Extraordinary Rendition Continued 19

As I have explained before, the effect of public outcry over extraordinary rendition has been to switch it to US military bases in the UK rather than our civilian airports. There is an excellent article in the Mail:

The picture that proves ‘torture flights’ are STILL landing in the UK



The row over CIA ‘torture flights’ using British airports has deepened following fresh evidence that a plane repeatedly linked to the controversial programme landed in the UK just days ago.

The plane was logged arriving at RAF Mildenhall in Suffolk last weekend, and watching aviation experts said the aircraft, piloted by crew clad in desert fatigues, was immediately surrounded on the runway by armed American security forces.


Here is another one, by gambling millionaire Stuart Wheeler:

You might have thought torture happened only in the barbaric Middle Ages. But as renditions expert Stephen Grey and human rights organisation Amnesty have recently pointed out, it is happening right now with the full approval of a supposedly civilised nation: the United States.

The US has also sanctioned the shackling of prisoners’ limbs, the threat of dog attacks and the prolonged maintenance of stress positions or repetitive exercises while attacking China, Eritrea, Burma, Iran and Libya for carrying out those same abuses.


Both of which illustrate a vital point. The most important rift in British politics today is not between left and right, it is between authoritarians and libertarians, between those who support human and civil rights, and those who prefer “Strong government”. This fault line coincides closely with those who support, and those who oppose, the Iraq war, largely because both issues depend on the prior question “Is might always right?”.

I therefore have much more in common with the Mail and Mr Wheeler, with Ken Clarke, Malcolm Rifkind, Peter Hitchens and Michael Ancram than I do with John Reid, Gordon Brown, or Michael White. This question of liberty is a prior question – without liberty, you’re not allowed to disagree over economics. That is what poor, deluded Polly Toynbee has failed to grasp in her view that we should support Blair, no matter how many countries he invades or people he kills, because of his allegedly good child poverty policies.

Our parties are still structured around an economic fault, so now that authoritarianism has become the more crucial dividing line, they are all split. New Labour less so, because it has become a career vehicle of those attracted simply to personal power and wealth. It is fascinating how the old hard left of different varieties of communist – John Reid, Christopher Hitchens, David Aaronovitch, Melanie Phillips and their like – have taken so avidly to the new order. Of course, they never believed in liberty anyway. The Tories are – as Wheeler notes in his article – perhaps the most split. Every instinct of Ming Campbell is with the authoritarians; strangely that is true of most Lib Dem MPs, but few of their activists.

Meantime, a must see documentary from the great Stephen Grey on Channel 4 Dispatches on Monday evening at 8pm:

Dispatches: Kidnapped To Order

Dispatches exposes a new phase in America’s war on al Qaeda: the rendition and detention of women and children. Last year, President Bush confirmed the existence of a CIA secret detention programme but he refused to give details and said it was over.

Dispatches reveals new evidence confirming fiercely-denied reports that many of the CIA captives were held and interrogated in Europe. Those prisons may now be closed but the programme is by no means over, it’s just changed. A new front has opened up in the Horn of Africa and America has outsourced its renditions to its allies.

Reporter Stephen Grey (author of Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Programme) investigates America’s global sweep for prisoners ‘ obtaining exclusive interviews with former detainees who claim they have been kidnapped and flown halfway across the world to face torture by America’s allies.

The film opens with an examination of the most notorious rendition story to date ‘ the kidnap of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar. This month in Italy the trial opens of twenty-five CIA officers accused of snatching Omar from the streets of Milan in broad daylight and flying him to Cairo four years ago. Grey travels to Egypt to secure an exclusive interview with Omar who defies the warnings of his interrogators not to speak publicly about his treatment. He details the torture that was inflicted upon him in his fourteen-month detention and the number of other ‘ghost detainees’ he encountered – people who are being held in secret, without charge.

This coincides with the BBC documentary on the BAE bribes, so check your recorder is working now. And if you read only one book this year make it Grey’s Ghost Plane.

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19 thoughts on “Extraordinary Rendition Continued

  • johnf

    I agree one hundred percent.

    The last time such a huge reordering of British politics occured – again over foreign policy and the fight for liberty – was in the late thirties, when a splinter from the Tory Party – Churchill, Nicholson, Eden, Macmillan – split from its main bulk, sided with the Liberals and an at-the-last-minute united Labour Party – and just swung the vote in the Norway Debate to throw out Chamberlain.

    Again it was a Prime Minister driven by ideology and blinded by his own sense of righteousness. A split between ideologues and pragmatists. Those who believed business was all important and moralists. Between the metropolitan elite – mainly pro-appeasement – and provincials.

    We should realize – and draw comfort from the fact – that the anti-appeasers were defeated again and again, and sufferered humiliation after humiliation, before they finally triumphed.

    We need someone to "speak for England" – as Amory put it in the Norway Debate.

  • Cide Hamete Benengel

    The important point, that the political spectrum has an authoritarian/libertarian dimension independent of the economic left/right range, is made elegantly and in great detail by the "Political Compass" (politicalcompass.org).

    To take a somewhat extreme example, the BNP's economic positions are in fact not that far from the Greens, it's only when you look at their positions on military, police, race…well you get the idea.

  • George Dutton

    "I therefore have much more in common with the Mail and Mr Wheeler, with Ken Clarke, Malcolm Rifkind, Peter Hitchens and Michael Ancram than I do with John Reid, Gordon Brown, or Michael White."

    People will say anything when looking for votes. The tories are still way to the right of NEW Labour make no mistake about that.

    Where all this is going bodes ill for all of us in the UK. Robert Burns would have said…

    I'll mak' this declaration

    We're bought and sold for right wing gold

    Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

  • greengorilla

    Craig, you write:

    "The most important rift in British politics today is not between left and right, it is between authoritarians and libertarians, between those who support human and civil rights, and those who prefer "Strong government"."

    What you say really puts the finger on the problem. We desperately need a popular movement for Peace, Justice and Civil Liberties in this country but that cannot happen until a group of leading activists can get together, organize a conference and then launch an umbrella group which includes the entire spectrum of the old paradigm of left and right by redefiningit as you do here: libertarians and authoritarians.

    A major difference between the success of the Peace Movement of the 'eighties (led by those such as Edward Thompson and Bruce Kent) and the present Stop the War movement is that the first was an umbrella movement and the second is too strongly characterized by a fringe, left party, the SWP.

    I would appeal to good people such as yourself to do what you can to bring like-minded people –especially in the ruling establishment such as diplomats– together to form just such a Movement.

    BTW, Richard Moore, from Cyberjournal, has much to say about the need for what he calls a 'Harmonizing' Movement which I feel is very relevant here.

    See http://cyberjournal.org/

  • peacewisher

    Good point, Greengorilla. The eighties peace movement was not political, but stuck to its guns (if you pardon the pun).

    As soon as Thatcher started playing the fear card (remember "Protect and Survive") CND very successfully organised and gained support at grassroots level. Never underestimate the power of the car sticker, and a powereful archetypal symbol!

    I remember very vividly Bruce Kent knocking John Nott flat with his rhetoric in response to the "support our troops" mantra. The Greenham women didn't happen in a vacuum – they were inspired by a principled movement and did fantastic things.

    Ultimately, the peace movement got rid of Cruise missiles from our soil and that must have been regarded as a victory. In contrast, STW have always gone out of their way not to offend the government, and achieved very little – even though the present government is MUCH WORSE than Thatcher's.

    STW were crowing about getting rid of Blair, but Brown appears to be following just the same policy, so what have they actually achieved in practice???

    There is no real political choice any more in England – at least the Welsh & Scots have the Nationalists to rally round the peoples' just cause, protect human rights, and deride new labour and their policy of fear.

    A non-political peoples lobby group is needed, and needed urgently. With the latest shananagans at Aldermaston needing an urgent response, perhaps it should once again be CND.

  • greengorilla

    CND has gone back to sleep. It was only awoken in the 'eighties because of the sudden and incredible burgeoning of local peace groups after 'Protect & Survive'.

    Another reason, I believe, for the huge peace movement of the 'eighties is because we all felt threatened by the US Airland Battle war scenario of a European Theatre of War which was behind Cruise deployment.

    That was, if you like, a selfish motive for getting up of our backsides and organising. To date, we haven't had quite that sense of urgency. Despite the fact that a US attack on Iran might well use 'tactical' nuclear weapons it all seems 'far away' (which is nonsense, of course as radiation knows no boundaries).

    This lack of urgency together with the fundamental weakness of STW (infiltrated with government stooges, imho) is fatal. STW seems to think that the occasional march is good enough. They behave reactively, not proactively.

    Hence the desperate need for a popular movement along the lines suggested. I keep on calling for one whenever and wherever I can but it takes Names, Celebrities and so on …

  • greengorilla

    And when you think about it, providing the disaffected with the occasional march is a good valve to let off the build-up of anger that we know exists throughout the land.

    If STW aren't already being paid as government stooges, they're doing a damn good unpaid job!

    We have to get right away from this mess by bringing in people from everywhere, especially from the Conservative ranks, some of whom Craig has already mentioned.

  • Geoff Jones

    Its worth noting that we do not have any "US military bases in the UK". As far as I'm aware all the bases are ostensibly RAF bases. The current station commander at RAF Mildenhall is Squadron Leader M. A. Finneran Apr 2006 – present.

    So if rendition is taking place through these bases the UK government is directly involved.

  • johnf

    I suppose its a question of tactics.

    I don't think the New Labor neo-cons and the traditional "conservative" Atlanticists – the Powell brothers, Dame Pauline Neville Jones etc – realize how much their actions have exposed and weakened their political position.

    Their bedrock and final fallback position has always been patriotism. But their constant cringing obedience to a moron like Bush is something which is deeply resented and shocking to just about everyone in this country. As "Brits" we feel insulted and betrayed by their politics. In other words, the foreign policy neo-cons and the police statists and Murdoch-ites here at home have become the "unpatriotic" party.

    Patriotism is a very difficult and sometimes even dangerous emotion to play with, but there is a deep-seated and genuine feeling throughout these isles that we and what we stand for have been betrayed by our leaders.

    How it would be done I don't know – and Orwell's distinctions between patriotism and nationalism are always a good point of reference – but it is our enemy's weak flank and it is an area which might be explored.

  • greengorilla

    johnf writes:

    "Patriotism is a very difficult and sometimes even dangerous emotion to play with, but there is a deep-seated and genuine feeling throughout these isles that we and what we stand for have been betrayed by our leaders."

    I believe it would be possible to create such a popular movement simply on the basis of protecting civil liberties and calling for troop withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan.

    When we have our generals calling for troop withdrawal then that's a pretty big sign of what the establishment is thinking.

    We can put what you call the unpatriotic party into a corner and ensure they get their dues, starting with Blair being taken to the international courts.

    Yes, the patriotism thing is a bit dodgy but I don't think we can avoid facing it. For, on this question, I think you'll find the whole of the British population in agreement, whether nationalists or not.

    And for the the whole nation to come out of denial and to deal with their traitors could well provide a great healing for us all from this terrible malaise, give us back a sense of self-respect the loss of which was probably the reason the traitors betrayed their country in the first place.

  • johnf

    Mind you, Dave really hasn't changed his stripes that much:


    The leader of Britain's Conservative party, David Cameron, called himself a "Zionist" Tuesday as he slammed a British initiative for an academic boycott against Israel.

    Cameron, responding to questions at the annual luncheon of Conservative Friends of Israel, said the academic boycott was completely uncalled for, and that attacks against Israel often slid into anti-Semitism.

    "If by Zionist you mean that the Jews have the right to a homeland in Israel and the right to a country then I am a Zionist," the Tory leader said, adding that support for Israel is "in the DNA" of members of his party.

    And the Tory front bench is still alive with the sound of neo-cons:

  • Tonys Akiller

    To: Geoff Jones. Your falling hideously foul of crap labels Geoff.

    If I put a sticker saying 'banana' on a lemon, does that mean the lemon is actually a banana? I'd say in your logic, it does!

    "RAF" Lakenheath


    Type: Air Force Base

    Built: —

    In use: April 1947 – present

    Controlled by: United States Air Force

    Garrison: Third Air Force

    Commanders: Brigadier General John Hesterman

  • johnf


    I think its got to be more than just a protest movement, its got to be more than just something which is against something. Dissatisfaction with what is happening in our society runs far deeper and wider than just those two subjects.

    I've never really had much time for her, but Clare Short's decision to work for a hung parliament at the next election strikes me as a really good idea.For far too long this country has suffered from being ruled by megalomaniacs with vast parliamentiary majorities and the backing of the Murdoch Press. Giving politicians no majority and no real mandate means that they really have to suddenly realize where their support comes from – the people – and if they wish to survive then they actually have to listen and obey.

    In some ways the most liberal, listening government we've had for thirty years has been John Major's – precisely because he hardly had a majority. Clarke, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, actually had to look out for manufacturing industry in the provinces – which both Thatcher and Blair have ravished. The City of London was still partly kept in check – before being completely unleashed by Gordon Brown's decision to hand over the Bank of England.

    Brown strikes me as being in quite a weak position as leader – like Major before him – which means that for the next three years leading up to the General Election quite a lot of pressure can be put on him – and on all other politicians.

  • Craig


    If you look, I didn't include David C in my list of Tory libertarians!


  • greengorilla

    Johnf, I agree with you, it has to be more than that but I think this will develop naturally out of focusing on two major issues concerning the nation, ie a never-ending war* in Iraq and Afghanistan involving British troops and the inexorable loss of civil liberties.

    I rather like Richard Moore's idea of decentralised 'harmonisation' groups** which I think could be adapted to the launching of a national movement headed by big names.

    *How many realize that the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan is permanent?

    **See Cyberjournal, http://cyberjournal.org/

  • Geoff Jones

    to Tonysakiller

    Have you ever visited Mildenhall and Lakenheath in an official capacity?

    The chain of command within the base clearly shows the UK squadron leader above the US military leader.

    The bases are not 'owned' by the US military.

    You can put a lemon sticker on a banana but that only fools the fools 🙂

  • Craig


    My father used to work at Mildenhall. it is the chain of coomand that is the false sticker. In fact under the Status of Forces Agreement, the US personnel on the bases are all subject to US, not UK, law.

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