Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Rendition To Torture

From the Socialist Party of Great Britain blog, Socialism Or Your Money Back

A derisive report by MEPs has attacked Britain's role in torture flights and shown the Labour Party top brass up for the lying reprobates socialists have always claimed they were. The report states that European governments, including the British, knew all along about the CIA practice - known as extraordinary rendition - of flying 'terror' suspects to countries where there was a high probability they would be tortured.

Not only is the report highly critical of Geoff Hoon, Minister for Europe, it further lambasts the chief legal adviser to the Foreign Office, Sir Michael Wood, for holding the view that receiving or possessing information extracted from torture was not forbidden by international law if there was no direct participation in the torture.

The report further focused on UK residents who had been seized in The Gambia, handed over to US agents and flown to Guantanamo Bay, and to Martin Mubanga, a UK citizen, also flown to Guantanamo Bay in 2002, where he was tortured for 4 years before being released without charge (or trial).

The report referred to 170 CIA rendition flights that had stopped over at British airports, bound for countries known for their appalling humans rights abuses.

No doubt the wily Blair will wriggle free from this mess and, come the next election, selective-amnesiacs will have forgotten all of this and voted in their millions for the Labour Party's new clown prince - Gordon Brown. Neither will they recall that it was Blair who once referred to Guantanamo Bay as "an anomaly."

Cast your mind back. Prime Minister's Question Time. 7th December 2005:
Charles Kennedy (then Liberal Democrat leader): "The United States Secretary of State said yesterday that "extraordinary rendition" had been conducted in co-operation with European Governments. To what extent, therefore, have the Government co-operated in the transport of terrorist suspects to Afghanistan and elsewhere, apparently for torture purposes?"

Prime Minister Tony Blair:
"First, let me draw a very clear distinction indeed between the idea of suspects being taken from one country to another and any sense whatever that ourselves, the United States or anyone condones the use of torture. Torture cannot be justified in any set of circumstances at all. The practice of rendition as described by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has been American policy for many years. We have not had such a situation here, but that has been American policy for many, many years. However, it must be applied in accordance with international conventions, and I accept entirely Secretary of State Rice's assurance that it has been."

Mr Kennedy: "Given that assurance, can the Prime Minister therefore explain why the published evidence shows that almost 400 flights have passed through 18 British airports in the period of concern? When was he as Prime Minister first made aware of that policy, and when did he approve it?"

Mr Blair: "In respect of airports, I do not know what the right honourable gentleman is referring to . . . "

Come forward a week: Prime Minister's Question Time. 14th December 2005:

Charles Kennedy: "Last week, the Prime Minister acknowledged that he had been aware of the United States' policy of rendition for quite some time. If terrorist suspects are not being transported to a third country for the purposes of torture or mistreatment, will he explain to the House for what purpose they are being transported?"

Tony Blair: "First, let me again make it clear to the right honourable gentleman that this government are completely and totally opposed to torture or ill-treatment in any set of circumstances. Our country is a signatory to the United Nations convention against the use of torture, and we will continue to uphold its provisions absolutely."

And forward another week: Prime Minister's Press Conference, 22nd December 2005:
Question: "Prime Minister, speaking of European leaders who have expressed ignorance of the American practice of shipping prisoners back and forth through airports in Britain and Europe to countries that may practise torture, Colin Powell said this week: 'Most of our European friends cannot be shocked that this kind of thing takes place. The fact is that we have over the years had in place procedures that would deal with people who are responsible for terrorist activities, and so the thing that is called rendition is not something that is new or unknown to my European friends.' Now that you know, do you approve it or will you stop it?"

Mr Blair: "Well it all depends on what you mean by rendition. If it is something that is unlawful I totally disapprove of it; if it is lawful, I don't disapprove of it . . . all I know is that we should keep within the law at all times, and the notion that I, or the Americans, or anybody else approve or condone torture, or ill treatment, or degrading treatment, that is completely and totally out of order in any set of circumstances."

In capitalist politics there are lies, damned lies and then Labour Party leaders.

Just for the record:
"No State Party shall expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture."
From Article 3 of the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

Britain and the USA are both signatories.
John Bissett

An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Film Review from the December 2006 issue of the Socialist Standard

An Inconvenient Truth (2005), directed by Davis Guggenheim

This film is advertised as 'a passionate and inspirational look at one man's commitment to expose the myths and misconceptions that surround global warming and inspire actions to prevent it'. That one man is Al Gore: company director, author and professional politician for the Democratic Party of the USA. Thus, it is perhaps unsurprising that a substantial portion of this so-called documentary feels more like a political broadcast. The film is based on footage of a lecture on climate change given to a sympathetic audience, interspersed with short asides on Gore's career as a professional politician, his privileged upbringing, his personal life and accounts of him driving and flying around the world to lecture on the effects of fossil fuel usage.

Gore presents quantitative and anecdotal evidence for climate change in an easily digestible way. Some time is spent on the history and methodology of atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature measurements. The data is clearly presented in graphs, diagrams and photographs but Gore doesn't distinguish between measurements and extrapolations. Some of the graphs are presented in a way that magnifies small differences in data, and effects of climate change that are speculations are presented as inevitable with no reference to the likelihood of their occurrence or other theories.

At one point Gore seems to be arguing that Ice Ages are caused solely by declining greenhouse gases; he says 'when there is more carbon dioxide the temperature gets warmer'. He does not point out that among the theories for the causes of Ice Ages changes to the composition of the atmosphere are seen as just one component, or even as a result of the Ice Age not a cause itself.

As the film progresses Gore increasingly overstates the effects, or evidence for the effects, of climate change. Species loss, re-emergence of suppressed diseases and the emergence of new diseases such as SARS are all implied to be a result of climate change without evidence. The importance of the climate change issue does not need to be exaggerated.

In an aside, Gore reflects on his time in Congress promoting action on climate change, he laments: 'the struggles, the victories that aren't really victories, the defeats that aren't really defeats, they can serve to magnify the significance of some trivial step forward'. He blames the present administration of the state and their links with the oil and gas lobby. For Socialists it is obvious that the government will rarely go against the interests of capital, especially a section of the capitalist class as powerful as the energy industry.

Gore states that climate change 'is really not a political issue so much as a moral issue'. His remedy for the problem is to advise people to exercise their power as consumers in choosing energy efficient appliances and cars and use 'our political processes, in our democracy', and he just happens to be a professional politician concerned about climate change. He states it is a false dichotomy to say that the choice is economy or the environment, we can have both: 'If we do the right thing, then we're going to create a lot of wealth and we're going to create a lot of jobs . . .'. The details of this were left sketchy but it seems that hope triumphs over experience and he still has faith in capitalism.

In conclusion Gore states, to rapturous applause, that 'We have everything we need save perhaps political will . . . We have the ability to do this . . . The solutions are in our hands'. He is correct, but for him this means more of the same old futile politicking. Socialists realise that profit will always be the priority for capitalism, the solution in our hands is to bring the means of production under direct democratic control so that everybody can take part in deciding how global resources are used.

This documentary film follows a novel format and is visually impressive. It is a good introduction to the basics of human-made climate change problem, but is tarnished by the lack of convincing solutions.
Piers Hobson

Piers Hobson blogs at Border Fever