Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Shawcross an apologist for abuses that shame the West

You would be wrong to think that the detention centres in Guantánamo are a "cruel and illegal hellhole". On the contrary, the US military base is one of the best equipped and managed prisons in the world. The inmates enjoy halal food, receive free copies of the Qur'an, play games and are encouraged to learn languages. There are even arrows pointing the way to Mecca. So why are Muslims and critics of America complaining?

In Justice and the Enemy, William Shawcross offers a shameless justification of the policies of the Bush Administration. In this neo-con universe, justice is a surreal concept totally subordinate to the 'security' of the US. The 'terrorists' in Guantánamo deserve to be there. They are 'Nazi and Communist' mass murderers, a product of intrinsically despotic Arab and Islamic societies. It is of no relevance that they have been kidnapped and held in cages without trial. Or that some are teenage boys, or old men suffering from dementia, and that lurid confessions were extracted from them by maltreatment. Or, indeed, that the vast majority were totally innocent.

Torture is a natural 'response to the most urgent problems' of terrorism. So sleep deprivation, forced nudity, and prolonged wall standing are all fine.

In the 'security' interest of America, one should have no qualms about reducing other countries to wastelands.

Shawcross has no notion of context. There is no awareness of the fact that despotic regimes in the Muslim world have been imposed and supported by the West. There is not even a hint of the possibility that some people may have genuine grievances against the US. The world is divided into evil doers and angelic America. And the way of Bush is the only way to deal with those who stand up to the US. Obama is praised where he agrees with Bush; and condemned where he disagrees.

Drawing parallels from the Nuremberg trials, Shawcross argues that the 9/11 attackers and other terrorists should be tried in a military court. But during the initial trials, the court at Nuremberg was multinational, with representatives from US, Britain, Russia and France. It operated under international law and not the law of a particular country. The trials were open for all to witness. The contemporary equivalent would be the International Criminal Court in The Hague, of which, not too surprisingly, the US is not a member.

Shawcross's father, Hartley Shawcross, was a prosecutor at Nuremberg. In his closing speech, Shawcross senior pointed out that it was "mankind itself" that was judging the Nazi war criminals. The Nuremberg trials, he stated, demonstrated that "ultimately the rights of men... are fundamental". Shawcross junior not only tramples on these rights, but is happy to justify immorality in the name of security. The old man will be turning in his grave.

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