Friday, 12 January 2007

Five shameful years.

The US detention camp at Guantanamo Bay was five years old yesterday.

Despite the operations there being condemned by the Red Cross, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, the western world has become so desensitized to its existence that it rarely merits comment these days. But it should be an indelible stain on all our consciences.

There was a slogan going round of 'not in my name' at the start of the war. Maybe this seems like liberal sentimentality, but it was never more applicable than in the case of Guantanamo.

Our leaders tell us that our safety is assured by the use of such places and that however distasteful we may find them, for us to criticise them is just ungrateful squeamishness. And so acceptance of inhumane practices enters in the consensus of what is morally acceptable, if it is done in the name of western democracy.

For the first time in centuries, moral philosophers are again seriously debating whether the use of torture can be morally justified in the cause of the greater good.
But even on a practical level I have yet to see any good use made of intelligence gained from the 700+ unconvicted detainees who have passed through the camp.

It is a matter of record that information obtained under torture is often highly questionable. Witness the confession of one of the Tipton Three (UK citizens detained at the camp); he confessed to being in a training camp in Afghanistan whilst in fact he was proven to have actually been working at the time at Currys in the West Midlands !

Contrast all of this with conduct of the Nuremburg trials fifty years ago. Having defeated Nazism, the allies were at pains to maintain the moral high ground by giving due legal process to their former enemies. The process was not perfect, but it would have been unthinkable that no charges brought, or open investigations started for five years after the conflict.

I personally don't feel any safer because of the detention and torture of the men at Guantanamo; and I don't feel that anything done there is about justice for the victims of 9/11, or of the Taliban in Afghanistan, or of Saddam in Iraq, or anywhere else for that matter. When these arguments are used by our leaders to justify their actions, I think it is entirely appropriate to say ' not in my name'.

No comments: