Tuesday, April 24, 2007

George Bush's USA: An equal oportunities torturer

There has rightly been much wailing and gnashing of teeth in Britain about the treatment dished out to British nationals and residents by the US at Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere. It has, quite rightly, been described as torture as well as a gross abuse of due process and Human Rights.

But one shouldn't lose fact that the US's meritocratic(ish) society is a beacon for many across the world who live in less equal societies. It was heartening therefore to be reminded by this week's Economist that the USA is also willing to torture its own citizens and deprive them of their basic human rights as part of the war against terror (assuming they aren't white of course).

The Economist recounts the tail of Jose Padila, who was arrested with much fanfare in 2002 and accused of plotting a dirty bomb attack within the US. Five years later he is finally being brought to trial. Not on charges of planning any specific act, mind, but of being part of an ephemeral global terrorist conspiracy (the case against him is spelt out in this article from the Washington Post). So what has he been doing for the last five years? Well for four of them he was held in military custody as an "enemy combatant", and it appears subjected to many of the interrogation (torture) techniques that were perfected in Guantanamo.

Now I'm not arguing that Padila isn't a wannabe or actual terrorist. Some of the evidence released by the US authorities is pretty damning. It is in fact infuriating that it appears that a potentially guilty man may go free because most of the evidence that has been obtained against him is inadmissible in court (at least as a US citizen Padila will get something approximating a fair trial). If the Bush administration hadn't been so cavalier with the rule of law a dangerous man may now be contemplating the rest of his life in prison, instead of having a good chance of walking free. (Having said that of course he may be innocent, and the evidence that the Government is willing to test in court may be just as crooked as the stuff that has been thrown out.)

And of course such abuses only help those like China by undercutting the west's attempts to criticise their much more serious human rights abuses (not that we seem to do that much now they have gotten richer).

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