Thursday, June 15, 2006


Ireland - Getaway Island

I once upon a time said that regarding the US and torture: "all one needs to ask oneself is this: has there been over the last couple of years or so (is there even now?) any very serious concern at the highest levels of the Bush Administration that torture should not happen on its watch?"

My answer was no. It still is.

The same is entirely true of the recurrent controversy in Ireland as to the alleged involvement of Shannon Airport - and thus of the Irish government - in the US practice of "extraordinary rendition" i.e. the extra-legal "rendering" (as opposed to extradition) to (ususally Arab) countries with well known records of domestic human rights abuses of prisoners (often simply kidnapped from third countries in the first place).

Vincent Browne's column in yesterday's Irish Times gives the essential points. Firstly the most focused-upon question - whether the US has transported such prisoners through Ireland - is little more than a distraction. (Browne notes that the government's constant refrain that there is no evidence that the US has in fact done so is true enough - unsurprisingly, given that the government clearly is not interested in finding such evidence, and has resolutely refused to do anything that might risk turning up such evidence. This may or may not be about to change.)

As Browne says:

it has been established beyond question that Shannon has been on of the "stopover points" for flights on their way home from ventures that have involved the kidnapping of suspects and their transportation to centres where they have been tortured, or at least subjected to cruel and degrading treatment.

It seems fairly clear that the people on these returning flights are effectively making their getaway after kidnapping people and handing them over to be tortured. Browne says that Ireland's facilitation of the getaway "is itself a crime".

I've long felt that in a well functioning international legal system Messrs Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld would be facing charges on the question of torture if of nothing else. (Of course, and I hasten to add, a well functioning international legal system would be extremely busy indeed). I'm not sure whether Ireland's complicity in the "extraordinary rendition" circuit would or would not be enough to place our government in the dock.

At any rate it is conscious complicity in criminality, morally criminal initeself, and ought to be good enough reason for anyone not to vote for them. But then, as Browne points out, one can have little confidence that the opposition would stand up to the US either.

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