04 February 2009

Binyam Mohammed: time for Obama to clear up these nasty Bush loose ends

The worst president in US history has left the building... but sometimes it doesn't feel that way.

For the second time in a year, David Davis (who is excellent on civil liberties issues, despite being crap on most other things) has hit the nail on the head: it's completely unacceptable for UK ministers to stay silent on allegations that the UK was complicit in torture.

Binyam Mohammed is a UK citizen who has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since 2004 after being arrested in 2002. He claims to have been tortured in Pakistan, Morocco and Afghanistan between 2002 and 2004.

The UK government says it is not in the public interest to release full details of the alleged torture because the US has threatened to withdraw intelligence cooperation with the UK if this happens.

Having already made the decision to close Guantanamo Bay, Barack Obama should distance himself fully from the discredited policies of the Bush administration by withdrawing this threat and allowing the facts to surface.

If he doesn't, that casts serious doubt on the Obama adminstration's 'progressive' credentials.

Even if the US doesn't cooperate, the UK government should release details of the torture - or whatever did happen - regardless. It is utterly unacceptable for any country to commit gross violations of human rights in the name of 'national security' or any other cause.

I seriously doubt that we get anything of value from the US intelligence agencies anyway, given that the entire ramping up of spending on national security institutions under Bush was, for the most part, simply a cover for mass surveillance of the US population and a huge 'pork-barrel' sop to defence companies.

If Obama wants to save large amounts of government money he could do a lot worse than repeal the USA Patriot Act and the Department of Homeland Security, vastly reduce the amount of money being spent on private defense contractors, and dismantle the KGB-style police state apparatus built up under Bush-Cheney.

Barack Obama has said he stands for a new style of politics. Now's the time to start proving it. And if he doesn't... the UK should start showing that it can stand up for democracy and freedom even if the US can't or won't.

No comments: