Enemy Combatant (book)

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Enemy Combatant is a book written by a British Muslim, Moazzam Begg, and co-written by Victoria Brittain, a former Associate Foreign Editor for the Guardian newspaper, about Begg's detention by the government of the United States of America in Camp Echo, Guantanamo Bay.[1] He was seized by Pakistani officers in Islamabad in February 2002, turned over to the U.S., and after prolonged sessions of interrogation, he was released from detention on 25 January 2005.

According to statements then made by the executive department of the U.S., Begg was an enemy combatant and al-Qaeda member, recruited others for al-Qaeda, provided money and support to al-Qaeda training camps, received extensive military training in al-Qaeda-run terrorist training camps in Afghanistan, and prepared to fight U.S. or allied troops. While Begg admits spending time at two Islamic militant training camps in Afghanistan, supporting militant Muslim fighters, buying a handgun, that he "thought about" taking up arms in Chechnya, and being an acquaintance of people linked to terrorism (most notably, Khalil al-Deek, Dhiren Barot, and Shahid Akram Butt), he denies the remainder of the allegations.

The book received several reviews. Publishers Weekly described it as "a fast-paced, harrowing narrative".[2] "Much of the Moazzam Begg story is consistent with other accounts of detention conditions in both Afghanistan and Guantanamo," wrote John Sifton, a New York-based official from Human Rights Watch who interviewed former Guantanamo prisoners in Pakistan and Afghanistan.[3] "It is now clear that there is a systemic problem of abuse throughout the US military's detention facilities—not merely misbehaviour by a few bad apples." The Muslim News called it an "open, honest and touching account".[4] Begg was named best British author for the book, at the annual Muslim Writers Awards in March 2008.[5]

But The New York Times reported "some notable gaps in Mr. Begg's memoir", in that he did not mention a previous arrest, nor some of his alleged ties to terrorism.[6] The San Diego Union-Tribune said: "Begg has been less than forthcoming about his criminal past ... his cooperation with interrogators ... and his ties to terrorism".[7] And Jonathan Raban, reviewing it for The New York Review of Books, wrote:

One has the sense of reading not a memoir but a résumé. Like most résumés, it feels airbrushed. It is a strategic (one might almost say a "campaign") biography ... Begg's travels [during the time the U.S. maintains he was with the Taliban] get confusing, and plotting them on an atlas only adds to the reader's puzzlement.... The gaps in his story—and they're more frustrating than downright suspicious—cease at the moment when Begg enters captivity.... Enemy Combatant has been praised in Britain for Begg's outstanding liberality of mind and evenhandedness toward his captors.... Unfortunately, these relationships are rendered in long passages of direct speech, and Begg and/or his coauthor are notably talentless at writing dialogue.... Perhaps Begg really did strike up a warm relationship with soldier Jennifer, but all one can say of the words on the page is that they are resoundingly phony. Only in bad fiction do people speak this way, and true though Begg's story may well be in its essential facts, it is very poorly served by line after line of rankly implausible writing.[8]


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