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Monday, April 02, 2007

The UK Can be Glad Its Sailors Weren't Captured by the US

Monty Python alumnus Terry Jones puts the recent capture of british sailors by Iran into context -- as only a member of Python could.

The Guardian:

It is [...] unacceptable that these British captives should be made to talk on television and say things that they may regret later. If the Iranians put duct tape over their mouths, like we do to our captives, they wouldn't be able to talk at all. Of course they'd probably find it even harder to breathe - especially with a bag over their head - but at least they wouldn't be humiliated.

And what's all this about allowing the captives to write letters home saying they are all right? It's time the Iranians fell into line with the rest of the civilised world: they should allow their captives the privacy of solitary confinement. That's one of the many privileges the US grants to its captives in Guantanamo Bay.

Compare how these the british detainees are treated with how the US has been treating detainees.


[Abd al-Rahim] Nashiri's testimony was given at a military tribunal held at Guantanamo to determine his status as an "enemy combatant" on 14 March, AFP news agency reports.

"From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me," the transcript of his hearing read.

"It happened during interviews. One time they tortured me one way, and another time they tortured me in a different way."

According to his testimony he eventually "confessed" to playing a key role in the bombing of the USS Cole.

"I just said those things to make the people happy," the transcript read.

"They were very happy when I told them those things."

Let me take a turn putting things in perspective -- when it comes to the treatment of foreign detainees, we suffer in comparison to freakin' Iran. What have we become?

For the sake of argument, let's say that Iran was waterboarding these people and drugging them and using other 'aggressive interrogation techniques.' What could we say with any moral authority? We can't argue that torture is wrong -- hell, the US argues that it isn't even illegal. By our own arguments, Iran would be well within their legal rights.

Could we argue that the sailors were taken illegally? That'd hand them a laugh. 25 CIA agents have been put on trial in Italy for kidnapping -- there goes that charge.

Look, if the argument that torture and kidnapping is deeply, deeply wrong isn't good enough, then here's the situation -- if we can do it to anyone, anyone can do it to us. And Iran could argue, as the US does, that things like waterboarding don't even constitute torture. They could quote the Justice Department's Bybee Memo back to us and inform us that torture 'must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.' I'm not sure how you're supposed to measure something as subjective as pain, but we've determined that waterboarding ain't it. Iran could have a waterboarding party and there wouldn't be a damned thing we could say against it. Not with any authority, anyway.

We're damned lucky that Iran isn't interested in making this kind of a point. Let's not fool ourselves, Iran's human rights record is awful. Let's just say that if any of those sailors are gay, it'd be a real good idea for them to keep that info to themselves.

Reports are that Britain is urging the US to butt out here. We can't help, because we've squandered any moral standing we once had. But that doesn't stop Bush from opening his mouth and screwing things up.

Globe and Mail:

"We are anxious that this matter be resolved as quickly as possible, and that it be resolved by diplomatic means, and we are bending every single effort to that. . . . We are in direct bilateral communication with the Iranians," British Defence Minister Des Browne told reporters yesterday.

But Britain's delicate diplomatic efforts were set back by U.S. President George W. Bush, who made a statement Saturday in which he characterized the imprisoned sailors as "hostages" -- a phrase that Britain has been carefully avoiding to prevent the crisis from becoming a broader political or military conflict.

It wouldn't surprise me to learn that Bush got a quick email from Blair after that, with the body consisting of 'STFU!' As it always does, Bush's impulse toward being a hard-assed tough guy serves him poorly and drives him to take the worst possible course. Which, in turn, serves everyone on down the line poorly.

In terms of diplomacy, the US has rendered itself useless under George W. Bush. We have no moral or legal authority in the world. We don't give a damn about law, we don't give a damn about justice, and we don't give a damn about human rights. All we care about is the US interest.

Unfortunately, Bush is such an idiot that his idea of what serves US interest actually harms it. We go marching off on a 'War on Terror' and terrorism increases 600% worldwide, for example. This is the last guy you want helping you out.

By practicing torture, our own people now have no defense against it. And we have no business rushing to the aid of people illegally detained. Bush has neutered us morally, legally, and ethically.

We now have no business lecturing other nations on law, justice, and human rights. The US has been an offender since 9/11.


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