Torture is wrong

The US contortions over how they treated suspects and prisoners post 9/11 are unfortunate for the leader of the western world. Republicans see the report into the CIA as partisan, partial and unhelpful. They both argue that the practices the US adopted were not torture, and that they needed to be tough to find out what might happen next to keep the US people safe from further attack. Many Democrats think the report is fine, and reveals a wrong culture at the CIA authorised by a previous administration.

Democrats have to remember that they did not make large objections at the time, and remind themselves that there was considerable continuity of policy on transition to President Obama. We were promised the closure of Guantanamo Bay, with all to face a fair trial or discharge. That did not happen. The Anglo Saxon system and values of habeas corpus, a suspect knowing the charges, and having the right to his days in court to defend himself did not materialise for some detainees.

Of course the west has to be firm in defence of freedom, and cannot be starry eyed or too idealistic in a far from perfect world. Nor, however, should the west descend to the standards of those who pose the greatest threat to our freedom and way of life. Our ancestors banned slavery, banned torture, demanded fair trial and evidence to prove guilt before punishment for good reasons. If the USA departed from these values she has to apologise and promise not to repeat the mistakes in the future.

It is true there are many evil governments and some brutal regimes around the world, and some very unpleasant political movements who resort to force to get their way. Sometimes we have no choice but to confront them. Sometimes we can confront them successfully to improve things for others. As we do so, we need to demonstrate the superiority of our belief in respecting individual’s freedoms and establishing guilt before appropriate punishment.

We also need to know what part the UK played in this worrying story. Our senior officers, armed service personnel generally and representatives need clear instructions about our belief in following the rule of law and sticking to appropriate rules of engagement and rules governing prisoner treatment.

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62 Comments

  1. Martyn G
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    “As we do so, we need to demonstrate the superiority of our belief in respecting individual’s freedoms and establishing guilt before appropriate punishment”. Quite right, John. Whatever the threat, if we surrender the moral high ground we lose the argument and often add to the list of our enemies. We must of course always appear strong to our enemies, take all sensible steps to protect ourselves but not at the cost of descending to the same practices as those who threaten us.
    When you also said “The Anglo Saxon system and values of habeas corpus, a suspect knowing the charges, and having the right to his days in court to defend himself….” it struck me that under the EAW which now rules us that the protection of habeas corpus has been removed from us. Which under a Conservative government I think is and extraordinary decsion.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      Habeas corpus has the home secretary and the EU not just abolished this with the appalling EU arrest warrant?

      • Tad Davison
        Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        A creeping loss of our freedoms and liberties LL. Little by little, bit by bit, at a pace that is barely noticeable.

        Tad

    • Timaction
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      ……………. The Anglo Saxon system and values of habeas corpus, a suspect knowing the charges, and having the right to his days in court to defend himself did not materialise for some detainees………………….

      Exactly right. Magna Carter? Habeas Corpus? Given away without referendum by the Tory led Coalition with their European Arrest Warrant. Any of us could end up in some backwater criminal justice system anywhere in Europe without any scrutiny by the British judiciary.
      Gay Marriage?
      Our constitutional rights won over the millennia given away by the extreme legacy parties to their beloved dictatorship , the foreign EU.
      If we all keep voting the same……….we will get…………… the same.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    Indeed but what is shows is how easily organisations can become corrupted and how easy it can be for some types of people to do (both as a groups and as individuals) real evil. Yet they still manage to justify it to themselves. We have seen similar things in the UK though on a smaller scale. I tend to think the sort of people who work for the state sector are rather more susceptible to this group think evil. We see it in a lighter form with the Global warming exaggerations and the EU malignancy.

    Talking about (such ed) organisations, I wake up this morning to see Peter Mandelson delivering a keynote speech for the EU commission on the parliament channel. Enough to make one feel quite nauseous for the rest of the day. We got the usual:- EU migrants to the EU paid in 1/3 more in taxes than they received in benefits. Well indeed, but we all (on average) pay far more in taxes than we every get in “benefits”. I have probably paid thousands of times more in taxes than I ever got in benefits. Far more indeed than I or my family have ever had in benefits, government overheads, and public “services”. Indeed what benefits does anyone in a good job receive? You do not even get child benefit now thank to IHT ratter Osborne.

    The question is do they pay more in taxes than they get back in benefits, public services, education, health, defence, the huge general overheads of government and all the rest of the stuff government does for good or evil. Clearly if they only pay 1/3 more than benefits no they do not.

    We also get the lost of British people work in the EU as if that had any relevance. No one want to stop migration just to be a little selective and have it under democratic control.

    Average wait of 18 minuted to speak to HMRC it seems and often you can wait an hour and then are hung up on. More to the point even if you do get through to someone they so often have not got a clue about the system they administer. So absurdly complex is the system and so disinterested/indifferent are they. It is little better if you write they tend to file it and ignore it in my experience.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 6:52 am | Permalink

      The state not only taxes people hugely but it waste vast amounts of productive people’s time, make them do stupid and totally unproductive things and inconveniencing & delaying them hugely. This though hugely over complex taxation, OTT heath and safety, a daft expensive and poorly structured legal system, the green crap, totally mad employment laws, equality drivel, minimum wage drivel ….

      • Lifelogic
        Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:29 am | Permalink

        Troops going back in to Iraq again I see. How can one believe anything Cameron says on any issue what so ever?

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

      Lifelogic

      Ref HMRC

      Guilty until you prove yourself innocent is the norm, usually takes endless months and can cost a small fortune in Accountants fees (if they need to be used).
      Not even an apology when you prove they are wrong, let alone any compensation for your time and stress.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted December 15, 2014 at 7:16 am | Permalink

        Indeed a huge distraction for the productive from running their businesses, creating jobs or working efficiently.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

      LL

      As you’ve mentioned Mandelson, here’s another point worthy of note if a little off topic. This was taken from the weekly newsletter of the campaign group ‘Get Britain Out’:

      ‘Whilst on the topic of Ed Miliband’s favourite soundbites, we have also debunked the often-claimed myth the NHS will collapse without open borders with Europe. In our letter published in today’s Daily Telegraph (third letter down) and our recent article in Breitbart, we pointed out our Freedom of Information request placed with the Health and Social Care Information Centre recently, revealed just 4% of NHS workers are EU migrants. So we have now dispelled another myth frequently peddled by the Europhiles and we have published the truth!’

      Tad

      • Lifelogic
        Posted December 14, 2014 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, anyway almost no one want to stop all EU immigration anyway. We just want to be more selective and have some real democratic control over it.

  3. Mark B
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    Whilst I am aware of our kind hosts position on the European Arrest Warrant, I find it odd that our Government is quite happy to champion the rights of suspected terrorists with regard to habeas corpus, yet, would be happy to see its own citizens spirited away to face a criminal justice system quite unlike that of our own.

    I have made my views on this subject elsewhere, but will repeat some of it. Torture is indeed wrong. But do not argue on the morality of such a procedure, but on its effectiveness. A person who knows very little or nothing, even under torture, will say anything. And at this point we need to make our acquaintance with a certain, Ivan Pavlov and his behavioral experiments. People pick up a lot of messages from face expressions, tone and inflection of voice, and body language. The interrogator can, unwittingly, steer the victim, and they are victim’s if they do not know anything, into giving information that is both incorrect and misleading. And what use is that ?

    I also find it odd that the Democratic Party and its supporters are prepared to condemn the CIA, and perhaps others, on questionable practices of interrogation when, their own POTUS is quite happy give an Executive Order for the US military to carryout operations in other sovereign countries.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24618701

    Such operations are not carried out with due regard for the rule of law, let a lone one under habeas corpus. And this applies to the innocent victims as much as to the accused.

    As to the question of British Intelligence Personnel / Agents (they are NOT spies) either knowing that information was obtained under torture or, being present while acts of questionable behavior or torture were taking place, I would like to draw our kind host and fellow reader(s) to some details:

    All British Security personnel that are seconded to another country are there on behalf of Her Majesties Government under the express wish of the relevant Minister of State. The Minister of State would be made aware whether or not torture is practiced in certain countries (if amnesty International can do it, so can the HMG). So any Agent will be there under the express orders of their superiors and with the full knowledge and SUPPORT of the relevant Minister of State.

    As to what instructions were given to any Agents in these countries is unknown but, it is almost certain that they would have reported back their findings to their superiors who would have reported this back to the relevant Minister of State. At this point, once has to ask the question; “Did the relevant Minister raise this matter to the PM / Cabinet / Foreign Government ?

    If not, why not ?

    If they did, what was the Governments subsequent actions and advice to Agents ?

    There is a thing called, ‘Ministerial Accountability’. Providing a Minister has discharged their duties to the best of their ability, no blame can be laid on them.

    (unsubstantiated allegation about named individual removed ed)

    Reply I think you mean Secretary of State, not Minister.

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Mark B – the much vaunted ‘freedom of movement’ within the EU (provided by EU membership) now comes with a greater risk than we ever had when we traveled through passport controls.

      In fact I much prefer European travel as it was than as it is.

      There is an inherent risk that, once one has stepped foot in an EU country, one can be extradited on any trumped up charge. Perhaps even an internet ‘crime’ from home might put one at risk of being arrested on a foreign warrant !

      So that’s one of the major benefits of EU membership that Europhiles always mention that’s been ruined and turned into something far more harmful than it is good.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:28 am | Permalink

      Reply to reply

      I accept the reasons you wished to remove my comment about a former ‘Civil Servant’. But the link to the statement on this subject he made were his and his alone. They were also quite illuminating and gave an insight into their thinking on this matter at the time.

      Thank you for the correction, I shall use the correct usage in future.

  4. Antisthenes
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    When states relatively speaking have laws and a cultures that safeguard the rights of their own citizens then it is only natural that we will honourably extend those same rights to others. We tend to judge others by our own standards. However we know by experience that we are often let down by doing so and suffer in consequence. The enemies the West faces these days are by western standards not in the least honourable and offer no rights to their own people or to others, us. That perhaps is one reason that we should have no compunction in doing what is necessary to defeat these enemies of evil(by our standards that is).

    Another reason has to be the example of two boxers one fighting by Queensbury rules and the other one by no rules at all. The boxer abiding by the rules is at a distinct disadvantage. This is how many people force Western nations to fight their enemies at a considerable disadvantage. The West could have won every war decisively from Korea to now if it had not been constrained by moral codes. Perhaps not all far flung wars winning or losing was not so important to the security and safety of Western nations. Today however the wars and states that allow people who are bent on the destruction of the west to proliferate should be prosecuted by every means possible.

    Being honourable is all very well but it does not feel so good if you are killed or enslaved or under constant threat by being so.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      But where do you draw the line between what is acceptable in the name of freedom and democracy, and what is not ?

      • Antisthenes
        Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

        When to do so it does not help to preserve freedom and democracy. The enemy sees all torture and violent acts as a legitimate tool in their fight against us. Perhaps if we did the same we could undermine their moral, wiliness to attack us and encourage pacifism/appeasement in misguided minds. Maybe that is a step too far but Machiavelli would say ‘it is better to be feared than loved if you cannot be both’. He had a point I believe.

    • Cheshire Girl
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink

      This comment is not meant to excuse anyone, but we must remember that on 9/11, two thousand innocent people lost their lives in the most horrible way, and that hundreds of others are still suffering today with the results of the dust, and the terrible memories of things they saw and experienced. There are still those around who would repeat that awful act if they could without a moments regret. Just a thought.

    • alan jutson
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      Antisthenes

      Agree, Torture is absolutely wrong, but then so is the murder of completely innocent people.

      Do you harm a few to protect the many, which after calculation, has been done in countless wars by so many governments ?

      Never a cut a dry argument, only pleased I do not/ have not been called on to make such decisions.

      In the cold light of day, weeks, months, years after the offence, may some of us say there but for the grace of God, go I at the time.

  5. Andyvan
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    It is well known that Britain colluded with America in this shameful and disgusting practice just as Blair conspired with Bush in his war crimes. To suddenly pretend that we are shocked that our security services might be involved is laughable. A cursory search online would have revealed that we were up to our necks in the whole disaster. What’s even worse is that we continue to be Washingtons poodle in every round of trumped up sanctions and manufactured war the neo con lunatics can come up with. The only time we have managed any independant thought is when parliament voted down the Syria intervention. Of course they’ve got round that now by pretending we’re attacking ISIS so our backbone didn’t last long.
    It’s long past time that we grew a pair and refused to become involved in torture, violence or sanctions that not only hurt innocents but also cement our reputation as an American vassal state.

    • Tad Davison
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

      By now, it’ll come as no surprise to you for me to say I couldn’t agree more Andy!

      Cameron wants his war, and will get it any way he can. So we need to question his motives. And once we’ve done that, we need to recognise how dangerous he is, then get rid of him just as soon as we possibly can. Heir to Blair indeed!

      George Galloway did a good piece on Blair on his Sputnik programme on RT Episode 054. It’s worth watching.

      But I doesn’t stop with Cameron or Blair. Government and the establishment is like a dead tree trunk. It looks solid from the outside, but then we notice a small bracket fungus has broken out. The nature of which is to have many and far-reaching black threads that have slowly taken over from within.

      No matter how much we try to treat it, the trunk is beyond redemption. It is time to discard it and to start afresh with something that is uncontaminated. A good place to start would be to make it mandatory for all public servants to have no other alliances or affiliations (now let’s see who is prepared to put their head above the parapet and argue to the contrary!)

      Tad

      • A different Simon
        Posted December 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        Tad ,

        Nice analogy with the bracket fungus .

        I would start by making the employment contract of MP’s exclusive .

        If someone wants to be an MP they should not simultaneously hold directorships paid or for charities , provide consultancy etc .

        Not sure whether you can do anything about elected representatives and their political affiliations – other than insist they are out in the open :-
        Eg Mr Clegg makes no secret of his primary allegiance being to the EU and for his desire to see the UK and other sovereign nations being consigned to history .

        Not so easy to know what to do with the network of unelected public servants (and it does appear to be a network) which has taken control of the quango’s which make much public policy with the executives blessing but no parliamentary debate , police commissions (authorising executions in tube stations) , councils etc .

  6. agricola
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Questioning under extreme duress is only likely to produce results during the first 48 hours. Prolonging it is only likely to produce answers the questioner would like to hear, and is probably of little value. After 48hours, those still at large have had time to re-arrange their evil planning.

    Thereafter, highly intelligent interrogation is perhaps a better approach. I am only reiterating what I have deduced through reading. Put simply, the George Smiley approach is more likely to succeed than is that of James Bond.

    In a much more covert way the government of the party to which you belong seems quite happy to destroy the principal of Habeas Corpus for all citizens of the UK. After many hundreds of years of legal evolution they have destroyed the right of presumed innocence until proven guilty by being prepared to hand us over to European courts under the European Arrest Warrant. The EAW is a device that puts no obligation on a European jurisdiction to prove they have good reason before a UK court prior to exradition. This move alone by our government is one for which you should be thoroughly ashamed. It has in my view negated your right to govern. I hope you were not party to this device.

    • bill
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Agree with all this.

      In the discussion that follows 9/11 the rights of those killed in the Twin Towers are often forgotten.

      As far as torture is concerned, we know from the Salem Witch trials of the 17th century that people say anything to stop the pain. A whole network of fabrication follows. Better by far the George Smiley interrogations where information is elicited bit by bit and then pieced together and corroborated with information gathered elsewhere.

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:11 am | Permalink

      Well if you dislike the idea of being arrested and spirited away there are two safeguards against this happening:

      A) Avoid travel to European countries

      B) Avoid any internet related crime that you might commit in a European country by not visiting EU based sites

      So much for the much the freedom of travel that is vaunted by those who tell us that the EU has been good for us !

  7. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Any sign of the Chilcot Inquiry reporting? It’s almost 4 years since it stopped taking evidence. Have they run out of whitewash or black redacting ink? Perhaps they are having trouble finding it in that very long grass into which it was kicked?

    • Mark B
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

      They are waiting for the passage of time to do its work. At which point, few will remember, less even care, and no one will be held to account.

      And that is as diplomatically as I can put it, without bring in the specter of the Grim Reaper to whom we must all meet.

      • Boudicca
        Posted December 14, 2014 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        I very much doubt it will be released during Blair’s lifetime. I hope we don’t have too long to wait.

      • Lifelogic
        Posted December 14, 2014 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        Indeed we are only now getting the truth concerning Jeremy Thorpe.

        Perhaps we will have to wait until ……. the rest of the guilty to all die off. I am a few years younger so hopefully I will still be alive to read it.

    • bluedog
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      Ah yes, the Chilcot Enquiry. It is surely not just a coincidence that a war that start with a lie could lead to the acceptance of torture as an instrument of the state.

  8. John E
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    As torture is a crime with universal jurisdiction, will we arrest and bring to trial those responsible whenever they enter our country as there seems little or no prospect of them being brought before the courts their own country?
    I expect not, which means we have forfeited any claim to moral superiority or the rule of international law.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      Indeed and of course they will not be brought to justice. They were just obeying orders and from whom one might ask? From no one in particular one assumes. How sadly easy it is to turn some state sector workers into evil torturers – just doing my job as they say.

  9. Iain Moore
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Ah but what is torture, that which has been handed down to us by Human Rights activist judges, where anything that makes a suspect uncomfortable, like shouting , or what most people would consider as torture, actual physical violence?

  10. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    I will stick my neck out here and say that I don’t think torture is wrong as an absolute principle. Moreover the threat of torture, which historically has in many cases proved just as effective as a technique to get suspects talking, is obviously neutralised if the subject is confident that there is no chance that it would be carried out.

    (Similarly, in passing, I recall it being recounted that the mere threat of being tried and executed proved effective in turning many German spies during the Second World War and obviated any need for physical torture or other ill treatment, but that kind of threat has now been neutralised through a protocol to the European Convention.)

    As it happens I have been reading Antonia Fraser’s 1996 book “The Gunpowder Plot: Terror and Faith in 1605”. In England torture was illegal under common law and evidence obtained by torture was normally inadmissible – which again in passing was one major factor in limiting the spread of witch manias in England compared to other countries, including Scotland – although lesser forms of torture were nonetheless practised on the sly to some extent, but the monarch could override that through royal prerogative and order the torture of suspects, with the only rack in the country being conveniently housed in the Tower of London should it be needed.

    I have read that during the reign of Elizabeth the Privy Council had issued warrants to torture a suspect in just 53 instances, not a huge number bearing in mind the length of her reign and the real threats she faced; and in the case of the 1605 plot to blow up Parliament James insisted on personally questioning Guy Fawkes after he was apprehended red-handed, and then having got nothing useful out of him ordered in writing:

    “… if he will no other ways confess the gentler Tortures are to be first used unto him et sic per gradus ad ima tenditur …” – “and so by degrees proceeding to the worst” – “… and so God speed your good work.”

    As the government doctored its records there can be no certainty about what happened during the interrogations of various suspects; however it seems that in the case of Guy Fawkes repeated racking produced no information of any value, while in contrast some other suspects produced useful leads just on being shown the instruments of torture without any need to use them. Again in passing, this pragmatic approach contrasts with that in some other countries where it was held as a matter of theoretical principle that torture was only the only way to get the truth out of somebody and so its actual use was not just allowed, but required, by law.

    The problem with all this is not that torture or the threat of torture necessarily reduces us to the same moral level as the terrorists – there was no moral equivalence between the authorities racking Guy Fawkes and a small number of other suspects, and the plan to blow the king and hundreds of innocent people to smithereens, and there is no moral equivalence between the waterboarding of suspects at Guantanamo and the killing of two thousand innocent people in the Twin Towers and many other atrocities – but that the use of draconian measures such as torture can quickly get out of control so that innocent people are imprisoned and tortured on the flimsiest of grounds, often bringing out latent sadism in those directly involved as was seen at Abu Ghraib; and when this becomes known it quite understandably provokes powerful resentments, leading to violent reactions, but without having yielded anything like enough useful information to have justified the resort to such barbaric methods.

    I suppose that in theory it would be possible to operate a very tightly controlled and highly selective official system of torture as the last resort to extract vital information, and I suppose that in theory just the knowledge that this could happen would induce many suspects to reveal whatever they knew, if anything; however human nature being what it is in practice it would be very difficult, or even impossible, to exercise the proper level of control.

  11. Bert Young
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it is our position to preach to the world what their standards should be ; if we agree to participate in what they do , it must only be by consultation and approval beforehand . Our Agents ,who work under the highest secrecy , do so under the instructions and policy of their superiors and those – at this level , do so with a briefing at Ministerial level . If the H o C now wish to question and expose our involvement with the CIA , it must also question our own ability to control things for ourselves ; in this respect we are seriously flawed .

    The West is now dealing with organisations and individuals of the most extreme kind who are adept in the use of modern technology and have the means of capital and speed to attack us . Every day there are instances of horror all over the world and the gathering of intelligence is of the utmost importance . Intelligence resources are stretched to cope with these threats and the directions they receive mandate no room for error . From time to time there are slip-ups in the actions they follow , but this does not mean that their activities should be stalled by a parliamentary investigation .

    By all means let us have and follow a moral code as an example to the world but , don’t make the mistake in thinking it is practical and possible to work within its constraints at all times .

  12. DaveM
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    Torture is wrong, no doubt, and if we wish to maintain our stance on the moral high ground there is no way we can use it or anything like it to achieve our ends.

    However, I am concerned once again by our eagerness to prosecute our own people when there is little understanding amongst the lawyers and politicians about what goes on in war.

    I look forward with interest to the debate on Al Blackman which has been secured by your colleague Mr Colville. Again, I don’t necessarily approve of what he did, but those who are making judgments should perhaps look at what they themselves might have done in that situation. It’s not easy seeing your friends being blown up when they don’t even want to be in the country in the first place – and arguments presented FOR the pursuance of war have been, at best, tenuous in recent years.

    In the meantime, I’ll wait for my orders to return to Iraq despite what Cameron the liar said just a few months ago. How many of our “European partners” will be sending troops? No, I thought not.

  13. Anonymous
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    It’s not just torture that is wrong. It’s incarceration without trial too.

    It is not just about what the west is doing to other peoples but what the west might end up doing to its own. There are some who say that those of us who fear a European superstate are being hysterical. This scandal – involving one superstate and quite likely our own – proves that we aren’t.

  14. They Work for Us?
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Antithesenes. Remember Brian Blessed in the TV series “Blackadder”.
    Quote “Blessed are the meek for they shall be slaughtered”!

    We must defend ourselves by every means and keep quiet about it as needed and not beat ourselves up in public enquiries. Allegations of foul play from our enemies should be seen as the continuation of their struggle by other means.

    We had the Bloody Sunday inquiry at vast cost. No sign of Irish Republicans or Unionists offering any inquiries into the “troubles”.
    On another note I see the real extra cost per household of Green Electricity was reluctantly revealed. Never mind it is only £250 per annum and it is in a good cause.

  15. bigneil
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    With soldiers now being told they cannot shout at terror suspects, but known terror supporters here, never working, never seem to go short of benefits, are allowed to march along our streets screaming through megaphones for our slaughter, with no fear of arrest from our so-called authorities, there is clear evidence who our govt prefers to be here. It is not us.

  16. John B
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Preoccupation with symptoms not the disease which is Government.

    Government the institution has as its modus operandi the concentration of power into the hands of a ruling elite, then by coercion and force to hang on to it.

    The climate of any institution, what feeds down from the top, determines the behaviour of those in it no matter what their personal standards might have been.

    When they take their authority from the absolute authority from above, when they believe their cause is right, just, necessary, protector and saviour of society, because that is what Government says it is, then they will be inventive sure they are doing right in the long term even if wrong in the short term.

    The agents of the Holy Inquisition believed their torture and burnings were just because done in God’s cause: even if they were a sin, God surely would forgive them because they did his holy work.

    Imagining that there is only tyranny when we view ‘brutal regimes’ and ‘dictatorships’ and not the polite tyranny of so-called democratic Government, is to delude ourselves.

    The primary purpose of ‘democracy’ is to divide the population up into rival quasi-tribal groups to play one off against the other and rule playing Buggins’s Turn among the elite.

    In this crazy situation where each tribe out of loyalty to their own and visceral hatred of the opposition will always vote the same, the balance of power is in the hands of unaligned minority groups – professions, unions, big business, finance, environmentalists, religions, ethnic groups – for whose support and vote policy and bribes must be constructed and each Party tries to outbid the other.

    I, for one, am tired of hearing ‘lessons must be learned’, ‘the same mistakes must not be made again’ each time the past lessons were never learned and the same mistakes come round as routine as clockwork… that is the ones we notice.

    Tyranny will not end until we replace the notion that only Government can order societies and run economies. Time to go back letting people order their lives in cooperation with their neighbours out of mutual trust, mutual self-interest and the necessity of relying on one another that comes about with division of labour.

    It has worked well in the past, only stopped because Government took over, and given our modern, better educated, more sophisticated society with rapid communication, it certainly will work well now.

  17. English Pensioner
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    When I was younger, I would have fully agreed with the statement that “Torture is Wrong”; However, as I’ve got older I’ve become less idealistic and less certain that the statement is true. Sayings such as “fight fire with fire” and the biblical “eye for an eye” seem to have increasing relevance when we are up against evil organisations such as ISIS who don’t hesitate to kill people simply for propaganda. I am aware, of the arguments that if one uses the barbaric methods of such people that one then forfeits the moral high ground, but retaining the high ground is no use if you lose the war.
    So I now hold the view that there are circumstances under which torture can be justified and blanket statements such as “Torture is Wrong” are themselves wrong. I believe that it is justified when lives are at risk or it can be shown to be for the greater good. There are times when we have to trust those who are in charge of protecting us, and trust them to do what is appropriate at the time.
    Ideally the invention of a so-called “truth drug” would solve the problem – or would it? Would it be torture to give a captive such a drug against his wishes?
    This in itself shows that there is no clear definition of torture; I read today that British troops have been told that when interrogating suspects they must not shout or bang the table! To me this is total madness! The way we are going, we may be morally correct, but the enemy is going to win.

    • stred
      Posted December 15, 2014 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      The definition and severity of torture is debatable. For instance, one method employed by the US was playing very loud pop music all night while making the subject stand and be deprived of sleep. Yet many people in my town pay large amounts to endure such torture every week and, according to the specialist at the Audiology Dept many have their hearing damaged permanently. In the film ‘The Railway Man’ the Japanese tortured by putting a hose into the mouth of the victim until he choked but the US method sprayed water over the face making the victim feel as though they were drowning, but they did not drown.

      Given a choice between the above, shouting or some knocking about and a session with ISIS, I know which I would go for.

  18. behindthefrogs
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    We need to look a lot closer at the motivation of those who torture. It is an extension of the bullying that goes on in our schools and work places. If we can cut that out torture will become much more abhorrent to those who carry it out

  19. Tad Davison
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    I usually agree with most of what you say John. In this case, I agree with absolutely all of it!

    People are slowly waking up to what has, and still is, taking place in the United States, and Britain should have no part in it. Yet those who say they are proud of British history need to go away and do a bit of research because our own government hasn’t exactly been clean and unblemished.

    Much has been written to back that up, but the most telling gesture for me and the clue to it all, was made by the hapless and frustrated Secret Service man in the Kennedy motorcade in Dallas on 22nd November 1963 who raised his arms in frustration. It almost shouted ‘where is the protection of the President?’ And as we know, JFK was left fatally exposed by people who were supposed to protect him. I have researched the JFK assassination at length, but the CIA were (questionable ed), and out of control long before that. Little wonder Kennedy got rid of Dulles.

    There (are plenty of worrying questions ed) about the way the USA is run. And it seems not even presidents are immune to its underhanded ways of working.

    I believe in those values you have outlined. They are backed by decency and morality. The US is badly governed, but let us not kid ourselves or allow ourselves to be lulled into a false belief that we in the UK are somehow immune. The UK is not far behind the US when it comes to being badly governed, and we should have no part of it. Bad practises need to be remorselessly driven out because if left to fester, they will ultimately bring about our own downfall and lead to a further erosion of true democratic accountability.

    What we are actually dealing with is a form of fascism, although some people would routinely and inevitably deny it without taking the trouble to make the comparisons or indeed the connection.

    Not in my name! We in the UK deserve better. And we need to purge the establishment of every last shred of malpractice and nepotism before it engulfs all of us.

    Tad Davison

    Cambridge

  20. Aatif Ahmad
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Anglo-Saxons can be brutal and bloodthirsty like any other nation on Earth, or are they inherently morally superior to everyone else? Are they from another planet?

    • Max Dunbar
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps the answer is that, at present, Westerners consider themselves morally superior whilst Muslims consider themselves spiritually superior?

  21. Robert Taggart
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Torture is indeed wrong, but, ‘enhanced interrogation’ …?
    Still, there are always Drones – no questions asked, job done, sorted !

  22. lojolondon
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    I think it is worth remembering that this report was created by a partisan Democrat team, out to criticise Republicans, to the point that no mention was made of abductions and torture since Obama has been in charge.
    I also reflect that these people were kept awake and held under water for short periods, none experienced any lasting damage (except for a single person who allegedly died, perhaps from some unrelated aliment, and in fact that so few people expired shows that this was never the intention). Contrast that with the brutal treatment handed out by our enemies, not just to combatants, but to civilians, reporters and bystanders, almost all tortured in some meaningful way leaving lasting damage, and ultimately many thousands killed, by throwing off buildings, beheading, gunshot, crucifixion, etc. the list goes on.
    I think the CIA was remarkably restrained under the circumstances, and I sympathise with their need to extract information. What I do not want to see is the ongoing left-wing pretence that means that Tony Bliar, Gordon Brown and the Labour cabinet seem to emerge unscathed from every enquiry and report by the left-wing MSM, while Conservatives and Republicans find their actions ceaselessly questioned.

  23. Peter van Leeuwen
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    About torture: if it hadn’t been for the Council of Europe (the body of the European Convention), the world would never have learned about the UK cooperation for the torture flights (“rendering”).

    • Mark B
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      I think you can add a fair few other countries to that list. Including EU one’s.

      • Peter van Leeuwen
        Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

        @Mark B: You’re absolutely right, I mention the UK because the anti ‘European Convention’ campaign only exists in the UK.

        • Mondeo Man
          Posted December 15, 2014 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

          We had a pro EU Prime Minister in charge at the time of the renditions. One who might have aspired to be the leader of Europe.

          His pro EU-ness didn’t prevent (worries about association with bad practises ed), apparently.

    • Ted Monbiot
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Thats not really correct Peter.
      The internet was the method these allegations were first aired.
      Others then saw them and they gained publicity.
      I realise you are pro EU but your bias is showing.

    • Robert Taggart
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

      Sounds like another good reason for Blighty to withdraw from Europe – period !

  24. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    Without expansion, torture makes me feel just as sick as the the crimes committed by the disgustingly violent.Here still stands the same old choice..’An eye for an eye’ or’ turn the other cheek’; yet we don’t need to completely turn the other cheek or descend to the ?terrorists level.

  25. Boudicca
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    We also need to know what part the UK played in this worrying story. Our senior officers, armed service personnel generally and representatives need clear instructions about our belief in following the rule of law
    —————
    So nothing to say about holding the politicians in charge to account.

    Not a word about Blair, Straw and the rest of the Labour Cabinet who presided over the Government whilst (these events ed) took place. Not a word about the still unpublished Chilcot Report.

    And nothing to say about the Conservative Party’s recent dilution of our legal protections via the EU’s “Criminal Justice” and the destruction of Habeas Corpus which the EAW represents.

    The Conservative Party appears to be stuffed full with hypocrites.

    Reply I opposed the EAW and posted about it at the time.

    • Boudicca
      Posted December 14, 2014 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

      That’s why I didn’t say “completely stuffed with hypocrites.”

      There are a few decent, patriotic and relatively honest Conservative MPs. But they’re few and far between.

  26. Terry
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    War is a dirty business and I know of no war where both of the two sides were signatories to the Geneva Convention. Nazis, Japanese, North Korea, Saddam, Al Qaeda, IS and the Taliban, to name but a few. None of these had signed up to the Geneva Convention prior to the hostilities.

    However, they were free to practice their own barbaric information extraction methods on OUR soldiers and civilians but we had to act like gentlemen, lest we were accused of lowering ourselves to their sub-human levels of compassion. How naive can we be?

    The current bloc of enemies have wanted to kill all of us because we have not joined their crusade in butchery. Because we are infidels.
    In their eyes, our democracy and our compassion for life is a weakness to be exploited and so they do.
    How can it be right to sacrifice the lives of 3000 innocent people or more just because a captured terrorist refuses to talk and we do not force him by any means?

    To save a blood thirsty terrorist from pain but in the process effectively kill those innocent citizens is well beyond my comprehension.

    So, I do not care what the Security forces do to ensure the safety of my family and my country. In fact I insist they take every possible measure to guarantee it.

    • rick hamilton
      Posted December 15, 2014 at 1:33 am | Permalink

      Indeed, there is a lot of sanctimonious preaching from politicians, media and other observers and commentators who never have to confront a vicious enemy face to face.

      If our armed forces do capture one of these murderous fanatics and want to extract information which will help us to defeat them and save our own peoples’ lives, what should they do? A cup of tea and a biscuit supervised by a team of human rights activists is unlikely to get any results.

      So we end up probably saying one thing and doing another to mollify hand-wringing defeatists, which sounds like politics as usual to me. It is said that the Vietnam war was lost in the pages of the New York Times: the same might be happening with militant Islam now.

  27. Vanessa
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    As others have said the European Arrest Warrant has destroyed Habeas Corpus for us. We can be shipped off to any gaol in the EU – without evidence or a trial – and held for up to 2 years in prisons so unlike our own as to be unrecognisable. This is while they collect or fabricate evidence. This would never have been allowed in this country.

    Also we can now be extradited to the USA and banged up in their prison while they also collect or fabricate evidence against us – often for crimes which are NOT crimes in this country (the English pensioners taken off to America and facing 245 years in prison if found guilty). The conservatives have taken leave of their senses and do NOT uphold our laws and freedoms which were our birthright.

    Our government is truly disgusting.

    • Hope
      Posted December 15, 2014 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      Well said. This while allowing convicted criminals into the country from around Europe pretending that the EAW makes us safe, it does not and cannot.

  28. Brigham
    Posted December 14, 2014 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    In my opinion the end justifies the means if it saves the lives of British subjects.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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