Tuesday, November 13, 2012


So Britain Has Used Torture Routinely in the Past? It Would Seem Sadly Beyond Doubt

I've never thought myself especially naive about the evil things politicians can persuade themselves are justified, but I have always retained a faith in the British sense of kindness to those in need and fundamentally humane approach to the world. Silly me!

On 8th October George Monbiot in The Guardian, reported recent revelations, based on archival research in the National Records at Kew which revealed the techniques used by British forces in attempts to neutralise the Mau Mau in Kenya, during the 1950s:

“Many tens of thousands were detained and tortured in the camps. I won't spare you the details: we have been sparing ourselves the details for far too long. Large numbers of men were castrated with pliers. Others were raped, sometimes with the use of knives, broken bottles, rifle barrels and scorpions. Women had similar instruments forced into their vaginas. The guards and officials sliced off ears and fingers, gouged out eyes, mutilated women's breasts with pliers, poured paraffin over people and set them alight. Untold thousands died.”

He goes on to argue that racism- a belief in European superiority to African and Asian peoples was at the heart of the effort to justify Empire.

The book by Ian Cobain (2012) Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture,(Portobello), elaborated on the fact that Britain had used torture as a matter of routine. As Tim Raiment writes in his review of the book in the Sunday Times, 11th November(he could have been writing about me):

‘Every country tells itself stories. The British narrative is about decency and fair play. We queue politely, protect the weak and respect the rule of law. Words such as brutal, ruthless, cruel and unjust do not apply to the British.’

Cobain’s book however, details how Britain maintained regular locations in London and elsewhere around the empire, for the systematic torture of people believed to hold information useful to the security of the British state. MI5 and MI6 officers during the Blair-Brown years were told to ‘weigh the importance of information being sought against the degree of pain a prisoner will suffer…’  ‘That the British are brazen liars’ comments the reviewer, ‘is the most interesting theme in this book.’   All of this activity was kept secret. When the British were accused of complicity in flying Guantanamo suspects to countries where torture was not illegal and having British officers on hand to ask the questions while someone else, so to speak, applied the electrodes. Jack Straw vehemently denied anything like this happened when he was Foreign Secretary; this book’s implication is that Straw was, on such occasions, a liar. I wonder if he will repeat his assurances regarding the cleanliness of our hands regarding torture, in the light of this eveidence.

Five Techniques: these comprise the foundation tools of torture:

‘combining starvation, sleep deprivation, hooding, an incessant hissing sound and being forced to stand in a stress position in a formula that creates terror and long term psychological damage while leaving no marks of to embarrass us in court.’

In June 1972 the Joint Intelligence Committee sent new interrogation guidelines  to the Ministry of Defence, the |Home Office and MI6. They stated that in peace or war detainees were’ not to be subjected to torture, or cruel inhuman or degrading treatment.’ There were, however, two parts to the directive. A secret Part II, saying in effect to carry on as before, was distributed in draft form. Keeping it in draft enabled officials to claim that no further instructions regarding interrogation had been approved. 

I'm sure George Monbiot would not get his facts wrong(!).
He might well, but Ian Cobain and those Kenyan victims less likely to surely?
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