LONDON (Reuters) – British intelligence officers in Afghanistan knew about the mistreatment of suspected militants by the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks, but were told not to intervene for fear of offending Washington, an inquiry found on Thursday.
In a series of episodes which the government said had damaged Britain’s international reputation, the report also found that British spies had been involved in the U.S. practice of “rendition”, in which captured militants were transferred without legal process to third countries.
“Documents indicate that in some instances UK intelligence officers were aware of inappropriate interrogation techniques,” the report said. “(The) government or its agencies may have become inappropriately involved in some cases of rendition.”
Prime Minister David Cameron set up the inquiry in 2010 to examine if British agents worked with foreign security services, including from the United States, who stand accused of abusing detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay.
He was responding to allegations of torture, mistreatment and illegal transfers that have prompted a global debate about intelligence services’ methods and accountability.
Retired senior judge Peter Gibson, who led the inquiry, found evidence that British spies had been aware of the abuse of detainees, including examples of physical assault, sleep deprivation and the use of hoods.
But he said they had been told they did not have to intervene.
“Officers were advised that, faced with apparent breaches of Geneva Convention standards, there was no obligation to intervene,” he said in the report.
Britain had been reluctant to complain about the ill-treatment of detainees for fear of damaging relations with allies, including the United States, the report said.
In some cases, British officials failed to raise objections about renditions when they should have, while ministers were sometimes kept in the dark about the operations, it added.
After reviewing 20,000 documents, Gibson said he had found 27 issues that needed further investigation, including allegations of torture, mistreatment and rendition.
Gibson’s inquiry never reached the stage of interviewing witnesses or taking evidence because it was suspended in 2012 pending the outcome of criminal investigations.
By Peter Griffiths
What Happened to John Kerry? From Anti-War Vietnam to Bellicose Rhetoric on Syria
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As he has demonstrated by his bellicose rhetoric on Syria, John Kerry has made complete his 180-degree transition from an anti-war Vietnam veteran who in 1971 threw his navy medals back onto the White House lawn and who testified to Congress on the immorality of war, to a belligerent warrior without a cause.
Tracing the causes of this shift is perhaps pointless, but a comparison between the 1971-Kerry and the 2013-Kerry will reveal the corrupting influence of the combination of money and power with its necessary consequence of surrendering what Kerry himself calls one’s “moral compass.” This article does not intend to attack John Kerry as a person. I respect and even like John Kerry. But Kerry is a significant and interesting example of how one operates when they surrender their moral compass and take instead the path to power over principle. Let us look at three facts that correlate with this shift.
First, his change of mind regarding the morality of war correlates with his investment in war machinery. Here is Kerry in 1971 congressional testimony: “We fought using weapons against “oriental human beings.” We fought using weapons against those people who I do not believe this country would dream of using were we fighting in the European theater.” Here he is in 2013: Among lawmakers on Capitol Hill, John Kerry has the most money invested in defense contractors, up to $38,209,020. This includes the significant investments in Raytheon and in General Electric, both of whom are major players in the U.S. war machine. Kerry decided in January to set aside his stock in these companies as a prerequisite to becoming secretary of state. Additionally, Kerry’s support for chemical companies such as Dow Chemicals and Monsanto (who manufactured the Agent Orange Kerry said he knew was being used while he was in Vietnam) is now well-known (see HumanRightsInvestigations.org for more).
Second, the process of his functioning as a small cog in the war machine in Vietnam to functioning as a big cog in the Empire correlates with Kerry changing the direction of his moral compass from moral principles and the value of individual civilian lives and interests, to the interests of empire’s power. In 1971, what Kerry said is worth quoting at length:
We feel [that] what threatens this country, [is] not the reds, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out….We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs and search and destroy missions, as well as by Viet Cong terrorism – and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong.
We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lai and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum. We watched pride allow the most unimportant battles to be blown into extravaganzas, because we couldn’t lose, and we couldn’t retreat…
We are here in Washington to say that the problem of this war is not just a question of war and diplomacy. It is part and parcel of everything that we are trying as human beings to communicate to people in this country – the question of racism which is rampant in the military, and so many other questions such as the use of weapons; the hypocrisy in our taking umbrage at the Geneva Conventions and using that as justification for a continuation of this war when we are more guilty than any other body of violations of those Geneva Conventions; in the use of free fire zones, harassment interdiction fire, search and destroy missions, the bombings, the torture of prisoners, all accepted policy by many units in South Vietnam.
Now, here is Kerry on the morality of war in 2013:
There is a reason why President Obama has made clear to the Assad regime that this international norm cannot be violated without consequences.
Never mind that the discrepancy between Kerry’s words, Obama’s words, and the ongoing use of chemical weapons by the U.S. in Iraq and in other countries, along with the supreme crime of aggression in violation of international law, has been well-documented by now. The only consequences that matter to the “Kerry of the Empire” are those to be suffered by nations who are in the sites of the empire’s war machine:
I spoke on Thursday with Syrian Foreign Minister Muallem, and I made it very clear to him that if the regime, as he argued, had nothing to hide, then their response should be immediate, immediate transparency, immediate access, not shelling. Their response needed to be unrestricted and immediate access.
The Empire makes demands. It does not justify its demands. As if to underscore this observation, in a speech on May 23, Kerry stated:
In the event that we can’t find that way forward, in the event that the Assad regime is unwilling to negotiate Geneva I in good faith, we will also talk about our continued support and growing support for the opposition in order to permit them to continue to be able to fight for the freedom of their country.
Yet, the same Geneva Convention requires countries to engage in responsible behavior, including not arming those who engage in “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.”
Further, Kerry stated in a recent speech:
Anyone who could claim that an attack of this staggering scale could be contrived or fabricated needs to check their conscience and their own moral compass. What is before us today is real, and it is compelling.
If only Kerry hadn’t thrown his moral compass onto the White House lawn along with his metals, he might have been a moral brake on Obama’s aggressiveness toward Syria. If the U.N. can conclude that the chemical attacks that occurred in Syria back in April were done by the rebels, thus demonstrating the lies engaged in by the U.S. (including Kerry) to be try to pin it on the Assad government, then there is no reason that the current evidence is more “compelling” and “moral” now than it was then. Yet Kerry said nothing back in May when U.S. accusations turned out to be a lie. Further, false flags for war are obviously not unheard of in U.S. history, whether it is the Gulf of Tonkin or the use 9/11 to rev up the U.S. Empire’s war machine.
Third, Kerry’s shift from morality to Empire correlates with a shift from factually founded moral arguments to purely emotional appeal. Here is Kerry in 1971:
In our opinion and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.
We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.
And here is Kerry from 2013:
Let me be clear: The indiscriminate slaughter of civilians, the killing of women and children and innocent bystanders by chemical weapons is a moral obscenity. By any standard, it is inexcusable.
Last night…I went back and I watched the videos, the videos that anybody can watch in the social media, and I watched them one more gut-wrenching time. It is really hard to express in words the human suffering that they lay out before us.
As a father, I can’t get the image out of my head of a man who held up his dead child, wailing, while chaos swirled around him, the images of entire families dead in their beds without a drop of blood or even a visible wound, bodies contorting in spasms, human suffering that we can never ignore or forget.
This is the way power is consolidated and used: not by rational and morally principled arguments that allow the people to discuss such issues, but by propaganda tricks and appeals to emotion.
Let me reiterate that none of this makes John Kerry a bad man. But it does show us something about the trading of individual conscience for functioning in a high position of great power and in the service of a small number of elites. But if only Kerry would listen to his own words from 1971, the moral voices of the nation might well have the upper hand in the future to stop any further drive to war on the part of the Obama administration:
But all that they have done and all that they can do by this denial [of the “mistake” it was to invade Vietnam] is to make more clear than ever our own determination to undertake one last mission – to search out and destroy the last vestige of this barbaric war, to pacify our own hearts, to conquer the hate and fear that have driven this country these last ten years and more.
Short of doing just that, Mr. Kerry will go down in history as so many in our government leaders are doing: as a functionary of the Empire. If Secretary of State Kerry truly wants to be a world leader, he can unite people to further this goal of “conquering hate and fear” and helping us to live peaceably with other people’s.
Dr. Robert P. Abele holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Marquette University He is the author of three books: A User’s Guide to the USA PATRIOT Act (2005); The Anatomy of a Deception: A Logical and Ethical Analysis of the Decision to Invade Iraq (2009); Democracy Gone: A Chronicle of the Last Chapters of the Great American Democratic Experiment (2009). He contributed eleven chapters to the Encyclopedia of Global Justice, from The Hague: Springer Press (October, 2011). Dr. Abele is a professor of philosophy at Diablo Valley College, located in Pleasant Hill, California in the San Francisco Bay area. His web site is www.spotlightonfreedom.com
Copyright © 2013 Global Research
- John Kerry, an American Hero on a Mission (scotterb.wordpress.com)
- Iran asked by Kerry to prove a negative (uprootedpalestinians.wordpress.com)
- Secretary of State Kerry: US is exploring options for destroying Syria chemical weapons – @Reuters (trust.org)
- U.S. exploring options for destroying Syria chemical weapons -Kerry (trust.org)
- Love of the Land: Perhaps more than a bit off in the moral compass by which he presumably charts his course (calevbenyefuneh.blogspot.com)
- Kerry rebuffs Netanyahu: Nothing the U.S. is doing on Iran will put Israel at risk (haaretz.com)
It is a great pleasure to be here to congratulate War Child on its 20th Anniversary and take part in your discussion.
For two decades you have helped to protect and educate over 800,000 vulnerable children in some of the world’s most brutal conflicts; and you have ensured that their suffering is not forgotten by the world.
The plight of children in war is particularly heart-rending: because they are entirely innocent, extremely vulnerable and disproportionately affected by conflict, and because no-one can restore to them the childhoods stolen by war.
In Syria today a million child refugees have lost their homes, have been traumatised, have had their education violently disrupted and are facing yet another cold and hungry winter. Their situation is one reason why the United Kingdom is the second largest humanitarian donor to the Syrian conflict and why we are pressing so hard to get unfettered access for aid to the besieged areas of the country where some people are literally starving.
It is shocking that almost half of the world’s forcibly displaced people are children, who will probably spend their entire childhood in that condition. They must always be at the forefront of our efforts to end conflict, and the UK has a strong record. But we can always do more and do better, and organisations like War Child often point the way to doing so.
Conflict prevention is one of the top priorities of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office I lead, from the Horn of Africa to the Philippines. We have hosted two global peace-building conferences on Somalia in the last two years for example, and today Somalia has the best chance in twenty years of turning a corner and giving its children a better future.
The sad lesson of history is that there will be other conflicts over the next twenty years, despite our best efforts.
But although we may not be able to prevent them all, we can influence the environment in which conflicts take place, so that their worst consequences are mitigated and the gravest crimes are prevented.
And one of my personal priorities is to try to ensure that rape and sexual violence can no longer be a feature of conflict in the 21st century.
Millions of women, children and men have been raped in conflicts of our lifetimes, in a climate of almost complete impunity, with only a handful of successful prosecutions ever taking place.
This is sexual violence used to advance military and political objectives – to terrorise innocent people, to cause displacement, to change the ethnic composition of communities, or as a means of torture – and it is one of the greatest and most neglected injustices in history.
It is usually directed at the most vulnerable people in society, and sadly that often means children.
In the DRC in April I met a mother whose five-year-old daughter had been raped outside a police station – just one of countless cases where children have been targeted in the most sickening and depraved manner possible, precisely in order to inflict the maximum psychological torture on families and whole communities.
It is only one aspect of the suffering caused by conflict, but its long-term impact on children is impossible to understate. It can cause severe physical injury to growing bodies; infection from life-threatening diseases; psychological trauma that lasts a lifetime; it result in girls often being unable to bear children; causes others to fall pregnant and drop out of school; and leads to many being ostracised or forced to marry their attacker.
Because of taboo and social stigma, we have not talked about it enough as governments and nor have we shouldered our responsibilities as we should.
I am trying to change this, by putting sexual violence in conflict at the top table of international diplomacy in a way that it never has been before.
For just as we have come together as an international community to abolish the use of landmines, to curb the trade in conflict diamonds, to prohibit the use of cluster munitions and to adopt an International Arms Trade Treaty, so I believe we can and must end the use of rape as a weapon of war in our generation.
At the G8 in London in April this year we secured a historic declaration from the G8 group of leading economies, promising practical action.
And last month, to my immense pride, 134 countries from Afghanistan to Vietnam endorsed a historic Declaration at the UN General Assembly promising to end rape as a weapon of war.
In this Declaration, we recognised rape and serious sexual violence in conflict as grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and of their first Protocol, so that suspects can be apprehended wherever they are in the world.
We pledged not to allow amnesties for sexual violence in peace agreements, so that these crimes can no longer be swept under the carpet.
We promised to adopt a new International Protocol in 2014, to help ensure that evidence is collected that can stand up in court.
And we pledged to help victims to gain access justice and long-term support, and to protect civil society organisations, including women’s groups and human rights defenders.
Children are at the centre of our efforts, with both the G8 and UNGA Declarations recognising that appropriate health, psycho-social, legal and economic support must be provided to children.
Our campaign is also backed with practical action. We have created a UK team of Experts which has been deployed five times this year alone to the Syrian border, the DRC and Mali, where they have trained health professionals, strengthened the capacity of the armed forces, and helped raise local investigation standards; in each case focussing on the specific needs of that country and complementing the work of the UN and other agencies on the ground. Further deployments to the Syrian borders, to Kosovo and to Bosnia-Herzegovina will take place in the coming months.
In little over a year we have laid the basis at least for eroding impunity worldwide, for eradicating safe havens, providing greater protection for civilians, improving the help given to victims and working to increase the number of prosecutions including through setting an example ourselves of what can be done.
The task now is to turn this political commitments and diplomatic progress into lasting practical action – and we need your help to do it.
Next June I will host a conference in London that will bring together the 134 states that have endorsed the Declaration, along with representatives from civil society, judiciaries and militaries from around the world. It will be the biggest summit ever held on this issue and it will be used to launch our new International Protocol and to seek agreement to practical steps that we hope will end the impunity for war zone rape once and for all. Our goal must be to change the entire global attitude to these crimes – and I believe we can.
I hope you and your members can help us expand further the group of countries that have pledged their support for this campaign – we have 2/3 of the United Nations so far, but we want them all to come on board.
And I hope you will work with us to look at how we can improve further the support and care that is given to survivors, particularly children.
Albert Einstein once said that “the world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”
Whatever the conflicts to come – and our goal must always be to prevent them all – we have in it on power to prevent millions of lives being destroyed by sexual violence. That is a goal worth fighting for, and I hope we can join forces to achieve it.
- Stop War Zone Rape and Sexual Violence (ericpgranada.wordpress.com)
- #Syria has a massive rape crisis Women Under… (yallasouriya.wordpress.com)
- Canada decries war rape and child brides at UN, but quiet on abortion stance (macleans.ca)
- Speech: Enhancing Accountability for Sexual Violence in Conflict (gov.uk)
- Stop war zone rape and sexual violence (opinion.inquirer.net)
- Charity warns Syrian women would rather face Assad onslaught than live in abusive refugee networks (dailyrecord.co.uk)
- Weapon of silent destruction … End warzone rape (arabtimesonline.com)