God Bless The ‘Special Relationship’

Few in America will have heard the name, Baha Mousa. That’s a pity, because Baha Mousa was living proof the ‘special relationship’ between Britain and the United States is as strong and endurable as ever.

Baha Mousa is no longer ‘living proof’. He’s been dead five years: tortured to death by British troops in Basra, following arrest and detention along with a number of others Iraqis, in September 2003.

Mousa was a hotel receptionist whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

It’s a case that hit the headlines in Britain recently, due to a report from the government’s Joint Committee on Human Rights, stating, amongst other things:

“Not all troops had known “conditioning” techniques such as hooding and sleep deprivation were banned.” [1]

Apparently, British troops have now been informed they mustn’t torture their prisoners, as it’s not a nice thing to do and they could get into trouble.

This is yet another example of blaming the monkeys for the crimes of the organgrinder. Everyone knows soldiers take and obey orders, certainly in the British army. They also carry out those orders without question, whether in agreement, or not.

The decision to torture Baha Mousa and his compatriots came, not from some lowly NCO on the ground, but from way up high in the top ranks of officialdom.

The methods used were almost identical to those employed by the US military in Iraq, which leaves one wondering just how high up the ladder of power it’s necessary to climb in order to find the source of such orders?

It’s now considered likely, though not yet proved beyond doubt, that Donald Rumsfeld was responsible for issuing the go-ahead for torture and abuse that led to the scandal of Abu Ghraib.

We can also be sure, particularly in the early years of the invasion, that US leaders and their British counterparts were in constant contact, exchanging information and ideas.

This leads to the inevitable conclusion that a member of the British government was the likely instigator of a decision to relax the rules regarding ‘conditioning techniques’ (as torture is antiseptically referred to in political circles) and points a finger at the then Minister of Defence, Geoff Hoon.[2]

A public inquiry is to take place in Britain soon into the death of Baha Mousa. According to the present Defence Minister, Des Browne:

“We acknowledge that in 2003 some of the conditioning techniques were used on a small number of detainees.

“This should not have happened and we need to know how it came about. That is why I endorse the terms of the inquiry wholeheartedly.”

Will Geoff Hoon be called to give evidence? And, in that unlikely event, can he be relied on to tell the truth?

Sifting the facts, it seems likely both the US and British military were under orders to obtain as much information as they could from their captives, and as quickly as possible, using whatever interrogation methods proved successful. Both the US and UK intelligence services had failed utterly in providing accurate pre-invasion intelligence. As a result, the military of both nations had become bogged down in an insurgency they, for reasons difficult to comprehend, had not anticipated.

Both the British army and US military were expected to fill the ‘intelligence’ gaps, and were given carte blanche from their respective governments to achieve a result.

While the US military amused itself piling naked Iraqis on top of each other in Abu Ghraib prison, and photographed themselves doing it, the British in Basra were conducting their own entertainment, by hooding, beating, and suffocating their Iraqi prisoners.

It’s good to know the ‘special relationship’ is alive and flourishing.

Unfortunately, Baha Mousa isn’t.

[1] “MPs ‘misled’ over interrogation” BBC, July 27th 2008

[2] Wikipedia “Geoffrey William Hoon”

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Plumbing The Depths

“”There is a huge gap between us [the Jews] and our enemies [the Palestinians] not just in ability but in morality, culture, sanctity of life, and conscience. They are our neighbors here, but it seems as if at a distance of a few hundred meters away there are people who do not belong to our continent, to our world, but actually belong to a different galaxy.” ~ Israeli President Moshe Katzav, 05/23/2001.

             Picture: Thirty-foot high Israeli barrier built to shut out their ‘alien’ neighbors.

It’s ironic, that seven years after uttering those words, on 1st July 2008, Moshe Katzav was forced to step down as president of Israel following a plea bargain in which he admitted several counts of ‘sexual harassment and indecent acts’. The actual allegations were far more serious, involving a number of rapes.

We know that power corrupts, but infinitely more consequential is its ability to dehumanize. This convenient de-valuing of individuals, groups, or nations to further a purpose, whether by utilizing one’s power to force another into a sexual act, brutally incarcerating 3.8 million Palestinians, or, equally brutally suppressing and eventually exterminating six million Jews, is surely the very root of human immorality.

Morality; culture; sanctity of life; conscience.

Throughout this world, those charged with upholding these values are they who, by their continual abuse of power, reduce them to meaningless political slogans.

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Quote Of The Day

US President George W Bush addressing the crisis in the world’s financial sector:

“Wall Street got drunk. It got drunk and now it’s got a hangover. The question is, how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments?”

Later, an interpretation by the White House press secretary:

“He said that Wall Street was dealing with very complex financial instruments and that the markets didn’t fully understand the risks that those instruments posed to the system.”

I’d never have guessed.

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