09 September 2006


The Australian takes on torture


Unpalatable But Necessary
Saturday, September 09, 2006

PRESIDENT George W. Bush’s announcement that the CIA has indeed been holding major terrorist figures in secret prisons comes as no surprise, but it is the information that has been gleaned from these prisoners that justifies the controversial tactics of interrogation used in the war on terror.

Revelations that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gave authorities information that led to the capture of Jemaah Islamiah big gun Hambali confirm this. Hambali’s capture has undoubtedly saved many innocent lives.

While interrogation tactics may be unpalatable to many, they are absolutely necessary if we are to win this war that we did not start.

Gavin Phillips
Gold Coast, Qld.


I am reminded here of Syrian-born Canadian Maher Arar, wrongly suspected by US authorities of links to Al Qaeda, who was arrested in 2002 at New York's JFK Airport. Despite travelling on his Canadian passport he was illegally 'rendered' to Syria - one of seven countries that the US has designated a sponsor of state terrorism. His Syrian captors did not believe for one minute that he had al Qaeda links but they had agreed to interrogate him on behalf of the US. So for 10 months he was held in an tiny, unlit cell and only taken out for a series of beatings that nearly killed him. When finally freed, he sued the US government. The case was dismissed on the grounds of "State Secrets Privilege", effectively making the US government unaccountable on matters of rendition and torture.

In Jan 2004 a German, Khaled Masri, while holidaying in the Balkans, was kidnapped and flown to Kabul where he was tortured for four months only to be released when his innocence became clear.

Two Egyptians were kidnapped off the streets of Sweden in Dec 2001 and taken to Egypt. Only one has been released.

Religious cleric Abu Omar was hijacked from Milan in 2003 after the Italian courts refused a legal request from the US government for his rendition. He hasn't been seen since. Arrest warrants have been issued for 26 Americans over this incident, most of whom are believed to be CIA agents, and the US has refused to honour the warrants.

All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of people are alleged to have been kidnapped from the Middle East into an uncharted gulag of prisons from Morocco to Egypt to former Russian states.

So you endorse these prisons and torture do you Gavin Phillips? And when you say "Khalid Shaikh Mohammed gave authorities information that led to the capture of Jemaah Islamiah big gun Hambali" you know this to be a fact, do you?

The truth is, like the rest of us, you only know what you are told. Think on this: the US Defense Department admitted to Washington Post writer Thomas E. Ricks (10 April 2006) that a specific US military propaganda program operated in regard to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a program which also targetted Western domestic audience. Ricks described how the Pentagon had concocted fake Zarqawi letters and then leaked them to the New York Times, which published one of the letters despite having good reasons to believe it was fraudulent.

It's not easy to distinguish between reliable intelligence, propaganda and frightened victims willing to say anything. There's no evidence that torture works and there are fundamental moral principles against it.

XXXX, Somewhere NSW

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