Sunday, August 12, 2007

Britain Needs You

I may be a little slow but I'm having trouble understanding why, on the one hand, we should be prepared to deny British Army interpreters from Basra, a place of safety, when we finally leave Iraq and yet we can't wait to welcome back five "extremely dangerous" inmates from Guantanamo Bay, who, through their own free will, left this country to join the Taleban, Al Qaeda and others. These are Saudis, Somalis et al, who, like tourists, popped in, once upon a time to enjoy the benefits of our liberal society and then, having decided that they didn't like it, left.

Why should we then give ourselves a national security nightmare and huge cost to the taxpayer by welcoming them back permanently, rather than letting their own country of origin deal with them? Why can't the Americans let them settle in Florida?

Perhaps I'm being a little Xenophobic? You tell me.

The Conservatives have identified £14bn worth of savings that could be made if the red tape that presently suffocates our society, was cut back a little.

Among these are:

The Scrapping of Home Information Packs (Hips), along with mandatory horse passports, - we all need one of those don't we? - while herbal medicines would have regulations lightened.

Britain should opt out of the EU directive on food supplements and registered charities offering bingo competitions or raffles should no longer need a gaming licence.

There's much more of course, including the scapping of the notorious IR35 legislation that governs contractors, just at the time that the Inland Revenue has vowed to change the law that saw it defeated in the High Court last month; the Arctic Systems case. In a nutshell, HMRC has decided that not only does it dislike small business but in particular, smaller husband and wife businesses, which divide-up any profits they might make, between them as dividends. Small business has been a particularly easy target for this government and every indication is that the short-sighted tax squeeze on our nation of shopkeepers is to become worse, while big business benefits from more concessions.

There comes a point, where small business may wonder whether it's all worth the effort!


Anonymous said...

The situation in Guantanamo and the the kidnapping of British residents and citizens under the US policy called 'extraordinary rendition' is a gross violation of Human Rights and the present Government has gone along with it for far too long. A belated attempt now to 'put things right' is better than nothing.

I find it strange that we have allowed the US to warp our traditional view of going off to fight a cause in foreign lands based on principles held or political beliefs. Did not the Labour Party in the the 1930s encourage volunteers to go to Castro's Spain to fight with the International Brigades? I find it extraordinary that the US have felt free, with the compliant support of a Labour Government, to not treat those POWs caught in Afghanistan under the Geneva Convention to which they are a signatory. So principles no longer apply and we label ex-Taliban fighters as 'terrorists'. I do not support the Taliban or Al Quaeda any more than I did the IRA but I accept they have the right to just and legal treatment and would be horrified if our Soldiers in Afghanistan treated Taliban casualties and POWs in any way less than acceptable.

It is the Government's duty to protect the rights of all citizens and residents allowed into the UK and this is the case with the 5 dodgy characters in Guantanamo. Principled conduct often comes with a price and if we have to keep a close eye on these guys for a few years then so be it.

DrMoores said...

I think there's a difference. I remember, as a teenager, working in the deckchair concession, one summer, with a chap who was not only the local 'Shop steward' but had fought as a member of the International Brigade in Spain. He was a piece of living history and his stories, while not quite 'Hemingway', were a fascinating insight into the period which saw the first struggle against Facism in Europe.

Guantanamo, I would argue, is different. While I do not support the evils of rendition, these men stand accused of being combatants in a war against our society. Simply because they have a vague and passing connection with residency, once upon a time, is not, I believe, justification for us to welcome them back. They may, after all, present a clear and present danger to citizens of this country. If they were born here, that may be a different matter and one for the courts to decide?

James Maskell said...

The Competitiveness Policy Group led by John Redwood is reporting on Friday. It should be a very interesting read.

There is an amazing lot of regulation and red tape attached to small businesses. Sadly this means companies arent able to be flexible or creative. While we need some regulation, it needs to be as small as possible. This report should have some ideas of how to tackle it effectively.

Doctor Doom said...

Not xenophobic, Simon, but perhaps a little too willing to place your trust in the unsubstantiated opinions of an “American official”, to whom the “extremely dangerous” allegation is attributed.

You say, Simon, “these men stand accused of being combatants in a war against our society”.

Who by? Only by the American military who illegally seized them and illegally detain them.

A look at the Times OnLine site of August 7th is instructive. The Times is hardly what one might call a left, or even liberal newspaper, and its the last place one would expect to find any soft-on-terrorists journalism, but they carry a most instructive review of the five remaining British residents in Guantanamo. No mention of links with terrorism, the Taleban, Al-Quaeda or any other unsavoury groups.

No mention either of any evidence to justify the claim of the US official that these men are “extremely dangerous”. The fact is, of course, that the US after all these years still has NO evidence whatsoever capable of putting before even a military court, let alone a civil court.

Surely they have a right to a fair trial like anyone else?

Isn't that a crucial part of the free and civilized society we are fighting to uphold?

DrMoores said...

I absolutely support Dr Doom's sentiments in regard to the right to a fair trial but I also believe that the strain on our liberal democracy is becoming excessive. They aren't from here, they reportedly left this country of their own free will to pursue an agenda which ultimately caused them to arrive at 'Gitmo'. If that's the case, then let someone else try them and pay for the privilege elsewhere. The Hague perhaps!

Doctor Doom said...

With respect, Simon, the evidence does not support your suggestion that “They aren't from here (and) they reportedly left this country of their own free will to pursue an agenda which ultimately caused them to arrive at 'Gitmo'.” Again, I would refer you to that voice of the British establishment, The Times:

Shaker Aamer: A Saudi national who is married to a British woman and is the father of four British children, Shaker Aamer came to live in the UK in 1996 and worked as an interpreter for a firm of solicitors. Mr Aamer is believed to have been captured in January 2002 in Afghanistan, where he was working for a Saudi Arabian charity. He was transferred to Guantanamo Bay the same year.

Jamil el Banna: A Jordanian refugee who came to live in London with his wife Sabah in 1994 as political refugees and was granted asylum. They have five children, all born in England. In 2002 Mr Banna, a mechanic, was seized by the CIA after MI5 wrongly told the Americans that his travelling companion was carrying bomb parts on a business trip to Gambia.

Omar Deghayes: A Libyan national who was arrested in January 2002 in Pakistan. He came to the UK with his mother, sister and brother from Libya in 1986, six years after his father - a prominent figure in Libyan public life who pioneered trade unions - was assassinated by Colonel Muammar Gadaffi’s regime. He grew up in Brighton where his mother, Zohra Zewawi, and sister still live. Omar travelled to Afghanistan in 2001 to judge the Taleban regime and the first Islamic society of its kind for himself. He married an Afghan woman there and they have a child, Suleiman. When war broke out, Omar moved his family to Pakistan, fearing for their safety. There he was arrested and transferred to Bagram. In March 2004 in Guantanamo he was blinded in one eye by soldiers...

Binyam Mohamed: An Ethiopian held in Guantanamo since September 2004, he came to the UK in 1994 seeking asylum and was granted indefinite leave to remain. He converted to Islam after living in the UK for seven years. He travelled to Afghanistan before fleeing to Pakistan.

Abdulnour Sameur: An Algerian army deserter who came to Britain in 1999 and lived in south Harrow, London. He was given leave to remain in the UK, but travelled to Afghanistan saying that he found it hard to live as a good Muslim in Britain. He was arrested in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan while in the company of a group of Arabs and was shot in the leg. Mr Sameur admitted having prior knowledge of 9/11, although he later said this confession was forced out of him by his US captors who said they would not treat his leg wound. He said he feared that if he did not confess his leg would have to be amputated.

Only the later, Abdulnour Sameur, has even the remotest apparent links with terrorism, and as we all know, confessions obtained under duress have no place in English, European or American law, which is precisely why the Americans won’t subject them to the legal process.

If place of birth is important, then consider that the first two alone have between them nine children, all born in Britain. I'd say that gives us a certain responsibility towards them.

The case of Jamil el Banna has even been taken up by the Daily Mail, such is the appalling treatment this man has received at the hands of MI5...

Ideally you are right, Simon, The Hague would be the perfect place to deal with any trial arising from their detention. But as the Americans have failed to produce any substantiated evidence of a crime, that is unlikely to happen.

DrMoores said...

While the facts speak for themselves, I'm short on sympathy for anyone embarking on a walking trip to Afghanistan. Having lived in Saudi Arabia, I'm also a little dubious about the Saudi charity connection as well but I'm a natural cynic!

Anonymous said...

I find myself agreeing with Dr Doom whole-heartedly on this issue. Whilst the Taliban regime was a 'legitimate' target for allowing Al Queada to operate from its territory, Afghanistan's military forces were at the time, the Taliban! So any captured forces should be treated as POWs and subject to repatriation. The kidnapping of 'Uncle Tom Cobbly and all' is a method taught the USA by Israel and to continue to detain these men is a crime against International Law. If it is legitimate to go and fight in The International Brigades in a Communist inspired rebellion against a fascist dictator in Spain, then to go and join the Taliban, when they did, was fine by me. To do so now, would be unacceptable for a resident or British subject for obvious reasons.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

"The kidnapping of 'Uncle Tom Cobbly and all' is a method taught the USA by Israel and to continue to detain these men is a crime against International Law".

Explain yourself Anonymous

Ken Gregory said...

Sorry to say Simon, I think that horse passports are a good thing, the number of horses that get lost/stolen, means that 'chipping' and passports give the worried victims of these crimes at least a chance to get their animals back.

I personally have three horses, all of which are 'chipped' and passported, along with freeze branding, and still we had some lowlife try to steal one of them a couple of years ago.

Anonymous said...

I'm not the Anon who posted it, JJ, but I'd guess the Uncle Tom Cobbley comment referred to Mordechai Vanunu's abduction from Rome in 1986: he might well have broken Israeli laws with his whistleblowing, but it was hardly a legal extradition (and there were a few laws and non-proliferation treaties also being broken here)...

The Israelis did the same thing in 1960 with Adolf Eichman, but I don't know how much of an outcry there was about that (actually there was, but it's way before my awareness of these things, and this is a case where it was a good deal easier to justify extra-legal action to achieve justice/revenge). No complaint about that, but it was still an example of acting outside standard international legal channels (which weren't exactly working effectively in South America).

Anonymous said...

Jeremy, anon of 7.37 has cited 2 cases. You might also remember how the USA learned from Israel about attacking targets when they hit Gaddaffi in Libya using stealth aircraft that bore an uncanny resemblance to the the attempt on Arafat by Israel on the offices of Fatah( in Morroco?)that Arafat was on his way to. Very clever stuff and justifiable from israel's and the USA's perspective but quite clearly against international law. Are we happy that 'might is right'?