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Ve hef vays

Torture. It’s such an ugly word. That’s why, irrespective of the truth, it’s always best to dissociate yourself from it. People get so upset.

We do not torture,” George Bush told reporters over the weekend. So that’s that cleared up.

The US Senate has passed legislation banning torture, but the walking heart attack () is trying to wangle an exemption for the CIA. Why would he do this if it doesn’t torture? Is it in case the CIA somehow becomes implicated in season 5 of 24? Is Kiefer Sutherland actually a CIA agent? No wonder he does the patter so well!

“Our country is at war and our government has the obligation to protect the American people,” George continued. "Any activity we conduct is within the law.” What, by definition?

(Our own Dear Leader, of course, has his own ways around the law. As he memorably said, “lawful and legitimate are not necessarily the same thing”. He happened to be talking about invading Iraq at the time, but any terrorist or bodysnatching animal rights activist would race to agree.)

The administration is strongly denying—and who could fail to believe a denial issued by this crowd?—that it set up interrogation camps in eastern Europe, just as it denied the CIA’s “ghost flights” transporting suspects around the world. My favourite example of the latter is the Syrian-born Canadian arrested as he arrived in New York, blindfolded, flown to Jordan and Syria, tortured and interrogated for about 10 months, and then dumped back in Canada without any warning, apology or hint of why he’d even been considered a suspect. Yet the fuck again: what would Americans think or do if Americans were being treated this way? Or, ultimately, does any of this only really matter if they’re white Americans? I'm never sure how this works.

At the heart of the CIA’s policy (though obviously not the White House’s, heavens no) appears to be a tacit acceptance that interrogation gained under torture is worth the mutilation and the smell of freshly fried flesh that accompanied it. This might not be true. What would you admit to, to get them to stop? Who would you implicate?

Using uncivilised states that still practise torture (often, at least in the Middle East, under the supervision of creepy British and American ex-army types) to do your torture-laundering for you should be as culpable as wielding the equipment yourself. But we’re living in a world of good guys/bad guys, and if it’s the good guys doing it, it can’t be wrong.

PS: After Dispatches ran its extraordinary hidden-camera exposé of the illegal arms trade in Britain, with electroshock batons being sold to, for example, Saudi in full and certain knowledge of how they would be used (very effective when inserted into women drenched with water, if you fancy having a go at being a state-licensed torturer), the laws regarding the sale of weapons were tightened up in response.

However, stung by the fact that the documentary team had had the temerity to investigate this at all, the DTI tried to prosecute the makers for attempting to procure the weapons in question. After months of legal work and a truckload of money had been expended they dropped their case, but they had made their point. Michael Heseltine then rashly went on to describe the programme as shoddy journalism. The director sued for damages over this comment, and won. Victories against the machinery of government (especially the paramilitary wing of the Foreign Office, themselves fairly miffed over the programme) are, however, usually pretty Pyrrhic.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2005 02:21 pm (UTC)
In that third series of 24, President Palmer authorised the use of torture on a member of his own staff! This goes all the way to the top.
Nov. 9th, 2005 02:22 pm (UTC)
PS I am incapable of taking any subject seriously.
Nov. 9th, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC)
If I leave another comment does it come up in yet another colour?
Nov. 9th, 2005 02:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's the same as the first one. How disappointing.
Nov. 9th, 2005 02:46 pm (UTC)
I read a post on Andrew Sullivan today criticising the attempts to prosecute Rove and Libby on the grounds that these ignore the wider scandal of the CIA's international network of proxy torture. Don't know how widespread this particular tactic is. He's right that the priorities in this case are wrong (CIA agent forced to give up job versus thousands of people spirited away to be tortured), but both wrongs can more or less be traced directly to the US Executive.
Nov. 9th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC)
As I believe some in the US have pointed out, they got Al Capone on income tax evasion.
Nov. 9th, 2005 02:58 pm (UTC)
Nixon is probably a more appropriate analogy. It's like Swift says, "Laws are like cobwebs: good to eat, great to share".
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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