October 19, 2009

Torture and the UK

Does Britain collude in the torture of terror suspects or not?

The head of MI5 said in a speech the other day that torturing people might be OK for Jack Bauer, but it's not OK for his officers..  Well, he basically said that without the television reference.

However, Londonstani has a good friend who went to Pakistan totally off his own bat and filmed interviews with Pakistani military people saying that British officials had asked them to obtain information through torture. The material was not broadcast or developed as UK news organisations couldn't afford to buy the footage and repay their costs.

In Londonstani's experience, nothing has been as damaging to the fight against radicalisation, extremism and terrorism as accounts and images of people being tortured by UK and US personnel, or those acting on their behalf. This isn't to say information of such occurences should be suppressed, rather that they should just plain not happen. Anyone who has spent time in the places between Casablanca, Cairo, Karachi and Jakarta and talked to people about al Qaeda/terrorism etc will have heard pre-2006 that AQ's fight was justified by the US and UK's practices. And after 2006 would have heard that AQ was no worse in its actions than Washington and London. Even that change in view came about because of AQ's bloodlust in Iraq and not actions undertaken by the international community.

Hiding information about torture is counterproductive. It gets out anyway. And if it's seeping out through the families and friends of people who have suffered it, the shadowy details will be much worse than the actual facts. This isn't to say that the UK did collude in torture, but rather that the sense of doubt is harmful. If Londonstani was a government accused of involvement in torture (the government of Londonistan, maybe), he would put it out in the open, denounce it as an abberation of normal conduct, hold people accountable and make sure it doesn't happen again