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

Arts and Entertainment
music Malik left the Asian leg of the band's world tour after being signed off with stress last week
News
Author J.K. Rowling attends photocall ahead of her reading from 'The Casual Vacancy' at the Queen Elizabeth Hall on September 27, 2012 in London, England.
peopleNot the first time the author has defended Dumbledore's sexuality
News
‘The Late Late Show’ presenter James Corden is joined by Mila Kunis and Tom Hanks for his first night as host
news
Arts and Entertainment
Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat and Blackberry Wine, wrote a blog post attacking the app and questioning its apparent 'strong Christian bias'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Leading light: Sharma in London

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig as James Bond in Skyfall

Mexican government reportedly paying Bond producers for positive portrayal in new filmfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Disney’s flying baby elephant is set to return in live-action format
filmWith sequels, prequels and spin-offs, Disney plays it safe... and makes a pachyderm
Arts and Entertainment
Nazrin with Syf, Camden
photography
News
The QI Elves photographed at the Soho Theatre. They are part of a team of researchers who find facts for the television programme 'QI'.
people
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv0-star review: Sean O'Grady gives it his best shot anyway
News
Brooke Magnanti believes her reputation has been damaged by the claim
books
Arts and Entertainment
A large fire has broken out in London's historic Battersea Arts Centre
art
Arts and Entertainment
Orla Brady as Anne Meredith, MyAnna Buring as Elizabeth Quinn and Joanna Vanderham as Katherine McVitie in Banished
tvReview: Despite the gritty setting, this drama is as fluffy and soppy as a soap opera
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and co-director Richard Glatzer, standing, on the set during the filming of ‘Still Alice’ in New York
film
Arts and Entertainment
Great British Sewing Bee finalist Matt Chapple
tvReview: He wowed the judges with an avant garde dress
Arts and Entertainment
Driven to the edge: 'Top Gear' producer Oisin Tymon is said to have had a row with Clarkson
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nazi officer Matthias Schoenaerts embarks on an affair with married French woman Michelle Williams in 'Suite Francaise'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Prime movers: Caitriona Balfe (centre) and the cast of Outlander
TV
News
Feasting with panthers: Keynes
books
Arts and Entertainment
Strung out: Mumford & Sons
music
Arts and Entertainment
Avant-garde: Bjork
music
Arts and Entertainment
Despite a decade of reform, prosecutions and convictions of rape has remained consistently low
arts + entsAcademic and author Joanna Bourke in warning to arts world
Arts and Entertainment
Electro Velvet, made up of Alex Larke and Bianca Nicholas, will represent the UK at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015
music
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

    The future of GM

    The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
    Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

    Britain's mild winters could be numbered

    Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

    Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
    Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

    The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

    The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
    Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

    Cowslips vs honeysuckle

    It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
    Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

    A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss
    Tony Blair joins a strange and exclusive club of political leaders whose careers have been blighted by the Middle East

    Blair has joined a strange and exclusive club

    A new tomb has just gone up in the Middle East's graveyard of US and British political reputations, says Patrick Cockburn
    Election 2015: Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May

    Election 2015

    Meet the top 12 wacky candidates seeking your vote in May
    Countdown to the election: Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear as the SNP target his Commons seat

    Operation Save Danny Alexander shifts into high gear

    The Chief Secretary to the Treasury didn’t forget his Highland roots in the Budget. But the SNP is after his Commons seat
    The US economy is under threat because of its neglected infrastructure

    The US is getting frayed at the edges

    Public spending on infrastructure is only half of Europe’s, and some say the nation’s very prosperity is threatened, says Rupert Cornwell
    Mad Men final episodes: Museum exhibition just part of the hoopla greeting end of 1960s-set TV hit

    New Yorkers raise a glass to Mad Men

    A museum exhibition is just part of the hoopla greeting the final run of the 1960s-set TV hit
    Land speed record: British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    British-built hybrid rocket car aims to be the fastest on Earth

    Bloodhound SSC will attempt to set a new standard in South Africa's Kalahari desert
    Housebuilders go back to basics by using traditional methods and materials

    Housebuilders go back to basics - throwing mud at the wall until it sticks

    Traditional materials are ticking all the construction boxes: they are cheap, green – and anyone can use them
    Daniel Brühl: 'When you have success abroad, you become a traitor. Envy is very German'

    Daniel Brühl: 'Envy is very German'

    He's got stick for his golden acting career and for his beloved restaurant - but Daniel Brühl is staying put in Berlin (where at least the grannies love him)
    How Leica transformed photography for ever: Celebrating 100 years of the famous camera

    Celebrating 100 years of Leica

    A new book reveals how this elegant, lightweight box of tricks would transform the way we saw life on the street and in fashion, on the battlefield and across the world