Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Moral contamination

With the news that PM John Key is sending SAS troops back to Afghanistan, this story by Jon Stephenson is timely:

The issue of identification is critical. International law, and the New Zealand Defence Force's own rules, say a New Zealand commander cannot transfer prisoners to another country unless he or she is satisfied they will be treated humanely. Clearly it is far more difficult to locate and check a prisoner handed over to the Americans if you don't know his name.

WHAT DID the New Zealand government know about all this, and what did it do about it? Here, much also remains unclear. A top US international human rights lawyer, Michael Ratner, says the New Zealand government should have heard alarm bells as early as Feburary 2002, when President Bush and US defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that alQaeda and Taliban prisoners were not entitled to prisoner-of-war status or the legal protections of the Geneva Convention.

"It was obvious to everybody what was going on," says Ratner. "The New Zealand authorities knew that turning prisoners over to the Americans was very likely or very possibly going to cause inhumane treatment."

By March 2002 there were reports in the New York Times and other major media outlets that prisoners were being mistreated at Kandahar. The treatment of prisoners was also raised by SAS boss Jim Blackwell at a meeting he called in April at the air base with other special forces commanders.

The New Zealand defence force's top lawyer, Brigadier Kevin Riordan, says New Zealand took its responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions and international law very seriously.

The fact is that we are contaminated by this torture simply by cooperating with our allies. I suspect there may be questions asked in Parliament, and it may come down to a refusal by NZ or others to hand troops over to the US, an acknowledgment that it has fallen below the level expected of civilised countries.


Perry said...

"The fact is that we are contaminated by this torture simply by cooperating with our allies."

Unfortunately, true! As an American, I am ashamed to say that we were that ally.

I do think that there is a little hindsighting going on here, as in March 2002, even though there were a few red flags waving, there was still global empathy for the impact of the attack on our country, therefore a willingness to go along with that which was at the time our response. But Bush exploited your empathy!

That said, beginning around March 2002, by virtue of following reports in the British press, it began to become obvious that Bush & Co were up to no good with regard to the beginning of the build-up, and the beginning of the propaganda, in support of the invasion of Iraq. By that summer, I was convinced, and adamantly opposed.

The rest of the story is still unfolding seven years later, even under Obama, with his continuation of some of the terrible Bush policies, and with his escalation in Afghanistan. Cooler heads have yet to prevail enough, over here!

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