Daily archives: November 23, 2009

Cameron and Iain Dale

Still in Accra. Nadira just phoned me from London to say that little Cameron – now 6 months old – was playing with the keys of her laptop – he has a fascination for mobile phones, remote controls and anything technical. Somehow he managed to open up firefox and navigate to Iain Dale’s blog.


The amazing thing is that it was Nadira’s laptop, not mine, and she can’t work out how he would have found the site, which she never looks at. Cameron is a family name – it was my father’s and is my brother’s middle name. But now I am worried that he has caught the zeitgeist and baby Cameron has become a Tory. Should I seek medical advice?

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The Inane Mary Dejevsky

The mind-numbingly stupid Mary Dejevsky seems to belive that diplomats should not be allowed to be divorced, or should lose their jobs if they do divorce.

…it has come out that our man in Yemen, Tim Torlot, is living at his official residence with an American journalist, who is expecting his baby… does the Foreign Office have to be quite as indulgent as it appears to be when the face of Britain abroad trades in a long-time partner


Wow! Ambassador has a girlfriend! Absolutely shocking. How did the Independent miss this one off the front page? But hasn’t this happened before somewhere? Mary reminds us:

The courage of our (former) man in Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, in exposing torture, seemed to blot out in the generous public mind the fact that he had installed a cabaret dancer in his official residence.

And plainly that was much more important than the torture stuff eh? And even worse than an American journalist, a cabaret dancer. Whisper it quietly.

I hope that none of this will “blot out in the generous public mind the fact” that Mary Dejevsky wrote this shameless gushing puff piece about murderous co-dictator of Uzbekistan, Gulnara Karimova:

What is certain is that Karimova is the product of a unique moment in history, her fate caught up between two ages and cultures: between Soviet Communism and its chaotic, free-market successor, between Asia and the West.


Interestingly the Independent seem to have been embarassed into pulling the piece from their website.

For someone who lectures us on morality, Dejevsky’s own seems to be curiously pliable. Besides which, she must have fucked someone at the Independent to be writing there rather than at Mills and Boon, where she belongs.

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Torturing Ordinary People

Obviously I feel a great deal of sympathy with Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin. Those of us who reveal connivance by our own governments in gross human rights abuse, find little protection from fleeting media support and interest.

One thing I would underline which Colvin said, as it mirrors precisely my own experience in Uzbekistan:

He said the vast majority of the prisoners were ordinary Afghans, many with no connection to the insurgency



That is the truth about the “War on Terror” torture industry which its proponents refuse to face. The overhwelming majority of those tortured have been innocent. Of course, after torture, they have all confessed their guilt….

The “ticking bomb” scenario is supposed to pose the classical justification of torture. It denies that any action is per se wrong, and posits that inflicting terrible pain on one person is justified if it prevents terrible pain to more numerous others. That is precisely the argument which was being put to me when I was officially informed of the new British government policy of using torture for intelligence:

There were difficult ethical and moral issues involved and at times difficult judgements had to be made weighing one clutch of “moral issues” against another. It was not always easy for people in post (embassies) to see and appreciate the broader picture, eg piecing together intelligence material from different sources in the global fight against terrorism


But the argument relies on a whole number of premisses. They include:

1. That the right person is being tortured and he does indeed have the knowledge to prevent harm.

In fact in the vast, vast majority of the War on Terror torture cases that is not true, as Colvin and I have both testified from actual experience – and as people like Baba Musa testify from beyond the grave – most torture is of the innocent.

2. That the torturer is a benevolent being who genuinely wants to learn the truth in order to prevent harm to others

In fact, in the vast majority of War on Terror torture cases, the torturer is seeking evidence to support a false narrative. In my case, the Uzbek dictatorship was seeking to win increased Western military and financial support by providing a vastly exagerrated narrative of the strength and penetration of Al-Qaida in Central Asia.

3. That there is an imminent threat of which intelligence can be got only from the tortured person

The 139 waterboardings of Mohammed Sheikh Khalid were not in fact aimed at preventing any future imminent threats, but rather at inducing him to confess to masterminding an unbelievably lengthy series of past terrorist atrocities as part of an extraordinary judicial process.

4. That the torturer is in a position to know 3.

In fact, 99% of War on Terror torture is random “Fishing expedition”

5. That the tortured will tell the truth under torture

In fact, as I saw from intelligence reports in Uzbekistan, people will confess to things which are demonstrably false if they think it will make the torture stop. Torture does not get you the truth. It gets you what the torturer wants to hear.

6. That only torture will get them to tell the truth

In fact. the consensus of Western intelligence professionals is that other interrogation methods are much more efficacious.

7. That with and only with knowledge from torture, the torturer will be able to avert the catastrophe

If you believe that, you watch too many Hollywood movies

I could go on. Modern moral philosophers usually identify nine premisses on which the ticking bomb argument depends. For me, there are already prior arguments about human civilisation and barbarity which come before even all of these. But an additional argument is the corrosive moral influence of torture on the body politic, as evidenced by the consistent lies told by New Labour about its pro-torture policy.


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