As one of my posters about "Sgt" Tahmooressi(hope I got the name spelled right) pointed out, the whole issue of "torture" (esp of terrorists- be during the "War On Terror" nowadays or the NI "Troubles" now mercifully ended) is a separate issue.
So I shall declare my stance on such an issue now - I believe that torture is an inhumane and barbarous practice that is as morally indefensible as unethical medical experiments (pace Tuskegee syphilis experiments, Unit 731 and Joseph Mengele)and that NO excuse can justify it- be it "you have to fight fire with fire/we must become savages to fight savagery/ the ticking time bomb scenario". Societies have successfully put down terrorist insurgencies)some quite protracted - Baader Meinhof Gang/RAF in Germany, ETA in Spain, Provos in NI for my own country- as well as extraordinarily brutal- without recourse to such tactics. After the murder of former Italian PM Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades in 1978, an Italian police chief was asked to sanction the torture of captured terrorists- he replied that whilst Italy would survive the loss of Moro it would NOT survive( presumably as a civilized society) after torture was introduced.
To quote a comment at the end of the 1947 film "Frieda" - "you can't treat people as though they were less than human -without becoming less than human yourself!"
Now for another issue: perceptive observers may have suspected I am less than sympathetic to Tahmooressi due to his background in the US military( to be precise, the United States Marine Corps) and they would be correct in a sense.
So what DO I have against the US military? Nothing that I don't have against Her Majesty 's Forces at times. Whilst I recognize that in both countries, the armed forces have gained the well deserved respect of their respective citizenries at times, respect should NEVER slide into uncritical veneration( the "Our Boys" can do nothing wrong attitude of some commentators- mainly on the political Right- is as bad as the demonizing of them on the Left), as my post s about the Royal Marine convicted of murdering a Taliban insurgent in Afghanistan make clear.
In a surprise move, the US Supreme Court refused to hear appeals from five states over having their bans on SSM(same sex marriage) struck down, a move that seems likely to extend SSM to 30 states and the District of Columbia in the fullness of time.
Personally I( full disclosure here: I am straight) fail to see what the damn fuss is about- I mean if you aren't in favour of SSM- then NOBODY is forcing you to marry someone of your own sex.
Arguments by some opponents that this"violates" their religious freedom strikes me as specious- since marriage(SSM or hetero alike) require that no priest, minister, imam or rabbi be forced to marry anyone( hetero or LGBT) against their will or their faith;s teachings,just appearing in front of a judge( or if on a ship, the Captain) will do the trick!
Arguments that "marriage should be defined as being between a man and woman alone" and that SSM is "unnatural" ingore the argument that( and I'm sorry if this sounds repetitive) up until 1967(when the Supreme Court declared so-called "anti-miscegenation"- that is laws banning interracial- marriages unconstitutional in the landmark case of "Loving v Virginia"") many said the same about interracial marriages(esp between blacks and whites).
As for "what about the children?"( to quote Rev.Lovejoy's wife in "The Simpsons"), what about those married couples(hetero) who neither have or want children( admittedly small but not non-existent). And since when is it the State's business whether a given couple want or don't want children?
Having been critical of the self centered chauvinism of (at least some) Americans in my previous post about "Sgt" Andrew Tahmooressi, it seems only fair to comment on the equally repellent (and arguably self-serving) quality in my fellow Britons- to whit, the recent threat made at the conclusion of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that unless the UK is allowed to "disregard" the rulings of the European Convention and Court of Human Rights,(and presumably accept the supremacy of the UK Supreme Court and Parliament then it will withdraw from the authority of both, repealing and replacing the Human Rights Act of 1998 with a "British Bill Of Rights"(whatever that may mean in reality- the last attempt to create a BBR failed whein its members were unable to agree with they were supposed to bringing into existence)
First things first- the ECHR( both the Convention and Court) are located at Strasbourg and have NO ties to the EU bureaucracy in Brussels; in fact they were the brainchild of a Tory Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Secondly(as Justice Secretary Chris Grayling must have known- and as former Tory Attorney General Dominic Grieve and Ken Clarke have pointed out- as have several commentators such as Liberty's Shami Chakrabarty) that his proposals are "legally illiterate" and would if enacted into law would lead to an almost certain exit of the UK from the EU(never mind being incoherent- what if say Russia(esp under Putin) and other EU member nations demanded the same right to opt out of the ECHR Court and Convention on thr grounds of its allegedly special traditions and culture ??? But who cares, all that matters is pandering to the crassest Europhobic prejudices of not just their own backbenchers but the need to head off potential UKIP- UK Independence Party_ defectors and voters in the run up to next year's British General Election)
Thirdly- there is something deeply disturbing about the jeremiads of the(mainly Conservative) press when decrying the"meddling" of "unelected European judges" of the ECHR. Why can't these foreigners( emphasis on FOREIGNERS) just "mind their own business", an unhappy reminder of those despots and tyrants( the late unlamented Leonid Brezhnev springs to mind) who denounced criticisms of their tyrannical rule by decrying" interference in our internal affairs".
To answer this response: (as then US President Jimmy Carter pithily observed in 1977 to the aforementioned Brezhnev)- "human rights are EVERYBODY's business!"(as they SHOULD be), having signed up to both the ECHR( European COurt and Convention on Human Rights), it can hardly complain if it occasionally loses a case in the Court(although to be fair, the UK usually wins 98% of the cases brought before it)
So what has the HRA( Human Rights Act) and by implication the ECHR done for British society?
Well, as several British newspapers( today's London Daily Mirror and Independent, see their editions for October 4, 2014) have pointed out- the HRA has made for a freer and more humane society(particularly for those groups- asylum seekers, gays and other sexual- never mind-racial- minorities either marginalized or actively demonized by the "pop press"), battered wives and soldiers suffering from PTSD, one less likely to be ruled by the arbitrary whims and prejudices of officialdom( British officialdom is not as expressly brutal and harshly oppressive as their counterparts in tyrannical regimes of course- Nazi Gauleiters or Stalinist Commissars spring to mind- but even in a free society officialdom can make your life miserable- pace an IRS audit in America)
The real issue surrounding alleged "over reach" or "meddling" by the HRA and ECHR( ie the long campaign to deport/extradite "hate preacher" Abu Hamza to Jordan, the ruling giving prisoners- or at least some classes of prisoners- the right to vote- as they do in several other European nations without any objection) strikes me as a demand not just to have Britain's view on these matters taken into account but a self-centered chauvinism that "sovereignty" trumps "human rights" in any and all circumstances.
Withdrawal from the ECHR would place Britain in pretty much the same class as Belarus- a small country that possessed even less international influence than its size warranted- "a little England" in the most literal sense of the word!
Posters may have heard of the story of former( contrary to press reports he is a reservist and NOT an active duty member of the USMC) US Marine Andrew Tahmooressi who was arrested on charges of smuggling weapons into Mexico and is currently awaiting charges in that country.
With all the heated rhetoric( tinged with racist overtones about "wetbacks") about his "plight"(including claims of torture!), a few salient facts have been conveniently overlooked by his supporters(mainly on the political Right). Firstly there is the well accepted legal maxim that "ignorance of the law is no defence".
Secondly irrspective of whether the personal arms found in his truck were legally registered in the US is besides the point- he was on Mexican soil when they were found and Mexico is within its rights to enforce its laws(just as the UK and US are)on anyone within its jurisdiction. As a frequent traveller to the US ( mainly to spend Thanksgiving with my Philadelphia based cousins), I can well appreciate this point. ( BTW what was someone diagnosed with PTSD doing with a small arsenal anyway???) Does another maxim- when in Rome do as the Romans do(or not do when law breaking)- not spring to mind?
Thirdly, Tahmooressi's status as a "decorated war hero" is what is known in journalistic terms as a "red herring"- it has no bearing( and to my mind should have NO bearing) on the charges he faces any more than the fact that he is a white American!
Fourthly, claims by his family and supporters that he is being "tortured" in an allegedly inhumane Mexican jail are to my mind beyond the level of absurdity- whilst Mexican prisons may not be Club Med, it would be hard to seriously assert that they are worse than their American counterparts( Federal as well as State)- we're' talking about Mexico NOT the Gulag!) The charge of "torture" comes from that section of US opinion which was happy to assent to the Bush Administration's torture( under the title of "enhanced interrogation techniques") of Al Qaeda's "enemy combatants" or at least connive at said torture( via extraordinary rendition") which, surprise , surprise,(much like the police chief played by the late Claude Rains in "Casablanca") is SHOCKED, simply SHOCKED that someone might treat Americans the way Americans have treated others.
Two wrongs may not make one right but at the very least if Americans don't want to have their citizens allegedly tortured, then perhaps they shouldn't torture (or connive at torture) others!
Fifthly, demands that Barack Obama pressurize the Mexican authorities into dropping the charges against "Sgt" Tahmooressi imply a degree of power than neither he or arguably any other US President possesses. Like it or not, Mexico is an independent nation with a jealously guarded tradition of separation between governmental and judicial functions(even if during the PRI- Institutional Revolutionary Party- era, corruption became an issue- as if it never occurred with US judges or law enforcement personnel). Demands that a rescue mission( either by former US military personnel or the Delta Force or US Navy SEALs) be sent to free Tahmooressi are beyond serious debate: even if it was successful, the repercussions for both the US and Mexico do not begin to be thought off- how about a second Mexican- US war( the first one was in 1848, and the victorious "Yanquis" gained New Mexico as well as California and a larger part of Texas I think. As the late Porfirio Diaz , Mexico's 19th century strongman put it ruefully- "poor Mexico- so far from God and yet so close to the United States!") for a start- even if the US won it, the results would be an embittered and unstable Mexico-hardly in America's best interests.
No, I think Mr Tahmooressi and his supporters should just cool their jets, drop the "Mex-bashing" rhetoric and he should do his time in a Mexican prison as quietly as possible( surely a Marine combat veteran can look after himself?).
Sometimes you read things online that make you drop your jaws in sheer amazement( this is a frequent observation on this blog I know), but an upcoming book by Fox News commentator( or"faux news" as critics have long dubbed it) Bill O'Reilly claiming that the NKVD( as the Soviet Secret Police was then known) assassinated US Army General George "Blood n'Guts" Patton at Stalin's orders in a staged car accident in December of 1945 must surely rank as the most self-evidently ludicrous assertion in quite a while.
Now the issue is NOT that Stalin or his secret police are little ministering angels who would NEVER dream of taking the life of another human being(clearly he and they have the blood of millions on their hands, from the mass slaughter of collectivization in the late 20s and early 1930s, the show trials and purges of the late 1930s and the "Katyn Forest Massacre" in 1940 along with Ramon Mercader's murder of Trotsky later that year), but that there is NO evidence that Patton's death was any thing other than a tragic accident
(after all people DO die in car accidents, be they the former Princess Diana of Wales or old "Blood n'Guts"-).
The rationale behind the "hit" on Patton by the NKVD seems to be that upon his return to America he was going to"bad mouth" the USSR to the American press.
I for one cannot take this claim seriously- for a start is O'Reilly claiming that the
US military authorities( which included Patton's boss Dwight "Ike" Eisenhower) and presumably the then President Harry S.Truman wilfully covered up the assassination of a popular US Army general by the Soviets??/ This would have put the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam and Watergate in the shade when it came to cover-ups!
Not even "Tailgunner Joe" McCarthy went down this road- or O'Reilly implying that McCarthy was part of this conspiracy as well?!
When informed of Patton's death, Stalin seems mildly surprised and that was all. No, contrary to O'Reilly's ramblings along with films like the 1978 one "Brass Target", I have never had good reason to think that Patton(like our own Princess Diana) died in anything other than a tragic car accident!
I saw an ad on the Underground for an upcoming tour of the UK by a Cuban dance troupe beginning next month. My advice to any of my readers who wish to view it, is : GO AHEAD if you wish to , but don't let the dancers' moves blind you to the less than salubrious aspect of the Castro government, namely its abysmal human rights records, as the courageous women known as "Damas De Blanco"( "Ladies In White") remind the outside world( esp those liberals/leftists who would prefer to talk about the"imperialist embargo/blockade" rather than the continuing human rights violations by the Castro Communist regime)with their non-violent protests. Perhaps you could contribute the cost of your theatre tickets to Amnesty International or the International Society For Human Rights. Personally I would favour AI- as the ISHR(see its Wikipedia entry) seems to have a marked bias against countries(esp when ruled by Communists)which are clearly no friends of the West in general and the US in particular unlike Amnesty which plays no ideological favourites and has NEVER done so since its 1961 inception!
It may be argued that Cuba( much as Neville Chamberlain argued in 1938) is "a far off land of whom we know little", but as President Jimmy Carter pointedly observed in 1977 in a celebrated riposte to the late unlamented Leonid Brezhnev- "human rights are EVERYBODY's business!"
Go see the Cuban dance troupe if you wish to, but I beg you, do NOT forget the sufferings of the "Ladies in White" and their fellow inmates of the Cuban Gulag!(full disclosure: I'm NOT planning to go; I am not a fan of dance anyway)
Now that the "conflict"( I hesitate to use the word"war") between Russia and the Ukraine appears to be winding down( esp with exchange of POWs from both sides; a traditional indication that hostilities are over), there have been claims (esp from the Russian press) of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed against Russian speakers(whether native to the Ukraine or the "little green men" as NATO whimsically calls them, so called "volunteers" from the Russian Army).
Personally although pointedly no fan of Putin(unlike Pat Buchanan, Nigel Farage and Alex Salmond), I am suspicous of any claim that cannot be substantiated independently( the Russian Red Cross says it is collecting evidence of alleged war crimes, but given that that from the days of the Cheka- the original secret police agency founded by Felix Dzherzhinsky(at Lenin's-and not Stalin's -insistence), the Soviet and presumably Russian Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have functioned as a camouflaged branch of this organization and its successors- GPU, OGPU, NKVD, MGB/MVD, KGB_ right down presumably to the present day FSB/SVR and that the RF has neither signed or ratified the ICC Convention ( as has the Ukraine), I have doubts about the impartiality of any such investigation,
Besides,as I noted in an earlier post about a massacre that wasn't,(purportedly carried out by Russian troops against Ukrainian POWs) allegations of atrocities have been a staple of war propaganda since at the least the days of the Crusades.
My advice to BOTH sides( Poroshenko and Putin alike) is that they have evidence of war crimes/crimes against humanity committed by the other side then sign and ratify the ICC Convention and submit them to the ICC.
A proposed "human zoo" exhibition in London's Barbican which featured black actors in chains as well as in cages( and whose creator was a South African white individual old enough to have grown up during apartheid) was yesterday cancelled by the organizers after widespread black protests( full disclosure: although I did not take part in these protests I did not deny my support for them).
Claims made by not just the artist but other cast members(including the black ones) that the cancellation amounted to "censorship" and that "freedom of expression" was at issue can only be regarded (at least by myself) as self-serving hypocritical BALONEY- to quote John McEnroe- "YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!!!".
Whilst I am loathe to "join the bookburners"( as the late US President Dwight David Eisenhower cautioned against doing in a sadly overlooked speech at Dartmouth College in 1954) as I am an artist and aspiring author, I think the proponents of "free expression" should ask where they were earlier this week when author Hilary Mantel was threatened with prosecution for publishing in last Saturday's Guardian an IMAGINARY story about the IRA's assassination of the late Baroness Thatcher?
Free speech for me but not for thee it seems.
Secondly, as we saw during the controversies regarding "The Satanic Verses", the "blasphemous Danish cartoons", plays like "Behzti" and "Seven Jewish Children", when push comes to shove at the risk of violent reprisals from an outraged community( be it ethnic or religious) and the sacred cow of "free expression", the authors almost invariably back down.
"Freedom of expression" in this context seems to mean freedom to respect the sensitivities and sensibilities to every groupMuslims, Jews, Hindus) save blacks it seems.
Last Saturday's edition of the London "Guardian" carried in its weekend edition an imaginary short story by author Hilary Mantel entitled "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher"( who died last year of natural causes despite being targeted for assassination by the IRA during the NI "troubles").
Several( actually two newspaper columnists both writing in traditionally Conservative newspapers)- today's Daily Mail and Times have criticized the publication of this story coming so soon after the late Prime Minister's death abnd likely to upset her grieving family).
Whilst I agree that it IS a bit in poor taste, what are the likes of Libby Purves(in the Times) and Stephen Glover ( in the Mail) seriously implying? That nothing could or should be written about a deceased(irrespective of by natural causes or assassination) politician other than the most hagiographic until the last member of their family has died? To my mind, the response to this (imaginary and arguably tongue in cheek) account of Mrs Thatcher's assassination sums up much of what I consider to repellent amongst the political Right- its manifest hypocrisy. The Daily Mail a few years ago published an imaginary account of Tony Blair's trial before the Hague-based International Criminal Court on war crimes charges relating to the Iraqi war( and Blair was still alive at the time of writing when it was published). Assassination by an IRA sniper(aided and abetted by a middle class woman with a suggestive similarity to Ms.Mantel herself) for Mrs Thatcher would have been a comparatively quick and painless process than standing trial on war crimes charges by a former British PM- the humilation would have indescribable!
Politics, let us never forget, to quote the late US President Harry S.Truman is a rough and tumble business- "if you can't stand the heat, then get out of the damn kitchen!"
I should declare my prejudice here( I was and am no more a fan of Mrs Thatcher than I was of Ronald Reagan )but when I heard of their deaths, I just commended their respective souls to God and asked Him to comfort their families in their hour of need-neither being tempted to crack open a bottle of Babycham or declare a day of mourning!