Wednesday, July 05, 2006

News from the front

Sometimes it is hard to tell where precisely the front is in the war against terrorism. I don’t mean the exact geographical whereabouts – as in the Cold War this is always hard to define – but ideologically. Who are our enemies and who are our friends? Do our leaders know the answer to either of those questions?

Here are various items of news that might clarify the issue. Then again, they might not. Firstly, here is an item from Al-Jazeera.

“Police have arrested a director at Italy's military intelligence agency on suspicion of helping the CIA to kidnap a terrorism suspect in Milan.

Officials said on Wednesday that Marco Mancini, a director of a division of the Sismi military intelligence agency, was arrested on charges of collaborating in the alleged abduction of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, in 2003.”
Abu Omar, who managed to reappear after his ordeal, claims to have been imprisoned and tortured by the Egyptians. This is, at present, the only case in which there is a direct allegation of those famous renderings, which we just know exist but cannot quite prove, as the European Parliament and the Council of Europe insist.

It seems that other Sismi agents either have been or will be arrested. This is the first time there has been a direct accusation of European agents being involved in the supposed CIA operation.

The reasoning is quite convoluted:

“Italian investigators had been wiretapping Nasr before his abduction and accuse him of having ties to al-Qaeda and recruiting combatants for Iraq, according to court documents.

They say the kidnapping broke Italian law and ruined a promising investigation.”
If they were wiretapping Nasr why did the Sismi agents not know this? Or did they know and decided that those investigators will never achieve anything much? Were the agents arrested because they broke the law or because they ruined somebody else’s investigation? Do any of them know what they are doing? (Well, maybe, it is best not to bother with that last question.)

Meanwhile, it is becoming clear that the Americans are moving slowly towards the aim that the European political elite and media have been demanding for some time: shutting down Guantánamo. There is the question of what to do with the inmates (all innocent little hitch-hikers who just happened to be going on holiday in Afghanistan and on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, carrying arms, ammunition and explosives).

Some of them are citizens of European countries and, presumably, of the EU. Others are citizens of countries that have a very nasty way of dealing with their prisoners.

We now have a report that four of the prisoners are being sent back to Germany. Well, that is what the American government is proposing. They are German citizens, it is saying, reasonably enough, and the German government as well as the entire political class, the media and a goodly proportion of the population, have all been saying that Gitmo must go.

What is the German attitude to this remarkably generous gesture? Hilfe! – is what they are saying. This is not what we had in mind at all. Well, OK, if you ask us very nicely, we might take two of them but definitely not the other two. That’s it. Schluss!

So what is to be done with the other two or possibly all four? Davids Medienkritik has the answer:
“Well, how about keeping them in Gitmo, for another couple of years or so? This would allow German politicians - and their European colleagues - to criticise the U.S. for not closing Guantanamo.”
Or they could do what the French authorities are doing, put them on trial. Six French ex-Guantánamo prisoners (having been arrested as soon as they arrived back in the country some months ago) are on trial for participation in terrorist networks in France and abroad. If convicted they may go to prison for up to 10 years and all accounts of French prisons make one feel that they might plead to be allowed back to Gitmo.

The prisoners and their lawyers are saying that these are really good lads (aged between 24 and 38) if somewhat stupid and went to Afghanistan and Pakistan out of naïve curiosity.
“"I wanted to take some risks," Nizar Sassi, one of the defendants, told the court. "It was cool. It was a chance to live my passion for weapons."

Khaled ben Mustapha said he had gone to Kabul to look for a house for his family, adding: "Going to Afghanistan doesn't make you a terrorist."

A third accused, Imad Kanouni, said he wanted to learn more about religion while traveling.

"Afghanistan was in fashion," he told the court.”
Aaah, bless their little hearts.

Seven released prisoners had been sent back to Russia and have not been heard of since. The eighth one has pleaded not to be sent back. Sensible lad.

It seems that the only country that practises what it preaches is Britain. The ex-Gitmo inmates who came back here are at large, have acquired a flourishing career as media pundits and are being given legal aid to sue the American government.

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