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Cameron speaks frankly on Al Jazeera about past mistakes in response to 9/11 and his optimism for the Arab Spring

By Joseph Willits 
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Screen shot 2011-09-10 at 17.24.10 In an interview with Sir David Frost on Al Jazeera last night, David Cameron conceded that Britain and the US lost some "moral authority" over their response to the 9/11 attacks.

The interview, conducted to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, focused in part on the events of 2001, and the response to the events, but also the response to the Arab Spring and terrorism now.  Cameron’s tentative criticism, that Britain and the US “lost some moral authority” came with an acknowledgement of the “immense pressure” that both the British and US governments were under at a time.  He referred to the “mistakes made” at Guantanamo Bay in particular, saying that “we have to be careful not to rush immediately to judgment”.

In an important lesson for the future, Cameron spoke of how the military intervention in Libya, unlike the response in Iraq, “was led by the Libyan people, backed by the Arab League, sanctioned by the United Nations.  It wasn’t an occupying army” with backing from the international community and international law.

This said, Cameron refused to fall into the trap of heaping blame on previous governments, and their responses to the attacks.  He said:

“Remember how many British people, how many French people, how many Germans, how many people of all nationalities were killed on September 11th.  All of those governments and the American Government, if you remember go back to that time, were thinking this is going to happen again.  This is going to happen very quickly.  Maybe it’ll be a chemical or biological attack.“

Cameron also spoke optimistically about the Arab Spring, where he described people in Egypt, and Libya “seizing an alternative to the poisonous narrative of the extremists“ and that “the spread of democracy and rights” was the trend rather than the "spread of extremism.”  In comments that echoed Robert Fisk, on the death of Osama bin Laden, who described bin Laden as a “non entity” and Al Qaeda “politically defeated”, Cameron stated “Al Qaeda’s [has] had almost nothing to do with the Arab Spring.  They’ve been irrelevant.”

With reference to Libya, the Prime Minister was also asked about the torture of Hakim Belhaj, and the maltreatment he received from the British side.  Cameron stated that:

"Britain does not torture people.  We do not believe in torture.  We think torture is wrong.  It is always wrong.  The information you glean from torture is completely unreliable but torture is morally wrong in any case."

Cameron promised that  he would "set up a proper judge-led inquiry into allegations that Britain was somehow complicit in torture, or complicit in rendition and that inquiry will be able to go through all the cases, including this Libyan case, to get to the truth." 

You can read the full transcript of the interview here.  The interview can also be watched here.

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