The story, out of England, is pretty straight-forward, but the implications are stunning; or, they would be stunning, if the repeated crimes and inhumanity of the Bush Administration had not fried whatever synapses allow us to feel stunned.
The Guardian reports:
Allegations that the CIA held al-Qaida suspects for interrogation at a secret prison on sovereign British territory are to be investigated by MPs, the Guardian has learned. The all-party foreign affairs committee is to examine long-standing suspicions that the agency has operated one of its so-called “black site” prisons on Diego Garcia, the British overseas territory in the Indian Ocean that is home to a large US military base.
It’s nice to know that the British government takes such things seriously enough to actually investigate them. It would be nice if ours did.
Lawyers from Reprieve, a legal charity that represents a number of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, including several former British residents, are calling on the committee to question US and British officials about the allegations. According to the organisation’s submission to the committee, the UK government is “potentially systematically complicit in the most serious crimes against humanity of disappearance, torture and prolonged incommunicado detention”.
Let me repeat:
the most serious crimes against humanity
prolonged incommunicado detention
But here’s the thing: that complicity is with the United States. Those horrors are suspected to have been inflicted by the United States, and the British are going to investigate their own complicity. American officials have consistently responded to previous British inquiries by giving assurances that everything is fine, nothing nefarious is going on, and it’s all peachy. For some reason, the British aren’t convinced.
Andrew Tyrie, Tory MP for Chichester and a campaigner against the CIA’s use of detention without trial, has also urged the committee to investigate. He said: “Time and time again the UK government has relied on US assurances on this issue, refusing to examine the truth of these allegations for themselves. It is high time our government took its head out of the sand and looked into these allegations.”
Sand? Is that in any way related to dry powder?
The existence of the CIA’s black site prisons was acknowledged by President George Bush in September last year. He said al-Qaida suspects or members of the Taliban who “withhold information that could save American lives” have been taken “to an environment where they can be held secretly, questioned by experts”.
And if that doesn’t give you chills, nothing will. Experts? Experts at what, exactly? Shouldn’t someone bother to find out? Any ideas who might?
The Guardian says retired American general Barry McCaffrey has twice spoken publicly about “suspects” being sent to Diego Garcia. McCaffrey said that among the various U.S. camps around the world, the U.S. is holding some 3,000 people. That would be 3,000 people, stowed away in secret, subject to interrogation by “experts” who, for some odd reason, are only practicing their expertise in secret prisons that are far away from American soil. Far away from American law. Far away from international law. Far away from human morality.
The trail of clues, for the British, includes a jet that has been linked by its registration to “extraordinary renditions,” and is known to have flown to Diego Garcia; a building there that was redesignated as a prison, after September 11, 2001; and a previous investigation reported to the Council of Europe, which concluded that prisoners were, indeed, being held there. Some claim that the victims are actually being held on prison ships, off the island’s coast; and there has been at least one report that they are being beaten more severely than are the victims at Guantanamo.
In an unrelated, but interesting, Spiegel Online interview with war crimes prosecutor Carla Del Ponte, the subject of American war crimes also came up. The interview is about Del Ponte’s work prosecuting Balkan war criminals, her frustration at the lack of international cooperation, and the murders of key witnesses. But the final question is this:
SPIEGEL: Can international courts achieve a deterrent effect as long as the US refuses to allow its military personnel to stand trial before such tribunals? For example, for crimes committed in Iraq?
Del Ponte: The International Court of Justice has a mandate to intervene only if the country concerned takes no action itself. In my opinion, this is the wrong approach. First a country is accused of not bringing its war criminals to justice, and then it is asked to cooperate. That can lead to difficulties.
That such a question need even be asked speaks to the degree to which our nation has fallen; but Del Ponte’s careful answer was actually even more pointed. Because it is, indeed, absurd that a nation that refuses to self-investigate must then be expected to cooperate with international investigators for any justice to be done. But it is even worse when the rogue nation is the world’s most powerful. Because no one can hold it accountable. It is not only above, but outside, the law. And anyone who has paid even cursory attention to the Bush Administration knows that there are no laws- domestic, international, or humane- to which they deem themselves subject.
The British are, at least, willing to investigate. The British government seems to not want to be complicit in crimes against humanity. I’ll end it at that. Because that’s where it appears to end.