The fruits of New Labour (four articles relating to the surrendering of our moral authority)

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Friday, September 22nd, 2006
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Independent – New terror that stalks Iraq’s republic of fear: The republic of fear is born again. The state of terror now gripping Iraq is as bad as it was under Saddam Hussein. Torture in the country may even be worse than it was during his rule, the United Nation’s special investigator on torture said yesterday. “The situation as far as torture is concerned now in Iraq is totally out of hand,” said Manfred Nowak. “The situation is so bad many people say it is worse than it had been in the times of Saddam Hussein.” The report, from an even-handed senior UN official, is in sharp contrast with the hopes of George Bush and Tony Blair, when in 2003 they promised to bring democracy and respect for human rights to the people of Iraq. The brutal tortures committed in the prisons of the regime overthrown in 2003 are being emulated and surpassed in the detention centres of the present US- and British-backed Iraqi government. “Detainees’ bodies show signs of beating using electric cables, wounds in different parts of their bodies including in the head and genitals, broken bones of legs and hands, electric and cigarette burns,” the human rights office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq says in a new report. The horrors of the torture chamber that led to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq being labelled “The Republic of Fear”, after the book of that title by Kanan Makiya, have again become commonplace. The bodies in Baghdad’s morgue ” often bear signs of severe torture including acid-induced injuries and burns caused by chemical substances, missing skin, broken bones (back, hands and legs), missing eyes and wounds caused by power drills or nails”, the UN report said. Those not killed by these abuses are shot in the head. Human rights groups say torture is practised in prisons run by the US as well as those run by the Interior and Defence ministries and the numerous Sunni and Shia militias.

Guardian – Sir Menzies Campbell’s conference speech: Excessive powers – and the excessive use of powers – alienate the very communities we need on our side. Terrorism thrives where civil liberties are denied. That is why Liberal Democrats, under my leadership, will fight to maintain the principles of the Human Rights Act. That is why Liberal Democrats, under my leadership, will fight for the independence of judges and the rule of law. That is why Liberal Democrats, under my leadership, will fight against any acceptance of torture. And if the proposal comes back – and it will – we will fight to ensure that the government cannot imprison people for ninety days without trial or charge. When tackling terrorism, we must recognise that how we act abroad is as important as how we act at home. We should all be proud of the contribution the United Kingdom has made to democracy, to the values of tolerance and diversity, to the spread of the rule of law. But in a few short years, Britain’s reputation has been tarnished. In foreign policy, the Prime Minister has elevated belief over evidence, conviction over judgement, and instinct over understanding. Put quite simply, he has presided over a foreign policy which is neither ethical nor effective. Week after week in Parliament, the Prime Minister has had to lead tributes to the members of the armed forces who have been killed in action. Since Parliament last sat in July, another 29 have died. We must never forget the price that we ask the men and women of our armed forces to pay. In Iraq we are approaching a state of civil war. Hundreds dying every week. Terrorism taking root. And all the while, Guantanamo Bay stands as a shameful affront to justice and the rule of law. Secret Prisons, rendition, the suspicion of torture. How can those who operate outside the rule of law argue credibly for its observance in Iraq? We Liberal Democrats will not shrink from our responsibility to challenge the government for the consequences of its decisions. Security is not being gained, it is being lost. Terrorism is not being defeated, it is being invigorated. Freedom is not being spread, it is being undermined.

Adrian Hamilton – It’s a bit late for ministers to express regrets now: If you hear the noise of splashing from the halls of Government at the moment, it is the sound of ministers desperately trying to row away from the Iraqi policy and its consequences. In the last week we have had both the Lord Chancellor, Charles Falconer, and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, in different parts of the world declaring how wrong Guantanamo Bay was: a “shocking affront to the principles of democracy,” declared Lord Falconer in Australia, a breach of Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions opined Lord Goldsmith in Chicago. Didn’t say that at the time, did they? All those years when Charles Kennedy doggedly raised the question of treatment of British detainees at Prime Minister’s Question Time, to be swatted aside by a Tony Blair determined to avoid any hint of criticism of President Bush and a Commons all too ready to jeer at anything as serious as this, we didn’t get one solitary voice or its law officers that this grotesque institution was unacceptable by any international standard of behaviour.

Los Angeles Times – Bush Bows to Senators on Detainees: President Bush acceded to dissident Senate Republicans on Thursday, agreeing to new rules for interrogating and prosecuting suspected terrorists that leave intact international treaty protections against torture. In a major concession to Arizona Sen. John McCain and other Republicans, the administration dropped its efforts to have Congress redefine U.S. obligations under the Geneva Convention. The compromise bill in effect bans the most controversial CIA interrogation tactics, including water boarding, a form of simulated drowning, said those involved in the negotiations. At the same time, the agreement gives Bush the legal protections he said were needed to preserve a secret CIA interrogation program. The compromise bill would allow Bush the latitude to employ interrogation tactics which go beyond legal limits set for the U.S. military.

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