There has probably never been a good time. We quote Cicero, Wordsworth, Dickens and countless others, who mostly decried the time when they were condemned to be alive, and now that our own long period of apparent contentment is over, at least in the more fortunate parts of the planet, we can look at the mess around us, where the newspapers daily uncover something else to disgust us and question the hypocrisy that enables us to go on living with ourselves.
The Guardian has now compiled, and because of the courage of one couragious M.P. Who used his parliamentary privilege to reveal what has really being going on, been able to publish the latest outrage of our public services which shames us in the eyes of all decent opinion. I refer to torture, with which, as a publisher and campaigner for civilised standards I have had much to do in the past. In the late 1950s I published The Question, banned in France, about one journalist’s torture by the French army in Algeria, then containing many ex-S.S. Soldiers who had fled Germany in 1945 to join the Foreign Legion. Henri Alleg, the author and victim, still alive, was able to tell his story a year ago at St. Andrews University. Back then, 1958, I published Gangrene, which contained accounts of British as well as French atrocities, especially about the hundreds who died in Kenya during the hyped-up (by the right-wing press) Mau-Mau emergency. I challenged a D-notice to publish, got away with it, and as a result 30,000 Kikuyu, who had been imprisoned without any trial (as in Guantanamo Bay) for years were released. I could have gone to prison myself for publishing, and have never felt prouder of anything in my life, than taking that chance.
And now torture is back with us. We are not doing it ourselves, but out-sourcing it to others, chiefly Pakistan, but largely under our supervision and our orders. It has been denied by everyone from Blair downward, but the truth is out.
What will happen now? The government will probably try to ignore it, but if more M.P.s and hopefully some peers do take it up, it may well be an election issue when the time comes. Torture should never be tolerated at any time or for any reason.
But another question always arises in connection with torture. Why are some people so fanatically willing to attack us that we have to fear them and consider such measures to stop them. They are taking action against an injustice that we do not want to face or even realise. In the case of 9/11 it was American support of an undemocratic Saudi-Arabian regime that gives the U.S. the rights to buy its oil cheaply at the expense of the local population and to suppress all dissent. In the British case it is a direct result of our criminal attack on Iraq to support the U.S. on falsified information, the real reason (to seize the oil) not being mentioned. Now we are sending troops to fight in Afghanistan, where we have no business to be. It will only create more fanaticism against us and recruit more Pakistanis to join the other side.
Not only is the government totally in the wrong, but they will admit no mistake and simply multiply those who have reason to hate us. No country can tolerate a foreign invader and we will lose even more lives and lose in disgrace at the end with perhaps unimaginable horrors on the way there. Bring on the election and let us get as many of the culprits as possible out. Above all, let us find honest and competent people to replace them. We have been shamed long enough.
John Calder 9/7/09