Thursday, April 04, 2013


Jack Straw and Weasel Words

This story initially provokes two sentiments, both species of disillusion. The story is about .the seizure of Abdel Hakim Belhaj in Malaysia and their virtual abduction to Libya on a CIA jet. Rumours at the time were that this was part of deal made with Gadaffi; there was another example of such a trade:

"A second Libyan dissident, Sami el-Saadi has accepted £2.2m from the British government after he and his wife and four children, the youngest a girl aged six, were abducted in Hong Kong and flown to Tripoli, three days after Tony Blair made his first visit to Libya, embraced Gaddafi for the cameras and announced that they planned to make "common cause" in counter-terrorism operations."

It was suspected that the Blair-Gadaffi deal involved a number of concessions by the latter plus a possible business element in exchange for neutralisation of the colonel's opposition abroad.

My first sense of dismay related to the belief that the UK does not use torture or facilitate torture in the interrogation of suspects. In my naivety I had kind of assumed we were just too... civilised for such things. After all that's why we fought Nazism: to make sure such things were eradicated. However, Ian Cobain's excellent Cruel Britannia, removed the veils from my eyes; his research showed that Britain has always used torture when it suited, especially as the empire was headed for the buffers.

My second was that Jack Straw, whom I'd always respected as a relatively honest and very articulate politician. I was not surprised Sir Mark Allen, former senior MI6 officer hid behind the official secrets act on this sensitive issue in which allegedly individuals and their families were handed over to a ruthless dictator, known to use the full panoply of despicable methods we associate with such leaders. But I was disappointed that Straw did the same.

Little by little one's faith that 'our' side is more principled and scrupulous than the 'other' side, is eroded away by such revelations. And little by little one comes around to the dismal conclusion that Blair and Straw, in pursuit of 'deals' thought little of their cost in terms of individual casualties and their human rights.  El-Belhaj has offered to settle for just £1 from each of the defendants as long as they apologise to his wife and himself. 

I might admire your charity Skipper were it not for Jack Straw's increasingly hollow denials of British connivance at accommodating special rendition flights. The more he denied involvement, the less convincing it became. I'm afraid that to me, despite his background and profession, he is as untruthful as Blair if a little less unabashed at the consequences for the British polity of the Blair Government's slippery shifts on the justification for holding the US coat in Iraq.
Was I being 'charitable'? Don't think so. I think we both agree on Straw and Blair.....
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