Tuesday, 28 April 2009
Hedge-clipping, torture and lies
Sunday afternoon. I was invited to go swimming, which tempted me, but it was a sunny day and I knew I had to refuse the invitation. Rain followed by sun had had its usual effect and it was time to trim the hedge.
It's a vast, unruly hedge. One day I'll seek advice and cut it down to a more manageable level. I'm not tall enough to reach the top so I stand on tiptoe with the shears, trying to reach. It doesn't quite work. I have the only hedge in the area with a Mohican haircut.
There's an electric hedge-trimmer in the shed but I hadn't charged the battery. I thought I might get some useful exercise if I used the old, rust, manual trimmers. I tested them on a twig - they seemed to work.
It's some time since I've trimmed the hedge with shears. At first I was hesitant, not wanting to cut into the shiny, newly-opened leaves of privet and ivy. I had to remind myself that they would grow back. I looked at the uneven surface of the hedge, as wavy as if I viewed it through the bottom of a beer-glass. I wondered how the eighteenth century labourers who scythed lawns achieved the smooth surfaces shown in the paintings. Perhaps the paintings lied.
And then, as I got into the rhythm of hedge-trimming, my thoughts wandered.
I thought back to the beginning of the Iraq war and all the lies that gained consent in parliament and Congress. I remembered the falsehoods about "weapons of mass destruction." And I thought of more recent revelations that I read in Craig Murray's blog: that waterboarding was approved by Condoleeza Rice in 2002 - before the Iraq war - in order to extract confessions of the non-existent link between Saddam Hussein and Al-Qaida. I used to wonder why so few German people had the courage to oppose Hitler. I'm beginning to understand. When we question and oppose our own government, politicians respond with an appearance of aggrieved self-righteousness that is supported by torture and lies. We write to our MPs, we go on marches, we speak out again and again - and all we get in response are the same smiling lies. It seems impossible to achieve change.
I was gloomy as I swept the hedge-trimmings down the pavement.
But there are still people trying to speak the truth and achieve change.
I'm not sure who trawled through legal cases to uncover the case of a Texan sherrif and deputies who were put on trial in 1983 - under the Reagan administration - for waterboarding a suspect. The court decided it was torture; the sherrif was sentenced to ten years in jail and the deputies to four years each. George W. Bush's legal advisors didn't cite that case when they approved torture by waterboarding. I'm glad to see there are people who care sufficiently about the law and human rights to continue to bring the truth to light.
Today, Craig Murray, sacked as British Ambassador to Uzbekistan for opposing British collusion in torture by the Karimov regime, finally gives evidence to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights. It's the first time he has given evidence and he is expected to point to the role of British government ministers in approving (even encouraging) the involvement of MI5 and MI6 in obtaining information through torture. The Committee proceedings will be screened live from 1.45 today (Tuesday, 28th April). Craig Murray was not merely sacked by New Labour; he was subject to a series of disgusting smears in a way which now seems almost routine. Our government's willingness to ruin lives - by policies, by torture, by smears - no longer horrifies us. We've got used to it. But we should be horrified. We need people like Craig Murray to remind us how horrific this all is.
There are still people who say we need torture to produce information in the "war against terror." But torture doesn't produce reliable information. Most people will say whatever the torturers want to stop the pain. Torture produces lies.