The denials have come fast and furious, one after the other, cascading off lips well-versed in the art of dissembling; gobs schooled to raise lying into both scientific enterprise and art form. The self-same lips that gave us the 45-minutes-away-from-kingdom-come rationale, the very ones that negated Abu Ghraib abuse and torture and killing. Yes, those lips.
Needless to say, the denials of CIA torture flights were not plausible. But- and this is incredible - they expect us to believe them. This is Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, Metternich de nos jours: If you don’t believe me, or Secretary [Condi] Rice, you must believe that there is a conspiracy here with some dark US forces. Some quaint protocol forbids the British MP from calling his/her fellow a liar. So they prevaricated.
Thankfully, no such niceties constrain us. Yes, we emphatically do not believe you. You are lying, and so was Frau Metternich, who will hopefully conclude her European tour at the earliest opportunity, then go peddle her lies to “the American people”, that vast Pinteresque tapestry, upon which “my fellow Americans” feed.
And then we had the Teflon-tot, the Prime Master himself, claiming not to even know what the lesser members of the House were talking about. No doubt, with Big Daddy Bush watching proceedings, sighing in pride and admiration, “That’s ma boy!”
But for how long will this pantomime of the ridiculous continue. They have got away with so much in the past that we lesser mortals can only hope that this time the backbenchers from all parties and all Europe will listen to their electors and say enough is enough. Is that too much to hope for? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. Plausible deniability should be put to the test this time, to see whether the chain of decision-making was loose enough to allow the big boys to escape to abuse power another day.
We already know that the CIA had been sending “terrorists” to third countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa to be tortured by their operatives and the local talent. We also know that a month before Dr Rice’s European visit all of the so-called “black” sites had been cleared and their inmates despatched to non-European sites. This was to allow Madam Secretary to say, without any fear of contradiction, that no detainees were being held on European soil.
In tandem with this has been a subtle “black” propaganda offensive, known in the intelligence trade as disinformation. This has entailed feeding white lies to compliant members of the media, or somehow getting such white lies published or broadcast in mainstream media: information that would limit the damage already done by the disclosures, or otherwise paint a rosier image of the Company and, by extension, the Bush Administration.
I spotted one in the Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper this week. In the piece, written by a John Follain and Stephen Grey, CIA sources are quoted as saying they do not agree with the policy of torturing suspects, as it was counter-productive because the victims would say anything to please their “interrogators”. They then go on to point out that the invasion of Iraq was based on a claim by a tortured detainee of links between Iraq and al-Qaida.
Now, let us examine this claim very closely. So, torture is bad and should not be practiced. Then why didn’t they spoon-feed us this titbit of information at the Eureka moment? Why wait till your bloody butt is found out before sharing this revolutionary discovery with the world?
No, that will not wash; nor will the outrageous claim that the Iraq invasion was predicated on the “intelligence” from a detainee who was tortured in an Egyptian jail. Are we imbeciles? Is that what the Sunday Times – and the CIA, for that matter – think of us? It is a well-known fact that the decision to invade Iraq was made before the justifications were fabricated. Foremost among the latter was the 45-minute WMD claim.
It was only when the PR going got tough that the “allies” decamped to the other white lie, namely that they were bringing freedom and democracy to the people of Iraq - and yes, by killing them like rabid dogs. Plain, precise language to fit plain, incontrovertible fact.
And then there is the other claim, much more easier to pass by the unwary consumer of disinformation-laden news fodder. This is that the actual dirty work of torturing these “terrorists” – who had not be found guilty by any court in any land – was done by their third party contractors in these third countries. Ergo, Uncle Sam and its dogs of war were, well, not really as guilty as they would have been if they had “actually done it”.
It gets into the television news, into the newspapers and into the blogosphere: one newspaper even quoted a US blogger yesterday saying, “We don’t kick the shit out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the shit out of them.” Such naivety is astounding.
According to media reports, since 9/11 the Company has carried out “extraordinary rendition” on over 3,000 terror suspects, ie they were flown abroad to be tortured. (What a surgically clean euphemism, sounds like some process favoured by celebrity chefs!) German researchers say company planes have flown into the country at least 436 times since 9/11. Also, Company planes known to be involved in ferrying these men to third countries have landed in Britain at least 76 times – apparently without the knowledge, or acquiescence of the government.
Are we seriously expected to believe that Company men and women do not get their hands dirty during torture – I mean, interrogation – sessions? Especially after Abu Ghraib and “Gitmo”. Think El Salvador and the rightwing death squads, trained, armed and financed by the Company; think Nicaraguan counter revolution; think military “advisers” in Vietnam, Latin America and elsewhere; think hard, then put hand on heart, Tora, Koran or Bible and tell me this gung-ho, trigger-happy bunch just sat in the shade and drank kool aid.
It is safe to assume that all we know so far about this aspect of the New Barbarity is just the tip of the iceberg. Given the nature of these clandestine operations, there would have been more “rendition” flights – and many more “renditionees”. And given that the flights could not have entered or left European airspace without the respective authorities knowing about them, it remains to be seen what will come of the inquiry the European Union have instituted to investigate the issue. Will we get to know the identities of those who would have died during renditioning?
Human history demonstrates that it is easier to dehumanise someone if you first of all make them appear to be less human than yourself, hence you label them “terrorists”, “fanatics”, “sympathisers” out to destroy something called civilisation. The next stage is to hang a euphemistic label on the actual process of their dehumanisation: that is where “rendition” and its “extraordinary” variety come in. Words, in the mouths of the power-mad, can be used to frightening, devastating effect. That other Blair, Eric, otherwise known as George Orwell, will be laughing in his grave. And, also, crying for us.