Cablegate Chronicles: A Guantanamo Bay Detainee Goes to the Movies

This is an installment from our on-going series on the adventures of American diplomats and the people they monitor. The red button below will take you to another random episode.

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Former Guantanamo Bay (GTMO) detainee Moazzam Begg met with Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn to press the government of Luxembourg to accept GTMO detainees for resettlement.

DATE: JANUARY 15, 2010


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---------------- TAXI TO HELL ---------------- ¶4. (SBU) Begg later attended an Amnesty International-hosted screening of 2007 Oscar Winner for Best Documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side" (French translation of film title: "Taxi to Hell"). Conoff attended screening and Begg's Q&A session following the film. The film, a harrowing depiction of alleged torture inside Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo, was an undisguised attack on the Bush Administration, focusing much of its venom on Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Former Vice President Cheney. Mr. Begg, on the other hand, presented an image of "forgive, but never forget," and has focused his attentions not on the ill treatment he allegedly received, but on what can be done to resettle the remaining "releasable" prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. Reporting officer estimates 100-150 people attended the filming and Q&A session and noted the complete absence of press, other diplomats, or GoL officials. --------------------------------------------- - LOOKING FORWARD, NOT BACKWARD --------------------------------------------- - ¶5. (C) During his presentation, Begg spoke almost exclusively of the future, with hardly any mention of the past. He did not discuss the question of legality of torture. 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. --------------------------------------- LUXEMBOURGERS NOT SO SURE --------------------------------------- ¶6. (SBU) In a 90-minute Q&A session, Begg was asked, how would ex-detainees fit in in Luxembourg. How would it work? Where would they live? How would they be supported? The fear and skepticism was palpable in the audience. Begg and his NGO cohorts stressed that there were Algerians and Tunisians in GTMO who could come to Luxembourg and speak French, one of Luxembourg's official and most-commonly used languages. He stressed that neighboring countries - France, Belgium, Portugal, Ireland - provided examples. Begg even argued that if detainees could fit in in Palau, they could do the same in Luxembourg. Begg deplored that certain people believe the world is not big enough for the ex-detainees. He added that if there were colonies on the Moon, "I'm sure they'd send us there." ¶7. (SBU) Begg declined to speak about specific physical transgressions against his person. When told how physically well and mentally sound he appeared, he joked, "Well, I used to be taller." Begg spoke articulately, demonstrating minimal ill will toward his captors - even going so far as to say he speaks on the LUXEMBOURG 00000005 003 OF 003 phone occasionally with his former interrogators. Consular officer took note of the following exchange: Asked if he would ever consider a return to the U.S., Begg replied that he had never been to the U.S., but that the U.S. had come to him. Begg commented that as a British citizen, he could travel to the U.S. without a visa, but that he thinks he would need "a lot more than a visa to get out."