I wrote yesterday about Binyam Mohamed's claims that the British intelligence were working hand in hand with the people who were torturing him and of the reaction from the opposition to these claims and the calls that they must be investigated and, if proven, that prosecutions should follow.
Glenn Greenwald today talks of this and raises a serious distinction between the way politics plays out here as opposed to in the US:
Notice what is missing from these accounts. There is nobody arguing that the dreary past should simply be forgotten in order to focus on the important and challenging future. There's no snide suggestion that demands to investigate serious allegations of criminality are driven by petty vengeance or partisan score-settling. Nobody suggests that it's perfectly permissible for government officials to commit serious crimes -- including war crimes -- as long as they had nice motives or were told that it was OK to do these things by their underlings, or that the financial crisis (which Britain has, too) precludes any investigations, or that whether to torture is a mere "policy dispute."Glenn is right in what he states. It would simply not be acceptable here for Labour to claim that the Tories were being "partisan" - a favourite charge of the Republicans when calls are made for prosecution in the US - by calling for an investigation into this, as the general public are quite clear that torture is a crime.
And, if it transpired that the British intelligence had, indeed, had a hand in the torturing of Binyam Mohamed - or had even turned a blind eye to what they surely must have noticed - it would be a very brave, and I would argue a very stupid, Labour MP who would put his head above the parapet and attempt to defend such a thing.
In the US the opposite appears to be true. Bush, when asked about the criticism of waterboarding - which he refuses to see as torture, despite the fact that the US itself has prosecuted people for doing that very thing - asked, "Which attack would they rather not have stopped?" He actually acted as if this could be sold as a "red pen or blue pen" scenario where one has to choose between torture and attacks.
No British politician could dare sit on national TV and make that argument. But in the US, Bill O'Reilly can sit on national television and actually argue that people who oppose torture are "despicable".
This is an example of just how radical and extreme the current American right wingers are. There simply is no British equivalent to the Republican party, unless one reaches towards the BNP and other extremists. The Tories might sound like them on matters like tax cuts and deregulation, but when it comes to social policy they simply wouldn't dare make the arguments that are regularly made by the American right wing.
Any British politician who proposed teaching creationism in schools would instantly be regarded as on the outer fringes of intelligent debate, but Bush argued for that very thing and was seen as playing to the base, rather than as someone who had blatantly lost his mind.
The notion that David Cameron could hope to get elected by opposing abortion is silly on it's face, and yet the Republicans put forward Sarah Palin as a candidate for Vice President precisely because she held such views.
Imagine what the Republican base would do if McCain, or any candidate for the Republican ticket, said this:
"I stood up in front of a Conservative conference, my first one as leader, and said that marriage was important, and as far as I was concerned it didn’t matter whether it was between a man and a woman, a man and a man or a woman and a woman," he said.
"No other Conservative leader has ever done that. I don’t think any Labour leader has done that. Even since then. The good thing was that they applauded."And yet that is precisely what David Cameron did. The sky did not fall in and there were no calls for his head. Indeed, the Conservatives realised that they needed to change their stance on a lot of these issues in order to have any chance of ever getting re-elected, which is why they applauded.
In the US, the Republican party appears to have been kidnapped by radical extremists.
And, it's only when one compares them, as Greenwald has done, to right wing political parties in a country like Britain, that one can clearly see just how wacky these buggers really are.
And, as Greenwald also points out, the American media have been utterly complicit in this, allowing extremist nutjob positions to be discussed as if it is rational policy.
By stark and depressing contrast, America's political class and even most of its "journalists" -- in the face of far, far greater, more heinous and more direct war criminality by their highest political leaders -- are explicitly demanding that nothing be done and that it all be kept concealed. They're surveying undeniable evidence of grotesque war crimes committed over many years by our government -- including enabling legal theories that even Fred Hiatt described as "scary," "lawless" and "disgraceful" -- and are literally saying: "just forget about that; it doesn't matter."It is only because the US media take these positions that politicians are allowed to hold positions which are simply untenable.
Every society has politicians who hold disgraceful positions on things like torture, abortion and gay rights; but I can think of no European country, indeed almost no country anywhere outside the Muslim world, where a political party who espoused such views could possibly hope to be taken seriously.
Click title for Greenwald's article.