Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Now moderate Muslims are angry too

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The Independent Online

So, Guantanamo Bay is an "anomaly" is it Mr Blair? Caging, manacling, beating, isolating, threatening, terrorising, torturing 500 - fathers, brothers, husbands, sons - seems to you just an oddity, an eccentricity, a peculiarity then? How could you not choke on your own words and splutter with shame even as you uttered them?

For four years they have hovered between life and death, some now praying for the latter, as I would too. They have to endure existence without time and reason, submit to brute power, pray in open enclosure while they are bitten and burnt, denied basic human dignity. Only nine inmates have thus far been charged. Having won their right to Habeas Corpus and to make their pleas in the US Supreme Court, that other dishonest charmer, Senator John McCain had that right removed. You, Mr Blair, know evil and collude with it. Your faithful oligarchy and obliging journalists are no better.

Human rights lie bloody and tattered in the US, Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Pakistan, secret "extraordinary rendition" centres on the European mainland and in our own prisons. And all the while you swish the cloak of virtue. If it wasn't such a scandal it would be funny, Bush and you, as Batman and Robin, flying through the skies to save the world.

This week, I have been at three events where the majority of people in the audience were educated, sharp Muslims, some exceedingly rich and good friends with key politicians and Prince Charles. Guantanamo Bay and the civil strife in Iraq are topics that now madden even these establishmentarians.

One gentleman took my elbow, shuffled me to a discreet corner and whispered: "I have been here for 40 years, dined with royalty. Today if I was young, I would go straight to Bin Laden. Mr Blair is a war criminal. Don't put my name down, but tell him we detest him." He then said my watch was too cheap and that he would be honoured to give me one more befitting my status. No thanks I said, I didn't need a bribe to say what I feel more every day.

What a waste of hope. Remember the idealistic young Prime Minister? We believed he would take us into a more equal, ethical and accountable Britain. He did deliver in some areas of social policy but all of that now hardly matters as Guantanamo Bay (and Iraq too) once again rise, refusing to be buried by good news. A searing new film, Road to Guantanamo, by Michael Winterbottom (to be shown on Channel 4 on 9 March) tells the story of three young, innocent British Muslim men from Tipton in the West Midlands who spent time in that hell. Their ankles still show indentations from the shackles.

Many people, including me, have asked, how could British citizens bomb London? Not enough have asked that other equally disturbing question: How can Britain consent to this violent injustice meted out to its citizens and others? For Blair the answer is obvious. it is payback for 11 September, when "everything changed" and presumably anything goes. A man fond of targets and numbers, he has not yet told us how many lives need to be paid for each of those poor people blown up in the US. How much bloodshed before the blown up are appeased?

We, the people, witness this arrogance and incessant dissembling and are helpless. Is it any wonder millions have lost faith in politics, honour, in language itself?

Today, Baroness Kennedy's Power Inquiry releases its findings on the democratic health of the nation. It is the biggest-ever national study of political engagement. Britons are not apathetic but are disengaging from a democracy which has turned into its own enemy. Real democrats are protecting themselves from the diseased body politic and its raving behaviour that is spreading a pandemic of fear. Guantanamo Bay is the boil. Never mind bird flu, it is Bush and Blair fever we must contain before it ravages the world.

Conspiracy theories are not all wrong

I have never believed the official version of Diana's death. Too many unanswered questions remain hanging in the trees, like empty nooses. Other hacks tell me I am a loony when I say I remain unconvinced by the story we have been given. An extraordinary collective denial sees off doubters. The white Fiat in the tunnel has never been found; Jean Paul Andonso, a photographer, owned one and was found dead in it. We know Diana feared she would be bumped off in a car crash (silly, attention seeking girl, we are told, prone to paranoia).

Al Fayed's efforts to get at evidence is always rubbished. The current enquiry, by Sir John Stevens, is being sabotaged by the French police and public prosecution office. He says the investigation is proving to be more complicated than he imagined. Now we learn that Henri Paul, the driver, was a paid-up member of France's intelligence service.

So who are the real loonies? Conspiracy theorists or those who foolishly repudiate all conspiracy theories?

* Yoweri Museveni fought a guerrilla war to deliver his people from the tyrant Idi Amin in 1986. I saw him at Neasden Temple, some years back, being garlanded and serenaded by ex-Ugandan Asians whose properties he returned. I was impressed - but it didn't last -it never does. Increasingly autocratic, he has just won a dodgy election and grabbed a third term in office. I have an edited collection of his speeches titled: What is Africa's Problem? The title should make him blush. The foreword is by Julius Nyerere, the ultimate statesman, who left office when the time was right for his nation.

Like other hangers-on in the Third World, President Museveni just can't say goodbye nicely and go off to tend a garden or paint watercolours. He has to overstay his welcome. And so the vicious power circle starts up again in my old homeland - the same old, bad old story.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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