Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How do you confuse a neocon?

In his Standpoint blog (also crossposted on lots of other places on the web, for some reason, including Harry's Place), Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens connects Moazzam Begg and Abdullah Azzam. (Abdullah Azzam 1941-89.)

While Amnesty decides whether it will continue backing this man, it should also take note that among other things, he has expressed support for renowned jihadi ideologue and religious supremacist, Abdullah Azzam. Writing for the Cordoba Foundation's journal, Arches Quarterly [PDF], Begg states:
In his magisterial discourse on jihad during the soviet occupation, ‘Defence of the Muslim Lands', the charismatic scholar, Sheikh Abdullah Azzam resurrected the famous 13th century fatwa of Ibn Taymiyyah which states: ‘As for the aggressive enemy who destroys life and religion, nothing is more incumbent [upon the believer] after faith than his repulsion.' Al-fatawaa al-kubraa, Ibn Taymiyyah.

As was noted by Harry's Place last week, Azzam is also celebrated in a jihadist text published by Begg's Maktabah al-Ansar bookshop in Birmingham which was written by Dhiren Barot, now in prison for planning a string of terror attacks in London and New York.

Wonderfully, here is a quotation in support of that jihad:

Every country and every people has a stake in the Afghan resistance, for the freedom fighters of Afghanistan are defending principles of independence and freedom that form the basis of global security and stability.


The whole of Meleagrou-Hitchens' argument hangs on whether Moazzam Begg can be connected to Abdullah Azzam on the basis of praising jihad to drive out the Soviets (and also in Chechnya and Bosnia) and publishing a book which "celebrates" Azzam. I'm really not keen on any actions against publishers. I'm still not convinced by the case for the prosecution here.

Begg has a rather appealing failing detailed on Amnesty International You Bloody Hypocrites Reinstate Gita Sahgal[1]:

She has therefore blown the whistle on the disgraceful arrangement between her own organisation and Begg, who has visited Downing Street as a guest of Amnesty, but refuses to condemn the Taliban.

Note, Begg "refuses to condemn" prima facie evidence of thoughtcrime! Doesn't he know that a good comrade will denounce everyone from George Galloway to mummy and daddy for the good of the Party? The only words Harry's Place want to hear from Moazzam Begg are [nb corrected after posting from - horror - 'is'] "Do it to Julia!"

Decentpedia has more.

[1] See If you don’t think torture’s a good idea, you might as well be in the bloody Taliban for more in this vein. If the careful reader thinks that this means that I have my doubts (to put it mildly) about anyone who doesn't condemn torture, the careful reader would be correct. I reserve the right to be inconsistent. I wish that bloody abyss would stop looking at me, too.


Blogger flyingrodent said...

I've been arguing this all over the place, largely because a) I've got the time and b) Amnesty are worth defending, but Jesus...

Strip out the worst of the bullshit, and we're left with Sure torture and extrajudicial detention are bad, but not so bad that Amnesty should allow nasty person (x) to talk about it. And you near enough have to jam the black prisons down their throats to get even that grudging admission it's very instructive how hard it is to get them to go there.

Is anyone reminded of any wars we weren't allowed to oppose, because we'd be in agreement with nasty person (x)? Because from what I can see, this is the same shit on a different day. Brownie off HP was talking about this at Pickled Politics.

It really is one of the silliest campaigns they've ever run, and the only reason they've got any traction with it is because everyone from Decent Denis to Aaro to Hitchens has chipped in. The Bat-Signal really has gone up on this one.

2/17/2010 05:12:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I was particularly impressed with your arguing against David Toube -especially when he got really pissed off. Like David T, I'm uncomfortable with David Irving's imprisonment, but it was done after a fair trial, in full consideration of the relevant laws, he was allowed defence lawyers, he wasn't tried in secret etc, etc. The law may have been wrong, but that's not Amnesty's brief really (apart from its opposition to the death penalty).

Amnesty did stand up for Timothy McVeigh, who was pretty unequivocally a nasty bastard. Europe criticises McVeigh execution:

"By executing the first federal death row prisoner in nearly four decades, the USA has allowed vengeance to triumph over justice and distanced itself yet further from the aspirations of the international community," the London-based human rights group Amnesty International said.

2/17/2010 05:37:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Yeah, he doesn't like to be reminded of that whole "Red Cross bombing its own ambulance" stuff he was pushing a couple of years back.

It was the same shit today, basically - instantly accept that "allowing to speak" is a synonym for "Engage in symbiotic, pro-Jihadist relationship with", or Foxtrot Oscar and Delta. When I pointed this out, nothing.

2/17/2010 05:55:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

I'm always saying that I don't trust psychologising one's opponents, and then I'm always going and doing it myself anyway. But, as I said on Decentpedia, I find the whole thing about 'embracing' Moazzam Begg strange; "ewww, who'd want to embrace him?" And then there's "the Guardian loves" thing too, and from that Facebook page "It is Gita Sahgal who should be the darling of the human rights establishment, not Moazzam Begg." It's a sort of combination of Rovian 'framing the argument' and stalkerish obsession. "Embrace", "love", "darling" - you don't want to go out with him, you're sworn to me...

2/17/2010 06:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, Moazzam Begg was touring with Amnesty to promote a policy fully backed by HP Sauce: Begg was in Europe to call for EC countries to accept some non citizens from Guantanamo- they can't be sent back to their own countries or they would be tortured, so the US needs to find a new home for them , or they can't shut Guantanamo. This is what Begg was saying from Amnesty platforms, promoting a policy backed by HPsauce

However, David T made one exception to this policy - he attacked David Miliband (from the right), saying that the UK should definitely not accept non UK citizens. David T did so last year, before Binyam Mohamed was released to the UK - in DavidT 's mind, Binyam Mohamed should not have been allowed back into Britain - and presumbaly should still be in Guantanamo

2/17/2010 06:31:00 PM  
Blogger the management said...

I wonder, if David T were to be campaigning on a really important issue to him (like, say, the admissions policy of Hackney swimming baths), and found that the best way to get his message across was to have his grinning face printed across the fifth page of a notoriously intolerant and anti-immigrant newspaper, whether he'd take such a principled stand?

2/17/2010 10:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Dave Weeden said...

Off topic, but I hope the Decents rightly excoriate the Guardian for yet another anti-Semitic blood libel. Surely the implication of this article is obvious? Well-known Jewish MP is - nudge, nudge - one of our cunningly disguised blood-drinking reptilian alien overlords. Why else would the Guardian print this?

2/18/2010 06:41:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

Is anyone reminded of any wars we weren't allowed to oppose, because we'd be in agreement with nasty person (x)?

yeah, i've been reminded of that whenever HP Sauce has posted stuff about Moazamm Begg.

It's interesting that this oesn't work the other way, isn't it? I mean, HP Sauce publish Alex Hitchens, who aside from his own dodgy views, works directly for Douglas Murray who is on record saying some truly abhorrent things about Muslims. Chas Newkey-Burden is not only published on HP Sauce, he is consistently defended by Toube, despite being on record praising fascist Israeli politicians. These links to dodgy people/organisations are clearly a lot easier to prove than all this tortured leaping in logic about things Begg might have said 10 years ago which he's on record as disavowing. The above is perhaps most priceless in exposing just how low these people are willing to sink in their character assassinations.

That's before we get to the current campaign, which as FR keeps pointing out to non-debating Toube, has been more or less entirely run by people with at best questionable attitudes to human rights. I mean Cohen's facebook site is full of seriously worrying guff about Jenin, and he himself recently said, in print, that Amnesty's motto should be 'we hate America'; he's been wanking on about 'moral decline' in Amnesty for the past five years. That's before we get to Toube claiming that the Red Cross bombs itself to make Israel look bad, or something. And the closer you look, the worse it gets for these people who are menat to be devoted to AI's cause.

2/18/2010 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

OC, you're right - Nick summarises the motivations of the awful liberals on his blog here...

Verbatim Nick, on an thread about Amnesty - " "Any enemy of America is better than none".

No doubt there are two men and a dog somewhere who subscribe to this opinion. Similarly, there are a few people who believe such maniacal anti-western zeal is what motivates Amnesty et al, but we tend to call those people "right wing blowhards" and "retired army majors with public school backgrounds" rather than "principled leftists".

2/18/2010 11:30:00 AM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

That link takes us through to HP Sauce (kerching) and their commenters' rubbishing of the idea that the Mossad had anything to do with the Dubai killing...

Nick is so far off message with amnesty it's worrying - witness the Obs piece where he suggests that 'the far left' is now running the organisation. He's also allowed the Jenin discussions onto his facebook group.

2/18/2010 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Zoiks, so it is. This is the one - it's the last comment in the thread, as it stands now.

2/18/2010 12:42:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi guys, thanks for linking to my blog on Azzam. Just to clarify - Begg praised a book of Azzam's in which this ideolgue lays out a programme of global religious supremacism. Azzam clearly states that he wants the entire world to be a Taliban-like state.

Begg is more than welcome to praise religious fascists all he likes - that's not against the law - but he shouldnt get a pat on the back from Amnesty for doing it.

All I ask is you look at Begg as you would any other person who praises the words of a man like Azzam. If this were instead some white supremacist who praised the works of the vile David Lane, he would rightly be condemned - Begg should receive the same treatment.

I have never supported Guantanamo or torture, and am happy to see begg allowed to live freely in this country, professing support for Awlaki and Azzam. I was also happy that Amnesty played a role, i believe, in securing his release from Guantanamo, but that is where the relationship should have ended.

I suppose it really comes down to this: either you

a) think that it is ok that a supporter and promoter of religious fascism should be promoted and supported by AI on the basis that he suffered at Gitmo.

b) think that AI supporting a man who represents everything the group is against will be very harmful to this great organisation in the long run.

I am of the latter opinion..

2/18/2010 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

That link takes us through to HP Sauce (kerching) and their commenters' rubbishing of the idea that the Mossad had anything to do with the Dubai killing...

You can't find the Times's Melanie Reid gloating over the murder in today's Times. HP Sauce (kerching!)are also, rather predictably, happy about the killing. But as one poster points out you wouldn't be pushing the 'all's fair in love and war theme' if an Israeli minister was assassinated in a third country.

2/18/2010 01:06:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Azzam clearly states that he wants the entire world to be a Taliban-like state. Begg is more than welcome to praise religious fascists all he likes - that's not against the law - but he shouldnt get a pat on the back from Amnesty for doing it.

Perhaps Alexander you could point us to where exactly AI gives Begg a 'pat on the back' for supporting religious fascists. A single link will suffice.

2/18/2010 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger flyingrodent said...

Somebody else can deal with "Amnesty", "support" and "promote" from Alexander, because I really don't think I have the energy to run through this bullshit for the hundredth time this week and the 17,000th time this decade.

2/18/2010 01:10:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

bubbly, perhaps i should have been clearer, they dont specifically pat him on the back for praising Azzam. Although i know for a fact that they know all about his praise for the man, and pat him on the back anyway

So my question to you is, do you think his support for Azzam is completely irrelevant?

2/18/2010 01:14:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


i presume you deny that AMnesty have supported of promoted begg?

ok, sorry, they just:
pay for him to tour europe;
take him to downing st;
regularly host him on their platforms;
In 2007, they were officially 'research partners'.

also let us nopt forget the fact that a senior Amnesty official has stated that they do,

2/18/2010 01:19:00 PM  
Anonymous bubby said...

Yes Alexander you should have been clearer. The problem with your approach to issues is the way you use language in a way that is highly misleading. Let's stick to precise languauge here.

Firstly can I take it from your last post that you are retracting your argumement that Amnesty 'gave him a pat on the back' for 'supporting religious facists'. Ok that's a start.

As for the other argumnents that AI

pay for him to tour europe
take him to downing st
regularly host him on their platforms;
In 2007, they were officially 'research partners'

None of these provides evidence that they 'support' his views on anything apart his position on Gitmo and the ghost detention facilities.

If you can provide evidence that Amnesty support his position on anything else please provide it.

2/18/2010 01:32:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I am not retracting a thing - none of my writings have ever said that Amnesty support Begg's views on Azzam or Awlaki. I have mislead no one. Excuse me if a comment on a blog was not 100% clear, but, unlike you, I dont usually spend my days commenting on blogs that others have written.

I havde not once said that AI support and promote his fascist views - but the fact is that they are happy to work with him DESPITE these views. If that does not bother you, then we'll just have to agree to disagree. As far as I'm concerned, AI should have nothing to do with a person who promotes Azzam. Although when he was detained at Gitmo his views were not relevant, now that he is free, they are

2/18/2010 01:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes Alexander you should have been clearer. The problem with your approach to issues is the way you use language in a way that is highly misleading. Let's stick to precise languauge here.

Alexander suggests that AI are 'happy' to work with Begg rather than (say) merely 'prepared to', which I suspect doesn't conjure up thye image of AI staff shouting 'Death to America!' in quite the same way.


2/18/2010 01:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alexander, dropping in to comment on blogs that others have written:

"none of my writings have ever said"

should it not be has ever said?

but better: "I have never written"


2/18/2010 02:09:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

As far as I'm concerned, AI should have nothing to do with a person who promotes Azzam.

This is:

A should have nothing to do with B because B promotes C.

Punters are invited to come up with alternative readings for A, B and C. (I might go via Thatcher and Pincohet, or Negroponte and Rios Montt, or any number of others, but do feel free.)

2/18/2010 02:52:00 PM  
Blogger ejh said...

I might also press the function button for the phrase "having unpleasant reactionary views and being a fascist are not actually the same thing". Some sort of automatic system might perhaps be set up.

2/18/2010 02:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stirling work by FlyingRodent on this issue on every blog - most bizarre moment was when HP Sauce's Brett turned up (at Liberal Conspiracy) to argue the right way forward for Amnesty - the same Brett who believes Guantanamo should remain open , that "We can’t accede to unreasonable demands from the usual idiots that we try " Guantanamo inmates" in a criminal court with the usual rules of evidence" and that "terrorist" should be "shot"

2/18/2010 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

Yes, Harry's Place currently have literally consecutive posts pontificating on the values of Amnesty International, and cheerleading for extrajudicial executions!

2/18/2010 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous tony said...

Interesting response from Begg here

2/18/2010 05:58:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

using the a.b,c logic-alex is currently employed directly-ie is paid-by a man who thinks that all immigration to britain from muslim countries should stop now, and that asylum seekers from muslim countries should start being deported asap, even if they might end up being tortured. Alex's boss has never retracted those remarks. His boss didn't advocate someone who made those remarks, alex sees the direct source every day. Now if we're working on the basis of amnesty should steer clear of begg because of his troublesome political views... Might we not ask whether double standards are being applied here? Presumably not, as per fucking usual.

2/18/2010 06:43:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Interesting quote in Begg's response:

Paul Rester, the director of the Joint Intelligence Group at Guantanamo, who says, “[Begg] is doing more good for al Qaeda as a British poster boy than he would ever do carrying an AK-47.”

The immediate source seems to be this December 2009 story gunning for Begg, which in turn drew on the 2008 book Inside Gitmo. From that Website:

It is amazing how many British citizens of Muslim persuasion decided that winter 2001 was the precise time they needed to travel to Afghanistan to “find a bride.” Unfortunately their innocent game of “burqua number one, or burqua number two?” was interrupted by Tiger teams of Special Forces and Northern Alliance rough men who captured all whom they did not kill outright.

These men include Moazzam Begg and Shafiq Rasul, two hard-core terrorists who defied America and beat the Guantanamo system. These are newly minted British heroes who Gitmo critics praise lavishly and elevate to the status of poster boys for the repressive American detention system. Both were captured by Coalition forces in Afghanistan fighting with Taliban forces. But the capture and initial interrogation data was not properly logged in the heat of battle.

Consequently when these men were processed by the Administrative Review Board that is charged with an annual analysis of whether an individual detainee poses a threat to America or possesses intelligence value, they were released back to U.K. custody because of lack of documented proof of their combatant status. Subsequently both men have told lurid tales of the most horrid kinds of torture – none of which seems to have left marks or scars – all in keeping with al Qaeda doctrine found in the Manchester Manual.

Emphasis added.

(Obviously this is circumstantial; there's no evidence that there's any kind of campaign against Begg, or that HP writers didn't independently come up with phrases beginning "poster boy" to hang on him. But if it is a coincidence it's quite a striking one.)

2/18/2010 07:34:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

First, a question. Following from the Reagan quote, does anyone know if British Muslim men travelled to Afghanistan (or, for that matter, Bosnia) to take part in armed jihad? And, if so, what view the security services took of this (as far as this can be known of course)?

Alexander, my main beef with you at the moment is that, when I tried to verify the connection between Moazzam Begg and Abdullah Azzam, Google returned lots and lots of copies of your blog post. This did very little to assure me that the two are ideological partners.

In your 'Part 2', you begin, "In light of Moazzam Begg’s repeated statements in support of Abdullah Azzam,..." and you continue, "Begg’s support for Azzam, as demonstrated here..." First, I'm no more convinced that your original post did demonstrate this than I was yesterday when I wrote the post above. Second, I'm not clear how Begg "supports" Azzam - who has been dead for 20 years. Thirdly, Begg's "support", which I find difficult to quantify, doesn't appear to extend to action. You're accusing him of thoughtcrime.

Much of the "has Begg condemned X", and "does Begg support Y" sounds to me like "Are you now, or have you ever been a jihadist?" Given Stalin's obvious craziness, the Purges, the Soviet Union's possession of nuclear weapons and huge army, I put it to you that communism was a serious threat to the US. Senator Joe McCarthy's witch hunts were still illiberal (and borderline fascist).

Many of the arguments I've seen seem to come down to "Gita Sahgal is a good person; Moazzam Begg is a bad person." How can I put this simply? I don't care. Amnesty have asked Begg to give talks and/or respond to question and answer sessions on Guantanamo, which is something he knows about. There's no "promoting" or "embracing". I'm really not interested in personalities. I'm a huge admirer of Arthur Koestler. I know he was a nasty bastard in many ways; he's alleged to have raped Jill Craigie among others and said to have punched Albert Camus in the face (even as a Camus fan, there are days when I know where Koestler was coming from, I must say), and he believed some outright nutty stuff. There's plenty of denunciation material there, but Darkness at Noon, for instance, remains a classic. Praising a book by a rapist really doesn't make me a rapist, does it?

2/18/2010 08:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Wrestling Dick said...

What's so bad about condemning Mummy and Daddy?Have you met my parents?

2/19/2010 01:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alexander's rapid rise in the neo-con career structure is I'm sure due only to merit - like his fellow and equally-talented young neo-con Louis.

However I am reminded of the New Statesman competition inviting unlikely books by famous authors.

The winner?

'My Struggle'
Martin Amis

2/19/2010 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

@ 31 see this just proves the secular islamofascist agenda at the NS which drove Martin Bright out. They may laugh now, but in the future people won't laugh at Martin Amis. They'll just say, "was he Jordan's 20th husband? No? never heard of him then."

@ Wrestling Dick, you mean Let me tell you about my mother, don't you?

2/19/2010 11:33:00 PM  

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