Torture in British history

This video from Britain is called Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain – ‘To get to the truth I needed to keep asking questions …’

From Socialist Worker weekly in Britain:

Tue 13 Nov 2012

Britain’s secret history of torture

Investigative journalist Ian Cobain spoke to Simon Basketter about his new book on the cover-up of torture

According to the prime minister, there is “no evidence” of torture by Britain.

In reality the British state has tortured people throughout its history—and continues to torture today.

The abuse isn’t carried out by “rogue soldiers”. It is a policy sanctioned by the highest levels of the military and political establishment.

Ian Cobain’s new book, Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture, exposes this brutal reality and how those in power have tried to hide it.

Ian started looking at the cover-up of torture while covering a terrorism trial in 2007. “One of the defendants alleged that he was tortured,” he explained. “He said a succession of British agents would come along and ask the same questions.

“I heard a second person giving a similar account. Then I heard of a third person as he was being flown from Pakistan to London, minus three fingernails.”

Ian started to ask why this pattern existed. “Either intelligence officers are seeing what they can get away with,” he said. “Or there’s a policy they’re working to.”

The question is who ordered the abuse and why. Ian said, “You have to ask at what level was that policy agreed. Could it be lower than the prime minister? Could it be lower than the foreign secretary?”

The Baha Mousa case

Baha Mousa died under interrogation in Iraq in 2003. He was held for days in a stress position, deprived of sleep, covered alternately in urine and cold water, and repeatedly beaten.

Ian points out that the torture of Baha Mousa was allegedly to condition him for interrogation. But “what was actually going on was that people were just walking in, kicking the living daylights out of him, and walking out again”.

Thousands of people were abused in interrogation in Iraq. As a tool for gathering information Ian described it “ often utterly pointless”.

But he added, “Maybe it was an attempt at wider repression. The purpose of it could be to intimidate an entire people. And if that’s the case, who’s taking the decision?”

The British state has long used torture to terrorise those who challenge its power. Beatings, sexual humiliation, hooding, sleep deprivation, bombardment with white noise—the British army pioneered all these techniques.

In Kenya in 1952 British occupiers declared a state of emergency in response to demands for independence spearheaded by the Mau Mau organisation. Brutalities included castration, slicing off ears, boring holes in eardrums and flogging people to death.

In the early 1970s the British army used torture in Northern Ireland in response to a growing Republican movement and agitation for Catholic civil rights.

Ian charts the development of interrogation and torture techniques. The army developed what became known as the “five techniques”—hooding, starvation, sleep deprivation, and the use [of] noise and stress positions.

He says these methods were “guaranteed to leave no marks that would result in either official embarrassment or the risk of war crimes prosecutions”. But they would “cause intense pain and terror, plus lasting psychological damage”. The techniques were banned in 1972. But they continue to this day.

Denial and outsourcing

Those in power try to hide the truth of who orders torture through a process of mutual denial and outsourcing. Outsourcing has become particularly useful as the British “don’t even have to be in the room”. They can be “standing on the outside passing in the questions” as Ian put it.

The fact that the West uses torture has become more widely known. Ian warned that some can use the apparent “inevitability” of torture as a means of justifying it.

“There are enough people who think torture is in some way acceptable or inevitable,” he said. “You get David Miliband in his private conversations saying things like, ‘There’s a difference between torture and cruel and degrading treatment.’

“Because he’s not in the torture chamber on the receiving end, he presumably feels able to repeat the line that he’s heard from Foreign Office lawyers.”

But when it goes wrong, establishment figures lash out at each other. Ian recalled an interview given by former Labour foreign secretary Jack Straw.

“Straw said no foreign secretary can know everything. At which point the head of MI6, Richard Dearlove, crops up to make it clear that everything they did was ministerial authorised.”

Put simply, “Ministers were not only authorising torture, they were encouraging it—yet were prepared to deny it”.

The Libyan connection

There is still more to be revealed. From late 2003 the West decided to bring Libya back into the fold. That meant enemies of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime became enemies of the West.

According to Ian, “We decided the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were dangerous. So we grab their leadership in the Far East, then fly them to Tripoli in front of their pregnant wives and six year old daughters so they can be tortured.

“It’s all about getting closer to their monstrous regime for commercial reasons. It’s as much about money as it is about weapons. It’s grotesque. And torture plays its part along the way.”

Ian is far from confident about either stopping torture or revealing the full truth about it. “We know a lot,” he said. “But there are unknown unknowns. We don’t have an acknowledgement—we have denial. I don’t think there’ll be an acknowledgement for a long time.

Bloody Sunday showed us, as did Hillsborough, that when the state is involved in wrongdoing that leads to lots of people dying, it can’t be trusted to examine itself.

“When people in an organisation act like they’re hiding something, it’s usually because they’ve got something to hide.”

Network of repression built after the war

During the Second World War one of the poshest addresses in Kensington, London, became a torture centre. Prisoners passed through the unit that became known as the London Cage.

They were beaten, deprived of sleep and forced to assume stress positions for days at a time. Some were told they would be murdered and their bodies quietly buried.

Others were threatened with unnecessary surgery carried out by people with no medical qualifications. Guards boasted that they were “the English Gestapo”.

The London Cage was part of a network of nine “cages” around Britain. Three, at Doncaster, Kempton Park and Lingfield, were at hastily converted racecourses. Another was at the ground of Preston North End Football Club.

The British set up another torture centre in Egypt. According to Ian Cobain, “In 1944-45, the Joint Intelligence Committee talked about the anticipated need for widespread repression in post-war Germany.”

In reference to murderous paramilitaries used in Ireland in the 1920s, “They talked about having to have a Black and Tan type operation.”

Internment camp

In the four years after the war, 95,000 people were interned in the British zone of Allied-occupied Germany. The town of Bad Nendorf was evacuated and turned into an internment camp.

One “Tin Eye” Stephens, on attachment from MI5 and drawing on torture used during the war, was in charge. Over the next two years 372 men and 44 women passed through his hands.

One German inmate recalled being told, “We are not bound by any rules or regulations. We do not care a damn whether you leave this place on a stretcher or in a hearse.”

He was made to sleep on a wet floor in a temperature of minus 20°C for three days. Four of his toes had to be amputated due to frostbite.

At least one Communist who had been tortured in Buchenwald by the Nazis was tortured again by the British.

As Ian said, “The use of torture by the British is always concealed behind denials and obfuscation and lies. It was in the 1940s, and it is today.”

Further reading

Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture by Ian Cobain. The book draws on previously unseen documents and witness accounts to expose torture by the British state.

Cobain exposes a systematic use of torture that is far from being the work of a few rogue interrogators. He shows how those in power have used torture to protect their position. And he exposes the lie behind Britain’s claims to civilisation and democracy.

Two American whistleblowers alleging U.S. forces tortured them in Iraq can’t sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to a federal appeals court in Chicago that found those along the military command chain enjoy broad immunity from such torture claims: here.

Rumsfeld sued over torture

This video says about itself:

16 July 2010

The US military has turned over to Iraqi authorities the last prison it controlled in the country.

The handover of Camp Cropper could be the final chapter in American involvement in Iraqi prisons.

From Associated Press:

Thursday Aug. 4, 2011

Judge allows American to sue Rumsfeld over torture

WASHINGTON — A judge is allowing an Army veteran who says he was imprisoned unjustly and tortured by the U.S. military in Iraq to sue former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld personally for damages.

The veteran’s identity is withheld in court filings, but he worked for an American contracting company as a translator for the Marines in the volatile Anbar province before being detained for nine months at Camp Cropper, a U.S. military facility near the Baghdad airport dedicated to holding “high-value” detainees.

The government says he was suspected of helping get classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces enter Iraq. But he was never charged with a crime and says he never broke the law.

Lawyers for the man, who is in his 50s, say he was preparing to come home to the United States on annual leave when he was abducted by the U.S. military and held without justification while his family knew nothing about his whereabouts or even whether he was still alive.

Court papers filed on his behalf say he was repeatedly abused, then suddenly released without explanation in August 2006. Two years later, he filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington arguing that Rumsfeld personally approved torturous interrogation techniques on a case-by-case basis and controlled his detention without access to courts in violation of his constitutional rights.

Chicago attorney Mike Kanovitz, who is representing the plaintiff, says it appears the military wanted to keep his client behind bars so he couldn’t tell anyone about an important contact he made with a leading sheik while helping collect intelligence in Iraq.

“The U.S. government wasn’t ready for the rest of the world to know about it, so they basically put him on ice,” Kanovitz said in a telephone interview. “If you’ve got unchecked power over the citizens, why not use it?”

The Obama administration has represented Rumsfeld through the Justice Department and argued that the former defense secretary cannot be sued personally for official conduct. The Justice Department also argued that a judge cannot review wartime decisions that are the constitutional responsibility of Congress and the president. And the department said the case could disclose sensitive information and distract from the war effort, and said the threat of liability would impede future military decisions.

But U.S. District Judge James Gwin rejected those arguments and said U.S. citizens are protected by the Constitution at home or abroad during wartime.

“The court finds no convincing reason that United States citizens in Iraq should or must lose previously declared substantive due process protections during prolonged detention in a conflict zone abroad,” Gwin wrote in a ruling issued Tuesday.

“The stakes in holding detainees at Camp Cropper may have been high, but one purpose of the constitutional limitations on interrogation techniques and conditions of confinement even domestically is to strike a balance between government objectives and individual rights even when the stakes are high,” the judge ruled.

In many other cases brought by foreign detainees, judges have dismissed torture claims made against U.S. officials for their personal involvement in decisions over prisoner treatment. But this is the second time a federal judge has allowed U.S. citizens to sue Rumsfeld personally.

U.S. District Judge Wayne R. Andersen in Illinois last year said two other Americans who worked in Iraq as contractors and were held at Camp Cropper, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, can pursue claims that they were tortured using Rumsfeld-approved methods after they alleged illegal activities by their company. Rumsfeld is appealing that ruling, which Gwin cited.

The Supreme Court sets a high bar for suing high-ranking officials, requiring that they be tied directly to a violation of constitutional rights and must have clearly understood their actions crossed that line.

The case before Gwin involves a man who went to Iraq in December 2004 to work with an American-owned defense contracting firm. He was assigned as an Arabic translator for Marines gathering intelligence in Anbar. He says he was the first American to open direct talks with Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha, who became an important U.S. ally and later led a revolt of Sunni sheiks against al-Qaida before being killed by a bomb.

In November 2005, when he was to go on home leave, Navy Criminal Investigative Service agents questioned him about his work, refusing his requests for representation by his employer, the Marines or an attorney. The Justice Department says he was told he was suspected of helping provide classified information to the enemy and helping anti-coalition forces attempting to cross from Syria into Iraq.

He says he refused to answer questions because of concern about confidentiality, and the agents handcuffed and blindfolded him, kicked him in the back and threatened to shoot him if he tried to escape. He was then transferred to an unidentified location for three days before being flown to Camp Cropper.

For his first three months at Camp Cropper he says he was held incommunicado in solitary confinement with a hole in the ground for a toilet. He says he was then moved to cells holding terrorist suspects hostile to the United States who were told about his work for the military, leading to physical attacks by his cellmates that left him in constant fear for his life.

He claims guards tortured him by repeatedly choking him, exposing him to extreme cold and continuous artificial light, blindfolding and hooding him, waking him by banging on a door or slamming a window when he tried to sleep and blasting music into his cell at “intolerably loud volumes.”

He says he always denied any wrongdoing and truthfully answered questions but interrogators continued to threaten him. Both sides say a detainee status board in December 2005 determined he was a threat to the multinational forces in Iraq and authorized his continued detention, but he says he was not allowed to see most of the evidence against him. Documents the government filed with the court only say he is suspected of a crime, without providing details.

Update 8 August 2011: here.

US Navy Vet Sues Donald Rumsfeld for Torture in Iraq, Court Allows Case to Move Forward (Video): here.

Countering Rumsfeld Lie — Detainees Were Waterboarded: here.

More Evidence of Water Torture “Depravity” in Rumsfeld’s Military. Jeffrey Kaye, Truthout: “There have been a number of cases of detainees held by the Department of Defense (DoD) who have been subjected to water torture, including some that come very close to waterboarding, according to an investigation by Truthout. The prisoners have been held in a number of settings, from Afghanistan and Iraq to Guantanamo Bay”: here.

USA: Inspector General: Army Improperly Tested Body Armor Plates: here.

Truthout Contributor Jeffrey Kaye Discusses Guantanamo Water Torture and Rumsfeld’s Denials (Video). Jeffrey Kaye, RTAmerica: “A new report published by Truthout last week suggests that there may be much more to interrogation techniques and where they were used. This includes a little known testimony by former Guantanamo detainee Murat Kurnaz before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, where he described not waterboarding, but a form of water treatment. Jeffrey Kaye, the Truthout contributor who authored the groundbreaking report, discusses”: here.

The government must demand the release of British resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo as fears for his health grow, campaigners said today: here.

Desperate for Democracy in Iraq. Protesters fight for what U.S. media say they already have: here.

Top-secret leak confirms that Britain has always been a fully signed up member of the torture club: here.

Some of Britain’s biggest rights groups pulled out of a government inquiry into allegations of state complicity in recent international torture scandals today, saying it lacked “credibility and transparency”: here.

TEN leading human rights organisations, along with victims of torture and their lawyers, have withdrawn from the British government’s Detainee Inquiry because they believe that its purpose is to hide the truth, not to get to it: here.

Lawyers boycott torture whitewash: here.

Britain: We covered up our involvement in torture. Now we must expose it: here.

The High Court ruled today that the hooding of detainees by British security services is illegal and government guidance allowing it must be rewritten: here.

U.S. “Special Operations” Forces Expanding: here.

Secret interrogation policy confirms UK government’s complicity in war crimes: here.

Lawyers representing a man who alleges British complicity in his torture have launched legal proceedings against the government: here.

Britain: Government proposals to introduce secret evidence in compensation cases alleging British complicity in torture are an attempt to ensure dirty secrets remain swept under the carpet, Reprieve said today: here.

US Bush administration lied 935 times about Iraq

This video from the USA is called WMD LIES – Bush Cheney Rumsfeld etc. – THE ULTIMATE CLIP.

From the Center for Public Integrity in the USA:

False Pretenses

Following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

By Charles Lewis and Mark Reading-Smith

President George W. Bush and seven of his administration’s top officials, including Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, made at least 935 false statements in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.

On at least 532 separate occasions (in speeches, briefings, interviews, testimony, and the like), Bush and these three key officials, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan, stated unequivocally that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (or was trying to produce or obtain them), links to Al Qaeda, or both. This concerted effort was the underpinning of the Bush administration’s case for war.

It is now beyond dispute that Iraq did not possess any weapons of mass destruction or have meaningful ties to Al Qaeda. This was the conclusion of numerous bipartisan government investigations, including those by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (2004 and 2006), the 9/11 Commission, and the multinational Iraq Survey Group, whose “Duelfer Report” established that Saddam Hussein had terminated Iraq’s nuclear program in 1991 and made little effort to restart it.

In short, the Bush administration led the nation to war on the basis of erroneous information that it methodically propagated and that culminated in military action against Iraq on March 19, 2003.

See also here.

Those 935 or more are just the lies before the war started. Maybe one would need a super computer to count the lies by the Bush administration since the Iraq war started.

Five years after Colin Powell’s infamous “Iraq WMD” speech in the UN: here. And here.

An Algerian living in Britain who was wrongly accused of being involved in the 9/11 terror attacks tells for the first time today of how his life has been ‘ruined’ by the police and the Crown Prosecution Service: here.

This video is called Hans Blix: ”Cheney threatened to discredit me”.

US general Taguba says Abu Ghraib torture was Rumsfeld, not a few ‘bad apples’

This video is the film Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, about prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

By Joe Kay:

Former US general confirms high-level knowledge of Abu Ghraib torture

19 June 2007

Former US Major General Antonio Taguba, who headed the first military investigation into torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, has now alleged that former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other top officials were aware of abuse at the Iraqi prison months before it was made public in late April 2004. According to Taguba, the torture at Abu Ghraib arose from a policy promoted by Rumsfeld and the Bush administration.

Taguba’s statements, in an interview conducted by veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, appear in the June 25 issue of the New Yorker magazine. The interview is also available online.

In the conversations with Hersh, Taguba also asserts that he was forced out of his position in the military because of his role in investigating torture in Iraq and his reluctance to lie to help cover up for the administration.

Speaking of the Abu Ghraib abuse, Taguba remarked, “From what I know, troops just don’t take it upon themselves to initiate what they did without any form of knowledge of the higher-ups.”

See also here.

Death penalty in Iraq: here.

Donald Rumsfeld from Iraq war to Arthur Miller play?

Rumsfeld and Iraq war, cartoon

This cartoon from Internet Weekly in the USA alludes to George W Bush‘s dismissed ‘defence’ secretary Donald Rumsfeld; and to the play, Death of a salesman, by Arthur Miller.

Quotes by Rumsfeld: here.

Arthur Miller’s The Crucible: here.

Marilyn Monroe 1962 interview: here.

Marilyn Monroe’s Books: 13 Titles That Were On Her Shelf: here.

After Imelda Marcos, fashion lines by Rice and Rumsfeld?

Condoleezza Rice, war, and shoes, cartoon

From Associated Press:

Former Philippine first lady Imelda Marcos, who made headlines for her vast shoe collection, is embarking on a new project a fashion line.

The 77-year-old widow of dictator Ferdinand Marcos told reporters Monday that she planned to launch “The Imelda Collection” of fashion jewelry and accessories on Nov. 18.

Marcos became notorious for her shopping trips to ritzy shops in New York while her country wallowed in poverty under martial law declared by her husband.

What next?

Not from Associated Press:

George W Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, plans to launch her own fashion line.

It will include Ms Rice’s ‘Birth Pangs’ perfume, said to contain real drops of Lebanese children‘s blood.

And ‘Katrina shoes’, referring to when Hurricane Katrina killed thousands of people in the southern US, and Secretary of State Rice, instead of handling the scores of offers of help for the Katrina victims from foreign countries, chose to buy expensive shoes in New York City.


George W Bush’s Secretary of ‘Defence’, Donald Rumsfeld, today launched his own fashion line.

It includes body armour guaranteed not to stop any bullets.

As the catwalk broke down in the middle of the show, breaking the necks of, and killing, scores of models, Mr Rumsfeld reacted: ‘Stuff happens’; and ‘You have fashion shows with the catwalk you have, not the one you would like to have’.

Rumsfeld and Saddam Hussein, partners in crime: here.

Al Jazeera correspondent Veronica Pedrosa confronts former Philippines First Lady Imelda Marcos about her past: here.