On these issues, and these issues alone, he is a forceful and credible witness who should be allowed to speak from any platform we can find for him.

Here are three more women for earwicga and co. to abuse:

“A trio of South Asian women’s rights campaigners expressed dismay at the prospect that Amnesty International would not unequivocally condemn the “defensive jihad” concept.

“If this is the official position of the world’s leading human rights organization, this would gravely undermine the future of the human rights movement,” said Amrita Chhachhi, Sara Hossain and Sunila Abeysekera in a letter to Amnesty Secretary-General Claudio Cordone.”

http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/63765

46. FlyingRodent

I know I’m going to regret this, but I’ll wade in on this issue one last time here…

That Moazzam Begg is a fundamentalist with nutty views and sympathies for the Taliban is not exactly news. He’s been open about his mad ideas and I think it’s fair to assume that he broadly supports attacks on western forces in Afghanistan. Whether he advocates attacks on civilians is a different matter and can’t, I think, be deduced from his public statements, but I’ll just say now that I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

On the other hand, he’s one of very few people who can testify to the massive American extrajudicial detention/black prisons network, which currently imprisons an unknown number of people – likely many, many thousands – at sites both declared and covert across the globe. Further, it’s been repeatedly revealed to use torture to extract confessions from both the innocent and the guilty and have murdered inmates with total impunity, beyond all legal oversight. Like other states’ use of such techniques, it’s a basic affront to the principles Amnesty was set up to defend, and any AI director who failed to highlight it as a priority would be failing in their responsibilities.

The question of whether the former outweighs the latter is a serious and difficult one, and it should be approached dispassionately, because assaults on Amnesty’s reputation are fraught with danger for those who wish to hold states to account for their human rights violations.

The reason why lots of people have focused on Gita Sahgal’s denunciations in the Murdoch press and the vast amounts of lying bullshit from those using them as a stick to beat Amnesty is precisely because they are hyperbolic, inflammatory and, in the case of the latter, clearly politically motivated. The tone of Conor’s post here is spot on, but 95% of the coverage I’ve read has been mendacious and deliberately misleading, to whit:

– The pretence that Sahgal was suspended for dissent, rather than for denouncing her employers to a media organisation with a history of politically motivated attacks on Amnesty, resulting in the Times’ deeply misleading reporting.

– The abject refusal of many of Amnesty’s critics to engage with the issue of torture, arbitrary detention and murder by the US government beyond the mildest, pro-forma Of course black prisons are nasty, but. This is no small matter, especially when coming from those such as Hitchens who have previously penned full-throated endorsements of the black prison network and denunciations of its critics.

– The obvious piggybacking of right wing and Decent left bullshit and fearmongering about leftist pro-Islamist treachery onto the back of a sensitive issue, purely for political gain, often with the deliberate intent of harming Amnesty as badly as possible.

So to repeat in a nutshell – are the Americans’ proven and continuing human rights violations sufficiently serious to merit the use of a known Islamist nutter as an eyewitness by an organisation that was explicitly created to oppose exactly those violations?

Let the process of accommodation through mutual distaste begin!

@40 earwicga

I’m interested to know what it is in Conor’s post @31 you don’t go along with…? It seemed eminently reasonable to me, so I’d be genuinely interested to hear where your differed.

Seriously,

Has anyone got a direct quote of Moazzam Begg using the words ‘defensive jihad’?

Flying Rodent: I share your distaste for some of Saghal’s supporters, but I still think the key question remains ‘Is Saghal right on the question of Begg and Cageprisoners?’

If we ever get a serious rightwing terrorist campaign in this country- by Combat 18 or some similar group- there will have to be a crackdown by the security forces.

I’m all in favour of that, so long as it stays inside the law. If there was ever serious evidence that Combat 18 suspects were being tortured in custody, I would do everything I could to end that torture immediately- and so, I hope, would you and Sunny.

Would I quote the testimony of tortured Combat 18 suspects, in newspaper articles or blogposts? Yes, because the best way to campaign against torture is to describe exactly what happened to the people tortured.

Would I appear on a platform with Combat 18 sympathisers who had been tortured in custody? Would I say that a BNP-sympathising organisation campaigning against torture was ‘a respected human rights organisation’? Would I mount joint campaigns with White Nationalist groups? Would you?

Those questions answer themselves, I hope.

And if you’re going to tell me that there’s a difference between the Taliban and Combat 18, well so there is. The Taliban have killed a great many more civilians. Begg and Ridley are apologists for some disgraceful human rights abusers: that’s why Amnesty have no business working with them.

Dan Hardie,

If we could keep to the point of whether or not Saghal was right or not about whether AI should share a platform with Begg, than I would think the discussion was being conducted on a level playing field.

As it stands, it doesn’t appear to be.

In amongst your ‘what if’ scenario about Combat 18, let us assume that one of the trawls arrested hundreds of folk on heresay. After years of torture and denial of due process, someone – against whom the state could prove damn all – appeared blinking into the light of day and set up an organisation based on the premise “charge or free”, should AI share a platform with them? Or simply assume that there is no smoke without fire, and effectively limit their opposition to a human rights violation?

51. John Meredith

“This is no small matter, especially when coming from those such as Hitchens who have previously penned full-throated endorsements of the black prison network and denunciations of its critics.”

There is plenty to be critical of in Christopher Hitchen’s voluminous outpourings without having to make up lies.

And all this talk of ‘piggybacking’ is childish. Is there a single prominent controversial cause of whatever political bearing that has not attratcted dubious supporters?

The only real point is whether or not Saghal is right, and Conor has called this one completelty correctly. Begg should clarify and Amnesty should withdraw its support for ‘defensive jihad’ to avoid anuy possible misunderstandings.

I’ve surely stated this quite clearly already, but let’s do it one more time.

On the hypothetical question about my Combat 18′ scenario: No, AI should not share a platform with anyone who was a committed White Nationalist or BNP supporter, even if they had been tortured in custody- because support of neo-Nazi views is incompatible with the defence of universal human rights.

On the non-hypothetical question of whether AI should work with Begg, beyond quoting his (valuable) testimony:

There is no evidence that Begg committed terrorist acts or that he is a terrorist himself, and I have never suggested otherwise. Furthermore, I’ve said several times that the American abrogation of his and others’ rights at Guantanamo was a disgrace, and AI was entirely right to campaign against this.

What I am stating is that he works at Cageprisoners with a woman (Yvonne Ridley) who has made explicit statements supporting human rights abuses by the Iranian regime, that his statements on Taliban violence in Afghanistan are ambiguous at best, and that Amnesty therefore have no business working in partnership with him.

Amnesty have not restricted themselves to merely quoting Begg’s testimony on Guantanamo: they said in their own statements after Saghal’s suspension that they were working on joint campaigns with him, and they praised his ‘Cageprisoners’ group as a respected human rights organisation.

A group which gives a senior role to Yvonne Ridley, who publicly supports Iranian human rights abuses, is not a ‘human rights organisation’. That is why I believe Saghal was right and AI’s collaboration with Cageprisoners should end.

53. FlyingRodent

You may very well be right Dan, and I think Amnesty should make it very clear that it doesn’t endorse CagePrisoners, Moazzam Begg or their views – I think statements they’ve made have been far too supportive of them and that they should put a distance between themselves and the organisation.

That said, I still have no problem with them inviting Begg as an individual to speak. I notice that there seems to be a general belief that the US black prison/torture network is a historical issue, but it isn’t. Not only has the White House issued a blanket pardon for anyone previously involved in torture, arbitrary detention and murder, they are still picking people up all over the planet, holding them incommunicado and – well, who knows?

History suggests they’re probably still forcing confessions from people then using those confessions in order to justify the policy of arbitrary detention and forced confessions. They’re just not sending them to Guantanamo any more – they’re sending them to the other black sites that the US government has openly admitted it operates. In fact, just today they’ve officially announced their policy of simply murdering everyone they declare an enemy to save themselves the hassle, a tactic they’ve been tacitly using for years.

I have no doubt that Begg’s politics are horrendous, although I notice we are yet to see any proof that he’s in favour of terrorist attacks on civilians. Nonetheless, given the way that our media works, he’s a human face that can be attached to a very serious abstract issue, and I can see exactly why Amnesty would invite him to talk about his experiences.

@ John Meredith: There is plenty to be critical of in Christopher Hitchen’s voluminous outpourings without having to make up lies.

http://www.slate.com/id/2120810/

I don’t particularly want to have to lead you through that article by the nose, so I’d appreciate it if you could read it closely and note Hitchens’ attitude to arbitrary detention and torture, so I don’t have to.

54. John Meredith

“That said, I still have no problem with them inviting Begg as an individual to speak. ”

But that is plain silly. It is as if Amnesty had invited David Irving ‘as an individual’ to speak because he too has been the victim of a state abuse of human rights. If Begg works for an organisation that we have reason to believe is politically ‘horrendous’ Amnesty should have nothing to do with him. That is the usual Amnesty line.

“I don’t particularly want to have to lead you through that article by the nose, so I’d appreciate it if you could read it closely and note Hitchens’ attitude to arbitrary detention and torture, so I don’t have to.”

I have re-read it and still can’t find any “full-throated endorsements of the black prison network and denunciations of its critics.” So I think you are admitting that that was a lie? Just asking.

55. FlyingRodent

It is as if Amnesty had invited David Irving ‘as an individual’ to speak because he too has been the victim of a state abuse of human rights.

David Irving has not been the victim of a state abuse of human rights. He was charged with a criminal act, tried and convicted in a court of law and imprisoned for a mandated term, all of it in an open, accountable process with the possibility of appeal or judicial review.

Had he been kidnapped, held beyond judicial oversight at an undisclosed location, beaten and tortured over a period of months then forced to sign false confessions by soldiers who have been granted total immunity from prosecution and a government which fights tooth and nail to keep its state murders secret, I would have no objection to Amnesty providing a platform for him to tell people about it, provided they made clear that they don’t endorse his political views.

I get tired of saying this, but human rights aren’t just for people we like – they’re for everyone, notorious Holocaust-denying, extreme right wing ballbags included. Torture is unacceptable, regardless of whether they’re torturing Dick Dastardly or Penelope Pitstop.

I have re-read it and still can’t find any “full-throated endorsements of the black prison network and denunciations of its critics.”

Hitchens is not in the habit of saying “I love torture, me” in blunt language. Read it again – if you’re still stuck, I’ll walk you through it when I get a minute although really, the general tone of the piece should be enough to induce vomiting in reasonable human beings without instruction.

John Meredith,

It is not quite so plainly silly as you claim. David Irving has lost a libel action , (in a UK Court no less!), against Deborah Lipstadt. He has had his day in court.

Moazzam Begg has not.

I think that for those of us who support Amnesty and have its best interests at heart the question of whether Saghal was right on the question of whether AI should associate with Begg and CP is one which we should be addressing. My personal view is that AI should steer clear of CP but I can see an argument for them giving a platform for Begg to tell his story. And when people such as Conor and Dan are making reasoned arguments and are clearly arguing in good faith, it is easy enough to keep the discussion within the confines of this narrow question.
Now maybe AI have got it wrong but if so then it is guilty of a misjudgement, albeit possibly a serious one. But that doesn’t mean it has changed its policy towards the Taliban and is more tolerant towards their treatment of women or offences against the Afghan population in general. And it doesn’t mean that the credibility of the entire organisation has been undermined because of this one issue. And even if we might agree that Sahgal was right on the question of Begg/CP it doesn’t mean that she was right to take her objections to the press or that AI was wrong to suspend her for doing so.
And by going to the press she ensured that this issue was going to blow up just as it has and that the original question would get rather lost amongst the various partisan arguments which would inevitably ensue.
And so it happened – yes there was reasonable and proportionate criticism of AI from some parts, but others oversated their criticism without thought for the wider need to support AI as an organisation even if it was wrong on a particular issue, and the issue was seized upon by people with an agenda either against certain parts of the left of whom they disapproved and by those who were determined to undermine AI entirely.
In this context I don’t see what choice those of us who genuinely support AI had. The argument had become about more than Begg and CP and instead about defending the integrity, and possibly the very existence, of AI. So to say, as Dan does above, that the “real” argument is the one about AI, Begg and CP is, I think, a bit naive. It moved on from that as soon as Sahgal went to the press.

58. John Meredith

“David Irving has not been the victim of a state abuse of human rights.”

He has been arrested and imprisoned for expressing an opinion, that is classic prisoner of conscience stuff. It doesn’t matter whether or not there is a legal apparatus. Amnesty opposes the death penalty too, remeber, even though those sentenced to it have been tried and found guilty of crimes that really are crimes.

“… I would have no objection to Amnesty providing a platform for him to tell people about it, provided they made clear that they don’t endorse his political views. ”

But Amnesty would. They would not share a platform with a Holocaust denier for good reasons, althought they would defend his human rights.

“Hitchens is not in the habit of saying “I love torture, me” in blunt language.”

Quite, which is why I accused you of lying when you said he was.

“Read it again – if you’re still stuck, I’ll walk you through it when I get a minute although really, the general tone of the piece should be enough to induce vomiting in reasonable human beings without instruction.”

The general tone isn’t. It may be that you are tone deaf, or it may be me, which is why it is propbaably best to leave ‘general tone’ to the literary critics. But we can agree on the words and they do not say what you claim them to say. You admit as much. So you admit that you were lying? I will walk you through the claim you made if you are having trouble with the old memory.

59. John Meredith

“It is not quite so plainly silly as you claim. David Irving has lost a libel action , (in a UK Court no less!), against Deborah Lipstadt. He has had his day in court.”

I don’t see what difference it makes. I am not suggesting that Begg should be imprisoned or that he is not a victim of human rights abuses, just that Amnesty are, at best, naive and foolish in making common cause with him when it appears he represents a politics that is directly opposed th theirs.

60. John Meredith

“So to say, as Dan does above, that the “real” argument is the one about AI, Begg and CP is, I think, a bit naive. It moved on from that as soon as Sahgal went to the press.”

This is a false distinction. If Saghal is right, then the case has not moved on, it is just as she framed it. If she is wrong then that will be settled by settling the Begg question. I think we all agree that there is a case to answer and that it is of the upmost importance. Why Saghal should be criticised by taking drastic measures (after having raised the issue internally) is, therefore, beyond me.

Dan Hardie @ 52,

Are you deliberately misrepresenting my criticism of your post?

It is pretty obvious that a trawl of potential combat 18 lunatics, if the parameters are set wide enough, will pick up, arrest and imprison people who were not combat 18 lunatics. If you preclude from everyone you trawl their right to any legal redress whatsoever, or obfuscate the process to such an extent it cannot be reasonably said to be a legal process then it is inevitable that some, perhaps even the vast majority of the people you have arrested are innocent.

Answer that, rather than the straw man you create!

What Flying Rodent said basically.

The point which I have made previously about Gita is that a human rights organisation cannot allow its staff to vent their disagreements to the press whenever they want to because that would destroy the organisation itself.

Douglas. Claudio says ‘Cageprisoners also hold other views which they have clearly stated, for example on whether one should talk to the Taleban or on the role of jihad in self-defence. Are such views antithetical to human rights? Our answer is no, even if we may disagree with them – and indeed those of us working to close Guantánamo have a range of beliefs about religion, secularism, armed struggle, peace and negotiations.’

So the issue is the views of CP and Begg on ‘the role of jihad in self-defence’. My question to Begg is ‘does he define the Taliban’s campaign in Afghanistan as defensive jihad?’ The phrase is very commonly used to refer to support for jihadi groups in Kashmir and Chechnya and support for resistance in the occupied Palestinian territories. Its supporters distinguish this type of violence – aimed at military targets – from Al Qaeda’s global jihadi activity.

In a south Asian context it has a particular significance because it refers to the policy of the Pakistani military of providing covert logistical support to the Taliban and jihadi groups in Kashmir while cracking down on Al Qaeda.

According to Claudio (who I like and respect) Begg and CP ‘have clearly stated’ their views on this subject and they are ‘not antithetical to human rights’.

Well, I am not so sure.

Conor,

I have no issue with Claudio saying that. My question is whether or not Moazzem Begg has ever said ‘defensive jihad’.

The reason I am asking is because I can find all sorts of references to Claudio’s letter. I can find nothing that indicates that Moazzem Begg did, indeed, use these precise words.

And, even if he did, context would be nice too.

From an AI point of view, Claudio’s use of the phrase appears to have set the blogosphere alight.

One of the problems with the internet is that everything you say ever, is set in amber to be chewed over out of context and frankly, out of time.

I think Moazzem Begg is getting a bum rap here. I think that is the only difference between the position that you and Flying Rodent are adopting and mine.

Dan Hardie writes, ‘’I’ve never had a problem condemning British soldiers who abuse or kill civilians: people like the uniformed thugs who kicked Baha Mousa to death should be condemned.’

No Dan, they shouldn’t be condemned, they should be convicted. As you know they haven’t, but you continue to serve in uniform alongside them. The Army of which you are a member has a long history of murder, torture and human rights abuses. The post-WW2 record alone includes Malaya, Kenya, Aden, Oman, Northern Ireland and Iraq.

At the moment you are aiding the Americans in their campaign of murder and mayhem in Afghanistan and Pakistan where your commander General Stanley McChrystal admitted, “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat.”

What chutzpah to condemn others for their associations!

Douglas, I have made my views completely clear, and I will do so one more time. I oppose Amnesty’s collaboration with Begg because he a) has made at best ambiguous statements on the Taliban’s human rights abuses and b) collaborates with Yvonne Ridley who unambiguously supports the Iranian government’s human rights abuses.

I have said this clearly several times. I have also said clearly several times that there is no evidence that he was a terrorist himself and that his treatment by the Americans was a disgrace that Amnesty rightly campaigned against. I have also said clearly that I would not share a platform with a man who, while being innocent of involvement in Combat 18 activities, none the less defended some of C18’s activities, in the way that Begg has defended some of the Taliban’s actions.

That’s quite clear- it’s been quite clear each time I’ve stated it- and if you want to post indignant! comments demanding that I respond! to your comments! and not attack straw men!- then please feel free to do so. You’re in my ‘boring nutcase- ignore’ file.

66. John Meredith

“I think Moazzem Begg is getting a bum rap here.”

If he is it would be very easy for him to unburden himself of it. He could make it quite clear what he thinks about the Taliban campaign in Afghanistan, whether it is, in his opinion, legitimate or not. Given his praise for the Taliban in the past and his refusal to give clear answers to these sorts of questions today, it is reasonable to be suspicious of him and his organisation, suspicious enough not to align yourself with him if you are a human rights organisation of any kind.

67. FlyingRodent

He has been arrested and imprisoned for expressing an opinion, that is classic prisoner of conscience stuff. It doesn’t matter whether or not there is a legal apparatus.

It’s fortunate then that the definition of “human rights” is a legal one and is not listed in the dictionary as “things that seem reasonable to John Meredith”.

I really don’t know how many times it’s going to be necessary to explain the difference between being imprisoned by a human rights-compliant legal system for committing an act that you knew to be criminal when you committed it, and being seized, extrajudicially detained, beaten, held incommunicado and tortured with total impunity in a state-sanctioned black jail. I do notice however that a lot of people seem very, very reluctant indeed to discuss these black jails and what goes on there, for some unfathomable and totally mystifying reason.

68. John Meredith

“I really don’t know how many times it’s going to be necessary to explain the difference between being imprisoned by a human rights-compliant legal system for committing an act that you knew to be criminal when you committed it, and being seized, extrajudicially detained, beaten, held incommunicado and tortured with total impunity in a state-sanctioned black jail. ”

You needn’t vex yourself over this because nobody but you seems to think there is any confusion. But because the things are different it does not follow that they can have nothing in common. Democratic states (even ‘human-rights compliant’ ones, assuming you are not just using this phrase to beg the question) with the rule of law can still use their legal apparatus to abuse the human rights of their citizens. You are not really claiming that anything passed by law is, by definition, incapabale of being an abuse of human rights, are you?

Oh, splendid, someone perfectly sane has shown up to tell me I’m a war criminal. I am, of course, as Conor will be if he goes out there with a civil-military team. If I suddenly cut out in mid-comment, it’s because ‘Resistor’ has turned up to bring me to justice…

Addressing the sensible people: I have no disagreements with Conor, and very few with Flying Rodent. I can see the strength of FR’s argument that Amnesty needs to put a face on the ‘black prisons’ campaign. Begg certainly has one huge- and for him, unwanted- qualification for the job, which is that he was in the illegal prison network.

But he surely has some even bigger disqualifications for working with a group that defends universal human rights: he is not an unambiguous supporter of human rights for all in Afghanistan, and he works closely with a woman who defends human rights abuses in Iran.

I don’t think you should defend the people in the ‘black prisons’ by working with an organisation that ignores or supports the abuse of human rights in Iran or Afghanistan.

I’ve made my best shot at convincing Flying Rodent on this one, and he’s done his best to convert me, and we’re neither of us budging- so unless either of us has a sudden change of mind, I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree. But cheers to FR, Conor and John for a sane and polite conversation.

70. FlyingRodent

On Chris Hitchens and torture, for John Meredith

If I can cannibalise from something I wrote a while ago…

Even though we knew next to nothing about Guantanamo detainees in 2005, they were definitely guilty to Hitch – “foreign sadists taken in arms in Afghanistan”. How does he know they’re guilty? He doesn’t, but he wants us to think they are. At this point, the US authorities were denying a number of the detainees themselves the right to hear the evidence against them; nobody, probably not even the prison officers, knew how many of them were guilty.

As we now know though, lots of these people were innocent – the US released a large number of inmates after this column was published, including at least one child, a taxi driver and a cobbler, IIRC. “I think it is fairly safe to say that not one detainee in Guantanamo is there because of an expression of opinion,” Hitchens adds, accurately. A lot of them were there because they were grassed up for cash, or because of official blunders.

Not that that bothers Hitch, who cites the axiom that “justice is more offended by one innocent person punished than by any number of guilty persons unapprehended. I say frankly that I am not certain of the applicability in the present case”. Translation – You can’t make a freedom omelette without imprisoning and torturing some eggs.

That’s before we get to the blatant lies. “Several detainees released from Guantanamo have reappeared in the Taliban ranks” is dubious now, but it was total horseshit then – when the column was written in 2005, there was no supporting evidence at all.

“The man whose story of rough interrogation has just been published in Time planned to board a United Airlines flight and crash it into a skyscraper” is bollocks as well – we’re talking about Mohammed al-Qahtani here. The man’s a self-confessed follower of Bin Laden, but no evidence to support the allegation that he was the “20th 9/11 hijacker” has ever been produced.

As far as I’m aware, he’s still in the black prisons after the attempt to prosecute him collapsed, probably because the “rough interrogation” – Hitchens’ sly little wriggle to avoid using the word “torture” – to which he was subjected rendered his forced confession inadmissible.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/may/14/usa.guantanamo

Why raise this guy, rather than another? Because he was pretty much the only prisoner Hitch was aware of whose imprisonment he could defend without explicitly endorsing arbitrary detention on mere suspicion as standard practice.

And Hitchens’ attitude to torture, forced confessions and extrajudicial detention is beyond suspect here. He “want(s) to know who (al-Qahtani’s) friends and contacts were”, even though he knew full well how the interrogators were going about securing names and “confessions”, from the front pages of the newspapers – by torture.

“Alberto Gonzales was excoriated even for asking… about the applicability of Geneva rules,” Hitch says, even though he knew then that the US was not “asking about the applicability of Geneva” – it was working as hard as it could to redefine torture, as a means to legalising torture. He describes Guantanamo as a “holding pen” even though the Bushies were clear that Gitmo was here to stay. Notice too how he’s only talking about Guantanamo and not the wider black prison network, even though the term “ghost detainees” enters public use in early 2004.

And as for “Is al Qaida itself a ticking bomb or not?”, well, there’s the dog whistle for you – what should we do with prisoners if AQ is a “ticking bomb”? If you buy his terrible arguments, there’s only one logical conclusion.

And Amnesty’s criticisms? “Disgraceful” – their comparison of a system of torture and arbitrary detention beyond the reach of the courts to the Gulag “expresses a covert sympathy with the aims and objectives of jihad and an overt, if witless and sinister, hatred of the United States”.

Hitchens is a professional communicator, and a very skilled one at that. He doesn’t craft a column stuffed with this many rhetorical dodges to avoid words like “torture” and “arbitrary detention” accidentally, nor does he highlight the tiny minority of definitely guilty detainees through chance. He knows exactly what he’s doing, and has tailored his column to enable the black prisons. I’d advise grown-ups to treat him accordingly.

71. FlyingRodent

You are not really claiming that anything passed by law is, by definition, incapabale of being an abuse of human rights, are you?

No I’m not. You’re pretending that you don’t understand the term “human rights” or how they fit into democratic governance though, and deliberately avoiding the issue of torture and arbitrary detention. It’s really quite annoying.

72. John Meredith

“On Chris Hitchens and torture, for John Meredith … If I can cannibalise from something I wrote a while ago… ”

For which thanks, but I already knew that you disliked Hitchens and disagreed with him on many things. That is your prerogative. I just pointed out thqat you were fibbing about his actual positions. He is, of course, best known as a fierece, combative and dedicated defender of human rights.

“You’re pretending that you don’t understand the term “human rights” or how they fit into democratic governance though, and deliberately avoiding the issue of torture and arbitrary detention. It’s really quite annoying.”

I am not ‘avoiding’ anything. Torture and arbitrary detention are absolutely wrong. Butw we were talking abotuut something else. There are lots of other things I conseider wrong and which I haven’t mentioned, but I don’t think it would be fair to say I was ‘avoiding’ them. I understand the term ‘human rights’ and I think the imprisonment of David Irving for his (absurd and offensive) opinions is a clear breach of his human rights, no matter how ‘legal’ it was.

John: I once went 30 rounds at CiF on the David Irving case, which included trawling through all the cases that the European Court of Human Rights has considered on the issue. As far as the world’s leading human rights court is concerned holocaust denial laws do not breach the convention. I do not agree with these laws, but I can understand why countries which had more direct experience of the Nazis than Britain have enacted them.

Irving was not imprisoned for his ‘opinions’ he was imprisoned for the ‘expression’ of those opinions. It might seem a semantic difference, but it is not. Freedom of opinion – the right to think whatever you want – is a basic human right, but if you express those opinions then their may be negative consequences of that expression. The class room text on this is ‘shouting fire in a crowded theatre.’

So every case in which freedom of expression is raised as a defence will have to be decided on a case by case basis. For example, we have libel laws, the official secrets act, etc. As you are probably aware Amnesty decided not to adopt Mordechai Vannu as a prisoner of conscience because the opinion that he expressed – Israel has nuclear weapons – broke the country’s laws.

Likewise when Robert Relf (a notorious British Nazi) was imprisoned for putting a notice on his, which was for sale, saying that he would only sell it to ‘an English family’ this was deemed to breach the Race Relations Act. You can argue that he was merely exercising his right to freedom of expression, but clearly if he had not been prosecuted than a law prohibiting discrimination would not be able to function.

I could probably come up with a dozen or so other examples, where there is a clear tension between two different sets of rights.

On the other hand, obviously if Irving had been denied due process, etc. there would be a case to argue, but he wasn’t and so there isn’t.

74. FlyingRodent

I am not ‘avoiding’ anything. Torture and arbitrary detention are absolutely wrong. Butw we were talking abotuut something else.

We were talking about whether it’s right to use an Islamist headbanger to publicise a massive, state-santioned torture and arbitrary detention programme. I can understand why many would prefer we focus like a laser on the former and downplay the latter.

I just pointed out thqat you were fibbing about his actual positions. He is, of course, best known as a fierece, combative and dedicated defender of human rights.

Well that’s a devastating rebuttal of my points. I hereby retire in tears.

75. John Meredith

Conor, I think the line between holding an opinion and expressing it is non-existent in any human rights context. What value is the right to hold opinions that you will be imprisoned for expressing? Is there any state that could not claim to uphold that right? And I think it is dangerous to conflate the Irving case with other cases such as the incitement of violence and crying ‘fire’ (although I do understand why the laws were implemented in Austria) because the line that divides those other cases from any general expression of opinion is very bright: the endangerment of other lives. I guess you could just about construct an argument for ‘incitment’ from publishing views such as Irving;’s, but then, couln’t publishing the Communist Manifesto also be banned under such a rule? It seems like a clear case of ‘incitement’ to me. IO don’t thionk these things should be taken on a case by case baisi or we get close to believing that what it is permissbale to express should be decisded by the courts. We should apply broad principles with minimal and clealry spelled out exceptions and stick yo it.

76. John Meredith

“We were talking about whether it’s right to use an Islamist headbanger to publicise a massive, state-santioned torture and arbitrary detention programme.”

No we weren’t. We were talking about whether Amnesty should share a platform with him or ally themselves with his organisation. Using his case to publicise a rights abuse is another thing altogether.

I don’t know how you ‘understand’ that people should wish to downplay things like illegal detention, unless you mean the perpetrators themslves. Otherwise it is beyong my understanding . But this discussion was about Amnesty and the idea of ‘defensive jihad’ so it is understandable that the focus, laser-like or not, should be on that.

I will look away hile you dry your tears.

Well John I am currently staring at a library of legal text books which disagree with you!

To quote Articles 18 and 19 of the ICCPR (the text is almost identical in the ECHR)

Article 18

1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.
2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.
3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.
4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

Article 19

1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.

I think we can assume that the drafters did give some thought to the exceptions that they created.

78. John Meredith

“Well John I am currently staring at a library of legal text books which disagree with you!”

Conor, you know this law much better thaan me but I cannot see how your excerpts contradict what I said. These articles allow for the holding and expressing of opinion, not just the holding of it, and the restrictions on the expression of opinion are, precisely, protection of reputation, national security and public order or morals. That last category is a lawyers delight, of course, because just about any state could argue that just about any opinion threatens public morals (communism? it corrupts young minds), but, realisitically, in what way does denying the Holocaust breach any of those restrictions?

Article 20

1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.

You have to remember the history of the modern human rights movement is so intimately bound up with the response to the holocaust. The UDHR (which has similar language) was proclaimed in 1948. The Genocide Convention was enacted the following day specifically because of the problems that the Prosecutor at Nuremburg had in bringing charges relating the holocaust against the Nazis (they were charged with violations of the Geneva Conventions).

At the same time many national parliaments began to enact laws to prosecute holocaust denial. So the drafters of the ICCPR and ECHR had this very much on their minds at the time. You can even see it with the structural logic of the ICCPR. First (Article 18) they give almost complete protection to freedom of conscience and belief then (Article 19) they give far more qualified protection to freedom of expression and then (Article 20) they make it clear that this does not apply to hate speech.

Note also that Article 20 concerns the incitement of ‘violence or discrimination’ which broader than just violence. Robert Relf, for example, was not inciting violence in refusing to sell his house to a black buyer, but he was found to be ‘inciting discrimination’.

I personally think that the holocaust laws are passed their sell by date and would support their repeal. But I don’t think that Irving was a ‘victim’ of them, since he went to Austria knowing that what he was going to say was illegal.

If you want to drink alcohol, don’t go to Saudi Arabia. If you want to deny the holocaust, don’t do it in Hitler’s birthplace. If you do decide to do these things and you get prosecuted for it, then I think you have only got yourself to blame.

80. John Meredith

“they make it clear that this does not apply to hate speech.”

No quite, only ‘hate speech’ that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. The operative word there is ‘incitment’, and it very difficult to argue that denying that the Holocast happned is incitement of any kind. At least, if that is just about anything can be. That’s why I think his rights were ceary abused. Free speech is free speech even if it is offensive or false.

‘If you want to drink alcohol, don’t go to Saudi Arabia. If you want to deny the holocaust, don’t do it in Hitler’s birthplace. ‘

That’s not so different in principle from ‘if you don’t want to get called a ‘paki’ keep out of Toxteth, though, is it?

That’s not so different in principle from ‘if you don’t want to get called a ‘paki’ keep out of Toxteth, though, is it?

It is completely different. The ICCPR starst with a ‘recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family’ and that these should be respected on a non-discriminatory basis.

That includes the right not to be subjected to racist abuse and hate speech. It also includes the right to freedom of conscience. In human rights parlance these are fundamental and non-derogable rights.

Freedom of expression, by contrast, is a more limited right that has to be balanced against other people’s rights (for example their right to privacy, their right to a reputation, etc.). The right to drink alcohol is nowhere enshrined in human rights law.

On your point about the ‘burden of proof’ sure, but that applies to the enforcement of all laws – and quite right to.

This is interesting, but I think the Irving discussion doesn’t get us very far if we’re talking about Moazzam Begg and Amnesty.

There, I think the questions are:

1) What should disqualify somebody from being allowed on a platform with Amnesty, even if that person’s own rights have been abused?

2) What has Moazzam Begg actually said and done with regard to human rights?

3) Although Begg’s own rights have certainly been abused, have his actions and words disqualified him from appearing on an Amnesty platform?

The answer to 1) is probably ‘a lot of things’, including active support for serious human rights abuses, failing to support the universality of human rights and long-term collaboration with those who actively support abuse.

On 2), I think Begg is at best ambiguous about the Taliban. He has praised it as ‘the best government Afghanistan had’, and criticised its treatment of women in very general terms, whilst making no comment on its many, documented crimes against men, non-Pashtun ethnic groups, people requiring medical treatment, etc.

Extraordinarily, the ‘Cageprisoners’ website includes a number of British Muslims who were convicted of terrorist crimes in trials which were not rigged (like the delightful men who wanted to car-bomb ‘dancing slags’), and also includes several British Muslims who were accused of terrorist offences but acquitted in court- all presented alongside people locked up in Guantanamo or other ‘black prisons’, as if their cases were the same. This is quite disgraceful.

A leading figure in Cageprisoners is Yvonne Ridley, who justified the Iranian government’s repression of pro-democracy demonstrators.

On 3) – it’s unclear that Begg feels any sympathy for the victims of the Taliban, very unclear indeed whether he questions the Taliban leadership’s aim of imposing a dictatorship on Afghanistan, and very unclear whether or not he thinks that Muslims given a fair trial on terrorism charges are different from Muslims whose rights have genuinely been abrogated. It’s clear that he works at ‘Cageprisoners’ with Yvonne Ridley, who has publicly defended human rights abuses by the Iranian government.

I’d say that’s enough to disqualify him from appearing on an Amnesty platform. Others disagree, but I won’t pretend to find their arguments convincing. I have to say I think Sunny needs to think about where he is on this question.

83. John Meredith

“Freedom of expression, by contrast, is a more limited right that has to be balanced against other people’s rights (for example their right to privacy, their right to a reputation, etc.).”

Yes, but I can’t see how any case can be made that making false caims about the historical truth of the Holocaust is an infringement of anybody else’s rights. How? And to the point tht it merits imprionmet? My point about Toxteth as just that saying ‘if you don’t like it, keep away’ is often the defence of bigots.

84. John Meredith

“I’d say that’s enough to disqualify him from appearing on an Amnesty platform. Others disagree, but I won’t pretend to find their arguments convincing. I have to say I think Sunny needs to think about where he is on this question.”

I pretty much agree with everything you have had to say on this thread, Dan H including this bit. I think that Sunnny earlier in the discussion implicity undertook to challenge Begg to say whether he considers the Taliban campaign to be a ‘defensive jihad’ or not. Which will be enlightening.

I think most of the prosecutions for holocaust denial came in the 1950s and ’60s in countries such as Germany, Austria and Poland where the wounds were freshest. That was the context in which the laws were enacted and prosecutions brought. Nazis claimed violations of their rights under the European Convention, but the Court (usually at the Commission stage) refused to uphold these claims.

When Irving went to Austria there were some who argued that Amnesty should adopt him as a prisoner of conscience, but they didn’t and I think they were right not to. Similarly they have not adopted people who have been prosecuted for praising the 7/7 bombers or wandering around with placards saying ‘behead those who insult Islam’. And quite right too.

86. John Meredith

“When Irving went to Austria there were some who argued that Amnesty should adopt him as a prisoner of conscience, but they didn’t and I think they were right not to. ”

It is my fault but Irving has slightly derailed this discussion. As it happens, although I take a different position from you on the question of Holocaust denial and the law, I agree that Amnesty were right not to adopt this case because Irving was clearly trying to manipulate the situation for his own ends which are very unpleasant ones, and I agree that as rights abuses go, it should not figure high on anyone’s agenda.

I think Amesty were right not to adopt the placarders too, but fior a different reason. Their rights do not seem to have been abused in any way. Incitement to violence is a legitimately prohibited speech act.

Dan Hardie @ 65,

It is certainly obvious that you have made your own views perfectly clear here. What is not so obvious is whether you are willing to see any inconsistencies in your own case. I would submit that you aren’t.

Here is something earwicga posted up on Pickled Politics.

He doesn’t read anything at all like the person you describe:

http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/230.html

Worth reading the whole way through.

Please at least attempt to engage with comments rather than just reiterating the same old, same old.

88. John Meredith

“He doesn’t read anything at all like the person you describe”

Douglas C, you seem to have the idea that Begg is being denounced as a monster. Nobody denies that he has suffered wrongs and that some of the things he says are true and fair. The question is whether he is a supporter of or apologist for the Taliban in their current campaign in Afghanistan (I think he is), and what is at issue is not his right to be such, but whether he should therefore be promoted by or share a platform with Amnesty International which was established to resist just about everything the Taliban stand for.

Says Shatterface:

Oh, and AI shouldn’t be sharing a platform with Catholics who oppose abortion or homosexuality, or who covered up for paedophiles either.

Oh yeah? But it was Catholics who founded Amnesty, so what are you talking about? I take your point about covering up for paedophiles. Most of us left-footers have done that at some point in our lives, obviously.

Quoth Sunny:

as Amnesty have pointed out, they’ve worked with the Catholic Church on poverty related campaigns. And frankly the Church also has blood on its hands.

Really? Are you sure you have faintest idea whereof you speak?

Douglas, I will reply because, without knowing it, you’ve presented us with another significant reason for doubting Begg’s human rights credentials.

He cheerfully tells the interviewer in the PBS transcript that yes, he did visit a ‘military training camp’, but that’s okay because it wasn’t to do with Afghanistan: it was training Muslims to fight in Kashmir.

As Conor notes above, the ‘jihadist’ fighters in Kashmir are supplied, trained and supported by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency of Pakistan. Partly this is because some ISI officers support an extreme Islamist agenda, partly this is because they wish to fight a ‘proxy war’ against India.

The ‘military training camp’ which Begg visited was there for the purpose of sending trained fighters to Kashmir. These ‘jihadist’ fighters in Kashmir routinely attack civilian targets and murder unarmed people. You can find this out quite easily with a little reading- including Amnesty reports on Kashmir.

(Indian soldiers also do disgraceful things in Kashmir, which is why I would oppose Amnesty inviting an apologist for the Indian Army to speak on one of its problems.)

By no stretch of the imagination can the ‘jihad’ in Kashmir be called ‘defensive’.

Begg either knows this, and supports the Islamicist terrorists in Kashmir regardless- or he is so uninformed that if someone tells him ‘oh, it’s just a defensive struggle in Kashmir, with Muslims as victims’ he just agrees and doesn’t bother to verify the facts.

I repeat that there is no evidence that Begg was or is a terrorist, that his treatment by the US Government was an utter disgrace, and that Amnesty acted perfectly properly in working to get him out of Guantanamo, which should have been closed long ago.

But here he is, in a softball interview, saying proudly that he attended a training camp for fighters in the horrendous terrorist war in Kashmir! And that’s okay, because it wasn’t training people to fight for Al Qaeda.

Thank you for the link to the transcript.This man is not fit to be speaking on an Amnesty platform.

@ 47. Galen10 – I think this is not an appropriate space to answer your question. Sorry.

douglas clark – I agree with you that Moazzam Begg is getting a ‘bum deal’ out of all this.

Anything Begg says will be twisted and misinterpreted by those who delight in this sort of thing. Yesterday I saw a comment on PP which quoted torture testimony as something Begg had written. There is no point in him saying anything in answer to any of the questions posed on this post. If you believe he is in favour of murder then I think you have missed a lot of what he has said and written in the past.

92. John Meredith

“Really? Are you sure you have faintest idea whereof you speak?

Blimey Maria, you are not still standing up for that moth-eaten, music hall brocade, are you? How many child sex crimes will the pope have to have been implicated in for you to distance yourself from that slimy crew?

I agree that anyone who quotes the ‘testimony’ extracted under torture from Begg should be ashamed of themselves, and that what he said under duress is worthless. Torture is beneath contempt.

What we should do is read what Begg has actually said without torture, which is pretty damning.

Dan Hardie,

I am repeating myself from elsewhere so I hope you don’t mind if I simply update what I’ve said elsewhere:

He stated in his memoirs that the Taliban were “better than anything Afghanistan has had in the past twenty-five years (The highlighted bit is kind of important. It is not the absolute statement you claimed it to be.)

So, we are in moral relativism territory here, are we not? It would seem to me that another interpretation of what Moazzam Begg had to say is that Afghanistan was a far far better place 25 years ago. Circa 1985?

In 1985 Afghanistan was in the midst of the Saur revolution which established a whole range of human rights on the Afghan people. Like, for instance, womens’ equality.

To hark back to that era as ‘better’ than what has happened since gives the lie to assuming that Moazzem Begg is the one dimensional character some would make him out to be. It is, frankly, much more difficult to see that era as ‘fundamentalist’.

Dan – I don’t know if the commenter even knew he was quoting torture testimony, and probably copied and pasted it from elsewhere and assumed it was part of Begg’s book – which it most definately wasn’t. That is the level of debate, and to ask Begg to enter this debate by answering absolutely pointless, as I stated before. AI have stated that this is a question that they constantly ask of themselves, and quite frankly I have no reason not to believe them.

Douglas – absolutely!

96. John Meredith

Douglas, what is at issue i Begg’s position on the Taliban’s campaign in Afghanistan today. He has many other positions that are alarming, it seems to me, but that is the salient issue as regads his relationship with AI. Why do you think he has not made a cear unambiguous statement on this in his role as a representative of CP and given tht this issue has become such a high profile one?

What we should do is read what Begg has actually said without torture, which is pretty damning.

In fairness, I would have to admit that if I had been through what he’s been through, it’s entirely possible that I might be tempted to support any bastard that would let me get some payback. Being abducted and tortured might fuck you up a little, so I’m inclined to cut him a bit more slack on the whole advocating-violence thing than the average blog commenter.

John Meridith – Begg has said he is in favour of talks with the Tailban, which is something that many others have been saying. Where is the problem with that?

Douglas, you don’t want to listen, so you’re not going to. You proudly send me a link to a transcript which will prove that Begg does not hold objectionable views on human rights.

I gently point out to you that in the transcript Begg says that he attended a ‘military training camp’ for jihadist fighters going to Kashmir, and that these fighters regularly commit atrocities against civilians- both Muslim and non-Muslim. This casts very serious doubt on Begg’s committment to human rights, I add. You say: nothing.

The Taliban committed a whole range of documented atrocities against not only women, but the Hazara, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, people needing medical treatment- the list can be extended for a long way. Begg makes no criticism of the Taliban beyond a vague admission that they did some bad things on women’s rights.

You suggest that because Begg thinks the Taliban are the best government Afghanistan had in quarter of a century that this means he, a devout Muslim and in fact an Islamist, actually admires the Soviet-installed atheistic Communist government that ruled in Kabul in the 1980s! This is a crazy statement.

Begg has made it entirely plain that he supported the mujaheddin who fought that government- not a crime, since a great many people of all faiths also did- but one entirely destroys your silly suggestion that actually, Moazzam Begg wanted an Afghan Communist government in Kabul. I’m sorry, you’re making yourself ridiculous.

Dan – the way this visit is written in Enemy Combatant is that is was a kinda tourist visit and he wasn’t visiting in order to train to fight in Kashmir. I haven’t read about it elsewhere and can’t seriously comment on the likliehood of this from my faraway UK position.

Dunc – that is a tempting view, but not one that I take. Begg has stated that he opposes civillian deaths, whoever they are.

@ John Meredith: The Pope hasn’t been implicated in any sex-abuse cases. Get with the programme.

102. John Meredith

“@ John Meredith: The Pope hasn’t been implicated in any sex-abuse cases. Get with the programme.”

Oh yes he has. He isn’t even denying it, he just seems to imply it doesn’t matter much.

‘A kinda tourist visit’ to a camp that trains jihadist killers to fight a terrorist war in Kashmir. If that’s okay with you, fine. But I don’t think a person who makes ‘kinda tourist visits’ to murderer training camps is the kinda person who should be speaking on Amnesty platforms.

Dunc – that is a tempting view, but not one that I take. Begg has stated that he opposes civillian deaths, whoever they are.

Indeed. I was merely trying to point out that expecting Mr Begg to hold to the noblest values of the Enlightenment after his experiences might be a little over-optimistic. He’s certainly not a saint – but who among us is? And who among us can say that we would be after the sort of horrors he’s suffered? I’m kinda surprised that he’s not worse, to be honest.

105. John Meredith

“John Meridith – Begg has said he is in favour of talks with the Tailban, which is something that many others have been saying. Where is the problem with that?2

We want to know what his view of the Taliban’s current campaign is. Whether he thinks it is legitimate. If he does, Amnesty should steer clear of him. I think he knows this which is why he won’t give a straight answer to the question.

“Dan – the way this visit is written in Enemy Combatant is that is was a kinda tourist visit and he wasn’t visiting in order to train to fight in Kashmir.”

Hahahahahahaha

To coin a phrase, he would say that, wouldn’t he?

Was it Thomas Cook or First Choice by the way?

Dan,

You see it your way. If a qualifying clause on a sentence is too much for you, your mind is made up and nothing I say will change it.

You write perpetually on this thread so it is very hard to keep up with what you have or haven’t said.

Begg, has been found guilty of nothing. Everything you write is your interpretation of what was said, or what was meant. It is opinion, pure and simple.

Usually people are allowed to be viewed as innocent until proven guilty. Not, apparently, in the world of John Meredith Esq.

If Moazzem Begg thought that the Taliban was the greatest thing since the dawn of time, he would have finished his sentence where you finished his sentence. He didn’t. You did.

I view the question of whether of not AI should platform folk or not as an internal matter. And I’d have thought that you are a long way short of proving your case.

I assume that you are of quite the opposite view.

@ John Meredith: Oh no he hasn’t and yet again you’re playing fast and loose with matters of fact.

No one among us is a saint, Dunc, and being kidnapped, detained and tortured would certainly affect me badly, but we’re actually not discussing whether Begg is a saint or ‘should be cut a little slack’.

We’re discussing whether he’s the right person to speak on an Amnesty International platform defending universal human rights, and I have to say that the evidence for that is growing slimmer by the minute.

Oops,

Where’s the edit function?

“…Dan Hardie, Esq.”

111. John Meredith

“I was merely trying to point out that expecting Mr Begg to hold to the noblest values of the Enlightenment after his experiences might be a little over-optimistic. He’s certainly not a saint ”

He needn’t be. He can hold as many objectionable views as he wants and organisations like Amnesty will work to ensure that he can. But if he supports the Taliban campaign in Afgahanistan, a campaign that has as its object the removal of most human rights from most people in that country, he should not be supported by Amnesty. How s this controversial?

Douglas, it’s very simple. Your suggestion that the devout Muslim Begg admired a Communist government in Kabul is utterly foolish and contradicted by Begg’s own statements, and the transcript you cited includes an admission by Begg that he visited a ‘military training camp’ for fighters in Kashmir- who, as you can quite easily discover, are ISI-trained terrorists who routinely kill civilians.

I think Begg should never have been maltreated as he was and that there is no evidence that he was a criminal, but on the basis of what he has said and who he has worked with I don’t think he should be speaking for Amnesty International. You just can’t be bothered examining the evidence because you might have to change your mind. Enjoy your sulk.

113. John Meredith

“@ John Meredith: Oh no he hasn’t and yet again you’re playing fast and loose with matters of fact.”

Maria he has and you are in a minority of close to one in shutting your eyes to it. The pope has been instrumental, directly, in facilitating the sexual abuse of children and in covering up for other abusers.

Dan @ 109,

Well, count that as three of us that would be badly effected.

I stand by his right to speak on any platform whatsoever against illegal detention and torture. If he started to say the Taliban should kill innocent civillians, that would be a different matter. But he doesn’t.

115. John Meredith

“I stand by his right to speak on any platform whatsoever against illegal detention and torture.”

Nobody is denying his right. They ae challenging Amnesty’s wisdom in working with a man who seems to be opposed to their human rights agenda.

Has he [Begg] actually said he supports the Taliban at the moment? If not surely he should be given the benefit of the doubt?

I assume we all agree with “innocent until proven guilty”..?

Supporting dialogue w/Taliban is not the same. Supporting “defensive jihad” is not the same either, as a) no-one has defined the phrase and b) the only place that phrase is written is in the letter condeming Begg (AFAIK – anyone got a link to prove otherwise, would be v welcome.)

1) Storm
2) Teacup
3) ?????
4) 100+ comments on a LC article…

He’s got the right to say what he wants, but Amnesty International shouldn’t invite a man to speak on their platform if his committment to human rights is questionable. Which I always thought was true, even before you obligingly provided us with evidence of how he’s able to cheerfully visit a camp full of thugs training to kill people in Kashmir.

“Nobody is denying his right. They ae challenging Amnesty’s wisdom in working with a man who seems to be opposed to their human rights agenda.”

The important word in this is SEEMS.

cjcjc – perhaps, but Begg also writes that he tried to enter Chechnya for military training.

Dan – yes, it is perhaps clear now that these training camps are as you say. But, do you think Begg saw them as this at the time, and was he an exception at the time in visiting such a camp?

119. John Meredith

“Has he [Begg] actually said he supports the Taliban at the moment? If not surely he should be given the benefit of the doubt?”

He has given every indication that he support the Taliban and avoided directly commenting on their current campaign, so it makes more sense for Amnesty to be cautious since organisations like the Taliban have an interest in manipulating and undermining human rights organisations. So no benefit of the doubt would be appropriate. Don’t forget that prominent spokespeople for Beggs organisation are outspoken defenders of human rights abuses.

120. resistor

Hardie writes, ‘I never saw any criminal behaviour by British soldiers in Afghanistan – on the contrary, I saw humane treatment of detainees and medical aid given to all who needed it.’

Oh yes, that’s what they all say – and did say when giving evidence. The British Army looks after its own. How many convictions have there been for crimes committed by Hardie’s comrades? Almost none.

If Dan Hardie really cared about human rights, he’d be opposing the British Army not in it.

resistor – I see where you are coming from and with the images of the recent Wikileaks video in mind I agree that it is indeed hard to see Dan’s comments as true in the light of overwhelming evidence. But, I would not accuse Dan of lying when he says he isn’t aware of these abuses and I wish you wouldn’t.

I should have said ‘witnessed’ instead of ‘aware’ in my comment @121.

Dan @ 112,

Could you keep to maybe one or two points at a time. I do not wish to spend every waking minute of every day refuting what you hav to say.

Firstly:

Your suggestion that the devout Muslim Begg admired a Communist government in Kabul is utterly foolish and contradicted by Begg’s own statements.

Where? Apart from the one that has been already deconstructed.

Secondly:

the transcript you cited includes an admission by Begg that he visited a ‘military training camp’ for fighters in Kashmir- who, as you can quite easily discover, are ISI-trained terrorists who routinely kill civilians.

This is true. He claims to have never taken it any further. He would, I expect argue that he turned back from the route of violent jihad.

Thirdly:

I think Begg should never have been maltreated as he was and that there is no evidence that he was a criminal, but on the basis of what he has said and who he has worked with I don’t think he should be speaking for Amnesty International.

You have made it pretty plain that you disapprove of torture. That has hardly been the issue. Moazzem Begg is a witness to torture, illegal incarceration and alleged judicial murder. If Amnesty International believe him, then they should platform him. To not do so would be a gross injustice and frankly against charter. By the way, you are at it again, he is certainly not speaking for Amnesty International.

Lastly, (thank f**k),

You just can’t be bothered examining the evidence because you might have to change your mind.

I think I have examined the evidence and there is nothing you have said that has changed my mind.

I assume that that is mutual.

124. Josh Scholar

I’ve only gotten a third of the way through this thread (read all of it yesterday, then came back), but I do have to mention that I’m reading increadible dishonesty over what Harry’s Place’s politics are..

This is a sign of weakness. If you can’t engage their actual political position, you have to pretend a straw man that you can handle easily.

For instance, Golden George, “HP and their posters are neo conservative and economic liberals. They are neo thatcherites looking forward to the privatisation of health and education They have more in common with Gove and Moore than any other political group. In fact they are th shock troops of Conservative Home and Migration watch A plague on your houses”

Had gotten everything exactly backwards. The above the comment line posters (you know the people who are actually involved with the blog) are Labour voters and 100% against privatization of health (they’ve never mentioned education in that context so I can’t be sure on that one).. and the commenters below the line are split.

As for Conor, I don’t recognize Harry’s Place in his list of exaggerations.

For instance, he entirely misrepresented the story about an ambulance in the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel. The actual article was about the gullibility of media and used as an example the evident fact that both the Red Cross and the newspapers were taken in by a hoax and whatever happened to that ambulance, it showed no signs of having been penetrated by a missile. A photograph of the top of the ambulance shows the carefully cut and folded ventilation hole that is on the top of similar vehicles. Obviously the vent cover had been taken off or shot off, but no missile ever came through that hole.

http://hurryupharry.org/2006/08/31/massaging-the-news/

I have no idea what the other stories he referred to are, I don’t remember any of them..

As for HP being a hate site, going by the articles, it is certainly not a hate site, and once again, going by the articles, most of the left sites in Britain could much more legitimately than this be accused of encouraging hatred against the United States and Israel.

125. Niels Christensen

There is a couple of things that I don’t like about the link that Sunny provideded from the Cage prisoners homepage..
It seems to me that Begg more and more put the school in front as the main reason for his stay i Afghanistan, he uses the school as an alibi and tries to represent him as an one man ngo : ‘it’s by now public knowledge’, right, but the only source for the public knowledge is Begg himself.
What we know is that the family arrived in june 2001, and they left Kabul in october 2001. In the meantime he also build some wells, and discussed with the Taliban about the school. If you look through interviews with Beggs father and and Beggs wife while he was detained, there is no mention of an up and running school.
Why doesn’t Begg discuss and reflect on his sympathy for Taliban when he made the decision to move to Afghanistan, and his opinions now.
There is more to the Taliban regime, than the regimes treatment of women, from the massacres on the shia muslims, to the destroying of The Buddhas of Bamyan .

‘Resistor’, there is a fellow lunatic of yours called ‘Brownie’, who publishes at a lovely website called ‘Harry’s Place’. His chief objection to me is that I approve of too few wars and don’t indulge in his bellicose armchair rhetoric, so you really should go over and tell him what a dreadful militarist I am. I think the news may make his head explode.

Douglas, your insistence that the Islamist Begg actually supported an atheistic Communist government in Kabul was amusing when you first made it and is now becoming rather strange. I think that Amnesty should welcome the victims of human rights abuses on to their platforms except when their own attachment to universal human rights is seriously in question, and I think that this unfortunately applies to Begg. You don’t, but the only piece of evidence that you have adduced in support of your argument shows that Begg appears to have no problem with the ISI’s practice of training thugs to murder people in Kashmir.

…I’ve got to run: ‘Resistor’ is on my trail.

Dan,

Well, I can only go on what I have read and heard directly from Moazzem Begg. It presents a picture of a troubled and possibly romantic person rather than the demonised character that is described here.

Do I think he has made mistakes in his life?

Yes I do. But I expect most of us have. But the mistakes we have made have not, usually, had the hellish consequences that his did.

What he has said since his release from Gitmo shows more moral fibre than I would be capable of.

That comment about the training camp for Kurds to fight Sadam Hussein was a bit odd wasn’t it? There were never any such camps in Afghanistan/Pakistan to my knowledge and the idea of them goes against all the geo-politics of the region. There was a small Al Qaeda aligned Kurdish faction that I suppose he might have been referring to, but it certainly would not have been the PUK, KDP (or PKK).

What I would take from the interview is that Begg had Islamist views that put him in sympathy with Moslems who were being attacked in Bosnia and he believed that they had a right to fight back. A lot of Jihadis started off in Bosnia and Chechnya where Moslems were being massacred. He then went to Afghanistan as an aid worker but with some sympathy for the Taliban. His comment about them being better than what had gone before would not have been an exceptional statement to make in the early 1990s (I remember a senior UN diplomat saying the same to me when they took Kabul) although I have more problems with someone holding that view by the end of the 1990s (particularly after the massacres in Mazar-i-Sharif and Bamyan in 1998).

He also, very clearly, condemns the attacks on 9/11 and 7/7.

He is in favour of peace talks with the Taliban – which is a reasonable position to hold – but these talks will presumably bring them into the government and this is the point where it gets murky. As Jon says, it would be very easy for him to clarify his position.

Begg has a very good understanding of the Taliban and the role of the ISI in supporting it. He has been to ISI camps which trained Jihadis for Kashmir (where as Dan points out they commit atrocities). He, therefore, obviously understands the contemporary meaning of the term ‘defensive jihad’. It would be very easy for him to say ‘I supported the Chechen and Bosnian military forces and I support the right of the people of Kashmir to self-determination. I also support armed resistance in Palestine.’ You can agree or disagree with these views, but I do not think that they are antithetical to human rights. However, the minute you use the same formulation to cover Afghanistan then I think there is a problem because the Taliban’s campaign is not a ‘defensive struggle’ by a national resistance movement – although that is how its supporters wish to portray it.

Amnesty has clearly documented and condemned Taliban attacks and said that peace should not be bought at the price of women’s rights. I can see why Amnesty might make a conscious decision to give a platform to someone whose views may well be diamterically opposed to this because they just want to focus on the Gitmo issue. However, I find it odd that when questioned they should resort to the use of a phrase like ‘defensive jihad’ or ‘jihad in self-defence’ which has such obvious connotations in an Af/Pak context.

Conor,

As this discussion has being going on for quite some time now, can I take it that there is no evidence whatsoever that Moazzem Begg himself used the phrase ‘defensive jihad’?

Josh: I really can’t be bothered arguing with someone who says

‘the evident fact that both the Red Cross and the newspapers were taken in by a hoax and whatever happened to that ambulance, it showed no signs of having been penetrated by a missile. A photograph of the top of the ambulance shows the carefully cut and folded ventilation hole that is on the top of similar vehicles. Obviously the vent cover had been taken off or shot off, but no missile ever came through that hole.’

That is just a lie and then another lie and then another lie. I wrote about it here

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/jan/02/thehoaxthatwasnt

I have since debated it dozens of times with people who always refer me back to the same ludicrous conspiracy theory cooked up by a blogger in California who has never even been to the Lebanon, but has a weird theory about the impact that missiles fired from drones have on soft-skinned vehicles. In continuing to propagate the lie that the Lebanese Red Cross faked the attack and that HRW, the Guardian and the ICRC all actively colluded in this conspiracy HP bloggers are helping to create a climate in which the neutrality of aid workers in war zones is undermined.

It comes from the same sort of mentality of people who see nothing wrong with taunting people who are working in Afghanistan and expressing the hope that they be physically attacked.

“Begg has a very good understanding of the Taliban and the role of the ISI in supporting it. He has been to ISI camps which trained Jihadis for Kashmir (where as Dan points out they commit atrocities).”

Conor – do you think Begg had this understanding at the time of the visits? And, as I asked Dan earlier, was he an exception at the time in visiting such a camp?

Douglas the ‘evidence’ is Claudio’s own quote. He says that

‘Moazzam Begg and others in his group Cageprisoners also hold other views which they have clearly stated, for example on whether one should talk to the Taleban or on the role of jihad in self-defence.’

If he has clearly stated his view on ‘jihad in self-defence’ in relation to Afghanistan, what is it?

133. Golden Gordon

Josh
That is not true.
On education voucher it takes the Tory line which is back door privatisation,
All the current blogs have either an anti Brown or anti labour slant. Name one difference between the positions of the place and the ideals of the neo thatcherite Gove.
Like Cohen and Bright, it stands as beacon for the dishonesty of modern politics. Right wingers who haven’t the courage to admit their own Thatcherite beliefs. At least Paul Johnson admitted his conversion to the right

Conor,

Fair enough. Can someone get Moazzem Begg on tape to discuss this openly? Does anyone have a way of contacting him?

I got the impression from Sunny that he was going to try to do so

Conor,

Yes, now you mention it, I believe he did. At least Moazzem Begg would get a fair interview from Sunny.

I’ll leave it at that.

Cheers.

137. Josh Scholar

Conor I’m not all that interested in whether that particular story was a hoax or not. The actual point of the article on Harry’s Place was that Hezbollah was managing the press, and there are other hoaxes and reports that back that up.

I’m certainly willing to admit that most people, myself included aren’t qualified to do forensics.

My actual point, that you misrepresented an article that in no way posited, “[a] conspiracy theory about the Red Cross blowing up their own ambulances” stands. The actual claim of Harry’s Place’s article was that newspapers were ignoring evidence that the description of the event was exaggerated.

No one in this discussion seems to be capable of discussing Harry’s Place honestly, which I am convinced stems from a deep feeling of weakness. You can’t face debating HP’s actual politics.

138. Josh Scholar

And I don’t see in your article that you did cover the simple fact that the description of how that ambulance was attacked doesn’t match the pictures.

The hole, usually shown from an particularly unrevealing angle is incontrovertibly a ventilation hole that all such ambulances have.

You wrote a lazy article that merely reported that other people had made a determination without bothering to parse the story at all. How unimpressive.

Re David Irving, miles up… AI has supported him in his arrest/conviction by the Austrian authorities. It’s just that they didn’t then invite him along to read from his books.

Josh: you started out by stating it incontrovertably was a hoax and then when I challenge this you say that you are ‘not interested’ in whether this is actually the case and don’t actually know anything much about the specifics of the case.

Thank you – at least I don’t have to waste half a day showing you pictures of other vehicles that were hit by drones at around the same time and suffered similar damage, referring you to the medical reports of the victims of the strike, pointing out how impossible it would have been for all of the different players (the ambulance crew, the doctors, the people in the ambulances, the HRW researchers, the Guardian journalist, the ICRC and – of course – the IDF) to have colluded together to come up with the same story.

I now expect a similarly rapid retreat from the claim that I ‘can’t face debating HP’s actual politics’!

I actually gave HP the benefit of the doubt when I first came across it (despite the fact that the context of this was me reading a thread in which I was called a terrorist and antisemite). The problem I have with the site is not so much its politics, but its fundamental dishonesty and nastiness.

For example, sticking with the Red Cross story, David Taube published this article without doing the slightest bit of background checking, and knowing that spreading such false stories could put the lives of its staff in danger. He did not know if it was true or not and he did not care. It suited his political agenda and that was the only thing that mattered.

As well as the Guardian piece that I linked you to I have raised this with him on a few occasions in threads at HP. I have walked him through the various hypothesis involved in a private email once and he has actually admitted at the end that it was about as plausible a theory as thinking that 9/11 was an inside job.

However, he has never corrected or retracted the story because as far as he is concerned the lives of a few aid workers are less important than his weird Manichean world view in which we are all apparently on ‘one side’ or the other of some kind of global struggle. That is also the reason why he thinks it is perfectly acceptable to ‘out’ a 17 year old school girl as a Trotskyist or hound people out of their jobs by misrepresenting their views.

‘You wrote a lazy article that merely reported that other people had made a determination without bothering to parse the story at all. How unimpressive’

And there you go again!

Conon – could you spend/waste half a minute answering my question at 131?

Conor, not Conan, obviously!

earwicga sure.

The Pakistan military’s policy of supporting jihad groups in Kashmir and the Taliban in Afghanistan dates back to the 1990s and so Begg would obviously have been aware of it. This was prior to 9/11 of course and that significantly changed things. Musharaf was given an ultimatum by Bush to help the US take out Al Qaeda or be targeted as well. He went back to his Generals and basically said the only way that we can continue to support the Kashmir groups is if we give them Al Qaeda. From 2001 until about 2008 the Pakistanis continued to provide covert to the Taliban, but turned over the occasional figure to them. The last time I was in Afghanistan was in the summer of 2008 and I remember an attack a couple of streets away on the Indian Embassy, which was almost certainly carried out with ISI support.

None of this is exactly secret information and so Begg would presumably know that the ISI was until recently deeply involved in supporting jihadi groups.

Conor, the only thing older than the Lebanese ambulance thing is the Viking raid on Lindisfarne.

Please stop.

146. Josh Scholar

“Josh: you started out by stating it incontrovertably was a hoax and then when I challenge this you say that you are ‘not interested’ in whether this is actually the case and don’t actually know anything much about the specifics of the case.”

Sigh.

The original articles about the attack included flashy details that are clearly false and exaggerated. The core claim of the story, that an ambulance was attacked seems to have turned out not to be false.

But the fact that the original story was not entirely truthful is news. The evident fact that the blogger you have so much contempt for did uncover at least one lie means that she meaningfully contributed to the process of journalism.

And to notice that there is a real story is not the same thing as perpetuating a hoax.

Every mention of Harry’s Place in this thread includes a smear. One would think that denouncing “enemies” every time they’re mentions was a social requirement in your culture.

You might try debating honestly, it has advantages.

This is similar to Flying Rodent above always pretending that the issue of this thread is whether Amnesty should put Mozam Begg on stage to talk about his detention, instead of whether “defensive jihad” is compatible with human rights and whether it’s appropriate to partner with his organization.

You all seem so intent on hating your political opponents that you can’t even debate the issues they bring up when misrepresenting what the issue is is more satisfying.

Hah hah Alec how terribly droll. Two ambulances were struck by missiles blowing the legs off one of the passengers and you think it is funny.

Maybe you have a joke to tell us about this:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/aug/14/afghanistan.internationalcrime

or this:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/mar/19/srilanka-international-aid-and-development

Or maybe you want to give us one of your little songs again.

Food for thought Conor. I found that part of the book confusing. It seems like it was something everybody did, but I don’t know the truth of that.

149. Josh Scholar

Forgive the typos. Let me paste that again with two fewer mistakes:

“Josh: you started out by stating it incontrovertably was a hoax and then when I challenge this you say that you are ‘not interested’ in whether this is actually the case and don’t actually know anything much about the specifics of the case.”

Sigh.

The original articles about the attack included flashy details that are clearly false and exaggerated. The core claim of the story, that an ambulance was attacked seems to have turned out not to be false.

But the fact that the original story was not entirely truthful is news. The evident fact that the blogger you have so much contempt for did uncover at least one lie means that she meaningfully contributed to the process of journalism.

And to notice that there is a real story is not the same thing as perpetuating a hoax.

Every mention of Harry’s Place in this thread includes a smear. One would think that denouncing “enemies” every time they’re mentioned was a social requirement in your culture.

You might try debating honestly, it has advantages.

This is similar to Flying Rodent above always pretending that the issue of this thread is whether Amnesty should put Mozam Begg on stage to talk about his detention instead of whether “defensive jihad” is compatible with human rights and whether it’s appropriate to partner with his organization.

You all seem so intent on hating your political opponents that you can’t even debate the issues they bring up when misrepresenting what the issue are is more satisfying.

Josh: one of my best friends and former colleagues in Afghanistan was working for UNHCR in south Lebanon at the time of that attack. I could not mention that then because it might have compromised his position. However, before you accuse me of writing ‘a lazy article that merely reported that other people had made a determination without bothering to parse the story at all’ you should maybe check your own sources.

I remember you mentioning that you know zombietime a while ago and so I think you should read my final paragraph about her in the spirit in which it was intended. I said

‘Human rights and humanitarian organisations are sometimes challenged for their alleged bias and lack of accountability, as is the mainstream media, but I think that some bloggers need to reflect on this themselves. Zombietime, the blog that made the original claims responded to the Human Rights Watch Report by stating that: “I do not have the resources, free time or political stature to go to Lebanon to inspect the scene on-site myself.” However, as I have written before, these types of claims do really place the lives of humanitarian aid workers in danger. I think that an apology would be in order.’

I think that bloggers can contribute to political debate and reporting and I have no real problems with the first piece she wrote. She probably looked at the picture of the ambulances showing the missile strike and said ‘hang on, that is a ventilation shaft not a missile hole’ (the strike went straight through the shaft presumably because it was in the centre of the ambulance and that was what was being aimed at). She also noted some ‘fog of war’ reporting.

From that she contructed a theory that the whole thing was a hoax. Her original claim was widely reported and so the ICRC, the Guardian and HRW went back and reinvestigated the story, which re-confirmed all of the original claims.

That was the point where I think zombietime should have admitted that she got it wrong and that was the point I made in the article.

Our friend Alec finds this subject remarkably hilarious. I am guessing that this is because he has never been in a thin-skinned vehicle, which has had missiles fired at it. I have and it is not.

151. Golden Gordon

Every mention of Harry’s Place in this thread includes a smear. One would think that denouncing “enemies” every time they’re mentions was a social requirement in your culture.

I would say Josh that is how HP operates by smearing opponents of the neo conservative right.
It just consists of snide remarks on the site aimed at anybody who dares question the policies of the US and the Cameron right.
Even moderate AntiPilger type leftists like Hari are targeted if they dare stray from the noe con line.
HP is a rightist site allied to likes of Migration watch, Pyjama News, James Delingpole, Chas Newkley Burden, Cohen, Steven Pollard, Edmund Standing and Conservative home.

152. Golden Gordon

Alec ,is part of the HP smear team if he is not writing articles for central office

153. Josh Scholar

Ok, reading the rest of your post, you have some points, though, frankly I think you’re overstating your case.

No on believes that Red Cross workers will be in danger of being lynched by angry Israelis if there’s some doubt about reports from Lebanon.

For God’s sake, there are always doubts about news reports in that part of the world, anyone who pays attention to the middle east takes every report with a grain of salt. One more doubt will go unnoticed.

Sure Josh, but it is always ‘one more doubt’. I was working in Sri Lanka last year and the constant drip-drip of lies and misrepresentations about aid agencies from the government and Sinhalese chauvinist parties created an atmosphere where workers were constantly being attacked. Even that dim-witted leftist Naomi Klein repeated some of them in her book The Shock Doctrine.

I had to exercise an awful lot of caution in writing the article that I linked you about the killing of one of my Sri Lankan colleagues in case anything I said put them in any more danger. I know this comes with the territory of my job, but I find it irksome in the extreme when people sitting in London or New York mindlessly regurgitate the propaganda (emigre communities always seem to be the most extreme).

Hah hah Alec how terribly droll. Two ambulances were struck by missiles blowing the legs off one of the passengers and you think it is funny.

Here you go again, equating criticism of you with blanket dismissal of whichever cause you’ve attached yourself to with not inconsiderable passive aggression. I made no comment about the events surrounding the attacks on the ambulances, and do not intend in being drawn into such a discussion.

This is a discussion about Begg, CP and AI – unrelated to Lebanon. Yet, as per usual, you’ve directed it onto why your probity has been questioned by some blog somewhere. This is quite a feat, considering it was your thread to begin with.

MMN: have you never thought why people hate Harry’s Place so much?

Because they’re delusional paranoid loonies who’ve become unhinged by a website which is known by only a few thousand people, if even that?

156. Josh Scholar

Conor: I don’t have time today to be reading reports to find out how believable your “we aimed the the center of the conveniently placed red cross and got a hole in one, on the ventilation shaft YAHOOO!” scenario is. From the pictures I would it shaft didn’t happen. The is no sign of an explosion inside the ambulance nor an exit hole in the bottom. The top of the ambulance seems a bit caved. I remember those details from discussions at the time. Perhaps there was an explosion above the ambulance.

GG: I would say Josh that is how HP operates by smearing opponents of the neo conservative right.

There you go again. You can’t even admit that hawkish center left is left. The words conservative and right are attractive nuisances for the immature, you can’t resist you can’t resist, you can’t resist. I’m sure you’re using every pejorative you can think of.

Fuck off Alec

Truth speaking not pleasant is it, Conor?

159. Josh Scholar

Alec, this tiny world of blog-gang wars between obsessed nerds is what this thread was always about.

Look at the players. Sunny and his blog is a mirror image of Harry’s Place with slightly different politics. Flying Rodent’s entire online existence is devoted to obsessing over hating everyone who liked Tony Blair. He’s bought web domains based on that.

Resistor is a nutcase about Israel. One of the first times I ran into him, I suggested that the Palestinians would have been more successful if they had emulated Gandhi’s methods and was called a Mossad agent for my trouble.

No doubt the rest of the people in this comment section are as illustrious.

We’ve crashed a meeting of the opposing gang. They’re all circling us in their leather pocket protectors and pointing their mice menacingly… They will break out in a west side story song in any mintue

Josh, there were exit holes in the ambulances and a HRW researcher found corresponding holes punched into the ground below where the vehicles were parked. The only explanation that zombietime could come up with for this was that the researchers might have dug them themselves. In other words, for her story to have stood up, HRW had to be actively involved in a conspiracy. The same applies to ICRC (they interviewed the doctors who treated the wounded and looked at the log books when the injuries were recorded).

Everyone told the same basic story about what happened and so the amount of collusion would have been extraordinary.

The IDF admitted that they were firing artillery in the vicinity where the ambulances were struck and at no point backed zombietime’s claims that they did not possess a weapon capable of inflicting the damage that was shown in the photos (they did rebut other claims made against them during that campaign). A missile from a zone could certainly hit with the precision which you seem to find fanciful and it is a fairly bleeding obvious that if you are shooting at a target you are going to aim at the centre. The colouring of the ventilation shaft cover would have stood out agains the white roof so would have made an obvious target on which to train.

So there are two possible scenarios.

1. IDF drones hit two ambulances – in which case there should be an inquiry as to how and why that happened and those responsible should be held to account
2. There is a massive conspiracy in which everyone is lying to us because of some secret agenda.

Which version would HP prefer to promote?

161. Josh Scholar

The discussion I read was before the HRW report, so the speculations I remember are out of date.

By the way I don’t know “Zombie”.

She apparently took a picture of me handing out leaflets when George Galloway came to speak in San Francisco, but she didn’t identify herself.

Josh: when I started blogging I had absolutely no idea that these ‘rival gangs’ that you describe existed. I had written a few pieces for the Guardian when I was in Afghanistan and Colombia and then when they launched CiF they asked me to contribute. I used to write about where I was or what I was doing and reflect on issues relating to my work.

As I said above I only came across HP because some moron in one of its threads decided to label me a terrorist and antisemite. I then had a series of run-ins with HP contributors on Darfur and Afghanistan and the woeful ‘Euston manifesto’ that they were promoting.

It has never particularly been about ‘gangs’ for me. As you can see from this thread, Sunny and I disagree on the Begg issue. I wrote the above piece more because I know that it will be read by my former colleagues at Amnesty. When I write for CiF (less and less these days) most of my articles are about Brazil, where I live, or aid work and most of the people who comment on the pieces do so because of their interest in those issues.

I very rarely read HP anymore, mainly because I find it very boring. Its articles seem to have got longer and longer recently and it very rarely covers issues that I find interesting in any depth (I noted an exception to this further up the thread). I am sure that some of the people involved in the site are perfectly pleasant, but I don’t think the site itself contributes very much to rational political debate any more.

Yes, Josh, the parochialism is incredible… the principle which Sahgal is defending (never mind if she’s making a misjudgment, it’s what she’s defending) is directly relevant to tens millions of women across North Africa, the Middle East and West and South Asia; and indirectly relevant to tens of millions of both men and women elsewhere.

LC, PP and HP on the other hand are blogs whose combined regular readership is unlikely to be far into five figures.

Alec – I doubt you ever recognise the ‘truth so your capacity to hurt with it is highly unlikely.

What is the ‘misjudgement’ you refer to here?

“the principle which Sahgal is defending (never mind if she’s making a misjudgment, it’s what she’s defending)”

I doubt you ever recognise the ‘truth so your capacity to hurt with it is highly unlikely.

Yes, Earwicga, ‘cos you’ve just made a blogpost which sneered at Sahgal based on one word in a newspaper article (i.e. not a press-release contain her full comments).

What is the ‘misjudgement’ you refer to here?

Okie, now I’m begining to feel sorry for you. You clearly believe Sahgal was wrong to make public her concerns. You believe she made a misjudgment.

I’d suggest you go back a couple of months and start listening properly.

I’ll ask you the question again Alec – what is the ‘misjudgement’ you refer to?

Are you taking the piss?

168. Golden Gordon

Connor pretty well sums up HP.
Preaching to the converted neo con.
As for been hawkish left Josh. I think not, look at the support HP get from all sections of the right.
HP hasn’t the courage to admit that it believes in the Cameron vision and is more closer in content to Conservative home than any other site.
Josh tell me the difference between yourselves and Michael Gove.

169. FlyingRodent

Ho hum, there were howling errors in the initial reporting of the AI/Saghal issue in the Times, and subsequent coverage by writers in the Observer, the Spectator, Standpoint and Slate has ranged from intentionally misleading to utterly deranged.

When nearly every journalist covering the issue presents the same series of “mistakes” – Saghal being suspended for “dissent” rather than “for denouncing her employers in the Murdoch press” being the most common – it’s entirely reasonable to point this out and ask what’s going on.

What’s going on is either that a) lots of journalists have made the same errors and presented an entirely one-eyed case in an innocent and wildly improbable coincidence or that b) lots of journalists are prepared to play fast and loose with the facts in pursuit of waving the Big Waggy Finger Of Tut-Tut at Amnesty.

This is an easy case to make, since you can point out flaws and invite comments. That’s as opposed to, picking a random example from this thread, excitedly repeating some hilarious, obviously wrong claims made by well-known wingnut lunatic idiots that OMG the International Red Cross Bombs Its Own Ambulances Because It Loves Terrorists And Hates Freedom.

The former can be rationally defended whereas with the latter, you’re forced to say things like “I was just raising questions” when people use the issue as a reason to doubt your credibility and impartiality, because that bullshit excuse sounds better than “I was deliberately impugning an independent aid agency and enabling a gang of cretinous right wing tools out of pure political expediency”.

Golden Gordon, what d’you believe neo-conservatism represents?

171. Josh Scholar

Earlier in this conversation I was tempted to joke that GG things that everyone who isn’t in RESPECT or the SWP is a neocon, and the SWP might be conservative since they broke with Galloway…

Little did I guess that his view of political wings really is that uhm, simple.

earwicga says ‘But, I would not accuse Dan of lying when he says he isn’t aware of these abuses and I wish you wouldn’t.’

I didn’t accuse Hardie of lying, just that if he knew about such abuses he’d say the same thing, so his denials carry no weight. In fact, if he knew and blew the whistle, his feet wouldn’t touch the ground as they hurried him out the back door. The proof is that all the British military witnesses at inquests, inquiries etc. all say they saw nothing – and they can’t all be telling the truth.

Hardie knew when he joined up what the British Army’s record was like. Even those few who were convicted of murder in NI were welcomed back into the ranks. Hardie is only too happy to serve alongside murderers and torturers – and sometimes salute them.

173. Golden Gordon

Josh
Typical of your response.
As I said earlier the SWP, Respect, HP, BNP, Muslim brotherhood and neo conservatism are all foul and intolerant
Actually I would describe my politics as social democrat.
I believe in a mixed economy and a welfare state. Unlike you lot
Now answer the question about the differences between you and Gove

174. Golden Gordon

As for simplistic political views when you called Hari a Maoist and traitor for criticising Cohen could be termed as simplified thinking.

175. mettaculture

Conor Foley

I have read this thread through twice because of the importance of what you have written.

It is clearly written and cogently argued.

You have put a case to Amnesty International (as a friend and supporter) identifying the dubious assertion of ‘Jihad in self defence’ as being compatible with human rights(as a friend and supporter) as highly problematic and in need of serious thought.

I was about to write ‘debate’ but it unfortunately clear that AI does not ‘do’ debate.

Now I do not write for HP satanic office central, nor was I around for the ‘ambulance’ debate (I was probably in Venezuela) but I do read it, comment there and have occasionally guest posted.

I am also an international aid type and have been shot at and targeted for bombing (surviving Al Qaeda’s first known) so I appreciate a lot of what you write.

I have criticised you, over your ‘beware Human Rights Imperialism’ precisely because I thought it could contribute to the kind of lazy denigration of essential and unloved work by lazy anti-Imperialist numbskulls, such as Naomi Klein, undermining furtherer the always precarious position of those who dare to get dirty because they cannot stand unnecessary human misery.

My criticism of you was contextual and at the level of ideas, not personal. I hold no animus towards you, nor really towards any other cyber person or their avatars as I do remember (at least some time later) that they are actual people with fragile lives like all human beings..

I have got horribly silly and talked mean and nasty on blogs to people and felt bad about it.

It can’t be fixed with some people as they hold personal grudges. I wish they would not but that’s the way it is.

So no grudge here Conor and as I say I have read avidly your take, a very important one on the recent social and political history of what defensive Jihad actually means in the context of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I think we could take this further as my comments on the thread at HP have shown and actually see defensive Jihad as a central organizing principle among Jihadi’s.

After all it is the non-Muslim invasion of the Arabian peninsula and its holy places that was seen as an invasion of Muslim sovereign territory by Al Qaeda and their call to Jihad has always been justified within an Islamic Jurisprudence of the righteousness of war in Defensive Jihad.

In practice all Jihadism justifies itself in defensive Jihad there is no argument of offensive Jihad (I have indicated the reasons for this in Fiqh and Ijma).

Neo-Defensive Jihad (for want of a better term) is a doctrine of armed struggle that is like all fundamentalism part traditionalist and part modernist that shares justificatory language with the modernist political Islamism of Mawdud and Qutb (though always clothing itself in the language of the Sunna and Shariah).

Yusuf Al Qaradawi for example justifies female Palestinian suicide bombers killing Israeli Civilians in the classical language of Islamic jurisprudence of War.

You can identify this ideological complex of defensive Jihad at work even when the term is not used directly by the use of such ‘terms of art’ as an ‘obligation on all Muslims’ to ‘defend the faith against the aggressor’ a ‘woman may act with out the permission of her husband, ‘a child without the permission of its guardian’ and a ‘slave without the permission of its Master’. Qaradawi has used all these terms in justifying suicde bombing in Israel even though he would seek to limit the use of defensive Jihad in a wider sense.

However the genie is out of the Islamist bottle and Jihadi’s by extending the nature of Muslim greivance and the aggression of non-Muslims and the threat to the faith can ever extend the remit of defensive Jihad to justify their armed and militant actions.

Indeed if you go right now to Cage Prisoners website and click Islamic Issues and look for Scholarly and scriptural justification for the rules of engagement in contesting the imprisonment of Muslims (of which Guantanamo is a part) you will find that the Jurisprudence used extends defensive Jihad even this far.

So My question is not going to be what did Moazzam Begg say when and when did he use that term exactly you and I and Claudio Cordone know that Moazzam Begg does justify Defensive Jihad.

I am less concerned about the details exactly of what Moazzam Begg might state publicly what he believes this to be.

like you given the obvious, and far from abstruse or difficult to document, everyday violent observable things done in the name of defensive Jihad in violation of the most basic of human rights formulations, why on Earth should a senior spokesperson of AI even seek to justify Defensive Jihad as human rights instrument compliant?

I have another serious question for you though Conor. You seem to argue that an armed struggle for national liberation or self determination is per se human rights compliant (or perhaps neutral would be a fairer term) but is it really?

I am not arguing for one second that the human rights of those engaged (or supporting) in a war of national Liberation should not have their human rights vigorously defended.

What I am questioning is the extent to which Amnesty or any other Human Rights Organisation should accept armed struggle at all as a defence of human rights.

Surely to begin to argue the human rights legitimacy of armed struggle is to begin the story of defending a righteous war (as opposed to necessary force to ensure human rights are not violated) for objectives other than the defence of human rights?

What are exactly the human rights compliant rules of armed struggle?

Can a precious human rights organisation like Amnesty International ever afford to allow itself to ‘give voice’ to someone who would plead a human right to deny a right, no matter how unfairly they may themselves have been treated?

176. Josh Scholar

“As for simplistic political views when you called Hari a Maoist and traitor for criticising Cohen could be termed as simplified thinking.”

You have me confused with someone else.

Also, from your list you can’t tell neocon from paleocon from libertarian from just plain nutcase right. Nor can you tell left from right.

Yeah the designations are somewhat arbitrary, but communicating in English involves using words the same way everyone else does.

177. mettaculture

Conor

Perhaps for the record and for others who think the question relates in a very lawrerly way to what Moazzam Begg may actually have said about Defensive Jihad.

Here is a taster;

Mr Begg, writing for Anas al Tikriti’s
Cordoba Foundation:

[ “By consensus of the Islamic schools of thought, jihad becomes an
individual obligation, like prayer and fasting, on Muslim men and
women when their land is occupied by foreign enemies. That obligation
extends to neighbouring lands until the enemy has been expelled. If
the whole body of believers abandon it, they are in a state of sin; if
enough of them do it to complete the task, they are absolved.”

“Although in the West jihad is often seen as terrorism it is correct
to describe it as tourism. Prophet Muhammad said: ‘The tourism of my
nation is jihad.’ This is one reason why many Muslims from thousands
of miles away travelled to places as far and wide as Palestine,
Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan.”

“If resisting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan was jihad, if the
repelling the massacres by the Serbs in Bosnia was jihad, then how can
resisting the current occupation of these Muslims lands be anything
else?” ]

See pp. 20-25 here:

http://www.thecordobafoundation.com/attach/Arches_issue_02x_Web.pdf

178. Josh Scholar

“Although in the West jihad is often seen as terrorism it is correct
to describe it as tourism. Prophet Muhammad said: ‘The tourism of my
nation is jihad.’ This is one reason why many Muslims from thousands
of miles away travelled to places as far and wide as Palestine,
Chechnya, Kashmir and Afghanistan.

I’ve seen that in action, it’s appalling. I can think of one American kid, a convert known as Ismail Royer, who showed up in Kashmir to help Lashkar-e-Tobia, (a terrorist group engaging in ethnic cleansing). Luckily he was arrested when he got back the to the states, but you could go to web sites where his friends and numerous hangers on praised this damn terrorist and were happy that he’d been, of all things, training American Muslim children in tactics on paint-ball trips.

Tourism to participate in ethnic cleansing. Before being exposed to this, it would never have occurred to me to be grateful for Christian missionaries and their ethics.

And the Muslims who were praising this act of piracy weren’t necessarily that far from the mainstream. The one who’s web site I ran into this on worked on Obama’s campaign, though no doubt only on a local level. Another I argued with seemed a fairly cosmopolitan Brit, though his own website was winking at Nazi antisemitism…

It’s a real cultural miasma, this mixture of modernity and unapologetic, blood-drenched savagery.

179. Josh Scholar

There’s another cause of tourism terrorism in today’s Wall Street journal. A pregnant woman who is a convert [and perhaps her boyfriend as well] are charged…

180. Josh Scholar

I meant to type “…another case…”

Oh gawwd. The trolls from HP are here. At this point I think any chance of a sensible discussion is over Dan H and Conor F. I would like to reply but I’ll have to do it in another thread. We’ll return to this. I have no interest in getting involved here.

In continuing to propagate the lie that the Lebanese Red Cross faked the attack and that HRW, the Guardian and the ICRC all actively colluded in this conspiracy HP bloggers are helping to create a climate in which the neutrality of aid workers in war zones is undermined.

Except they never, ever, did that, and no-one can produce a single line from an HP post that supports this claim.

It comes from the same sort of mentality of people who see nothing wrong with taunting people who are working in Afghanistan and expressing the hope that they be physically attacked.

Not that again. I was once challenged to a fight right here in the comments threads at LC. When I pointed this out to an admin, I was told to pull myself together. I was recently stalked onto a social media site by Dan Hardie, he of the sensible commentary above, several years after he, too, challenged me to a fight.

What is it with LC commenters?

By all means people can assert that a blog shall be known by the worst of its commenters, but to do that AND write for LC demands a spectacular lack of self-awareness.

Sunny,

You mean like I was “trolling” last night on PP when I posted that link you asked for showing AI and CP have indeed worked together, contrary to your mistaken belief?

Mettaculture: thanks – interesting stuff.

I had been thinking about this human rights and armed struggle/pacifism debates myself this afternoon. I will inwardly digest your comments properly tomorrow and try to post something more substantial in reply in a new thread over the next few days – time permitting.

Sunny can you ban Alec please.

Brownie: that is just weird. David’s original article says:

‘A particularly widly reported incident involved the alleged targeting by Israel of Red Cross ambulances in Lebanon, causing explosions which injured Red Cross workers and those they were transporting. A third right-wing blog – Zombietime – has dissected the photographic evidence in detail and argues, with good cause, that this story was also manufactured, in part or in whole. In particular, a circular hole in the ambulance roof – said to be the entry point of a missile – appears more plausibly to have been caused by the removal of a ventilation port.’

‘Melanie Phillips may have a reputation for hyperbole: but I do think she makes a fair point here: In short, much of the most incendiary media coverage of this war seems to have been either staged or fabricated.’

That is the only above the line comment I have ever read about the incident by Harry’s Place. You describe the attack on the ambulences as ‘alleged’ and approvingly quote two people who say that the evidence was fabricated.

You have just accused me of lying. I have shown you my source. Do you seriously want to continue this?

Do you seriously want to continue this?

Brownie will just move the conversation on to another rhetorical question. He might even use some bizarre example involving the BNP to illustrate how clever he is.

Sunny can you ban Alec please.

Pleasure.

Oh and Brownie just before you get too carried away with your selective memory about the blog that Neil wrote on the night before I went to Afghanistan, can I just remind you of the sequence of events that actually took place.

You and Neil deliberately set out to bait and goad me on that thread (I think you were trying to prove your vastly superior experience of working in war zones at the time). Your pet idiot Morgoth posted a comment saying that it would be great if I would be physically attacked while I was there. I subsequently wrote a private email from Afghanistan to yourself, David Toube and Neil complaining about the tone of the attacks and received a reply from Neil telling me that Afghanistan was not a particularly dangerous place for aid workers or British soldiers (I have the email on file and still read it on occasion).

You at least had the grace to apologise to me for your remarks – although only privately. Neil has not. David has subsequently written a post implying that I was some kind of weird paranoid because I actually thought that HP posters were planning to attack me.

My complaints are not about the commenters that you attract to your website, but about the behaviour of the site’s owners and above the line contributors.

188. Josh Scholar

Conor get down off your horse, you already admitted in this thread that the hole is a ventilation hole.

Were you propagating a hoax when you admitted that, or does that reasoning only apply to other people?

189. Josh Scholar

Is it now a crime to have ever used Occams razor and doubt that the same hole has two causes?

Josh: the missile hit the ventilation port; that was its entry point. There is nothing strange about this (apart from the claim that the whole incident was fabricated which is what Zombietime argued and David agreed with).

Seriously, read the reports. The ambulance was thin-skinned, the missile was inert. The damage caused is consistent with those two facts. The IDF used similar weapons against several other vehciles at around the same time with similar results. It is very clear what happened – there was no conspiracy, no fabrication.

You are begining to sound like one of those 9/11 Troofers who repeatedly demands that I answer questions about the melting point of steel.

191. Josh Scholar

I just trusted my eyes. It was clear that a pristine tool-made hole with a clean cut edge folded outward never had any missile barrelling through it.

I just took 10 minutes to see what the current claims about this was. It seems that Australian newspapers “The Sydney Morning Herald” and “The Age” are saying that the actual fact is that all of the News organizations have been publishing pictures of the wrong ambulance.

Well I can’t help that.

If I don’t hallucinate the right narrative into a fraudulent picture then I’m equivalent to a “9/11 Troofer” Well sorry for not being dishonest fast enough. I should learn to conform and lie immediately so I don’t get judged by people like you.

192. Josh Scholar

Also keep in mind that the source for that picture was the Red Cross’ own web site.

So once again, I can’t help it if the Red Cross can’t find the right picture.

193. Golden Gordon

“Also, from your list you can’t tell neocon from paleocon from libertarian from just plain nutcase right. Nor can you tell left from right.”
Which one on the list is not either a neo con or neo con precursor.
Also most neo cons look upon themselves as economic liberals as well as neo cons. the only exception is Ron Paul who is a true economic libertarian and is not a neo con.
Again the insults, The list I gave were all either precursors or self confessed neo cons. Even Cohen mentions Fitzpatrick as a neo con in his article about the Falklands.
Again the bullying instinct of HP. Like a pack of wolves.
Also you cannot answer a straight question.
I note that on the HP site.The site now is just a group of right wing clowns back slapping each other and reinforcing their own predujices
What is the difference between your view Josh the view of HP generally and the views of Michael Gove (who is a self confessed neo thatcherite).

Sunny personally I think it would be wrong to ban Alec or anybody else from HP

194. Golden Gordon

Your pet idiot Morgoth posted a comment saying that it would be great if I would be physically attacked while I was there.
They use him alot.
Interestingly he is self confessed right winger with strange views on race who agrees with 95% of the thread commentary. That sums up HP.
Also HP is linked to organisations such as Migration watch via Standing and others.

195. Josh Scholar

They use him alot.

You seem to be using an obscure definition of the word “use” that I was not previously aware of.

That sentence is true only if “use” means:
1) be embarrassed by, embarrassed for and amused by
2) barely tolerate

Your assumption that the owners of the blog are happy with the comments below the line, and “aim” the nutcases at outsiders is nonsense. But they do prefer to let people discredit themselves to banning them, and tend to let even the worst people hang themselves with their own ropes before banning them. The BNP’s “legal adviser” who has been trying to get Harry’s Place taken down from the internet is a perfect example of this.

196. Golden Gordon

1. You still haven’t answered the question about Gove ?
2. Also Standing’s, a regular poster, links with Migration watch ?. Who have the same objective as the BNP in regards to immigration. In fact the BNP endorsed one of your and Cohens own favourites Anthony Browne .
This by the BNP London councillor Richard Barnbrook.

The lefties are out in force again today, despite the “civil war” that is about to break out within NuLabour, they are trying to use me to besmirch Anthony Browne. They cannot seem to come to grips with the fact that the Marxist Ken Livingstone was elected out of office and it simply has yet to sink in that somebody like Boris Johnson and of course myself now push the buttons.

I have not exactly been backward in coming forward to criticise some of the Mayor’s rather exotic appointments but in the case of Anthony Browne’s swift transfer to City Hall as head of policy I cannot help but think that this is at least a step in the right direction. Obviously there are people within the BNP that I would like to see there instead, but all things in good time.

3. If Morgoth is “out of tune” with HP, why does he agree with 95% of the threads
Stop been evasive and answer the questions

197. Josh Scholar

Stop been evasive and answer the questions

Should I write a self-criticism too?

I have better things to do with my time than describe a bloody blog to you in detail.

Amazing, but people can agree on one or two issues (in this case the core issues of the blog) and disagree on everything else. When I showed up at Harry’s place it was run by a guy named Harry. In any case it’s focus has always been mocking the far left for betraying its principles and allying with sectarian fascists and for tolerating or even promoting sectarian hatred…

After that there was splitting with most of the left over Iraq, and some widening of topics to include the mainstream parties’ support of sectarian politics, and tolerance of hatred, attacking racist parties, attacking nationalist parties, some focus on Israel, some criticism of Israel and few posts on American politics…

The readership runs from socialists through right wing nutters and except for the trolls all of them agree that sectarian politics and antisemitism are problems in British politics and academia.

There are fewer right wingers than it appears as one of them is a nutcase who pretends to be half a dozen people.

Ok. Now I have work to do.

Any chance of returning to the original topic?

I always thought AI would take the line of: look, we had to partner (or whatever) with Begg/CP on Gitmo, but we’ll be stopping now, OK? (And Gita will be back soon.)

Introducing/legitimising the concept of “defensive jihad” however, as Conor says, does raise some additional questions.

Sorry CJCJC – but I’ve been away for a few days and want to join in the conversation about HP, belatedly! I think I could describe my politics in pretty much the same way Gordon does @173 – social democratic, welfare state, mixed economy, Labour voting. Like others here I have reservations about HP – about individual articles, occasional spiteful or ill-judged campaigns, distribution of topics. BUT I also agree with quite a few of the posts or at least think they raise interesting points and repay further debate. It’s unfortunate, I think, that the distribution of topics combined with the light touch moderation means that HP attracts so many commenters with strange and/or far right views. I’ve found Pickled Politics, which seems to attract a rather narrower spectrum of views, in some ways a better forum for actually discussing issues in a detailed and more or less constructive way.

Cheers for the sensible discussion, Sunny, FR and Conor.

This, btw, is another piece of rubbish from Brownie: ‘I was recently stalked onto a social media site by Dan Hardie, he of the sensible commentary above, several years after he, too, challenged me to a fight.’

Ho hum. Several years ago Brownie said that since I disagreed with his views on Northern Ireland I should speak to his brother, who is a soldier, and could expect to be beaten up if I did so (‘hope you have good medical insurance’ and other such phrases). I told him to stop threatening to use his brother to beat me up and invited him to do the job himself. That was the end of Brownie’s threats.

Recently, I suggested to Brownie on the Crooked Timber thread that he should be ashamed about insulting Conor Foley just before he went to Afghanistan.

Furious, Brownie said that he and Conor, were on terms of ‘mutual respect'; ‘I’ve only ever expressed admiration for the work he does'; and ‘If Conor ever gets wind of this thread and gives his consent, I’d be more than happy to release our private correspondence. Do you have any idea how much of a dickhead you’re going to look when/if that happens?’

Now here we have what have Conor thinks about Brownie:

‘You and Neil deliberately set out to bait and goad me on that thread (I think you were trying to prove your vastly superior experience of working in war zones at the time). Your pet idiot Morgoth posted a comment saying that it would be great if I would be physically attacked while I was there. I subsequently wrote a private email from Afghanistan to yourself, David Toube and Neil complaining about the tone of the attacks and received a reply from Neil telling me that Afghanistan was not a particularly dangerous place for aid workers or British soldiers (I have the email on file and still read it on occasion).

You at least had the grace to apologise to me for your remarks – although only privately…

My complaints are not about the commenters that you attract to your website, but about the behaviour of the site’s owners and above the line contributors.’

And on the Lebanon: ‘You (Brownie) have just accused me of lying. I have shown you my source. Do you seriously want to continue this?’

Ah, mutual respect…Someone really is looking like a dickhead- aren’t you, Brownie?

And if ‘Neil’ of Harry’s Place said that it was not dangerous to be a British soldier in Helmand in summer 2008, he is beneath contempt. We took a lot of casualties that summer and here was this pro-war blogger safely back in England, laughing about the easy job we had. Quite disgusting.

Cjcjc, Sarah and Dan

I have only just caught up with this thread again. We certainly covered a lot of ground yesterday and wandered through a variety of topics! If I have the time I would like to put up another post in response to Mettaculture’s interesting comments (and also to cjcjc), but time is in ever shorter supply for me these days. . . . .

On the HP issue, I have little to add to what I wrote here:

http://liberalconspiracy.org/2009/11/16/maybe-that%e2%80%99s-what-grown-ups-do/

Blog and email exchanges can get heated and people maybe say or write things in the heat of the moment that they afterwards regret. Brownie has apologised for what he wrote in the thread that is referred to and I received a nice email from him at the time of the exchange I referred to in which he recalled his own feelings when his father went off to the Falklands. I considered the issue closed with him – although since he referred to it again I thought I should set the record straight.

I agree with Sarah that HP’s spiteful and ill-judged campaigns against people detract from the message that they are trying to get across. Presumably if enough sensible people keep telling the site’s editors this then the message may get through eventually.

Dan Hardie @ 200,

That thread over at Crooked Timber was, err, a revelation shall we say?

Cheers, Conor. I’m glad Brownie apologised, as there was plenty to apologise for, and will leave it at that. That email from Neil sounds like a nasty piece of work.

I always thought AI would take the line of: look, we had to partner (or whatever) with Begg/CP on Gitmo, but we’ll be stopping now, OK? (And Gita will be back soon.)

It seems she is still suspended pended a disciplinary enquiry. I can’t see why it would take so long – surely it is Amnesty’s interests (not to mention Gita’s) to get it sorted one way another as quickly as possible.

Thanks Conor – it would be good to have a few more left/liberal voices below the line on HP. I was away on holiday when my own piece on Amnesty went up there so couldn’t intervene much – but I was glad to see an HP blogger – Gene – give a robust answser to a comment from someone who wanted me to explain why I didn’t like the ‘Atlas Shrugged’ blog. There’s quite a bit of middle ground between me – a member of Amnesty – having a few issues with Cordone’s letter and Pamela Geller!

A lot of people here used to comment there but gave up because of the nutters. I agree that Gene is one of the better above the line people.

Dan,

Conor is reading this thread. If he wants to supprot your accusations that I’m lying about private correspondence and the like, he can do so, but I doubt he will.

I did say I respect the work Conor does and I do, but I also said I disagree with him on a fair few things and I do. The fact I’m doing so here, on this thread, and he is reciprocating, doesn’t invalidate or contradict anything else I’ve claimed about us being able to disagree without having insult or dislike each other. Just because you can’t manage it, doesn’t mean other grown-ups can’t.

You did challenge me to a fight – you mentioned the name of some boxing gym where you can be found on a certain night of the week – and you did stalk me onto Facebook. Both of these things are true. There was no “end” to threats from me because there was no “start” to any.

It’s Friday night and I’l lbe fucked if I’n going to spend it pissing into the wind, so for the third time in as many weeks, feel free to grab the last word.

Conor,

What Morgoth said to you was unpleasant and I perfectly understand how it might upset your wife and therefore upset you, but it definitely fits the “dumb-ass things people say in internet arguments” model than it does anything more sinister. He doesn’t know any Pashtuns and you know he doesn’t. If you’re looking to paint HP in a bad light, there are more egregious examples of poor behaviour from our blog commenters I can think of. I’ve never tried to deny that some HP commenters act like complete dickheads from time to time, but neither do I accept the picture of HP that you and our other detractors paint.

Firstly, no-one has to click on the comments – some of the best blogs out there don’t have a comments facility and we get a lot of incoming mail from readers who say they don’t read the comments – and secondly, assuming you are as clued up about HP as you like to claim, you should know the names of the commenters you need to skip past if you do decide to read the comments. No-one makes you or anyone else read what Morgoth thought about X on day Y. There are plenty of sane, educated people in those comments boxes you can join in discussion if you want to, or you can fixate on the few that talk out of their arseholes.

Re the ambulance strike, here’s what you said:

“In continuing to propagate the lie that the Lebanese Red Cross faked the attack and that HRW, the Guardian and the ICRC all actively colluded in this conspiracy HP bloggers are helping to create a climate in which the neutrality of aid workers in war zones is undermined.”

I went through this with Flying Rodent at his blog a few weeks, so again because it’s Friday night, I’m going to cannibalise what I wrote there rather than reinvent the wheel.

Here is DT’s blog post in question re the Red Cross ambulance story *and others*:

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2006/08/31/massaging-the-news/

(This is important as it provides the context of DT’s post, which was the media’s unquestioning coverage of Israeli transgressions in both Gaza and Lebanon, even when some of the reports were being filed under Hamas-imposed reporting restrictions, something the BBC failed to mention in early reports during the Gaza conflict but which, to their credit, they later acknowledged was an error and corrected in later reports.)

Where does DT claim the Red Cross have been bombing their own ambulances? Where does he claim – or even imply – they have been complicit in some sort of hoax to make it look like the IAF attacked the ambulance? It’s not there, is it? He doesn’t even claim this is a Hezbollah-inspired hoax. He reports coverage from other sites (including the Australian MSM) and the nearest he gets to endorsing a view that there is something fishy with the ambulance story is where he says:

“A third right-wing blog – Zombietime – has dissected the photographic evidence in detail and argues, with good cause, that this story was also manufactured, in part or in whole.”

DT also gives the Red Cross perspective on this:

The Red Cross has rebuked the Australian Foreign Minister for “relying on an unverified internet blog to claim an Israeli missile strike on one of its ambulances in southern Lebanon was a hoax”.

Josh mentions that the SMH is reporting that the wrong pictures were released to the MSM. Given the single biggest piece of ‘evidence’ that this was not a missile strike was the hole in the ambulance roof where the ventilator would normally be, I’d say this is significant, wouldn’t you? And even if you wouldn’t, you still can’t substantiate a claim that DT/HP was “propagating” a lie, let alone one that implicated the Red Cross. Give our commentary its most ungenerous reading and you can just about claim – but not justifiably in my view – that we’re guilty of rumour-mongering, but to say the following:

“In continuing to propagate the lie that the Lebanese Red Cross faked the attack…

is a flat-out misrepresentation of what DT wrote. We/he didn’t assert the involvement of the Red Cross. It didn’t happen, and your own citations from our post show that it didn’t happen.

It doesn’t matter that you produce a source, Conor. What matters is whether that source validates your claim. It doesn’t.

I’m not in the business of running about blogs calling people “liar” and I very much doubt that you are one even if I did, but this is another occasion when you’ve allowed your antipathy towards HP to compromise your powers of reasoning.

Don’t worry, though. There’s a lot of it about.

Brownie: I am happy to confirm what you said about our private email exchanges and also that most of our disagreements down the years have been conducted on reasonably, civil terms. However, I would also strongly suggest that you do not ever repeat the line that David T tried to spin about our exchange over Afghanistan, which I see you come close to doing in your exchange with Dan.

I am taking it that you are now accepting that your previous statement that HP ‘never, ever’ propagated the lie that the Lebanese Red Cross faked an attack on their own ambulance’ is untrue?

However, I would also strongly suggest that you do not ever repeat the line that David T tried to spin about our exchange over Afghanistan, which I see you come close to doing in your exchange with Dan

I acutally don’t know what you’re referring to. If you’d rather not mention it on here, then please email me.

I am taking it that you are now accepting that your previous statement that HP ‘never, ever’ propagated the lie that the Lebanese Red Cross faked an attack on their own ambulance’ is untrue?

Um, no. I’m not accepting that at all. DT’s post can be read in full at that link. Anyone who bothers to click it will see that it’s not in fact a post about the Red Cross ambulance strike but a post about media coverage of Israeli transgressions and alleged transgressions and the ambulance strike is but one story cited as a *possible* example of the media not being as objective as it could and should be. He certainly doesn’t suggest that *even if this were a hoax* – and that’s a mighty big ‘if’ – that the Red Cross themselves are implicated in it.

We’ve been getting this from our critics ever since that particular story broke: “Harry’s Place thinks Red Cross bombed its own ambulance”. See FR above for a very recent example.

Read DT article again, dispassionately, and I think you’ll find we didn’t and don’t believe this at all.

Brownie: our posts crossed.

On the ambulance strike. Did the Red Cross fabricate the attack? No. Could any reasonable person assessing all the evidence still belive that they did? No. Did HP endorse and propagate the view expressed by Zombietime and Mad Mel that the attack was faked? Yes (the clue is in the phrases ‘with good cause’ and ‘I do think she makes a fair point here’) Have you ever corrected this? No. Do a large number of your most regular below the line commenters still regularly argue it? Yes. Exactly which line is it that you want us to accept proves that you did not propagate a lie?

What actually happened was the IDF hit two clearly-marked ambulances. Prime facie that is a war crime. David T leaped to their defence and decided to smear the Lebanese Red Cross. Maybe he did it without being fully aware of the facts, but a) he should not have repeated such serious allegations without checking and b) why not put in a correction at a later date? I have asked him to do this several times and he has categorically refused despite the very obvious danger that spreading such false stories causes to aid workers reputations – which by extension can threaten their lives.

When this was being discussed last night one of your many moronic below the line commenters popped up here and started cracking jokes about it. He is now banned from this site – hopefully permanently. It is not hard to get rid of nutter you know.

On the other issue that you raise you are – again – wilfully misrepresenting what happened and doing so on the basis of an extremely unpleasant piece of spinning by David T. This ‘no-one has to click on the comments’ box is a ludicrous defence when you know full well that the problem was with the orginal article and the thread in its entirety.

One of your above the line commenters, Neil Dean, wrote a piece about humanitarian interventions, which mentioned me by name and implied that I would oppose a humanitarian intervention in Zimbabwe even to stop a genocide. You then added a comment below the line which was basically a personalised tirade of abuse against me that said much the same thing. Morgoth then added a comment which said that I was a ‘border line antisemite’ because of the article I had written about the Lebanese Red Cross.

All of these comments were borderline libellous and in retrospect I probably should have just sued you. Instead I attempted to engage you in debate and was was subject to a collective tirade of abuse, which included the comment from Morgoth about me being attacked in Afghanistan. When I wrote to you from Afghanistan you know full well that my complaint was about the thread in its entirety, including the original article. David T’s attempts to spin this as me being ‘odd’ and paranoid was a disgustingly, duplicitious piece of damage control.

You know this and I know you know it so why do you keep digging yourself into the same hole over it?

David T leaped to their defence and decided to smear the Lebanese Red Cross.

No he didn’t and for all your bluster, you can’t summon the line he wrote that supports this contention. You’re over-reaching, Conor.

We’re not going to agree and I’d like to spend this Friday night drinking a bottle of wine and wathcing a good film, so I’m just happy to re-post the link to DT’s article and let dispassionate, objective readers make up their own minds:

http://www.hurryupharry.org/2006/08/31/massaging-the-news/

On the other issue that you raise you are – again – wilfully misrepresenting what happened and doing so on the basis of an extremely unpleasant piece of spinning by David T. This ‘no-one has to click on the comments’ box is a ludicrous defence when you know full well that the problem was with the orginal article and the thread in its entirety.

1 – Which “other issue” am I raising? You’ve lost me. It’s difficult to defend myself against accusations I’m wilfully misrepresenting something when I don’t even know what that something is. I’m serious when I ask whether you’ve got me mixed up with someone else? I really don’t know what it is I’m supposed to have done.

One of your above the line commenters, Neil Dean, wrote a piece about humanitarian interventions, which mentioned me by name and implied that I would oppose a humanitarian intervention in Zimbabwe even to stop a genocide. You then added a comment below the line which was basically a personalised tirade of abuse against me that said much the same thing.

Is that what you’re referring to above, or have we moved on to something else? My comments in that thread were flippant and not my finest hour, but I think “personalised tirade of abuse against you” is going a bit far. I seem to recall this exchange happened after you’d been active in the CiF threads misrepresenting, in my view, HP with yet more gay abandon. I was pissed at you, Conor, and this was nearly 2 years ago (?), so why are we discussing it now?

You know this and I know you know it so why do you keep digging yourself into the same hole over it?

This bit I don’t get. Unless my wife has been at my laptop posting under my name, I haven’t been discussing this episode at all on this thread. Like I say, I think you’ve got me mixed up with someone else. I don’t even know how to rebut your allegations here because all this is a distant memory to me so I’d need to go back and look at my emails before commenting further.

Is this a good point to mention that you’ve described HP on here as a “hate site” and what the implications are for an amatuer blogger like me when a well-renowned writer and aid worker suggests the blog I sometimes contribute to is a “hate site”? Tell me, Conor, who are we suppsoed to “hate”? Last week, the BNP were trying their damndest to have HP shut down. I’d say that’s a fair achievement for a ‘hate site’, wouldn’t you?

Brownie: As you say people can read the link and decide. Your regular posters certainly seem to have drawn a particular conclusion from it!

I have just read the link to your discussion with Dan Hardie about your comments in the thread you refer to. As you say, not your finest hour, although, as you know it was the author of the original article (and moderator of the thread) that I directed my complaints against at the time. David T’s subsequent misreprentation of those events is another issue.

A hate site is a site that considers it OK to attack 17 year old school girls, that campaigns to get people sacked from their jobs, that deliberately lies and misreprents people’s positions, that attacks people it disagrees with in the most umpleasant ways that it can think of. A hate site also propagates false stories about humanitarian aid workers. A hate site attracts the sort of following that HP has got.

I don’t know why you continue to contribute to it Brownie because you seem like a reasonable bloke. Maybe it is a question you should ask yourself.

We don’t deliberately lie, Conor, and whatever disagreements you might have about our politics and MO, I think it’s way out of order to say we do. But we’re not going to agree about that, either, so it’s time for me to stop, I think.

But you do all the rest?

216. Josh Scholar

By the way, out of morbid curiosity I googled to find out what “17 year old school girl” Harry’s Place is supposed to have attacked.

Found it here: http://hurryupharry.org/2008/10/07/swp-activist-appointed-government-advisor/

It’s not so bad. It’s certainly an argument a 17 year old could handle. 17 year old’s aren’t fragile little toddlers you know, and if they’re gonna be party activists, let alone in Trotskyist parties, they’re likely to enjoy the challenge of an argument.

David would probably say his point was about the government making a bad choice (I’m not sure I agree with that – they make worse such choices, often), and the involvement of the girl was incidental, but pretending that it wasn’t, I’d say your assumption that she’s too fragile for political argument is much more insulting to her than anything David said.

217. Golden Gordon

David would probably say his point was about the government making a bad choice (I’m not sure I agree with that – they make worse such choices, often),
Unlike your Tory governments eh Josh.
You still haven’t answered the question.

Josh – I had remembered that article about the young SWP supporter and it did strike me at the time as being a little unfair although I do take your point that the main focus of criticism was the government’s choice rather than the girl. Perhaps it was actually unsavoury comments – they don’t seem to be available any more – which made me take against that piece rather than the piece itself. That’s often the way at HP! I didn’t think the parallel with the BNP was quite fair – I don’t like the SWP either but I think joining the SWP, particularly at 17, is quite different from joining the BNP. Anyway, HP publishes a lot of articles and although I can certainly remember a handful of pieces I found objectionable, I can also think of many more pieces by the same authors which I thoiught were excellent.

219. Josh Scholar

GG I’m not a Tory.

Why is joining the SWP different?
Because you believe that somehow they “mean well”?
Are there good and bad totalitarians?

221. Josh Scholar

Yeah they just moved their database to a new server and they didn’t seem to have moved all the comments

222. Josh Scholar

cjcjc, I do think it’s worse to join a racist party than a revolutionary socialist party.

Really, it’s pretty normal for a teenager to be naive enough to favor revolutionaries. Less normal to wish to condemn huge swaths of humanity.

223. Golden Gordon

josh
I think you and your mates are including NMN
Whose blog is a little like the Daily mail on acid.
Bloody Labour government, BBC, trades unions and anyone who doesn’t believe in a total free market society

224. Golden Gordon

Last week, the BNP were trying their damndest to have HP shut down. I’d say that’s a fair achievement for a ‘hate site’, wouldn’t you?

A little like the brownshirts (BNP statist right) trying to shut down the blackshirt ( HP / Migration watch right).
Who said history isn’t cyclic

I would note that the quality of the boast that “both the BNP and SWP hate us” is such that Dr Harold Shipman and Ian Huntley could truthfully claim it, and thus it is not by itself a cast-iron guarantee of sensible neutrality.

Just with respect to the original issue of the post, we don’t actually need to resort to hypotheticals about right-wing terrorists in Britain, because we have the concrete example of the Northern Irish conflict. Amnesty did investigate human rights violations in Long Kesh (a prison which was for the most part full of extremely nasty people who definitely needed to be in a prison of some sort) and they did call for several inquiries into the extrajudicial killings of Irish terrorists, but didn’t adopt terrorists as prisoners of conscience or support their claims for political status. Amnesty did organise events at which IRA members were present and spent much of the 70s and 80s treading a fine line and being subject to roughly the same bad faith criticism as it is now.

I don’t doubt that Amnesty made mistakes in its relationship with Irish terrorists and it might be making some with respect to Cageprisoners and to Moazzam Begg (I think a distinction should be made between the guy and his organisation) too. But I don’t agree with Dan or Conor that this is “the main issue”; I think that errors of judgement are absolutely inevitable when dealing with politically contentious areas like this. It’s much more important that there’s a big and active movement out there aimed at discrediting human rights organisations via concern-trollery, and that’s why, more or less whatever happens, I am not going to be adding any fuel to the fire.


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  1. earwicga

    RT @libcon Amnesty and defensive jihad http://bit.ly/9jibRk

  2. Amnesty and Jihadis « Raincoat Optimism

    [...] wants ‘defensive jihad’ defined but concludes by saying that if Moazzam Begg defines the Taliban’s campaign as [...]





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