Binyam Mohamed: standing up for what is right

Richard Littlejohn is wrong to suggest that 9/11 justifies Mohamed's incarceration.

In a recent comment piece, the Daily Mail goombah Richard Littlejohn accuses those who criticise the treatment of the former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Binyam Mohamed of trying to "undermine our security services and destroy our special relationship with the US". His headline is deliberately misleading: "How should we grill terrorists -- with a cuddle and a cup of tea?"

Mohamed, who spent five years in Gitmo only to be released without charge, was not a terrorist. To present him as such is simply dishonest. The UK Court of Appeal ruled this month that he had been subjected to "cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment" by his captors; even David Miliband has conceded that "there were practices that were unacceptable to us to which he was subjected".

Yet Littlejohn's response is typically tenuous: "His treatment wasn't pretty, but it has to be put in context of the 3,000 people killed in the worst-ever terrorist attack on US soil." But why? Mohamed wasn't responsible for the 11 September 2001 attacks. He was arrested on a charge of visa violation.

Evidence held by the Foreign Office, which had been suppressed until the government was forced to disclose the information on 10 February, reveals that the UK Security Service knew Mohamed was being deprived of sleep and shackled during interrogation. In January 2004, over a year after his capture, he was transferred from Morocco to a secret, CIA-run prison near Kabul.

He described his incarceration there for the human rights campaign group Reprieve:

It was pitch black, no lights on in the rooms for most of the time. They hung me up for two days. My legs had swollen. My wrists and hands had gone numb. There was loud music, Slim Shady [by Eminem] and Dr Dre for 20 days. Then they changed the sounds to horrible ghost laughter and Halloween sounds. At one point, I was chained to the rails for a fortnight. The CIA worked on people, including me, day and night. Plenty lost their minds. I could hear people knocking their heads against the walls and the doors, screaming their heads off.

Interviewed on the BBC's Newsnight, David Miliband said: "All of us who are decent, good British citizens . . . never want to see cruel and inhuman treatment that contravenes our legal obligations, or the morality of this country." That is why the allegation that MI5 colluded in his mistreatment -- by feeding his torturers questions -- is so disturbing.

Miliband might try to worm the UK intelligence services out of admitting any complicity; and Littlejohn might idiotically dismiss "any concern about the Binman's 'yuman rites' " -- but I like to think that most Britons take pride in their commitment to fairness, and to what is right.

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Yo Zushi is a sub-editor of the New Statesman. His work as a musician is released by Eidola Records.

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The most terrifying thing about Donald Trump's speech? What he didn't say

No politician uses official speeches to put across their most controversial ideas. But Donald Trump's are not hard to find. 

As Donald Trump took the podium on a cold Washington day to deliver his inauguration speech, the world held its breath. Viewers hunched over televisions or internet streaming services watched Trump mouth “thank you” to the camera, no doubt wondering how he could possibly live up to his deranged late-night Twitter persona. In newsrooms across America, reporters unsure when they might next get access to a president who seems to delight in denying them the right to ask questions got ready to parse his words for any clue as to what was to come. Some, deciding they couldn’t bear to watch, studiously busied themselves with other things.

But when the moment came, Trump’s speech was uncharacteristically professional – at least compared to his previous performances. The fractured, repetitive grammar that marks many of his off-the-cuff statements was missing, and so, too, were most of his most controversial policy ideas.

Trump told the crowd that his presidency would “determine the course of America, and the world, for many, many years to come” before expressing his gratefulness to President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama for their “gracious aid” during the transition. “They have been magnificent," Trump said, before leading applause of thanks from the crowd.

If this opening was innocent enough, however, it all changed in the next breath. The new president moved quickly to the “historic movement”, “the likes of which the world has never seen before”, that elected him President. Following the small-state rhetoric of his campaign, Trump promised to take power from the “establishment” and restore it to the American people. “This moment," he told them, “Is your moment. It belongs to you.”

A good deal of the speech was given over to re-iterating his nationalist positions while also making repeated references to the key issues – “Islamic terrorism” and families – that remain points of commonality within the fractured Republican GOP.

The loss of business to overseas producers was blamed for “destroying our jobs”. “Protection," Trump said, “Will lead to great strength." He promised to end what he called the “American carnage” caused by drugs and crime.

“From this day forward," Trump said, “It’s going to be only America first."

There was plenty in the speech, then, that should worry viewers, particularly if you read Trump’s promises to make America “unstoppable” so it can “win” again in light of his recent tweets about China

But it was the things Trump didn't mention that should worry us most. Trump, we know, doesn’t use official channels to communicate his most troubling ideas. From bizarre television interviews to his upsetting and offensive rallies and, of course, the infamous tweets, the new President is inclined to fling his thoughts into the world as and when he sees fit, not on the occasions when he’s required to address the nation (see, also, his anodyne acceptance speech).

It’s important to remember that Trump’s administration wins when it makes itself seem as innocent as possible. During the speech, I was reminded of my colleague Helen Lewis’ recent thoughts on the “gaslighter-in-chief”, reflecting on Trump’s lying claim that he never mocked a disabled reporter. “Now we can see," she wrote, “A false narrative being built in real time, tweet by tweet."

Saying things that are untrue isn’t the only way of lying – it is also possible to lie by omission.

There has been much discussion as to whether Trump will soften after he becomes president. All the things this speech did not mention were designed to keep us guessing about many of the President’s most controversial promises.

Trump did not mention his proposed ban on Muslims entering the US, nor the wall he insists he will erect between America and Mexico (which he maintains the latter will pay for). He maintained a polite coolness towards the former President and avoiding any discussion of alleged cuts to anti-domestic violence programs and abortion regulations. Why? Trump wanted to leave viewers unsure as to whether he actually intends to carry through on his election rhetoric.

To understand what Trump is capable of, therefore, it is best not to look to his speeches on a global stage, but to the promises he makes to his allies. So when the President’s personal website still insists he will build a wall, end catch-and-release, suspend immigration from “terror-prone regions” “where adequate screening cannot occur”; when, despite saying he understands only 3 per cent of Planned Parenthood services relate to abortion and that “millions” of women are helped by their cancer screening, he plans to defund Planned Parenthood; when the president says he will remove gun-free zones around schools “on his first day” - believe him.  

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland