Update, Jul. 4, 2010: Bill Shaw has been cleared by an Afghan court. The US Report sends best wishes to Mr. Shaw and his family.
(June 30, 2010)--At the moment, former British service man Bill Shaw waits for justice in an Afghan prison one reporter for the Mail Online (UK) called the ‘Afghan Alcatraz.’ At the time of his arrest, Shaw was working for G4S, a company whose website says it is the ‘largest security services provider in the world, with operations in more than 110 countries across six continents.’
Apparently the US government is ignoring the plight of this man who risked his own safety to take a job providing security for the British Embassy in Kabul. Shaw was convicted of bribery by an Afghan court.
Why should the US intervene?
Last time I looked, we were allegedly 'nationbuilding' in the land of Afghanistan. If the US holds no influence there, no one does.
TRUMPED UP CHARGES AGAINST SHAW
Stories published by The BBC and the Mail Online, as well as accounts by friends and family on a Facebook advocacy page for Shaw contain the same set of facts.
Shaw’s background reflects a long record of service to his country. The Mail Online reporter, Nadene Ghouri, said, “Shaw had a remarkable military career. He served for 28 years in the Royal Military Police, working his way up from corporal to commissioned officer, ending up as a major and being awarded the MBE [Member, Most Excellent Order of the British Empire]. He left the military in 2004…”
In 2008 Shaw went to work as a senior manager for G4S in Afghanistan, handling safety and security for numerous diplomats and other personnel. Ghouri said some of those Shaw looked after were from “the Foreign Office, the Department for International Development and Revenue and Customs.”
How did this man with a distinguished record of service end up in a squalid Afghan jail, convicted of bribery?
The story is so convoluted it might be laughable if a man’s life weren’t at stake.
THE BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS
Ghouri’s account is straightforward; the primary facts match those given in a BBC story and in a more detailed account in a template letter prepared by Shaw’s advocates who hoped people would send the letter to local MPs (members of Parliament). The following facts are nearly verbatim from the template letter, with some information added from Ghouri’s story:
•Two armored embassy vehicles belonging to G4S were impounded by a unit of the Afghan government. Ghouri attributed the action to the Afghan Police Force who claimed the vehicles didn’t have proper plates.
•Shaw and G4S complained to the Afghan government, with involvement of the British Embassy in Kabul. G4S asked Shaw to pay $20,000 to get the vehicles back, apparently a custom in the local culture. Shaw, said Ghouri, “asked for a receipt (although he didn’t get one).”
•This from Ghouri’s account alone: Another “set of vehicles was impounded. This time, G4S, exasperated, complained to the Afghan authorities, who promised an investigation.”
•Shaw cooperated fully with an Afghan inquiry, even returning from leave in the UK to assist. He was then arrested and charged with bribery. It was alleged the money Shaw paid to retrieve the vehicles was a bribe.
Think about it for a minute. Shaw GAVE the money to the Afghans, he didn’t receive anything for himself, a requisite in a bribery conviction for a mind capable of reasoning. Shaw got back two company vehicles, not exactly a hot item for the black market if you’re a G4S employee.
Would a guilty man willingly return to Afghanistan to assist with an inquiry?
SHAW'S SO-CALLED TRIALS
The government is asked to investigate corruption and in typically twisted fashion, the government turns the wrongdoing against an innocent person.
The template letter said Shaw has had two trials. The judge at the first trial told Shaw he was legally innocent of the charges. The letter said, “His second trial was a travesty: it lasted two hours, he had no interpreter and no evidence or witnesses were produced against him, and the judge only asked the prosecution one question, and only at the request of Bill’s defence lawyer.”
WHAT ABOUT MAJOR FAITH STANDARDS ON LYING?
In all world religions, there are admonishments against lying. How do the court officials who railroaded Shaw feel about lying? Does Islam not observe similar standards of Christianity and Judaism in this regard?
Afghan court officials have not only committed a wrong against a human being, they have desecrated their own faith in my opinion. Lying to harm an innocent person is wrong.
Was Shaw given less rights because he is possibly not a Muslim? How does his treatment mesh with Islam? I would really like someone to explain that to me because I have always respected the faiths of others.
LEARNING FROM MICHAEL YON'S DISPATCHES
Ironically had it not been for war correspondent Michael Yon, Americans would probably have never heard of Bill Shaw. Yon brought this story to the attention of his nearly 36,000 fans on his Facebook page.
Recall that Yon’s Afghan embed with British troops was discontinued abruptly after he was critical of how the government was resourcing the soldiers. Yon was also critical of a particular major who made fun of one of his own troops for running in the heat. Yon wrote, “I nearly growled at the Major, but instead asked if he ever goes into combat. The answer was no. And, in fact, the Major does not leave the safety of Camp Bastion.” The dispatch, written by Yon in September, 2009, is an excellent rendering of the culture of war up close and personal. That dispatch is a backgrounder of sorts, though it has no direct relation to Shaw’s case.
The dispatches Yon filed during that time period are useful in the same manner dispatches he filed from Iraq were useful in the case of a US soldier who faced questionable charges and triumphed over them eventually.
And the cancellation of Yon's embed wouldn't be the last time he was penalized on the basis of politics.
*Asked for his opinion of Shaw's situation, Yon emailed a response: "This British veteran is essentially being kept hostage by a government that would not exist if not for the Coalition. Bill Shaw should be released immediately. Not weeks from now, but now."
Yon is one of the most widely read war correspondents in the world, eminently knowledgeable about the intricacies of the war effort in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
SPINELESS POLITICAL LEADERS
Meanwhile, Bill Shaw sits in a jail, often surrounded by Taliban fighters who would, if given the chance, do him great harm.
His plight is nothing more than a result of political posturing. He is caught in a game of politics between a fledgling, questionable government and one of the most powerful governments in the world. He is ignored by the US who should be advocating for him because Great Britain is one of our only allies in a worldwide war the US neither wanted nor started despite what some national media proclaim.
The US controls the purse strings to Afghanistan and those of us back home are paying taxes through the nose to help finance this war. If US leaders don’t understand the leverage in that, they are not as bright as they should be and we should probably hang it up and just leave that Godforsaken backward place, just leave it with its frighteningly eerie beauty and its long bloody history.
Shaw’s family went to see him, and they said the local people were kind and hospitable. That has been my own impression of refugees I've met from Afghanistan.
Those in the court system that have railroaded an innocent man deserve far lesser descriptions. And those who convicted Shaw should face charges themselves for risking the life of an innocent man and for defaming the character of an innocent man by fabricating.
We should also ask ourselves and those in Congress who finance this war what kind of racket is being run in Afghanistan when it comes to impounding corporate vehicles. What kind of government are we working with here?
I emailed Shaw’s wife to ask if there was anything I should refrain from talking about. She wrote back to tell me there wasn’t much “that could make things worse.”
Mrs. Shaw also said, “He does have an appeal on Sat 3rd though that should have happened last Sat. We were told not to be too optimistic about the outcome.”
Justice will come only when Shaw is freed from this irrational confinement that flies in the face of all that is good in any religious doctrine. If there is a leader in the free world who still has a spine, he should take steps to move the process along immediately and see that an innocent man be freed to return home safely to his family.
Related Article at The US Report
Warlord Inc. report and the injustice dealt Bill Shaw
*Article updated June 30, 9:58 p.m. EST to include a response from Michael Yon. Yon answered our request for an opinion of Shaw's situation.