Britain's Bizarre Reaction to War Crimes Allegations: Investigations Needed

Binyam Mohamed is the British resident who, two weeks ago, was
released from Guantanamo and returned to Britain after seven years of
detention, often in brutal conditions.
Since his return, compelling evidence has been steadily emerging that
British agents were knowingly complicit in Mohamed's torture while in
U.S. custody -- including the discovery of telegrams sent by British
intelligence officers to the CIA asking the CIA to extract information
from him.

Binyam Mohamed is the British resident who, two weeks ago, was
released from Guantanamo and returned to Britain after seven years of
detention, often in brutal conditions.
Since his return, compelling evidence has been steadily emerging that
British agents were knowingly complicit in Mohamed's torture while in
U.S. custody -- including the discovery of telegrams sent by British
intelligence officers to the CIA asking the CIA to extract information
from him. How does a country with a minimally healthy political class
and a pretense to the rule of law react to such allegations of
criminality? From the BBC:

MPs have demanded a judicial inquiry into a Guantanamo Bay prisoner's claims that MI5 was complicit in his torture. . . .

[Mohamed's] allegations are being investigated by the government, but the Foreign Office said it did not condone torture.

Shadow justice secretary Dominic Grieve said the "extremely serious" claims should also be referred to the police. . . .

Daniel Sandford, BBC Home Affairs correspondent, said Mr Mohamed's claims would be relatively simple to substantiate.

time progresses it will probably become quite apparent whether indeed
these are true telegrams and I think it's unlikely they'd be put into
the public domain if they couldn't eventually be checked back."

The Conservatives have called for a police inquiry into his allegations of British collusion.

Mr Grieve called for a judicial inquiry into the allegations.

"And if the evidence is sufficient to bring a prosecution then the police ought to investigate it," he added.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Ed Davey said there was a "rock solid" case for an independent judicial inquiry. . . .

Chakrabati, director of campaign group Liberty said: "These are more
than allegations - these are pieces of a puzzle that are being put

"It makes an immediate criminal investigation absolutely inescapable."

The Guardian adds:

revelations by Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed, claiming that
British intelligence played a central role in his torture and
interrogation, must be answered by the government, the former shadow
home secretary David Davis said last night. . . .

allegations appear to contradict assertions by foreign secretary David
Miliband and home secretary Jacqui Smith that the British government
would never "authorise or condone" torture.

Davis said
Mohamed's testimony demanded a response from these ministers. "His
revelations show that the government's claims about its involvement in
the interrogation of Mohamed are completely untenable," Davis said.
"Either Miliband or Smith should come to the House of Commons and reveal exactly what the government knew."

Last night other public figures said there should be wider efforts to look into the allegations that the British government had colluded in Mohamed's torture.

what is missing from these accounts. There is nobody arguing that the
dreary past should simply be forgotten in order to focus on the
important and challenging future. There's no snide suggestion that
demands to investigate serious allegations of criminality are driven by
petty vengeance or partisan score-settling. Nobody suggests that it's
perfectly permissible for government officials to commit serious crimes
-- including war crimes -- as long as they had nice motives or were
told that it was OK to do these things by their underlings, or that the
financial crisis (which Britain has, too) precludes any investigations,
or that whether to torture is a mere "policy dispute." Also missing is
any claim that these crimes are State Secrets that must be kept concealed in order to protect British national security.

the tacit premise of the discussion is that credible allegations of
criminality -- even if committed by high government officials, perhaps
especially then -- compel serious criminal investigations. Imagine
that. How shrill and radical.

If one stays immersed in American
domestic political debates, it's easy to lose sight of just how
corrupted and rotted our political and media class is, because the most
twisted ideas become enshrined as elite orthodoxies. Britain is hardly
the paragon of transparency and adherence to international conventions;
to the contrary, they've been with the U.S. every step of the way over
the last eight years, enabling and partaking in
many of the worst abuses. Yet this one single case of documented
complicity in torture -- mere complicity with, not actual commission
of, the torture -- is generating extreme political controversy and
widespread demands across the political spectrum for judicial and
criminal investigations. The British political class may not have
wanted to see it, but when compelling evidence of criminality is rubbed
in their faces, they at least pay lip service to the idea that crimes
by government officials must be investigated and subjected to

By stark and depressing contrast, America's
political class and even most of its "journalists" -- in the face of
far, far greater, more heinous and more direct war criminality by their
highest political leaders -- are explicitly demanding that nothing be
done and that it all be kept concealed. They're surveying undeniable
evidence of grotesque war crimes committed over many years by our
government -- including enabling legal theories that even Fred Hiatt described as "scary," "lawless" and "disgraceful" -- and are literally saying: "just forget about that; it doesn't matter." Our country is plagued by "journalists" like The Washington Post's Dana Milbank, giggling with smug derision over the very few efforts to investigate these massive crimes -- and then even lying on NPR by claiming that support for investigations is confined to "a small but very vocal minoritywithin the Party
- these are the same folks who were pushing for the impeachment of the
President and the Vice President right up [dismissive chuckling]
basically to the time of the Inauguration" (to see how flagrantly false
is Milbank's statement about support within the Party for
investigations, see here and here and here; the NPR host, needless to say, said nothing to correct him).

accountability-free, self-loving mentality that demands that nothing be
done about America's war crimes over the last eight years is hardly
confined to America's detention, surveillance and interrogation
policies. This is exactly the same bloated, insular corruption that
allows multi-billion-dollar insider frauds like this one
not only to go unexamined but also to result in those responsible being
further empowered with high government positions. It's what lets
someone like Tom Friedman think he can lecture us all with a straight face
on the evils of overconsumption, the ravaging effects of our "growth
model," and the environment-destroying impact of consumerism as he
lives in this house, financed by his heiress-wife's shopping-center-developing company, his books urging unfettered globalization, and his columns urging various wars.

sum, we have the only country, and the only results, that it's possible
to have given who has been wielding influence. And nothing expresses
more vividly what they are than their explicit insistence that
systematic war crimes committed by their own Government be immunized
and forgotten, underscored by their bizarre feelings of "centrism"-smugness and Seriousness-superiority for expressing that definitively lawless and amoral view.

* * * * *

One other point about Mohamed: Last month, the Obama DOD claimed that it conducted an investigation and concluded that Guantanamo now fully comports with all Geneva standards. In a New York Times interview yesterday, President Obama claimed
(for the first time, to my knowledge) that most of the problems with
Bush's detention policies were confined to what he called "the steps
that were taken immediately after 9/11," and that most of those
problems were fixed by CIA Director Michael Hayden and DNI Michael
McConnell "by the time [Obama] took office" because Hayden and
McConnell "were mindful of American values and ideals."

Compare all of that to Binyam Mohamed's post-release statements -- supported by other corroborating evidence -- that "conditions at the US detention camp in Cuba have worsened since President Barack Obama was elected.
. . . "'Since the election it's got harsher,' Mohamed told the
newspaper." Isn't this something that the U.S. Government should be
called upon to address?

UPDATE: Slate's Dahlia Lithwick reviews, and dismantles,
each of the justifications being offered by the Obama administration
for keeping Bush crimes concealed and shielding them from
investigations and prosecutions (h/t Bystander). It's quite concise and well worth reading in its entirety (as is Digby's discussion of that article).

UPDATE II: In comments, Cocktailhag writes:

is something of an upside down world wherein journalists, as a class,
comfort the comfortable and afflict the afflicted, and see nothing odd
about this.

At times I've wondered whether Watergate would
have even been discovered by the mindless media we have today, but even
worse, whether they all would have just explained it away.

difficult to select what one thinks is the single most illustrative
symbol of how our country now functions, but if I were forced to do so,
I would choose the fact that it is America's journalists -- who claim
to be devoted to serving as a check on Government and exposing its
secrets -- who are, instead, leading the way in demanding that the
Government's actions of the last eight years be concealed; in trying to quash efforts to investigate and expose those actions; and in demanding immunity
for government lawbreakers. What kind of country does one expect to
have where (with some noble exceptions) it is journalists, of all
people, who take the lead in concealing, protecting and justifying
government wrongdoing, and whose overriding purpose is to serve, rather
than check, political power? "Upside down world," indeed.

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