Today’s seen a major victory in the war on terror with the Law Lords banning evidence gained through torture, which comes hot on the heals of what may be another victory with the US banning its personnel from torturing suspects anywhere.
The problem with the latter ‘victory’ is that we don’t know what the US means by torture; they’ve previously argued that some goings on merely amount to abuse. This is not a new debate. Around this time last year the definition of torture was expanded beyond ‘organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death’, but that doesn’t mean US personnel can’t get involved with hanging a suspect by his wrists for days, beating him, subjecting him to mock executions and sensory deprivation, forcing mind-altering drugs on him and cutting his penis. The US lost sight of any kind of principle when it decided to go for ‘extraordinary rendition’ which contaminates evidence with unreliable testimony.
While I supported the removal of Saddam Hussein and still believe that was a good thing, nobody could have realised how incompetently the US would fight its war on terror. Perhaps we misunderstood just how scared and hysterical they were. We certainly overestimated their ability to plan and remain focussed on the higher goals.
The enemies of western democracy must be delighted to see how easily its defenders turn their backs on values the war on terror was supposed to defend. However, with today’s Law Lords decision and the government’s defeat on detention without charge the tide may finally be turning. Our political leaders are beginning to feel the leash tighten and are being forced to raise their game.