Maybe I am the only nasty person here but I think we have all been tempted at some point in our lives to use violence to sort out a problem.
Am I alone here? Come on, own up.
You know the sort of situation I mean. The man who has been making your life hell for years is standing on the edge of a cliff and you can’t see anyone else for miles.
Well, I wouldn’t do it, I am sure, well, pretty sure, but I think I would definitely feel the temptation.
Actually, I think I am in more danger of pushing someone over a cliff if I had been stuck behind them for too long whilst they dithered around in front of me. Like people who never have their money ready in shops even though they have been standing in a queue for ten minutes.
Queues, well there’s another danger zone for me. I just don’t want to stand in an orderly line and, if I were to be really honest, I would admit to the odd temptation here to use a few pushes and the odd shove to get to the front.
I now do have to say, hand on heart like those admirable Americans listening to their national anthem, that I have never pushed anyone over except in a legitimate kung fu sparring match.
At worst I repress the urge.
Now what if it had been that unacceptable face of most things, the former Vice President of the United States, one Dick Cheney?
Well now you’re talking, I hear you all shout out. You push and we’ll look away.
I thought he had gone – off to do the sort of things that the ex-greats do when they leave politics, play golf, write unreadable memoirs and bore people at parties.
No such luck.
He was back in the news today over the question of “enhanced interrogation procedures.”
He is stormin’ mad over President Obama letting out those memos about CIA torture techniques.
He says if the memos showing the techniques are published then so should the records of the success stories such “procedures” produced.
You know the sort of thing, as if during the Nuremberg Trials, the accused Nazis were given a platform to show the many advantages of genocide.
Torture is wrong. Full stop.
Not only is it wrong from a “Stop it ‘cos it’s horrid” liberal position but it is also profoundly ill-advised from a legal perspective.
Confessions produced under duress are highly suspect not only in law but also in reality.
How many times have you thought you would confess to having sex with the late Queen Mother, if only the dentist would stop drilling your upper left molars?
Well Mr. Cheney wants the full story to come out…hehehe..oh yes? That’ll be a first!
He wants us to approve of his shameful attempts at justifying torture by twisting the law. He got his lawyers to find legal loopholes so that his intellectually challenged front guy, George Bush, could say, when asked, if he allowed the CIA to use torture: “The authorisation I issued was that anything we did would conform to US laws.”
That was when the strangulated phrase “enhanced interrogation techniques” was born.
The idea was that these procedures wouldn’t count legally as torture as long as they didn’t cause intense or prolonged pain or lasting psychological damage.
So no more, after he has been caught, that schoolboy shout “I didn’t hit him!” now it was to be “I didn’t hit him very hard and it didn’t cause any lasting damage!”
Even the most sweetly naive of us cannot really believe in these gentle caring CIA operatives holding back their punches or carefully avoiding any psychological trauma when they were using the infamous waterboarding technique which simulates drowning.
You may well be thinking: Hold on a minute, these victims were evil Islamasist criminals intent on blowing us all up.
Of course some of them undoubtedly were guilty of just these things but torture or even the presumption of torture could lead them to their own legal loopholes, enough for them ultimately to escape justice.
You may also be thinking: Well, if they spill the beans on their friends and manage to stop another bombing outrage then roughing them up a bit is a price worth paying.
Two things here:
There are a whole range of sophisticated and genuinely legal means of interrogating suspects which does not make use of violence of any sort, enhanced or just simply sadistic.
Also, the information produced by waterboarding or gently bashing someone’s head against a not very hard wall is notoriously inaccurate.
Take the man who confessed to being the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.
Apparently he confessed to a whole lot of other things too…rather like those drunks you met in the pub who have always been in the SAS and, by implication, saved the World.
Abu Zubaydah, whilst his interrogation was “enhanced” confessed to planning the assassinations of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter and Pope John Paul II. Even the CIA don’t believe him. That “enhancement”, by the way, included the use of waterboarding 183 times.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney is not the only one squawking about President Obama’s release of these papers, some previous directors of the CIA have complained too. Funny that. I wonder why they are upset. Reputations are delicate things, easily hurt, especially by the truth.
If you see any of these guys in your local bar, don’t go near them, they will keep you up all night with a few bourbons and all those stories of how they saved the World.
I am with President Obama on this.
In a speech to the CIA yesterday, he said:
“Don’t be discouraged that we have to acknowledge potentially we have made some mistakes – that’s how we learn.”
Wow! If only all politicians thought like this.
OK, I know he is acknowledging Bush and Cheney’s mistakes, not his own, but let’s hope that he not only holds to his ideals but that he puts them into action too.
Abu Grab, Guantanamo Bay and all those secret prison cells around the world are a major blemish on America’s record of human rights, it is good and right that the new president acknowledges this and moves on.
On a practical note too, the current director of the CIA, Robert Mueller, was asked if any attacks on America have been prevented because of “enhanced interrogation,” he answered: I don’t believe that has been the case.”
Meanwhile I am going to be a whole lot more patient in those queues and I plan to avoid cliff tops even if I see Dick Cheney hanging around up there. Promise.