Thursday, August 11, 2005

Frank Gardner interview

So who is Frank Gardner?
Glad you asked.
In his own words, "I am in a wheelchair for the rest of my life, I am crippled for life, I will never walk again, I will never run into the sea with my children, I will never dance, walk up stairs, climb a mountain or do any of the things I love. At the age of 44, my physical active life is over, yet I have received no compensation from the Kingdom. Now this would be understandable if I was out there on my own, as I have done in the past but I was not. I am very upset about that. On one hand, I am very grateful to the ministry of the interior and Prince Salman, but I am very angry with the Ministry of Information. I hope that the new Minister will make amends to the situation." Those of us who don't regularly get our news from the BBC wouldn't know without looking it up.

BBC Security Correspondent since 2002, Frank Gardner is the only British TV journalist dedicated to reporting on the "War on Terror" full time.

Frank, 42, has reported from all over the Arab world, as well as the Balkans and South America.

Fluent in Arabic and deeply well-informed about the Arab world, Frank exercises expertise and insights into the complex realities of global terrorism, Al-Qaeda and the environment in which it operates.

Recently his reporting on Al-Qaeda has taken him to Yemen, the Horn of Africa, Guantanamo Bay and the USA.

Before the shooting of Sunday 6 June - in which Frank was injured and a cameraman was killed - his most recent report was a From Our Own Correspondent dispatch on Radio 4 depicting the unease sweeping Saudi Arabia's expatriate communities in the wake of terrorist attacks.
John Burgess points to an interview in Asharq Al-awsat .

...Unlike many in the BBC, Gardner is not a moral relativist. If he ever had any inclinations in that direction, I never saw them in my dealings with him. Especially after the attack, and those in London, he isn’t giving anyone a free ride.

His recollection of the attack, in which his cameraman, Simon Cumbers, was killed is worth reading on its own account. Gardner is not enamoured of US policy in Iraq, as he makes clear. His criticisms, though, are not off-the-wall.

Perhaps more interesting are his observations on how Al-Qaeda uses the Internet in a game of cat-and-mouse with Western intelligence. Also of note are his comments on the Saudi committment to fight terror, his treatment by the Saudi Ministry of Interior (good) and Ministry of Information (none). He’s quite angry at the Ministry of Information, and with good cause. They were the most useless ministry in the government when I was working there. With a new Minister, they can only improve.

He said to read the whole thing.
Everybody says that.
Well I did, and it is worth the time it takes to do so.
On mornings like this, when I want to go surfing to find all kinds of clever items to post, showing how very cute I am to find such treasures on the internet, I am gripped by the feeling that getting informed about what is happening in the Middle East is more important. Maybe nobody will ever get their head around enough of it to make any difference, but I have to believe that the more informed everyday people are, the better the chances that we will be able to give more informed input to elected people as well as our peers in casual conversation.

This is a short clip from the interview.

A man called Faisal Al-Dakheel gave the orders to kill us, and the first person I saw get out of the car was a man called Abdullah Al-Subaie, who was killed in December of last year in the attack on the Ministry of Interior. I remember very clearly that he got out of the car, and he came up to me smiling and said "Asalam Alaykum" and I said to him "Alaikum asalam wa rahmatullahi wa barakatahu", he then took out a gun and shot me.

For me, someone with a degree in Islamic studies, who respects Islam and has a great love of the Arab world, this was one of the worst moments of my life. To have somebody say "Asalam alyakum" and then shoot you, that was a terrible thing. I have spent so much of my life telling people that Muslims are good people, that there are genuine grievances in the Arab world, that you can understand why people are angry when they look at Iraq and Palestine, but that does not mean that Muslims are violent people, and then for something like that to happen is a terrible thing.

I am enormously grateful to the Saudi police for rescuing me, and to Prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz for making sure I received the best medical treatment possible at the King Faisal specialist hospital, and to the Ministry of Interior generally for investigating the attack. I am very disappointed that more than one year after the event, we have never had a letter of condolence from the Ministry of Information. We put our trust in the Ministry of Information and did not go on some mad trip of our own. We put our faith in the Ministry of Information to look after us and they drove us around Riyadh . Yes, we did ask to go to al-Suwaydi, but we did not want to go deep into it.

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