Friday, May 22, 2009

COMMENT: Pollyanna dimwits?

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Some months back, my good friend Janet Albrechtsen expressed her frustration with what she described as

... a sweet but rather dim-witted Pollyanna view of the world.

She was upset that the Obama administration was moving away from torture, secret prisons, extraordinary renditions and keeping dangerous terrorists at the Hotel Guantanamo.

Lord knows how she must feel about Obama releasing the so-called torture memos. And anyone who cares about the future of Western civilisation must be horrified at the prospect of hard-working Bush administration officials, among them senior legal advisers, being prosecuted for sanctioning torture.

Of course, if the torture really was geared toward merely protecting American citizens, torture hawks and opponents of that unruly beast we call the Rule of Law might have a point. But a fair amount of the torture was used merely to elicit evidence supporting a decision to go to war in Iraq. So we torture people to provide us with evidence to prosecute a war in another part of the world where we torture more people.

The dishonesty of the arguments and rhetoric used by many of those supporting torture was illustrated by lawyer and author Philippe Sands during an interview with Lateline recently:

Last summer, I testified before the House Judiciary Committee on a couple of occasions and one of the Republican congressman, Trent Franks, put to me, "What's all the fuss about? If waterboarding was used, it was used on no more than three men for a total of one minute each, grand total three minutes." In fact, we now find out through the release of these memos that two men were waterboarded a total of 266 times, which is absolutely astonishing. One individual 183 times. And you really have to ask yourself, you know, when they got to waterboarding event number 83, did they really think there was anything more they could get out of him?

And about Australia's possible involvement in the torture of detainees, including Australian citizens? Philippe Sands again:

Australia and Britain were very supportive of President Bush's war on terror. I haven't focussed on the Australian situation, but if Australia was half as involved as Britain, then it seems likely that material will come out. I mean, the US wasn't on its own on these issues and it's to the great credit, I think, of the present administration that they believe in transparency and openness. They're putting materials out. That's going to cause some difficulties for some of the United States' allies, I suspect.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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