OSLO — At a corner table of the Marriott Hotel in Pakistan’s capital, an emissary from the Taliban’s supreme leader arrived with a message of peace.It was 2007, as the Afghan Taliban insurgency was growing bolder. The United States-led international coalition was fixated on defeating the Taliban militarily, and that mission would only intensify when President Obama sent in tens of thousands more troops starting in 2009.But that evening at the Marriott in Islamabad, the talk was about diplomacy, and there were no Americans in the room. Alf Arne Ramslien, a senior Norwegian diplomat who had cultivated relationships and trust within the Taliban for years, was meeting with a confidant of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the movement’s reclusive founder, who was directing the insurgency from exile in Pakistan.The Taliban emissary gave Mr. Ramslien a list of five names that Mullah Omar had tasked with exploring the possibility of peace talks. They needed the help of a facilitator, he said, and Mr. Ramslien was it.
From the orchestrated explosion of rejoicing across the airwaves, you would have thought that Aamer was a nationally cherished prisoner of conscience, Britain’s answer to Nelson Mandela.
As politicians, lawyers and campaigners lined up to celebrate and wallow in sentimentality, broadcasters provided a breathless commentary on his arrival in Britain at Biggin Hill airport, courtesy of a Gulfstream private jet with the £50,000 cost met, inevitably, by the taxpayer.
The adulation continued long after the aircraft landed. A doctor who examined him declared that Aamer “has got a fantastic sense of humour and a beaming smile”. It should be little wonder that the former Guantanamo detainee was grinning.
Like several others released to Britain by the US, he is in line for no less than £1million in compensation from the Government. That lavish payout is as sickening as the hysterical coverage.
Both show an elite that has lost its moral compass for Shaker Aamer’s story is much darker than the sanitised version fed to the public. He has constantly been described as a “British resident” or even just “a Briton”. But he is nothing of the sort.
Born in 1968 he is actually a Saudi national who only came to Britain in the mid- 1990s. He gained indefinite leave to remain in 1996 through his marriage to British Muslim Zin Siddique, whom he met through a Battersea mosque.
But he soon showed his real contempt for this country in the summer of 2001 by taking his young family to Afghanistan, then under the barbaric rule of the Taliban. According to one Left-wing journalist who later interviewed his wife, Aamer “wanted to be part of building a pure Islamic state, leaving Britain and western culture behind for ever.”
After 9/11 he took Zin and his children to Pakistan but, damningly, he returned alone to Afghanistan where he was soon taken prisoner by American forces. His supporters deny that he was a terrorist, claiming that he was working for an Islamic charity though no details of this organisation have ever been revealed.
Moreover, they say he was subject to torture and degradation in contravention of his basic human rights. His lawyers say that despite being held for more than 13 years no charges were brought.
On the other hand the Americans claimed to have powerful evidence to support his detention at Guantanamo. It is often said that Aamer was “cleared” by the US authorities in 2007 but that is typical of the distortions which riddle this saga.
He was not “cleared” in the sense of being declared innocent but merely accepted by the Pentagon for transfer to his native Saudi Arabia. Amid the political wrangling, Aamer eventually insisted on being returned to soft-touch Britain.
Why does he have nothing to fear from the British legal system? The main reasons are: Britain has no jurisdiction over offences committed in Afghanistan; evidence collected by US interrogators would probably be inadmissible in court; and eye-witness statements and forensic material would be hard to find.
After all, a battlefield is a combat zone not a crime scene. The metropolitan elite never want to learn from their past errors. In 2004 Jamal Al Harith, a resident of Manchester, was released from Guantanamo and awarded £1million in compensation.
The Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett said that he and other freed detainees “posed no threat” to Britain. Yet now Harith is reported to be fighting for Islamic State in Syria. That case just shows how badly our rulers have failed us in the fight against jihadism.
Only a supine bunch of metropolitan chatterers, devoid of patriotism and common sense, would think that Britain has any obligation to a Saudi Arabian dogmatist. What seems to motivate the politicians is a pathetic mix of cowardice and vanity.
They simultaneously want to appease our enemies while signalling their own magnanimity. Yet the idea that Islamists will be impressed by Britain’s conduct over the Shaker Aamer case is idiocy.
They will be laughing at a self-inflicted humiliation. And they would be right. The eagerness to shower Aamer with praise and cash comes from the same treacherous impulse to destroy our borders, impose multi-culturalism, cling to the EU and squander a fortune in foreign aid.
We are governed by politicians who plan to give Aamer £1million, yet – as this paper reported on Saturday – want to wrench a seriously ill 91-year-old, Myrtle Cothill, from her devout Catholic family in Dorset and deport her to South Africa because she did not fill in the correct immigration form.
Similarly, while Aamer walks free, decorated Royal Marine Sergeant Alexander Blackman is languishing in prison having been convicted of the murder of a Taliban insurgent in 2011. Last week there was a large rally, led by uniformed troops, in central London in support of Sergeant Blackman and addressed by Express columnist Frederick Forsyth.
Tellingly, the BBC gave it little coverage. It was too busy fixating on Aamer, ignoring the real British injustice. That says everything about the warped values of our rulers and their media cheerleaders.