Shiny, shiny

Below the fold you’ll see the full text of a series of telegrams sent by Craig Murray, the then British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, to the Foreign Office. Briefly, the situation Murray describes is as follows. Karimov’s Uzbekistan, a vile authoritarian regime, routinely uses torture on its own people. Torture during interrogations rarely produces usable information and very often produces bad information: people being tortured will, eventually, say anything to make it stop. Ask Ron Jones; ask Jimmy Cottle; ask Sandy Mitchell. But, for Karimov’s licensed thugs, this is irrelevant; they use torture as a weapon, to break the person who is being tortured, regardless of whether or not that person has any secrets to tell.

Now, Uzbekistan is ruled by a vile tyrant, but he’s our tyrant (shades of Reagan-era Latin America…). And about here the logic gets extremely strange. We know that Uzbeks are being tortured by their government’s secret police – sometimes because they’re suspected of Islamic militancy, sometimes because they’re suspected of opposing Karimov, and sometimes for no reason except that they’ve been unlucky enough to get picked up by the secret police. And we know that the UN Convention Against Torture bars governments from inflicting torture (‘severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental’), and specifically states that ‘no exceptional circumstances whatsoever’ justify it. But we also know that Karimov is an ally of the West (meaning, essentially, the US) in the War on Terror (meaning increasingly unclear) – and that his government is supplying our spooks with information.

One way to deal with these facts would be to drop the Karimov government like a hot brick, and its ‘information’ with it. That was precisely what Murray recommended. MI6 weren’t keen: their reaction could be summed up as But, but… what about our information? It’s good information! Schematically:

  • Karimov’s giving us the information we want, so
  • we treat him as an ally, so
  • his government can (regrettably) carry on torturing people

To Murray – who was a great deal closer to the ground than the spooks in question (i.e. he was actually in Uzbekistan) – it was immediately apparent that Karimov could run the same chain of reasoning backwards:

  • we want to carry on torturing people, so
  • we need them to treat us as an ally, so
  • we’ll tell them what they want to hear

Matthew Kydd’s comment, to Murray, that the intelligence services found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror suggests that this possibility hadn’t occurred to the spooks – which in turn suggests a rather alarming lack of imagination on their part.

But it’s worse than that. The information whose supposed usefulness justified turning a blind eye to torture was actually produced by torture. It’s a closed loop, in other words: the Uzbek government can only justify the use of torture by producing a continuing supply of information with a direct bearing on the war on terror, but it can only produce that information by using torture.

Finding loopholes in the UN’s prohibition of torture is a growth industry at the moment – from Condoleezza Rice to Charles Clarke, and on to the insultingly flimsy argument that if we don’t know who was tortured, we don’t know that anybody was (see below). But the loopholes only matter because they’re used – all those ‘ticking bomb’ thought-experiments about torture are harmless, because the situation they describe is untypical (to put it mildly). By contrast, the argument that the torture of Uzbek detainees can sometimes be justified, because it sometimes produces useful information, directly promotes the continuing torture of many other Uzbek detainees – most of whom have nothing ‘useful’ to say to any spook, and all of whom will say anything to make the torture stop.

And perhaps that’s what the argument is meant for. Look at it this way: Murray’s argument that the information produced by the Uzbek torturers is ‘dross’ is logically compelling and founded on first- and second-person experience (i.e. he’d talked to torture victims). If MI6 genuinely believe that the information is ‘useful’, either they have better information than Murray (which seems unlikely – MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me) or they’re extraordinarily dim. If we dismiss both possibilities, we must assume that they know as well as Murray that the information’s no good – and that information isn’t what all this is about. Perhaps the fundamental, non-negotiable starting-point isn’t the War on Terror but the Uzbek government itself, and its alliance with the US and Britain. Perhaps the logic really does run backwards:

  • Karimov’s government are torturing people, but
  • we need to treat them as an ally, so
  • we’ll get them to tell us what we want to hear

This would be an extraordinarily cynical approach, but as far as I can see it’s that or extreme stupidity in the upper echelons of MI6. Cynicism or stupidity, or perhaps sheer, unbridled sadism. (Or the shape-shifting reptilian thing, obviously.) Of the three (or four) of them, I think I like cynicism the best.

See what you make of it all, anyway. Here are the Murray documents:

Letter #1
FM Tashkent
TO FCO, Cabinet Office, DFID, MODUK, OSCE Posts, Security Council Posts
16 September 02
SUBJECT: US/Uzbekistan: Promoting Terrorism
US plays down human rights situation in Uzbekistan. A dangerous policy: increasing repression combined with poverty will promote Islamic terrorism. Support to Karimov regime a bankrupt and cynical policy.
The Economist of 7 September states: “Uzbekistan, in particular, has jailed many thousands of moderate Islamists, an excellent way of converting their families and friends to extremism.” The Economist also spoke of “the growing despotism of Mr Karimov” and judged that “the past year has seen a further deterioration of an already grim human rights record”. I agree.
Between 7,000 and 10,000 political and religious prisoners are currently detained, many after trials before kangaroo courts with no representation. Terrible torture is commonplace: the EU is currently considering a demarche over the terrible case of two Muslims tortured to death in jail apparently with boiling water. Two leading dissidents, Elena Urlaeva and Larissa Vdovna, were two weeks ago committed to a lunatic asylum, where they are being drugged, for demonstrating on human rights. Opposition political parties remain banned. There is no doubt that September 11 gave the pretext to crack down still harder on dissent under the guise of counter-terrorism.
Yet on 8 September the US State Department certified that Uzbekistan was improving in both human rights and democracy, thus fulfilling a constitutional requirement and allowing the continuing disbursement of $140 million of US aid to Uzbekistan this year. Human Rights Watch immediately published a commendably sober and balanced rebuttal of the State Department claim.
Again we are back in the area of the US accepting sham reform [a reference to my previous telegram on the economy]. In August media censorship was abolished, and theoretically there are independent media outlets, but in practice there is absolutely no criticism of President Karimov or the central government in any Uzbek media. State Department call this self-censorship: I am not sure that is a fair way to describe an unwillingness to experience the brutal methods of the security services.
Similarly, following US pressure when Karimov visited Washington, a human rights NGO has been permitted to register. This is an advance, but they have little impact given that no media are prepared to cover any of their activities or carry any of their statements.
The final improvement State quote is that in one case of murder of a prisoner the police involved have been prosecuted. That is an improvement, but again related to the Karimov visit and does not appear to presage a general change of policy. On the latest cases of torture deaths the Uzbeks have given the OSCE an incredible explanation, given the nature of the injuries, that the victims died in a fight between prisoners.
But allowing a single NGO, a token prosecution of police officers and a fake press freedom cannot possibly outweigh the huge scale of detentions, the torture and the secret executions. President Karimov has admitted to 100 executions a year but human rights groups believe there are more. Added to this, all opposition parties remain banned (the President got a 98% vote) and the Internet is strictly controlled. All Internet providers must go through a single government server and access is barred to many sites including all dissident and opposition sites and much international media (including, ironically, This is in essence still a totalitarian state: there is far less freedom than still prevails, for example, in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. A Movement for Democratic Change or any judicial independence would be impossible here.
Karimov is a dictator who is committed to neither political nor economic reform. The purpose of his regime is not the development of his country but the diversion of economic rent to his oligarchic supporters through government controls. As a senior Uzbek academic told me privately, there is more repression here now than in Brezhnev’s time. The US are trying to prop up Karimov economically and to justify this support they need to claim that a process of economic and political reform is underway. That they do so claim is either cynicism or self-delusion.
This policy is doomed to failure. Karimov is driving this resource-rich country towards economic ruin like an Abacha. And the policy of increasing repression aimed indiscriminately at pious Muslims, combined with a deepening poverty, is the most certain way to ensure continuing support for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. They have certainly been decimated and disorganised in Afghanistan, and Karimov’s repression may keep the lid on for years – but pressure is building and could ultimately explode.
I quite understand the interest of the US in strategic airbases and why they back Karimov, but I believe US policy is misconceived. In the short term it may help fight terrorism but in the medium term it will promote it, as the Economist points out. And it can never be right to lower our standards on human rights. There is a complex situation in Central Asia and it is wrong to look at it only through a prism picked up on September 12. Worst of all is what appears to be the philosophy underlying the current US view of Uzbekistan: that September 11 divided the World into two camps in the “War against Terrorism” and that Karimov is on “our” side.
If Karimov is on “our” side, then this war cannot be simply between the forces of good and evil. It must be about more complex things, like securing the long-term US military presence in Uzbekistan. I silently wept at the 11 September commemoration here. The right words on New York have all been said. But last week was also another anniversary – the US-led overthrow of Salvador Allende in Chile. The subsequent dictatorship killed, dare I say it, rather more people than died on September 11. Should we not remember then also, and learn from that too? I fear that we are heading down the same path of US-sponsored dictatorship here. It is ironic that the beneficiary is perhaps the most unreformed of the World’s old communist leaders.
We need to think much more deeply about Central Asia. It is easy to place Uzbekistan in the “too difficult” tray and let the US run with it, but I think they are running in the wrong direction. We should tell them of the dangers we see. Our policy is theoretically one of engagement, but in practice this has not meant much. Engagement makes sense, but it must mean grappling with the problems, not mute collaboration. We need to start actively to state a distinctive position on democracy and human rights, and press for a realistic view to be taken in the IMF. We should continue to resist pressures to start a bilateral DFID programme, unless channelled non-governmentally, and not restore ECGD cover despite the constant lobbying. We should not invite Karimov to the UK. We should step up our public diplomacy effort, stressing democratic values, including more resources from the British Council. We should increase support to human rights activists, and strive for contact with non-official Islamic groups.
Above all we need to care about the 22 million Uzbek people, suffering from poverty and lack of freedom. They are not just pawns in the new Great Game.
Letter #2
Fm Tashkent
18 March 2003
1. As seen from Tashkent, US policy is not much focussed on democracy or freedom. It is about oil, gas and hegemony. In Uzbekistan the US pursues those ends through supporting a ruthless dictatorship. We must not close our eyes to uncomfortable truth.
2. Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.
3. Uzbekistan’s geo-strategic position is crucial. It has half the population of the whole of Central Asia. It alone borders all the other states in a region which is important to future Western oil and gas supplies. It is the regional military power. That is why the US is here, and here to stay. Contractors at the US military bases are extending the design life of the buildings from ten to twenty five years.
4. Democracy and human rights are, despite their protestations to the contrary, in practice a long way down the US agenda here. Aid this year will be slightly less, but there is no intention to introduce any meaningful conditionality. Nobody can believe this level of aid – more than US aid to all of West Africa – is related to comparative developmental need as opposed to political support for Karimov. While the US makes token and low-level references to human rights to appease domestic opinion, they view Karimov’s vicious regime as a bastion against fundamentalism. He – and they – are in fact creating fundamentalism. When the US gives this much support to a regime that tortures people to death for having a beard or praying five times a day, is it any surprise that Muslims come to hate the West?
5. I was stunned to hear that the US had pressured the EU to withdraw a motion on Human Rights in Uzbekistan which the EU was tabling at the UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. I was most unhappy to find that we are helping the US in what I can only call this cover-up. I am saddened when the US constantly quote fake improvements in human rights in Uzbekistan, such as the abolition of censorship and Internet freedom, which quite simply have not happened (I see these are quoted in the draft EBRD strategy for Uzbekistan, again I understand at American urging).
6. From Tashkent it is difficult to agree that we and the US are activated by shared values. Here we have a brutal US sponsored dictatorship reminiscent of Central and South American policy under previous US Republican administrations. I watched George Bush talk today of Iraq and “dismantling the apparatus of terror… removing the torture chambers and the rape rooms”. Yet when it comes to the Karimov regime, systematic torture and rape appear to be treated as peccadilloes, not to affect the relationship and to be downplayed in international fora. Double standards? Yes.
7. I hope that once the present crisis is over we will make plain to the US, at senior level, our serious concern over their policy in Uzbekistan.
Letter #3
OF 220939 JULY 04
1. We receive intelligence obtained under torture from the Uzbek intelligence services, via the US. We should stop. It is bad information anyway. Tortured dupes are forced to sign up to confessions showing what the Uzbek government wants the US and UK to believe, that they and we are fighting the same war against terror.
2. I gather a recent London interdepartmental meeting considered the question and decided to continue to receive the material. This is morally, legally and practically wrong. It exposes as hypocritical our post Abu Ghraib pronouncements and fatally undermines our moral standing. It obviates my efforts to get the Uzbek government to stop torture they are fully aware our intelligence community laps up the results.
3. We should cease all co-operation with the Uzbek Security Services they are beyond the pale. We indeed need to establish an SIS presence here, but not as in a friendly state.
4. In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.
5. I was summoned to the UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.
6. On behalf of the intelligence services, Matthew Kydd said that they found some of the material very useful indeed with a direct bearing on the war on terror. Linda Duffield said that she had been asked to assure me that my qualms of conscience were respected and understood.
7. Sir Michael Jay’s circular of 26 May stated that there was a reporting obligation on us to report torture by allies (and I have been instructed to refer to Uzbekistan as such in the context of the war on terror). You, Sir, have made a number of striking, and I believe heartfelt, condemnations of torture in the last few weeks. I had in the light of this decided to return to this question and to highlight an apparent contradiction in our policy. I had intimated as much to the Head of Eastern Department.
8. I was therefore somewhat surprised to hear that without informing me of the meeting, or since informing me of the result of the meeting, a meeting was convened in the FCO at the level of Heads of Department and above, precisely to consider the question of the receipt of Uzbek intelligence material obtained under torture. As the office knew, I was in London at the time and perfectly able to attend the meeting. I still have only gleaned that it happened.
9. I understand that the meeting decided to continue to obtain the Uzbek torture material. I understand that the principal argument deployed was that the intelligence material disguises the precise source, ie it does not ordinarily reveal the name of the individual who is tortured. Indeed this is true – the material is marked with a euphemism such as “From detainee debriefing.” The argument runs that if the individual is not named, we cannot prove that he was tortured.
10. I will not attempt to hide my utter contempt for such casuistry, nor my shame that I work in and organisation where colleagues would resort to it to justify torture. I have dealt with hundreds of individual cases of political or religious prisoners in Uzbekistan, and I have met with very few where torture, as defined in the UN convention, was not employed. When my then DHM raised the question with the CIA head of station 15 months ago, he readily acknowledged torture was deployed in obtaining intelligence. I do not think there is any doubt as to the fact
11. The torture record of the Uzbek security services could hardly be more widely known. Plainly there are, at the very least, reasonable grounds for believing the material is obtained under torture. There is helpful guidance at Article 3 of the UN Convention;
“The competent authorities shall take into account all relevant considerations including, where applicable, the existence in the state concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights.”
While this article forbids extradition or deportation to Uzbekistan, it is the right test for the present
question also.
12. On the usefulness of the material obtained, this is irrelevant. Article 2 of the Convention, to which we are a party, could not be plainer:
“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”
13. Nonetheless, I repeat that this material is useless – we are selling our souls for dross. It is in fact positively harmful. It is designed to give the message the Uzbeks want the West to hear. It exaggerates the role, size, organisation and activity of the IMU and its links with Al Qaida. The aim is to convince the West that the Uzbeks are a vital cog against a common foe, that they should keep the assistance, especially military assistance, coming, and that they should mute the international criticism on human rights and economic reform.
14. I was taken aback when Matthew Kydd said this stuff was valuable. Sixteen months ago it was difficult to argue with SIS in the area of intelligence assessment. But post Butler we know, not only that they can get it wrong on even the most vital and high profile issues, but that they have a particular yen for highly coloured material which exaggerates the threat. That is precisely what the Uzbeks give them. Furthermore MI6 have no operative within a thousand miles of me and certainly no expertise that can come close to my own in making this assessment.
15. At the Khuderbegainov trial I met an old man from Andizhan. Two of his children had been tortured in front of him until he signed a confession on the family’s links with Bin Laden. Tears were streaming down his face. I have no doubt they had as much connection with Bin Laden as I do. This is the standard of the Uzbek intelligence services.
16. I have been considering Michael Wood’s legal view, which he kindly gave in writing. I cannot understand why Michael concentrated only on Article 15 of the Convention. This certainly bans the use of material obtained under torture as evidence in proceedings, but it does not state that this is the sole exclusion of the use of such material.
17. The relevant article seems to me Article 4, which talks of complicity in torture. Knowingly to receive its results appears to be at least arguable as complicity. It does not appear that being in a different country to the actual torture would preclude complicity. I talked this over in a hypothetical sense with my old friend Prof Francois Hampson, I believe an acknowledged World authority on the Convention, who said that the complicity argument and the spirit of the Convention would be likely to be winning points. I should be grateful to hear Michael’s views on this.
18. It seems to me that there are degrees of complicity and guilt, but being at one or two removes does not make us blameless. There are other factors. Plainly it was a breach of Article 3 of the Convention for the coalition to deport detainees back here from Baghram, but it has been done. That seems plainly complicit.
19. This is a difficult and dangerous part of the World. Dire and increasing poverty and harsh repression are undoubtedly turning young people here towards radical Islam. The Uzbek government are thus creating this threat, and perceived US support for Karimov strengthens anti-Western feeling. SIS ought to establish a presence here, but not as partners of the Uzbek Security Services, whose sheer brutality puts them beyond the pale.

  1. “Torture during interrogations rarely produces usable information and very often produces bad information”.

    Leaving aside the exact meanings of “rarely” and “very often”, let me pursuade you of your mistake. The opposite is true. Torture can be very effective. If you doubt it, read up on the history of the Gestapo successes against allied resistance movements during WWII.

    Similarly, I hope you won’t repeat that old nonsense about prisoners telling the interrogator what he wants to hear. We are dealing with information here, not confessions. Most people, most of the time, tell the truth and tell it very fast under torture! It may be abhorrent but it works if used properly.

    Finally, I can only repeat, yet again, the question I pose to all those horrified by this story. Given that there are people out there who wish very much to blow us to unrecognisable bits and pieces, and given that we have MI6 tasked with the obviously necessary job of finding out about it earlier rather than later; are you suggesting that our MI6 officers in various dodgy places ram their fingers in their ears and shout loudly, “RAH RAH RAH RAH”, if they find themselves the recipient of some whispered titbit of info from some-one else’s gangster-in-chief?

    Alternatively, you could try growing up!

  2. dsquared said:

    David, does it strike you as possibly illustrative that in looking for an example of torture being used in the past, you ended up talking about the Gestapo rather than being able to cite lots of examples of the successful use of torture by the Allied side?

  3. Phil E said:

    Most people, most of the time, tell the truth and tell it very fast under torture!

    I’m sure most people do tell the truth. The question is what happens when most of the people being tortured have a truth to tell that the torturers don’t want to hear.

    Tell us when you first met Bin Laden.
    “I’ve never met him! How many times have I got to say this? Please, that’s the tr-”
    Don’t insult us. Tell us when you first met Bin Laden.

    In the Uzbek example, it seems that something like that is happening most of the time – maybe as low as 75% of cases, probably more like 95%. In a small minority of cases, then, the person being tortured has some information to surrender, if they can be induced to surrender it – which, among other things, depends on the torturer asking the right questions at the right time (i.e. before the victim’s been broken completely).

    When it comes to trusting information extracted by torture in regimes which use torture as a matter of course (such as Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia), the question isn’t whether the 5% or 10% or 25% which is taken from genuine terrorists is usable; the question is how on earth we are suppposed to tell it apart from the majority which isn’t. This is a huge problem, which essentially vitiates all evidence supplied by these regimes. Which in turn makes me suspect that evidence is not what it’s about – see Rumsfeld on Uzbekistan.

    Nice parting shot by the way – that old ‘infantile’ manoeuvre, I never tire of it.

  4. Duff:
    I recognise that you are an apologist for rather than advocate of torture, but you have toddled on to a slippery slope.

    Accepting, for a moment, that there are scores of foreign johnnies queuing up to bomb Blighty, the question is: how far are you prepared to go to try to prevent it?

    Use data gained by others using torture?
    Torture people you know to be complicit?
    Torture people you believe to be complicit?
    Torture the associates of people you beleive to be complicit?

    Where precicely, Duffer, are you drawing your line?

  5. Ian said:

    Phil, I agree with your conclusion that “If we dismiss both possibilities, we must assume that they know as well as Murray that the information’s no good – and that information isn’t what all this is about,” and that there is a deal of cynicism involved. However, I differ in that I would posit that it’s all about using torture as an instrument of oppression against all who might oppose Karimov and his vile regime. I post in greater detail about torture as state terrorism here. By coincidence, this post expands on a reply I made to the ubiquitous David – we must stop meeting like this – on another blog entirely.

    “Perhaps the fundamental, non-negotiable starting-point isn’t the War on Terror but the Uzbek government itself, and its alliance with the US and Britain.”

    Except that the War on Terror provides a tailor-made excuse for Karimov to keep on maiming and killing potential members of the opposition, many of whom just happen to be Muslim, pour encourager les autres. I am sure, however, that he is not averse to the money, technical aid and kudos he feels comes with being a ‘key ally’ of the US and UK.

  6. Iain Coleman said:

    Duff is a moral cripple, of course, but anyone interested in the negative consequences of institutionalised torture should read Europe’s Inner Demons by Norman Cohn. This book details how the idea of a dark conspiracy of witches was invented by Christian zealots and confirmed by widespread torture of those accused of witchcraft, who eventually revealed the membership of their non-existent covens – and of course those people were tortured in turn to produce even more names. Many, many people died as a result of this campaign, which had zero basis in fact.

    There are few thing I am sure of, but one of them is that if David Duff was tortured for a few months in an Algerian jail, he would not only admit to being an agent of Al Qaeda, he would also provide a list of his friends, relatives and acquaintances who are involved in his non-existent terrorist cell.

  7. Ian said:

    If I can go back to what Phil originally wrote, namely:we must assume that they [MI6] know as well as Murray that the information’s no good – and that information isn’t what all this is about.

    Quite. The whole ‘quality of information’ debate is a bit of a red herring, as it helps to conceal the true goal of torture which is to cow potential opposition. The individual victim is less the target than the community he or she comes from.

    Perhaps the fundamental, non-negotiable starting-point isn’t the War on Terror but the Uzbek government itself, and its alliance with the US and Britain.

    And the most recent document (re-)released by Murray, about a $2 billion contract for Enlay in Uzbekistan seems to support this comment. I am sure that Karimov is also not averse to the financial and technical aid that he has received from the UK and US for being a ‘staunch ally’. However, it cannot be denied that the War on Terror provides an excellent pretext for Karimov to continue his torture and persecution.

  8. Bit rushed today so if I miss responding to a point, forgive me.

    I do not wish to breach good blogging manners by directing people to my site, but my views on the use of torture and what I call ‘harsh treatment’ were covered in detail in several postings by me over the last few months with the name “Jenkins” in the title, if you want to google for them. Suffice to say that I am *not* in favour of using torture except in a ticking bomb scenario which never, to my knowedge, happens outside of Hollywood! I am in favour of using harsh treatment if and when the Muslim assault on us becomes a full-time campaign. I want this to be done openly after public debate in the exactly opposite manner in which the dimwit who runs our London police introduced ‘shoot to kill’ in secret.

    The MI6 officers on the ground have only a partial idea of how good the information is that they receive from who-ever, that is why back at base they have collators and analysts who do, or should do. Thus,it is imperative that agents on the ground hoover up anything and everything to send back to base. They can grade the source, of course, in order to indicate their reliability, but it is for the analysts to read the always part-finished puzzle. Intelligence is never a tidy matter.

    You lot getting your knickers in a twist because MI6 has to deal with scum is so pathetic that I make no apology for telling you, once again, to grow up! And it is no good attempting to insult me by calling me a “moral cripple”. We are talking of national self interests here, and morality simply does not come into the equation. Should you doubt it, I challenge you to produce from history one single national leader who ever acted in anything other than what he thought was his nation’s self interest.

    Er, Happy New Year, by the way!

  9. Quixotematic asks, of David Duff, “Where precicely, Duffer, are you drawing your line?”

    I suggest we torture David to find out. Since David thinks torture is OK, I’m sure he will have no principled objection to this inquisitorial process. If he’s lucky, he could get flown to exotic places such as Syria, Uzbekistan and Guantanemo into the bargain!

  10. I’m also curious as to where the clear boundary between harsh treatment and torture actually lies.

  11. I can only assume that Phil Hunt and ‘quixomatic’ get some-one else to type their comments because they obviously cannot read so one must assume they have difficulties in writing.

    I wrote: “Suffice to say that I am *not* in favour of using torture except in a ticking bomb scenario which never, to my knowedge, happens outside of Hollywood!” Phil Hunt wrote: “Since David thinks torture is OK…”

    I wrote: “I do not wish to breach good blogging manners by directing people to my site, but my views on the use of torture and what I call ‘harsh treatment’ were covered in detail in several postings by me over the last few months with the name “Jenkins” in the title, if you want to google for them.” ‘Quixomatic’ wrote: “I’m also curious as to where the clear boundary between harsh treatment and torture actually lies.”

    Sometimes I wonder why I bother!

  12. Phil E said:

    Brian Barder’s written an interesting and relevant post (which I don’t entirely agree with) here. Craig Murray’s posted a comment. I found this particularly interesting:

    What I found particularly chilling were instances where such intelligence was being deliberately accepted or interpreted, in order to justify continuing US support to this odious regime. The US was justifying its presence and policy in Uzbekistan by the common threat faced, and prepared to buy fictions that reinforced that threat as part of the raison d’etre of the War on Terror.

  13. David Duff; I can only assume that Phil Hunt and ‘quixomatic’ get some-one else to type their comments because they obviously cannot read so one must assume they have difficulties in writing.

    When I wrote my comment i had only read your first comment and Quixotematic’s response — I hadn’t read your later comment. I accept that you are against torture and apologise for suggesting you were for it.

    The point I was (badly) trying to make stands: that those people who think torture is a good thing deserve to be tortured more than just about anyone else.

    BTW I don’t think it is a breach of manners to direct people to one’s site.

  14. Instant and craven apologies to Phil Hunt (and Quixomatic, I suppose), it must have been a bad hair day for me to be quite so ratty!

    ‘Torture’ is a notoriously tricky activity to define. I use the term ‘harsh treatment’ which is governed, in my mind, by three criterion. First, the interrogator must never lay a harmful hand (or implement) on the prisoner; second, the prisoner must be in good health and therefor likely to recover within hours, if not minutes, of the treatment being stopped; and third, the treatment must have a time limit, say, one week maximum.

    By ‘harsh treatment’ I include stripping, hooding, hunger, thirst, sleeplessness, dis-orientation, trickery, insults, threats, bribes and so on. All of this is in search of information not confessions. Nothing produced this way can be used in a court of law but suspects should be held indefinitely according to their risk potential.

    Just so no-one misunderstands me, I do not think that the militant Muslim attack on us has reached the sort of severity that would necessitate these measures now, but it might, and we should debate the response to it now rather than later.

  15. suspects should be held indefinitely according to their risk potential

    And just how, exactly, do you fairly judge the “risk potential” of a human being?

  16. Not difficult at all. You assess the known facts on the subject and use your judgement (perhaps in combination with others). Sometimes you will be right and sometimes you will be wrong but ‘war is hell’, as they say!

    On the other hand, if you really think he or she is potentially dangerous you can organise a quick release with lavish thanks and praise for his co-operation, 1st class airtickets back home and a few quid in his Bank account. At the worst, he or she will never ‘work’ again, or at best, his or her organisation will then do your dirty work for you with a quick bullet in the head.

  17. Bogdan said:

    But Craig Murray’s drink problem does a lot to damage his credibility.

    Where’d the concern about the people of Uzbekistan go now that the U.S. has nothing to do with Karimov? You are hypocrites.