FREE PRESS £18.99 (395pp) £17.99 (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

Enemy Combatant, by Moazzam Begg with Victoria Brittain

How do you objectively review a book like this? Moazzam Begg has known Guantánamo Bay and come out to tell us the tale. Survivors of concentration camps have a central place in Western iconography, and in human history. Begg does not have the philosophical depth of Primo Levi or Rabbi Hugo Gryn, but he writes with the same authenticity and conveys horror without hyperbole.

He recollects first impressions of his hi-tech Cuban coop, covered with "a pale green steel mesh, doubled, with one part of the mesh set vertically and other horizontally, so they crisscrossed one another". He was "in this steel cage with mesh round its sides, steel roof and floor, steel bed, steel toilet, all inside a white, new-looking brightly lit room". The devil is indeed in the detail provided by Begg, who endured three years of brutal incarceration and was able still to think, argue, observe and record the external and internal chaos.

A former law student, this bearded Brummie has an indestructible soul that you feel as you read his account. All you want to do is welcome him back, hug his book and punish his tormentors. You rage for him and the others; you are overcome with humility.

But yet, but yet... such a rare testimony demands dispassionate scrutiny, if only to disable the US authorities who want to insinuate that these former prisoners cannot be trusted. If the world was allowed to know the objective truth, the Republican regime could not play these games and we could properly assess the claims of inmates.

For four years, various journalists, writers and activists have tried to keep awake the conscience of the West, to remind decent people of the satanic pit of Guantánamo Bay. The most powerful and God-fearing democracy in the world sweeps up Muslim men it suspects of being terrorists, drugs, shackles and transports them to a site beyond jurisdiction. Hundreds of the living dead in orange uniforms are labelled "enemy combatants", a category as obscenely meaningless as any that Stalinism came up with.

The few men like Begg eventually released (without being charged, without apologies, without recompense) talk of beatings, isolation cells, forced feeding, death threats and witnessed murders. It is all justified with the same refrain: were not over 3,000 US nationals and residents blown up by Al-Qa'ida in 2001? How much global anguish and bloodshed will appease those poor dead souls?

In US-controlled detention centres across the world, individuals instructed to obey orders are often less sure of the Republican regime's aggressive mission. The best parts of Begg's book are those which humanise these operatives and attempt to understand their confusion and corruption. He sees the absurdity of their situation and is precise and unsentimental when he describes his own life, as he grew up in Britain trying to integrate disparate identities.

I met Begg's father after a performance of the play Guantánamo: Honour Bound to Defend Freedom, scripted by the co-author of this book, Victoria Brittain, and the novelist Gillian Slovo. In spite of his anguish he kept his iron will steady. His boy is made of even sterner stuff but does tend to make fast and fiery attachments to various good and dodgy Islamic causes.

His adventures abroad remain half-explained and, for a man of intellect and deep faith, he does at times appear perilously impulsive. The bulk of this book, though, is a stirring indictment of Bush, Blair and their sordid politics. I suggest readers should buy a copy and post it to our righteous PM. Bagfuls of Beggs pouring into 10 Downing Street - now there's a thought.

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's one-woman show, 'Extravagant Strangers', is now at the Soho Theatre

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935