Belfast Telegraph

CIA torture report: Right also condemns torturers

John McCallister
John McCallister

By John McCallister

What was your first reaction when reading the news reports of the US Senate's findings about the CIA's use of torture?

I guess that, if you are the stereotypical left-winger, it only confirms what you thought: that the CIA cannot be trusted, that it has a record of abusing human rights, that the Senate report only brought into the open what was widely suspected.

But what if, like me, you are not the stereotypical left-winger?

Two responses to the Senate report have stood out for me. The first was by Republican Senator John McCain. On the floor of the Senate, he described the use of torture as "shameful and unnecessary".

He continued: "The use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies; our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights."

The second response was that of the Conservative MP David Davis. Referring to "the barbarism of the secret CIA torture programme", he went on to state that "our association with torture causes us to lose our moral strength and serves to galvanise those who oppose us".

These are two very strong, robust statements, making it abundantly clear that the CIA was wrong, that the US administration and - by implication - the UK Government were wrong in tolerating such actions.

And let's remember who these two men are. They are not exactly left-wing Guardian readers. McCain is a war hero, himself tortured in Vietnam, and perhaps the most respected Republican in the US Senate. Davis is a pronounced right-wing Tory, a leading critic of David Cameron's liberalising agenda.

These two statesmen have reminded us that democratic, civilised values are not the preserve of left-wingers.

They have demonstrated for us that human rights - including the human rights of our enemies - is not only a cause for bleeding-heart liberals.

Rather, these should be respected and defended by those of us on the right of the political spectrum, as an essential part of our political heritage; fundamental to what it means to be a democratic, civilised society.

  • John McCallister is Independent Unionist MLA for South Down

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