TO: Distinguished Recipients
FM: John Whitbeck
The brief article transmitted below, published in The GUARDIAN, provides
a timely and welcome antidote to the breathless and breathtaking
hypocrisy of most British politicians and media in recent days.
If the British military personnel captured close to the murky and
disputed maritime boundary between Iraq and Iran had not been shown on
TV well-dressed, smiling and tucking into a good meal, British
politicians would no doubt be demanding evidence that they were safe and
being well treated, rather than expressing "disgust" at their treatment.
Furthermore, if the "confessions" of these military personnel are to be
dismissed as a result of presumed duress (as they may well deserve to
be) after they have spent a few days in apparently comfortable custody,
how seriously should anyone take the "confession" before a "military
commission" of Australian captive David Hicks or the alleged edited
transcript of an alleged "confession" of alleged 9/11 mastermind Khaled
Sheikh Mohammed after five years of solitary confinement and torture --
or, indeed, any subsequent "confessions" of any other veterans of
Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib or any of the CIA's secret black holes?
Fortunately, while the Bush regime is trumpeting these two recent
"confessions" as evidence that "the system works", it appears that few
people anywhere beyond the totalitarian inner circle of George W. Bush,
Dick Cheney and the eminently disbarable Alberto Gonzales accord them
any credibility whatsoever.
The good news is that, while those American politicians who have dared
to criticize America's new love affair with torture have tended to do so
on the grounds that the precedent created would expose our brave men and
women in uniform to similarly bestial treatment if captured (not, it
should be noted, on the grounds that torture is evil, immoral, contrary
to international law and treaties and unworthy of any decent or
civilized society), at least in the case of the British captives, this
does not appear to have happened.
*Treatment of Faye Turney: Restraint by West Needed*
/By Ronan Bennett, The Guardian, March 31, 2007/
It's right that the British government and media should be concerned
about the treatment the 15 captured marines and sailors are receiving in
Iran. Faye Turney’s letters bear the marks of coercion, while parading
the prisoners in front of TV cameras was demeaning. But the outrage
expressed by ministers and leader writers is curious given the recent
record of the “coalition of the willing” on the way it deals with prisoners.
Turney may have been "forced to wear the hijab”, as the Daily Mail noted
with fury, but so far as we know she has not been forced into an orange
jumpsuit. Her comrades have not been shackled, blindfolded, forced into
excruciating physical contortions for long periods, or denied liquids
and food. As far as we know, they have not had the Bible spat on, torn
up or urinated on in front of their faces. They have not had electrodes
attached to their genitals or been set on by attack dogs.
They have not been hung from a forklift truck and photographed for the
amusement of their captors. They have not been pictured naked and
smeared in their own excrement. They have not been bundled into a
CIA-chartered plane and secretly “rendered” to a basement prison in a
country where torturers are experienced and free to do their worst.
As far as we know, Turney and her comrades are not being “worked hard”,
the euphemism coined by one senior British Army officer for the abuse of
prisoners at Camp Bread Basket. And as far as we know, all 15 are alive
and well, which is more than can be said for Baha Mousa, the hotel
receptionist who, in 2003, was unfortunate enough to have been taken
into custody by British troops in Basra. There has of course been a
court martial, and it exonerated the soldiers of Mousa’s murder. So we
can only assume that his death – by beating – was self-inflicted; yet
another instance of “asymmetrical warfare”, the description given by US
authorities to the deaths of the Guantanamo detainees who hanged
themselves last year.
And while the families of the captured marines and sailors must be in
agonies of uncertainty, they have the comfort of knowing that the very
highest in the land are doing everything they can to end their
“unjustified detention”. They can count themselves especially lucky, for
the very same highest of the land have rather different views on what
justifies detention where foreign-born Muslims in Britain are concerned.
In the case, for example, of the Belmarsh detainees, suspicion justified
arrest; statements extracted under torture from third parties justified
accusation; and secret hearings justified imprisonment.
With disregard for the rights of prisoners now entrenched at the very
top of government, it comes as no surprise that abuses committed by rank
and file soldiers go virtually unremarked. No one in politics or the
media dares censure the military, surely today the only institution
still immune from any sort of criticism, even when soldiers are brutal
and murderous toward captives. Instead of frankly facing up to the
wrongs soldiers have perpetrated, officers and ministers speak of
difficult work done in testing conditions, deliberate provocations, and
propaganda by the enemy.
We all know in our bones that soldiers and civilians in revolt don’t
mix. Ask any historian. Ask them about what British soldiers did in
Kenya, French soldiers did in Algeria, and Americans in Vietnam. While
you’re at it, ask them what the RAF did in Iraq under British rule in
the 1920s (gassed Kurds, in case you’ve forgotten). We must all hope
that Faye Turney and her comrades are returned to their families safely
and soon. Then perhaps we can compare their accounts of their treatment
with what Moazzam Begg and the Tipton Three have to say about
Guantanamo, what Prisoner B has to say about Belmarsh, and what the men
arrested with Baha Mousa can tell us of his screams on the night he died.