John Cantlie as he appears in an IS video
Last year (January 2014) I took the decision to publish a transcript from a video of the words of Bowe Bergdahl, a US prisoner with the Taliban (Afghanistan, Pakistan region). Prior to his release I had been able to establish on a high probability that he was still alive and to forward and receive messages regarding updates on his health. Perhaps in some small way this communication helped work towards his final release, not long after he was exchanged for 5 Taliban prisoners incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay Cuba, see link,
“Bowe Berdahl: US soldier captured by Taliban, a reflection on his words and time for prisoner exchange”
I have decided to do the same with the words of John Cantlie, British journalist held hostage by Islamic State (IS) which were published in Dabiq, the media outlet of the Islamic State.
Freedom of speech and expression has become a much debated concept depending who interprets and how it is defined. For example you have Fox News taking the decision to show the entire video of the Jordanian pilot Muath al Kasasbeh being burnt alive in a cage by IS. Then you have global demonstrations in support of Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine (whose offices were attacked in Paris) to allow publication of illustrations of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that disrespect and defile thus offending millions of Muslims.
Today February 14th 2015, human rights activists are also expressing themselves on the streets of London in the “We Stand With Shaker” campaign. It is 13 years since Shaker Aamer was first detained in Guantanamo and the very day his son Faris was born, a boy who has never seen his father, see,
“Cleared Londoner Shaker Aamer marks 13 years in Guantanamo without charge or trial.”
I also want to reflect on John Cantlie by bringing attention to his article. No doubt some will scream IS “propaganda” but then governments spout propaganda all the time. I know this from personal experience communicating with politicians due to the fact that the US and Brit governments were responsible for the unlawful deaths of my husband and brother in law.
There may be cries against my publishing words from a “terrorist” publication but they are often from those with double standards. The social media host providers never close down the CIA websites with a long record of alleged torture and global terrorism only insurgent sites.
What I can’t know are the daily conditions of Cantlie’s imprisonment or his mental state in captivity or whether he wrote freely or under pressure.
I note that Cantlie although a captive has at least been able to go to film with IS unshackled, in the fresh air and interact with others outside his place of detention. Similarly Bergdahl was given increased movement outside his prison and certain activities after a period of time. This is more than can be said of Guantanamo detainees.
In every article there are messages’ what we must ask are whose messages, what messages are being conveyed and what can we learn from those messages.
So here is the article:-
The Anger Factory
(Article originally published in Dabiq, February, 2015)
It’s Western governments’ heavy-handed tactics that generate the growing anger that will reduce Western nations to ashes’
Something interesting that I read in The Independent on 19th January was that nearly half of France opposes the publishing of offensive cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and that they believe there should be greater restrictions on the freedom of speech.
In a poll, “42 per cent of respondents express opposition to cartoon depictions of the Prophet Muhammad,” says Zachary Davies Boren in his article. This is just after Charlie Hebdo, which normally sells around 60,000 per issue, printed seven million to cope with public demand after the Paris attacks. And what did they put on the cover? Another cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad! Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of Muslims all over the world took angrily to the streets in protest. And who knows how many others will plan out more attacks against Europe?
So it seems half of France is pleading for common sense and respect to prevail. And the other half wants to carry on with sacrilegious speech and belligerent behavior. It’s not the only example of a split in opinions following the attacks after a comedian was arrested by police for praising the operation. So in other words, it’s okay to offend Islam by making fun of the Prophet Muhammad but it’s an offense to defend Islam by expressing support for mujÄhidÄ«n.
The French attacks have highlighted the growing rage of Muslims worldwide against Europe. Just three young Muslims brought an entire country to its knees while in the Middle East a billiondollars’ worth of bombs have been dropped in the last three months alone. And yet everyone acts all surprised and outraged after a relatively small attack in a capital city occurs as a direct result.
Why us? Why here? What did we do to deserve this? Well remember the dozens of Muslim men, women, and children who were killed in Syria from coalition bombs in January alone.
Politicians were quick to support Islam, of course, but only their kind of “Islam.” In Britain, someone called Eric Pickles wrote an open letter to the UK’s Muslim community asking for help in “dealing with this problem of radicalization.”
“British values are Muslim values,” he blurted, clearly having no idea what he was talking about, before hastily adding that Islam’s “message of peace and unity” makes the country better and stronger.
British leader David Cameron waded as he always does after the fact, saying, “Anyone, frankly, reading this letter, who has a problem with it, I think really has a problem. What he is saying is that British Muslims make a great contribution to our country, that what is happening in terms of extremist terror has nothing to do with the true religion of Islam. It’s being perverted by a minority who have been radicalized. Frankly, all of us have a responsibility to try and confront this radicalization, and make sure we stop young people being drawn into this poisonous, fanatical death cult that a very small minority of people have created.”
What we have here are two people, politicians with a tremendous amount of power, who do not have the slightest idea what they’re on about. They clearly have little knowledge about Islam, the SharÄ«’ah, jihÄd, the mujÄhidÄ«n, or why Muslims are getting angrier and angrier about how the West arrogantly pushes and shoves its principles and beliefs on the rest of the world.
And yet, as politicians and leaders, they have the platform to spread their opinions and influence millions of others. It’s the same rubbish we hear from Obama, Hollande, Netanyahu, and the others time and again, the old “the Islamic State is not Islamic” diatribe. How Islam is great, we really like Muslims, but only “Muslims” who conform to our definition of what a “Muslim” should be, who fits neatly into the definition of a working democracy. And whoever does not conform to this new definition of “Muslim” will be persecuted.
This, my friends, is the Anger Factory.
Governments are breeding more anger every single day with their increasingly hawkish viewpoints that simply do not work in the real world. They refuse to change or adapt. Confronted with a complex, developing situation that needs to be addressed intelligently or differently, Western governments just revert to form, and use heavy-handed police tactics or support military intervention abroad when it is exactly those responses that have been making the situation worse for decades.
Their response is often violently reactionary instead of forward-thinking. Following the attacks the French government responded by flooding the streets with troops and tanks, a completely pointless move that will only raise panic levels amongst its citizens. Following the capture of a Jordanian pilot by the Islamic State, the coalition responded by launching a night of intensive airstrikes on the city of ar-Raqqah in Syria that will only prompt the mujÄhidÄ«n to shoot down more aircraft and execute more pilots.
Just as politicians failed to spot the explosive growth of the Islamic State last year, so they failed to anticipate a surge of attacks on their home soil and are completely behind the curve on addressing the situation. The horse bolted a long time ago and the governments are only now trying to slam the stable door shut. But again, that is hardly surprising since it’s their meddling that created this dangerous cocktail.
And they’d never admit to that.
Governments will happily talk with terrorist organizations near their home soil if it suits them. Britain negotiated with the IRA and Spain negotiated with ETA Basque separatists. But when it comes to talks with Islamic groups, belligerence and aggression are the only replies, and the mujÄhidÄ«n have always posed a far greater danger than any “homegrown” outfit. So how much more of a danger is the Islamic Caliphate established by these diehard fighters!
In taking a course of belligerence, governments have set themselves down a deadly path. Every bomb dropped in Syria or Iraq serves as a recruitment tool for the Islamic State. It’s an unwise course of action when there are millions of Muslims living in those very same countries who may not be slow in coming forward to the call of jihÄd, and one that has irrefutably led to the situation that is now blowing up in the faces both at home or abroad.
This absolute refusal of governments to see the bigger picture and take any kind of remedial action has been starkly brought home to me in my small world.
I’ve been allowed access to a number of news reports and Twitter feeds regarding my situation, and about the only thing I’m aware that the British government has done in my case is to comment pointlessly on the release of my videos.
“We are aware of the release of another video and are studying its contents,” a Foreign Office spokesman will say. Awesome. Good job. Family and friends have done far more for the other Britons and myself who were imprisoned out here. I’m even aware of an online campaign that’s been launched by some of my old friends to try and get my story represented before the government. Thanks guys, I hope it has some effect but really, asking the government to help when it’s they who set the rules in the first place may prove fruitless.
Because in my case, the British government was entirely happy to watch as an 81 year-old man made a film asking for my release from his hospital bed, then die because he didn’t want to see his youngest son executed. That was my dad. They were okay with a mother of three children making a video asking the Islamic State personally to “re-initiate direct contact,” without getting involved themselves. That was my sister. And they were fine with a woman doing multiple interviews with the media trying to drum up awareness for the situation while they did nothing. That was my fiancÃ©, whom I hope now has long since forgotten me and moved on.
To them also I say thank you, thank you so much for your tireless efforts. But let it go. Leave it be and get on with your lives, all of you. What can the remnants of one family, smashed and emotionally exhausted after two years of searching, be expected to do by themselves while the government, so full of intelligence officials, think tanks, and pompous men in suits, sits back impassively and does nothing?
In doing so Cameron and his friends have drawn me into the Anger Factory for the suffering they’ve made my family endure. My father was getting on a bit but he wasn’t that unwell when I saw him last, and I hold the apparent lack of any political support for my family, and therefore the government, partially responsible for his death.
Incidentally, please don’t mistake this for “poor me.” I do so hate self-commentary and merely use this as an example.
If you don’t fit into one of the neat slots government has created for you, then you’ve fallen through the mesh of regular society and will either have your name on a list or be stoically ignored as the situation dictates. And it’s not just the politicians. The media too can sadly be remarkably indifferent in their approach. This makes sense when you remember that the majority of the print media are right-wing today also (in the UK, the Telegraph, Times, Daily Mail, Sunday Times, and The Sun are all batting for the Conservatives) and so all feed into the same system. Very few reports look at the bigger picture or ask questions like, “Should the government have helped more?” Or, “Can we prevent this from happening again?” Or even, “What can be done to help families in this situation?”
Of late, and sticking with my situation as the example, they simply report I have made another video and appear to make little effort to penetrate any deeper than surface level.
“John Cantlie, 43, plays the role of TV correspondent in the video walking around Mosul in what appears to be an attempt by the militants to show that life is ‘business as usual’ in the ISIS-controlled city in northern Iraq,” said Mashable on 3rd January. “Intended to show that life is carrying on as normal in the Jihadist controlled city of Mosul, it is produced in the style of a television travelogue akin to those used on holiday programmes,” said The Telegraph on 3rd January.
“Mr Cantlie says he accepted ‘long ago’ that his fate is ‘overwhelmingly likely’ to be the same as other captives,” said the Express on 4th January.
In many reports there’s little commentary or analysis, just “Cantlie does another film and talks about this and that.” It’s great that the media think my situation is worth commenting on if it makes people think beyond the obvious but surely the point of journalism – and there are some very good journalists out there – is always to go a little deeper than surface level. The specter of my death is always mentioned in news articles and I’ve read the same thing so many times that I have a sneaking suspicion the media can’t wait for me to be executed. I believe it’ll make their day if I have my head chopped off. One internet site, Newsday 24/7, was so eager for me to die they published a story about it in very bad English on 13th December. “Source within the Islamic state told Newsday 24/7 that British journalist, John Cantlie is executed by the group,” it said without, clearly, making any kind of verifiable check on such a serious statement.
Amazing. I suggest to my family that they have a hacker shut that website down for the anguish such a report must have caused them.
The one sphere which does seem to ask intelligent questions and try looking at the bigger picture is the public. The changing face of media in the last 10 years means the public don’t have to rely on the same media that they’ve become so tired of over the years, and generate their own, which is often much faster, always more interesting, and sometimes more reliable. Everyday people are more open minded to a developing world and the things that happen inside it and less controlled by the meddling of government in what they read. In many ways, social media has become a more powerful tool than “real” media, as long as you’re not hypnotized by the illusory trends that social media can sometimes wrongly convey.
These days, it’s the public who have become the news-gatherers and the journalists read what they say. “Is ISIS playing a game of cat and mouse with #JohnCantlie?” asked one tweeter on 3rd January. “Playing with and taunting their captive until they kill him? Hope not but fear so.”
“ISIS twitter accounts can’t get enough of #JohnCantlie,” said another tweeter. “It’s forgotten he is a hostage with a cut throat hanging over his head.” And my favourite comment, also tweeted on 3rd January. “Funny how an Islamic State prisoner looks happier and more free than most of us living in the west.”
Interesting, thought-provoking stuff, people asking tough questions and airing ideas that are nowhere to be seen in the mainstream media. The truth of the matter, for anyone who is interested, is that I’m making the most of my situation. Way back in September I said I would speak out against our deceitful governments for as long as the mujÄhidÄ«n allowed me to live, and now in February that still remains the case.
If the mujÄhidÄ«n ask me to shoot a video or write an article that in some small way sticks it to a political system that simply doesn’t care about its citizens, despite endlessly saying the contrary, then I jump at the chance. I’ve seen dozens of videos of Cameron saying how much he values the lives of the British public, but actions sometimes speak louder than words and that isn’t what I’ve witnessed when it comes to the families of British citizens held in Syria.
John Cantlie as he appears in IS video
It’s a strange thing, to harbor real anger. towards your government. For me it’s a new sensation, politics never touched me before because I lived blissfully under the radar. I’d never voted in my life because I figured that all politicians were, by nature, public school liars who would just say whatever needed to be said to get into power and then do exactly the same as the leader before them except wearing a different-colored tie.
Now, having been exposed first-hand to the cold indifference of politicians and how utterly ruthless they are when the chips are really down, I realize how right I was in the first instance.
Despite being a prisoner, I’ve been shown respect and kindness, which I haven’t seen from my own government. Even if I had the choice, could I honestly return to and live in a country that disowned the other Britons, all their families, and myself so contemptuously?
I don’t think so.
Appeal’ I appeal to the Islamic State as a new revert sister to free John Cantlie as I appeal to the US government to free Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo. I am not one of those that want his “head chopped off”. I would like to see him returned to his family’. you have the power to do this.
“And whoever saves one life – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely”.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.