Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dishonesty by omission?

David Aaronovitch has an interesting editorial in the Times (via Harry’s Place) about British attitudes towards the Guantanamo prison:
If this account is to be believed then these three are either the luckiest or unluckiest men in Britain, and certainly among the stupidest. Winterbottom, asked about their reasons for going to Afghanistan, replied: "If you’re talking about people’s motives, it’s very difficult . . . It’s very hard to pin down your motives to one thing. But what they say in the film is that they were interested to see Afghanistan, and wanted to help the people there."
What the film doesn’t tell you is that the Karachi mosque that the three boys happened across, the Binori Mosque, had already, in 2001, been described as "the alma mater for jihadis". The most militant elements in the battle for Kashmir studied at the Binori madrassa — a centre of the extreme Deobandi ideology — as did many members of the Taleban. It was thought to be the spiritual home of the Harkat ul-Ansar terrorist organisation, and in the autumn of 2001 the mosque and seminary were openly recruiting fighters to go to the aid of the Taleban.
There is also a curiosity in the timeline of the film. The boys left Karachi on the October 12, crossing the border on the 14th. They hadn’t, they told the film-makers, really expected that a war would actually happen. That’s how innocent they were. But the bombing of Kabul and Kandahar began at 7.45pm local time on October 7, and the battle was already five days old before they left Karachi. The film glosses over this fact, too.
Finally, though the Tipton lads are shown as having been lovable rogues back home, there are no interviews with those who have claimed that, by September 2001, they had already become religiously zealous, and anxious to listen to the preaching of men like Sheikh Abdullah al-Faisal, the imam later jailed in Britain for calling upon Muslims to murder Jews.
I am emphatically not saying here that I believe that the Tipton Three took up arms in Afghanistan and fought for the Taleban. Their story may be implausible, but it isn’t impossible. What I am noting here is the way in which Winterbottom banishes ambivalence. His Guantanamo detainees are innocent, even if the facts have to be selected carefully so as to reinforce that impression.
Do read the whole thing.

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