Khalid Sheik Mohammed

Craig Murray writes:

Secret Confessions and Torture

Mohammed Sheikh Khalid has now, voluntarily and of his own free will, admitted he masterminded every significant event from the Norman Invasion through the bubonic plague, fall of Constantinople, and Great Fire of London, to the Battle of Little Big Horn, assassination of JFK and the Oklahoma bombing.

Or he might as well have. The extraordinarily comprehensive list of terrorist outrages for which he claims responsibility would be beyond the capacity of any but the most brilliant and inspired mortal; Khalid, I fear, is a more run of the mill thug.

But in truth, we have absolutely no idea what, if anything, he has confessed at all. The BBC brazenly reported all of yesterday that while Khalid did allege he had been tortured during his four years of secret detention by the CIA in various locations around the globe, he is now freely confessing under no duress and does not retract any of his confession.

Who says? The proceedings being held in Guantanamo Bay, and which the BBC report so uncritically, are held behind barbed wire, machine guns, gun emplacements, reinforced steel and concrete and combination locks, before an exclusively military panel. Khalid does not even have a lawyer present. For all we know, his confession could be an entire fabrication. The blandness of the BBC reporting in these circumstances is one of the worst examples of the appalling desertion of the principles of that once worthwhile institution.

The readiness of the rest of the media to push the "instil fear" button on behalf of the Orwellian government is predictable. They report as fact that Khalid also planned to blow up Heathrow, Canary Wharf, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and any other British building the Pentagon had heard of.

If Khalid really is freely and openly confessing all of this stuff, then what possible reason can there be to deny him a lawyer, and not allow public and media access to his trial? The atrocities he allegedly confesses - the Twin Towers, Madrid, Bali - left thousands of bereaved families. They have a right to see justice done, rather than this elaborate propaganda set-up, with its total lack of proper legal process or intellectual credibility.

Did Khalid really do all of this? Two facts must be considered. He has been through years of vicious torture and of solitary confinement. If the experience of others who survived extraordinary rendition is typical, he has been kept in total isolation, in darkness, beaten, cut, suffocated and drowned, suffered white noise and sensory deprivation. He will have been moved around, often not even knowing which country he is in. One good contact has told me that the CIA gave the Uzbek torturers their turn with him. I do not know that for certain, but who can contradict me?

After years of this, a person can be so psychologically damaged that they believe the narrative of their torturers to be the truth. It is perfectly possible that he now in fact believes he did all that stuff on the list, when he did not.

Alternatively, he may have decided to exaggerate his own role and achievements for the personal glory it brings. We can get the appalling situation where both the sides which benefit from and wish to promote the War on Terror - Al Qaida and the CIA - indulge in what becomes a grim mutual cooperation in exaggeration as each seeks to glorify their role. Thus do those on both sides who actually desire a "Clash of Civilisations", promote one.

What is happening now in Guanatanamo Bay is a disgrace. We cannot in present circumstances accept anything that comes out of it as other than a completely unsubstantiated claim by the Pentagon. Some of it is quite possibly true. But this is no way to make the case.

It should also be noted that Mohammed Sheikh Khalid is a man of some repute amongst CIA torturers, and not for reasons you might expect...

6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

And the British view of such interrogation methods, and the results they yield?

Nicholas Clegg (Sheffield, Hallam, Liberal Democrat)
To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the infliction of simulated drowning falls within the definition of torture or cruel and inhumane treatment used by the Government for the purposes of international law.

Ian Pearson (Minister of State (Trade), Foreign & Commonwealth Office)
Whether the conduct described constitutes torture or cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment for the purposes of the UN Convention Against Torture would depend on all the circumstances of the case.

Whatever the rights and

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Khalid's behaviour, torture is just that.

Ian Pearson is scum.  Can he or anyone else provide details of any circumstances at all where such disgusting treatment of captives by a supposedly morally superior nation can be justified?

Pearson's position is that it is OK to use torture, full stop.  Never mind the 'depending on circumstances'.  And this man is a 'Minister of State'!

What these events clearly

What these events clearly demonstrate is that all our leaders' fine talk about freedom, democracy, and human rights is hogwash. They talk about these "values", but they have no commitment to them at all. For it is only when the chips are down and something important is at stake that they matter. Freedom of speech means nothing when people say only what is expected of them. Freedom from torture means nothing until you feel the need the "wring the truth" out of someone.

While I have sympathy for those who have been killed, injured, or bereaved by terrorist attacks - the vast majority of whom are in the nations that we have attacked, not in our own countries - they don't add up to a hill of beans in the overall scheme of things. Fewer than 3000 people died on 9/11. That is less than one thousandth of the number who died in South-East Asia due to American action there, and less than one two-hundredth of the number who have died in Iraq due to the American action there. It is a tiny fraction of the casualties inflicted by the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki - and if dropping nuclear weapons on defenceless civilian populations does not qualify as terrorism, I have no idea what does.

On the Today program this morning, John Humphrys grilled some harmless scientist over his assertion that global warming was the most serious threat to the human race. Did that mean even greater than global terrorism, queried Humphrys incredulously. The scientist gave some emollient reply. In his shoes, I would have said, "Global warming may eventually kill billions of people, and is already killing millions. Global terrorism, in the sense currently used by the US and UK governments, has killed a few thousand. As the Yanks say, do the math".

I'm generally a reasonable

I'm generally a reasonable sort of fellow but would love to have Mr Pearson spend a few minutes of his time with myself, an Iraqi and an Afghan plus a few mundane items such as , say a board, a roll of clingfilm and maybe a couple of buckets of water. I'm sure we'd have many interesting things to discuss.

Tom Welsh, you said it all

Tom Welsh, you said it all and you said it brilliantly.

I remember wondering ,back in 1990 when the Iron Curtain fell and the Soviet Union collapsed , how long it would be until we manufactured a new demon and who or what that demon would be. Well, we didn't have too long to wait , did we? George Orwell had it all sussed out 50 years ago.