Dated January 15th 2010, emanating from the U.S. Embassy in Luxembourg, it reports on a visit Moazzam made to persuade Europeans to take in some of the Guantánamo Bay prisoners who had been cleared for release.
“Mr. Begg is doing our work for us,” wrote the American diplomat. “And his articulate, reasoned presentation makes for a convincing argument. It is ironic that after four years of imprisonment and alleged torture, Moazzam Begg is delivering the same demarche to GOL [the Government of Luxembourg] as we are: please consider accepting GTMO detainees for resettlement.”
Since his liberation from the Cuba detention centre in 2005, Moazzam has worked tirelessly for the rights of others, and to bridge the ever-widening gulf between Muslims and the West. He is ideally suited to the role. As a victim of the excesses of the Bush era, he has far more credibility among the disenfranchised than some who would set themselves up as spokesmen; raised and educated in the Midlands, he understands all sides of the dispute. For these reasons, sensibly enough, the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) has given him a grant to facilitate his reconciliation work.
However, it is ironic that at the moment that the State Department was lauding him in secret, Moazzam was the target of very public abuse in the British media. Often without bothering to talk to him, journalists tarred him as an extremist, generally because he had spoken out for the human rights of those accused, but neither charged nor convicted, of terrorism. If defending our liberties is wrong, then I too am an extremist, as are the kind Quakers at the JRCT.
This assault on Moazzam was unwise as well as unfair. The Luxembourg diplomat had the good sense to see this: “During his presentation, Begg spoke almost exclusively of the future, with hardly any mention of the past,” the cable continues. “Rather than stressing past injustices, he focused on what to do now. He acknowledged that he lives with the past, but that he now wants to be part of the solution, and is working to convince Luxembourg and other governments - and their populaces - to want the same.”
Other leaks are also important, as they warn us of mistakes that are about to be made. In a cable dated April 2009, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke writes of a meeting with David Cameron in April 2009. The future prime minister is quoted as saying that "[o]n the radicalisation of British Pakistanis, … the UK had 'gotten it wrong domestically' … He argued that PM [Gordon] Brown's policy had been too willing to engage with radicalised but non-violent Muslim groups.”
Someone as politically savvy as Cameron would be unwise to adhere to this position. Both in the realignment of the Conservative Party, and in the election, Cameron recognized that an appeal to core Tory voters was doomed to failure; rather, he made an electoral pitch to those who might be enticed away from his opponent. His peace pitch has to be the same: He must engage most earnestly with those who are just on the peaceful side of the line. For this vital work, he could not have a better advisor and spokesman than Moazzam.
One diplomat can apparently recognize the contribution of another: The Americans have identified Moazzam Begg as the ideal ambassador for the peace and reconciliation. They are right and we should listen to them.