Wednesday, 10 November 2010


On my desk I have a McCain presidential campaign baseball cap.  (I was not want of these who fell for the Obamamania.  Obama always looked like a empty suit to me and has now spent two years provided evidence for my first assessment.)  One of the stances that attracted me to McCain was his opposition to the use of torture, including the practice of waterboarding.  It was one of the policies instituted by Bush I considered a fundmental mistake.

While judicial activism and the rights industry trying to turn ever interest groups concerns into a list of rights has improperly warped the proper understanding of human rights, this should not blind us to the central importance of classic human rights as the basis of our democractic life.  Within those the right not to be tortured is crystal clear:

"Article 3 – Prohibition of torture
No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment."

There are no caveats on this right unlike for example the right to life.  This issue has once again come into focus following President Bush's claims about how the use of torture saved lives.  Others have chosen to praise Bush's comments.  Both are wrong.  The defence of "saving lives" is a questionable one. The alleged success of one technique does not preclude the possibility of another approach being equally successful.

This August Belfast saw its last Victory over Japan Day parade by 14 veterans, some who paraded with the help of family members.  Allied troops who fought in that Far East campaign were subjected to the waterboarding torture by Japanese soldiers.  After the war some of those soldiers were tried, convicted and hung for this war crime.  We did not subject them to the same treatment as they meted out.  This is part of the suffering of servicemen the poppy campaign remembers.  Perhaps those who wear a poppy but advocate torture should reflect on that contradiction. 

We were better than the totalitarians of the past and are better than their modern manifestation, Islamic extremism. We should act accordingly.

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