A Moral Quagmire

On Tuesday the British government announced that it had reached a settlement to pay compensation to sixteen former Guantanamo detainees for the abuses they suffered in US custody. Shaker Aamer, a UK resident still held in Guantanamo, will be one of those receiving an, as yet, undisclosed financial payment.

At least six of the individuals had lodged civil claims for damages against the government in the UK. The complaints included British complicity in unlawful detention, extraordinary rendition and torture. One detainee, Binyam Mohamed, alleged that British intelligence officers had supplied questions to his Moroccan interrogators who at one point cut his penis with a knife to get him to talk.

The British government has denied any wrong doing and the Home Secretary Kenneth Clarke told the House of Commons that “no admissions of culpability have been made in settling these cases.” The stated reasons the government decided to agree to the settlement were to avoid protracted litigation, diverting resources from vital counterterrorism investigations, and estimated legal costs that could have exceeded $80m.

However, an equally pressing concern was the government’s desire to protect classified information from disclosure in court. Much of this classified information related to CIA reporting on its interrogation and treatment of the detainees in its custody.

Attempts by the former detainee Binyam Mohamed to pursue compensation in British courts earlier this year for the abuses he suffered put the British government on the back foot as it fought to prevent the disclosure of classified documents to Mohamed’s lawyers.

These classified documents included forty-two communications from the CIA relating to the process of Mohamed’s interrogation, its planning, collaboration with British authorities, and the manner in which his treatment was monitored.

In its attempts to block the release of these documents, the government’s legal team told the court that both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the CIA had written official letters warning that the US would review its intelligence sharing agreement with the UK if the court released the information.

In the light of its experience in the Binyam Mohamed case it is difficult to escape to the conclusion that the British government has taken the step of settling all Guantanamo and rendition-related claims out of court in large part to spare American blushes and to preserve the close intelligence ties that exist between the two countries.

This is one of the little discussed consequences of the Bush administration’s counter-terrorism policies – our allies have been compromised and embarrassed by their association with the CIA’s rendition to torture and the reputational (and apparently financial) cost around the world of being America’s friend has gone up. Bush’s decision to authorize the use of a torture was both a crime and a blunder.

The British government’s announcement was made a day after Amnesty International published a new report – Open Secret: Mounting Evidence of Europe’s Complicity in Rendition and Secret Detention – on European involvement in the Bush administration’s illegal activities.

As the former President continues his book tour proudly proclaiming that he ordered the torture of terrorist suspects, the contrast could not be more stark. Europe is grappling to clean up a mess that is largely not of its own making while the prime culprit laughs all the way to the bank.

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14 thoughts on “A Moral Quagmire

  1. And who will pay a compensation to all those Persecuted Christians in Muslim Countries who live in fear and who suffer constant threats and tortures by their Muslim neighbors and authorities? Who will do something about Asia Bibi's case, a woman sentenced to death in Pakistan simply for saying something contrary to Islam? Who will do something about Sayyid Mosa, a man who might face death penalty for converting to Christianity in USA occupied Afghanistan? Is this the freedom you are imposing in Afghanistan? Or is the US and the so called human right groups in the side of the terrorists who deny people their most fundamental rights? Who is going to speak for Yousef Nadarkhani, sentenced to death in Iran for being a Christian? This is absolutely ridiculous. Terrorists have more rights than innocent victims of terrorism.

  2. Dear jamilbel,

    The concerns you raise are real.

    & you can struggle for the oppressed Christian minorities you speak of.

    But if you are serious, please draw your lines clearly.

    Don't blur them by condemning rights groups' efforts for Islamic peoples ( under attack globally by the US "War on Terror" ) as being a defence of the rights of "terrorists".

    It's not a game where you have to condemn one oppressed population ( as 'terrorists" ) in order to address the problems of another ( as victims ).

    You'll only islate yourself from the universal movement for rights this way.

    Connect with all the oppressed.

    The struggle is together.

  3. And who will pay a compensation to all those Persecuted Christians in Muslim Countries who live in fear and who suffer constant threats and tortures by their Muslim neighbors and authorities? Who will do something about Asia Bibi’s case, a woman sentenced to death in Pakistan simply for saying something contrary to Islam? Who will do something about Sayyid Mosa, a man who might face death penalty for converting to Christianity in USA occupied Afghanistan? Is this the freedom you are imposing in Afghanistan? Or is the US and the so called human right groups in the side of the terrorists who deny people their most fundamental rights? Who is going to speak for Yousef Nadarkhani, sentenced to death in Iran for being a Christian? This is absolutely ridiculous. Terrorists have more rights than innocent victims of terrorism.

  4. Dear jamilbel,

    The concerns you raise are real.

    & you can struggle for the oppressed Christian minorities you speak of.

    But if you are serious, please draw your lines clearly.

    Don’t blur them by condemning rights groups’ efforts for Islamic peoples ( under attack globally by the US “War on Terror” ) as being a defence of the rights of “terrorists”.

    It’s not a game where you have to condemn one oppressed population ( as ‘terrorists” ) in order to address the problems of another ( as victims ).

    You’ll only islate yourself from the universal movement for rights this way.

    Connect with all the oppressed.

    The struggle is together.

  5. I'm Lovin' It!

    Tom, as you were unable to follow through your argument to it's logical conclusion, let me help.

    When will AI and its associated HR warriors (ICG, HRW) begin a campaign to have the US, UK and EU countries investigated by the UN and Hague war crimes tribunal?

    This is exactly what you tried to do to Sri Lanka after we crushed the LTTE with significant civilian casualties.

    I'm still waiting for AI (USA)'s sports-based campaign against US & Western bloc massacres, torture and wholesale civilian deaths, as you did against Sri Lanka with the ill-advised anti-SL cricket team 'Play by the Rules' campaign.

    Where's AI's 'Play by the Rules' campaign against US Football Super Bowl in February 2011?

    If you are unable, unwilling or simply too scared to pursue Western countries in the same manner that you pursued Sri Lanka, tell us why.

    Is it moral cowardice or just good old-fashioned not-wanting-to-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-and-funds-you? :)

    My guess is its a both of the above. :)

    Saint Obama's no longer interested in capturing wannabe Jihadis. He simply orders their long-range executions through drone strikes. Dead Jihadis (or suspects) = no compensation payments. Good news for the long-suffering British taxpayer.

    Do you miss George Bush?

  6. I’m Lovin’ It!

    Tom, as you were unable to follow through your argument to it’s logical conclusion, let me help.

    When will AI and its associated HR warriors (ICG, HRW) begin a campaign to have the US, UK and EU countries investigated by the UN and Hague war crimes tribunal?

    This is exactly what you tried to do to Sri Lanka after we crushed the LTTE with significant civilian casualties.

    I’m still waiting for AI (USA)’s sports-based campaign against US & Western bloc massacres, torture and wholesale civilian deaths, as you did against Sri Lanka with the ill-advised anti-SL cricket team ‘Play by the Rules’ campaign.

    Where’s AI’s ‘Play by the Rules’ campaign against US Football Super Bowl in February 2011?

    If you are unable, unwilling or simply too scared to pursue Western countries in the same manner that you pursued Sri Lanka, tell us why.

    Is it moral cowardice or just good old-fashioned not-wanting-to-bite-the-hand-that-feeds-and-funds-you? :)

    My guess is its a both of the above. :)

    Saint Obama’s no longer interested in capturing wannabe Jihadis. He simply orders their long-range executions through drone strikes. Dead Jihadis (or suspects) = no compensation payments. Good news for the long-suffering British taxpayer.

    Do you miss George Bush?

  7. The ONLY times you'll hear butchers talk about "rights" is in three situations.

    One, when their business is threatened by a rival.

    Two, when they want to take over the other one's business.

    Three, when they want to draw YOUR attention away from the conditions in their slaughterhouse by pointing at the conditions in the other.

    But in all three situations, it's only their own business that matters.

    ****************

    Why's one butcher not faced with a "Play by the Rules" campaign against his "game", but another is ?

    Because the first butcher allows referees on the sidelines …….. but the second doesn't.

  8. The ONLY times you’ll hear butchers talk about “rights” is in three situations.

    One, when their business is threatened by a rival.

    Two, when they want to take over the other one’s business.

    Three, when they want to draw YOUR attention away from the conditions in their slaughterhouse by pointing at the conditions in the other.

    But in all three situations, it’s only their own business that matters.

    ****************

    Why’s one butcher not faced with a “Play by the Rules” campaign against his “game”, but another is ?

    Because the first butcher allows referees on the sidelines …….. but the second doesn’t.

  9. @ a. savage: In the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, what are you on about? Can you just say what you mean instead of talking drivel?

  10. @ a. savage: In the name of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, what are you on about? Can you just say what you mean instead of talking drivel?

  11. Compensation …….

    For something for which there's none.

    Still, it's a step toward the rehab of lives & names damaged, near destroyed.

    It may be even better if it ( as it ought to ) contribute to the freedom of Shaker Aamer.

    My only regret is it comes at the expense of saving the masks of the uk & the cia from being further dislodged.

  12. Compensation …….

    For something for which there’s none.

    Still, it’s a step toward the rehab of lives & names damaged, near destroyed.

    It may be even better if it ( as it ought to ) contribute to the freedom of Shaker Aamer.

    My only regret is it comes at the expense of saving the masks of the uk & the cia from being further dislodged.