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God, Tony and Torture

with 4 comments

From The Observer

When I talk to people at very senior levels in government, I don’t find them willing to put a hand on heart and swear that British agents were never complicit in torture. British and American intelligence are closely enmeshed; it stretches credulity to snapping point that no one in the Blair government knew what was being perpetrated.

On the same day that the foreign secretary was facing accusations of a cover-up, Tony Blair was in Washington wearing his faith on his sleeve. At a “prayer breakfast” with Barack Obama, the former prime minister made more than 30 mentions of God and declared: “We pray that in acting we do God’s work and follow God’s will.”

Only God knows how Tony Blair reconciles his conscience with his role in this disgraceful period. It was not as if the Bush administration made much pretence about it. “Bad things happen to bad people,” baldly declared Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Did Tony Blair never ask what was going on? If he did not ask, was it because he knew he would not like the answer? His own law officers were highly uncomfortable with the legal black hole created at Guant√°namo. Charlie Falconer, not only his lord chancellor but also one of his closest allies, tried to persuade his friend to raise his voice in opposition. He failed. “An anomaly” was all Mr Blair would ever say about Camp Delta when he was prime minister.

The true extent to which British officials colluded in torture is yet to be established. In terms of ethical complicity, I think we can already begin to return a verdict. As the God-fearing Tony Blair knows, there are sins of commission and there are sins of omission. “We have condoned with our silence torture committed by others,” says Charles Guthrie, his favourite general.

Written by Richard Wilson

February 8, 2009 at 8:39 am

4 Responses

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  1. You might say that, looking at the ethical and moral standards which the leader of Mr Blair’s church has displayed recently, he is clearly a good Roman Catholic.

    Richard T

    February 8, 2009 at 11:06 am

  2. What was it? A total of ¬£45 Billion worth of arms exports over blairs decade… what’s a little torture amongst friends?

    BSE

    February 10, 2009 at 4:31 pm

  3. So when will we see him stand trial in The Hague?

    jillrees

    April 6, 2009 at 9:49 pm

    • I think that the police investigation into the Binyam Mohamed case may be a pointer. If it’s transparently a whitewash, or if, even better, the Attorney General intervenes to scupper the case for “security reasons”, then the ICC could reasonably take the view that the UK government is not willing or able to prosecute torture, and seek to exercise its jurisdiction. I actually think that in principle the ICC would be more up for this than most people think – a bigger constraint would probably be the court’s fairly minimal resources. But if a case did get started it could actually be quite difficult for the government to get it stopped because they’d need to persuade all five permanent members of the UN Security Council to back the move, and that seems to be a tall order on any issue. Maybe they’d try for a trade-off with China and Russia over the Al Bashir case, but they’d still have to persuade France….

      Richard Wilson

      April 7, 2009 at 6:52 am


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