Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: We have an army of barbaric brutes

The Independent

Published: 13 February 2006

So where is their collective fury when political prisoners are tortured in Syria and Egypt? Or when women and girls are horribly brutalised in Palestine, Jordan and Pakistan? Or when there is incontrovertible evidence of US "rendition" of men taken into captivity, then subcontracted to torturers? Or about the fact that now high-ranking CIA officials say Bush and Blair ignored all advice against the war in Iraq?

While thousands of my brethren were demonstrating in London on Saturday, ceaselessly agitating over identity politics, I wondered what it would take to get them back into real politics? If only they were mobilising to remind the world once again of the hundreds of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, many of whom have been broken even further since they went on hunger strike last autumn? They were strapped to restraining chairs, force-fed brutally, denied blankets. Now only a few persist - presumably death is preferable to the black grave they are stuck in.

To see how unjustly they continue to be treated, you have to turn to the inner pages of our newspapers. Last Thursday, one of the nine British detainees, Jamal Kiyemba, was finally released because they found nothing on him after all. Imagine how he must be feeling, the state of his body and mind. His mother, born in Uganda, is a British citizen and he has been in the UK since the age of 14. Charles Clarke has decided not to let him back into this country even though he has not been convicted of any crime.

I suspect our hypocritical and dishonest government is very happy indeed when Muslims are otherwise engaged in hopeless battles of the sensitivities. This distraction comes at a good time for them.

So much easier to condemn the evil placard-holders - who are undoubtedly wicked - than to have the British public attending to the greater threats to our security.

Iraq is still a ravaged land. The case for war is in tatters and the country has become a nest of fast-breeding, anti-West vipers. Britain, which lectures Muslims on civilised behaviour and the rule of law, stands exposed once more of having an army of barbaric brutes. I was sent a DVD of the siege of Fallujah by a reader. It was filmed by Rai Italian news, last November. I threw up halfway and haven't had the stomach to carry on watching. These are our hidden war crimes, untouched by our own TV purveyors.

Now a new scandal comes along. Footage sent by a whistleblower to the media was published this weekend, showing four Iraqi teenagers being beaten viciously by our boys in Basra, that place where they loved having British soldiers so much they gave them roses and sweets. Like hell. More appalling than these images - a reminder of widespread abuses - have been the excuses the army and politicians are already making. British soldiers don't do bad things. They were under terrible pressure. They are the exception.

Now Allah, methinks - for he is kind and wise - may ask us Muslims one day why we were so carried away by offensive cartoons that we paid so little on-going attention to the shed blood and broken bones of his followers.

Wanted: a guide to love by Sharon

These are not my kind of people - ideologues of the right, filthy-rich entertainers, self-satisfied queens. Sharon Osborne overheats the veins in my temples. The fact that my daughter adores her makes Osborne all the more insufferable. Equally maddening are the voices and working-class vanities of Cilla Black and Michael Caine. For many years I have clashed with the ferocious, unbending conservatism of Anne Leslie and Melanie Phillips.

And yet on this day, as Valentine's day approaches bringing mellow thoughts, I salute them all for staying contentedly within relationships for decades, passing the only test of love that matters - longevity. In our flaky times such consistency is no mean feat. It requires the nerves of a steady driver in a demonically fast lane.

Never mind the chocs, preposterous red lingerie, roses and sentimental ditties, what we need is a little book of good advice by these formidable egotists who seem to know how to keep it all.

* Sir Ian Blair is too close to New Labour's overbearing macho men, and his shoot-to-kill policy is a disaster - but the recent, orchestrated attacks on him are grossly unfair. He upset conservative opinion when he said - rightly - that middle-class, white, attractive murder victims matter more than do the poor, blacks and people who are not photogenic. Black and Asian police officers agree with Blair, the smartest head of the Met ever because he understands the multifarious capital. His force identified the London bombers with breathtaking speed and has prevented many similar attacks. He has chosen not to pitilessly ride into crowds in the way the police used to do during the ugly days of Thatcherism. If the investigation into the shooting of Charles de Menezes comes out against him, he may have to go. That would be hard but just. The current vendetta isn't. Time to stand up for this copper.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk