It seems (gasp) that the U.K. (golly!) in cahoots with the U.S. (are you for real?!) tortured people picked up in the wake of the Sept. 11th attacks. (Sept. 11th... when did that happen?)
When you keep on boasting about the 'special relationship,' you must have been offered a real good price on special rendition. Tellingly, it seems only to be Brits who talk up the special relationship. Most Americans have been too busy watching "Real Housewives of Onion Bag, Kansas," to remember some far-away wet islands.
To be strictly accurate, it seems that the British government outsourced the torture of al Qaeda suspects to Morocco, rather than get les mains salles.
All the way through the last nine years of mind-bending madness -- Bush, the 2000 U.S. election, 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan, et al -- it has felt as if people have forgotten that there is a basic set of rules between the citizen and the state, in democracies: the nation state is the sum of its citizens and their electoral power. Government officials are public servants. In return for taking money from us, called taxes, we have a lifelong contract with the state, and we are therefore entitled to an account of what that money and those servants have done with it. It may not always work out this way, but it should.
As is so often the case with shady British behavior, Northern Ireland limps into view, waving from beneath a rain shower. Gareth Peirce, an attorney who has represented both Irish and Muslim individuals accused of terrorism, writes
in the London Review of Books:
"In August 1971 British soldiers arrested 342 men in Northern Ireland claiming that they were IRA suspects. To force their confessions, 12 of them were taken to a secret site and subjected to the now notorious five techniques (forced standing, hooding, sleep deprivation, starvation and thirst, and white noise). Most of the men later reported experiencing auditory hallucinations; the interrogators referred to the room used for noise as the ‘music box’, and were aware that the detainees were exhibiting distorted thought processes. The Republic of Ireland took the UK to court in Strasbourg for their use of these methods and Britain gave an unconditional promise never to use them again."
He details how Muslims were picked up after Sept. 11th and tortured on behalf of the British and American governments, despite ... despite what? Aside from their innocence, there is the well-known fact that torture is immoral and repugnant, and on top of that, if you torture someone, they will say whatever you want them to say, just to make you stop!
States have always been too arrogant and secretive (cowards) to come clean with us, the citizens who bankroll them. As my grandfather would say when faced with some depridation by the Army, police, prods or provos: "Hanging is too good for them." [Long pause]. "It's a kick in the ass they need."
[N.B: One unthinking American reaction to the words "British government" is to gush lavish praise on a misplaced idea that Britain does diplomacy really well. And while I agree that there is a repository of great power experience in the Foreign Office going back hundreds of years, most British diplomats I have met have been whinging alcoholics].