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July 15, 2010 2:34 PM   Subscribe

Britain Investigates Torture: Classified documents reveal UK's role in abuse of its own citizens.
So as bad as this makes the Brits look, it implicates the US far more : Torture and Truth “Did the UK order up torture?” or “Did the UK knowingly use information gathered using torture?”
Will the Bush-Cheney Check Ever Be Paid? Maybe.
posted by adamvasco (29 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is that light I see?

Yes. Now how many fingers am I holding up?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:49 PM on July 15, 2010 [2 favorites]


From some of the documents describing discussions between a British internee and MI5 officers:

In an MI5 report on the interrogation of Omar Deghayes, a Libyan-born British resident held by the Americans at Bagram airbase north of Kabul, an officer wrote to his superiors in London: "Deghayes was brought to the interview room manacled and hooded. When the hood was removed, Deghayes looked pale and shaky."
...
Deghayes told the officers that he was suffering internal bleeding and complained that no evidence had been presented against him. "He was also being treated badly, with head-braces and lock-down positions being the order of the day," wrote the officer. "He was treated better by the Pakistanis; what kind of world was it where the Americans were more barbaric than the Pakistanis? We listened but did not comment."
...
In the autumn Deghayes was flown to Guantánamo Bay, where he stayed for more than five years. At one point he was so severely beaten that he was blinded in one eye.


The fact that this could happen to a British subject under a Labour government fills me with shame and rage.
posted by WPW at 2:50 PM on July 15, 2010 [11 favorites]


The fact that this could happen to a British subject under a Labour government fills me with shame and rage

The fact that elected U.S. government officials could cause this to happen in the name of protecting American values fills me with shame and rage.
posted by bearwife at 3:01 PM on July 15, 2010 [13 favorites]


Also, this is a false dichotomy:

There are two conceptions of justice at war here: justice as accountability, where people who do bad things will be punished, no matter the collateral consequences to the republic versus justice as better policies, no matter who goes free or what message that sends to the world

Why can't we have accountability and better policies? The reason is that people who are still in power have a personal stake in stopping any investigation. It's essentially a breakdown of the balance of powers. All the branches are deferring to the others, for action, secure in the knowledge that no one in power wants action to be taken.

How could it possibly be better for the republic to allow people in power to do terrible things and not be held accountable? As far as I can tell, what we have now is a lack of accountability, and the same policies as before.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 3:04 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Will the Bush-Cheney Check Ever Be Paid?

Considering that he has a 50-50 chance of dying within 2 years with his new LVAD, Cheney will probably never see anything approaching a serious investigation, much less any sort of prosecution.
posted by TedW at 3:10 PM on July 15, 2010


Why I hate Labour reason #786348957984757. They should have just called themselves the Bushlickers and had done with it.
posted by shinybaum at 3:21 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Isn't it the Bush-Cheney-Obama check at this point? The guy who shows up late when everyone else is already blitzed still has to pay for his drinks.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:22 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


The fact that this could happen to a British subject under a Labour government fills me with shame and rage.
There were Labour governments in power when we were torturing (downgraded to 'inhuman and degrading treatment' on appeal!) our citizens in the north of Ireland back in the late '60s/ early '70s (the behaviour and similar wasn't confined to just the time around internment); the thin veneer peels away soon enough when the state feels the need.
posted by Abiezer at 3:26 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


Perhaps the oversight is not sufficient, but it is better than it was, and that is unquestionably, in the biblical, essential sense, a good thing.
Oh yeah, "perhaps". *cough* Bullshit. Also, "biblical, essential sense"? Marc Ambinder's writing should be euthenized.

There are two conceptions of justice at war here: justice as accountability, where people who do bad things will be punished, no matter the collateral consequences to the republic, versus justice as better policies, no matter who goes free or what message that sends to the world.
Right, because the only way to make better policies is in the context of total secrecy and lack of accountability for wrongdoing, coupled with vigorous prosecutions of those who leak details of said wrongdoing.
posted by Humanzee at 3:37 PM on July 15, 2010


Oh, and so as not to be too negative, just want to say that Scott Horton is always awesome.
posted by Humanzee at 3:38 PM on July 15, 2010


There were Labour governments in power when we were torturing (downgraded to 'inhuman and degrading treatment' on appeal!) our citizens in the north of Ireland back in the late '60s/ early '70s (the behaviour and similar wasn't confined to just the time around internment); the thin veneer peels away soon enough when the state feels the need.

Indeed. A government is a government. We're all the same when it comes to power.

At least the outcome of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry gives me a modicum of hope that in 38 years time we might get something remotely resembling an acceptance of responsibility for these crimes.
posted by knapah at 4:20 PM on July 15, 2010


The UK is a country where we aren't allowed to know our own history - even if doing so is in the public interest, where the list of draconian laws and arbritary powers that are not subject to meaningful judicial or independent overisght is vast.

Until 5 years ago there was no right to obtain any government records less than 30 years old. Labour/Conservative is somewhat irrelevant, as the security state and civil service have been remarkably resistant to change over the last 50 years, and bad.things happen to those who challenge them.

To expand on Abiezer's elegantly turned phrase "the thin veneer" conceals a paternalistic, secretive, rotten culture where citizens are still treated in law and in fact, if not in public pronouncments, as subjects.
posted by lalochezia at 4:54 PM on July 15, 2010 [3 favorites]


The fact that this could happen to a British subject under a Labour government fills me with shame and rage.
posted by WPW at 11:50 PM on July 15 [3 favorites +] [!] [quote]No other comments.


The fact that this could happen to a British subject under a Labour government fills me with shame and rage

The fact that elected U.S. government officials could cause this to happen in the name of protecting American values fills me with shame and rage.
posted by bearwife at 12:01 AM on July 16 [5 favorites +] [!] [quote]No other comments.


The fact that I'm neither a British nor a US citizen fills me with a deep sense of calm. Oh, wait...
posted by Dumsnill at 4:57 PM on July 15, 2010




Is that light I see?

There are four of them.
posted by EarBucket at 6:30 PM on July 15, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ahh, Star Trek: TNG, back in the innocent days when TV good guys were AGAINST torture and show trials.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:38 PM on July 15, 2010


WWPatrickStewartD?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:21 PM on July 15, 2010


There are two conceptions of justice at war here: justice as accountability, where people who do bad things will be punished, no matter the collateral consequences to the republic versus justice as better policies, no matter who goes free or what message that sends to the world
This person seems confused about what "Justice" is. It's generally the same thing as accountability but with a connotation of idealism, like 'freedom', 'liberty', and 'equality'. Fixing the policy would just mean fixing And a policy with no enforcement isn't actually a policy, it's just ass covering.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 PM on July 15, 2010


What has to happen is that all those interested in Justice and accountability just have to keep pulling away at the pieces of string until the whole rotten ball unravels. A little bit here and a little bit there. Of course this isn't helped in the US by sections of the main MSM publications in open denial of waterboarding as Torture.
posted by adamvasco at 1:32 AM on July 16, 2010


For those of you interested in this area I can highly recomend Craig Murrays blog posts on the subject. As ex-British Ambassador to Uzbekistan he paid the price for raising objections to the reciept of intelligence derived from torture.

Wiki entry here
Blog here
Leaked Telegrams here
Link to Murder In Samarkand book here (known as Dirty Diplomacy in the US)
Doctor Who star David Tennant also played Craig recently in the superb afternoon play on Radio 4 written by David Hare. Torrents out there somewhere no doubt...
posted by numberstation at 2:22 AM on July 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


lalochezia, you undermine your own cause when you link to David Kelly from the sentence "and bad things happen to those who challenge [the British Establishment]", not just because the Kelly murder is an implausible conspiracy theory, but because conspiracy theories in themselves make accountability for torture harder to achieve.

The British government colluded in torture (now and in the past, as has been noted), and should absolutely be held to account for that. It should be held account through the democratic and judicial processes of this country. It happened under a Labour government most recently, but like Abiezer, I don't think the Conservatives would have done anything different.

So torture collusion - yes. People who would rather not be investigated - most certainly. But it's hugely counter-productive to go from there to saying that there is some deep dark conspiracy.

It's counter-productive first because it makes you seem like a obsessive (nothing personal, I'm sure you're not, but conspiracy theories in general don't gain you intellectual respect).

Much worse than that, though, it implies that the Dark State is too powerful and too dangerous to fight against, and you might as well not bother (while of course patting yourself on the back for being clever enough to see through the sham of democratic government They put over the top).

In other words, conspiracy theories are a recipe for smug quietism, rather than the slow, hard and laborious campaigning, litigation and awareness-raising that are necessary to get political change to happen.

The ECHR, the Torture Convention and the Geneva Conventions came about, and changed the world, because of people who were fundamentally optimistic about the capacity of humankind, but also stubborn and visionary enough to push their beliefs forward. If they had believed that things would never change because of the entrenched power of the state, they would never have got out of bed.
posted by athenian at 3:00 AM on July 16, 2010


Athenian. Fair and reasoned comment, and I agree entirely with it's point of view (and have advocated it in the past): especially about conspiracy as leading to inaction. I may quote it when talking to my more unhinged friends.

It was lazy of me to post Kelley, and I apologize.


All of the three things you quote are wonderful pieces of international law, but it appears to this naive observer that it was precisely because they did not require individual states to pass them through conventional legislation that they were adopted.


I am intrigued by the comment: It should be held account through the democratic and judicial processes of this country.

I ask this not as a troll, but seriously: when was the last time (in the UK) that a matter when liberty vs national security (I'm not talking about the release of prisoners/control orders) was effectively challenged in the court or at the ballot box. Our most progressive piece of legislation, the human rights act, appears toothless in the face of legislation - in other words, the HRA isn't like the constitution which overrides legislative desire upon appeal to the courts.
posted by lalochezia at 8:36 AM on July 16, 2010


Considering that he has a 50-50 chance of dying within 2 years with his new LVAD

Fiscal Responsibility my ass. How much did we spend on his wager?
posted by mikelieman at 11:08 AM on July 16, 2010




This passage from the article homunculus linked is telling:

He cited an earlier court case that he said was consistent with his findings. In that case, the Supreme Court let the government withhold identifying information of scientists who worked on a covert CIA program researching the use of chemical, biological and radiological materials to control human behavior. The program led to the death of some human test subjects.

"Courts are not invested with the competence to second-guess the CIA director regarding the appropriateness of any particular intelligence source or method," Hellerstein wrote.

He said the law was clear that the courts do not have the authority to force the release of such documents.


So as you can see, democratic and judicial processes don't necessarily solve these problems, particularly when well more than half the governing establishment still running your country is either directly or indirectly implicated in the offenses you'd like to see them held accountable for. Both the Democratic and Republican political leadership in place during the Bush administration basically rubber-stamped even the most egregious of the administration's policies, all the way up to and including the current Secretary of State, who personally "warned... [British Foreign Secretary] David Miliband that America would consider cutting security co-operation with the UK if a British court releases information about a former Guantanamo Bay detainee..."
posted by saulgoodman at 9:01 PM on July 16, 2010




When Doctors Became Torturers
posted by homunculus at 2:06 PM on August 4, 2010


Good link, homunculus. The New England Journal of Medicine has been writing on this for a while; editorials from 2008 here and here, with some responses here. (All links seem to be freely available.)
posted by TedW at 4:21 PM on August 5, 2010


lalochezia, you undermine your own cause when you link to David Kelly from the sentence "and bad things happen to those who challenge [the British Establishment]", not just because the Kelly murder is an implausible conspiracy theory, but because conspiracy theories in themselves make accountability for torture harder to achieve.

For what it's worth: Experts call for David Kelly inquest
posted by homunculus at 11:00 AM on August 14, 2010


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