Daily Archives: July 21, 2007

Overstretch in Iraq and Afghanistan Leaves UK Vulnerable to Attack

The head of the British army has issued a dire warning about the state of the armed forces in the context of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given the current low levels of recruitment, increasing numbers of service men choosing to leave, and the escalating rate of casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan, this is perhaps not that surprising.

From This is London

Britain has virtually no soldiers left to fight abroad or defend the country if there is an ‘unexpected’ development, the head of the Army has told his senior officers.

General Sir Richard Dannatt made his dire assessment in a letter to high-ranking commanders, saying that reinforcements – should they be required – are ‘now almost non-existent’.

General Dannatt, who is well-known for his outspoken comments, issued a private memo declaring that ‘we have almost no capability to react to the unexpected’.

He said that the Army is understrength by 3,500 troops and that only one battalion of 500 troops – known as the ‘spearhead lead element’ – is immediately available to deal with emergencies such as a terrorist attack.

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Executive Order will Limit or Reinforce US Torture?

From the Globe and Mail

WASHINGTON — Facing sharp criticism at home and abroad, President George W. Bush signed an executive order giving interrogators new rules on the treatment of suspected terrorists in the U.S. detention program, but the measures failed to quell criticism that the White House condones torture.

The order, which the White House said is in compliance with the Geneva Conventions, was criticized by human-rights groups as vague. And the guidelines, which will continue to allow harsh, if unspecified interrogation techniques, may breathe new life into the interrogation program by removing the uncertainty that has hung over it since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year cast doubt on its legality.

The new rules set out conditions that interrogators are not allowed to impose on detainees held at U.S. Central Intelligence Agency prisons and other locations, including the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It includes prohibitions against sexual humiliation, religious denigrations, and deprivation of basic necessities.

The move comes 10 months after Mr. Bush, who has repeatedly denied that the United States practises torture, was forced to suspend its secret-prison system. This decision came after a Supreme Court ruling in June of 2006 that undermined the legality of the program.

In response to the executive order, Christopher Anders, Senior Legislative Counsel of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office said:

“The order takes some steps in the right direction, particularly where it explicitly bans CIA practices such as induced hypothermia and prohibits specific acts of humiliation. It also includes broader bans on torture and cruel and inhuman treatment, as defined in the War Crimes Act. But of course, the Executive Order is only as good as the people applying it. If any of the recent past presidents, Republican or Democrat, were applying this order, we wouldn’t have any doubt that it means an end to torture and abuse by the CIA. However, with President Bush’s record of playing word games with anti-torture laws, we do not have the same confidence that the torture and abuse has stopped and will not start up again.”

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