Observations of an ex pat: Torture

Torture is bad. Well, there is nothing like stating the obvious. Nothing like shouting a truism from the digital rooftop.

Except that for 58 percent of Americans it is not a truism. It is not a position which they support. In fact, they support torture. Perhaps because their president claims “it absolutely works.”

This is despite the opposition of CIA experts and Defence Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis who made it perfectly clear to Donald Trump that he could either have torture or Mad Dog at the Pentagon. But he couldn’t have both.

So the president backed down. Or has he?

This week the Associated Press reported details of what are known as “Black Sites” run by the United Arab Emirates and based in lawless South Yemen. Black sites are secret bases where people are sent to be tortured.

AP reported that there are at least 18 Yemeni black sites and at least 2,000 suspected Jihadists have disappeared into them. The secret prisons are inside military bases, ports, an airport, private villas and even a nightclub.

The means of torture are excruciatingly cruel. There is of course the tried and tested waterboarding and various techniques involving electricity, rape, clubs and fists. In one case the victims were locked for days in a container with the walls smeared with human faeces. One of the favourite techniques is to tie the victim to a spit and roast them over an open fire.

According to the AP report there is no evidence that any American personnel hit any torture victim, pushed any Jihadist under water or turned the crank of any roasting spit. Apparently, the CIA and Department of Defense can place hands on hearts and declare: “We have not tortured anyone.”

However, there is strong evidence that the United States is heavily complicit in what is happening at the Yemeni torture sites. According to the AP report, US personnel submit questions to UAE torturers. The torturers put the questions to their victims and then write up a detailed report for their American friends.

Not a single hair of any victim is touched by American hands. But does not mean they are clean?

Of course not, the law—both moral and actual—is clear. Anyone who knowingly benefits from the fruits of torture is as guilty as the person who actually carried out the torture,  just as anyone who ordered or  benefitted from a street robbery, fraud or murder is guilty of conspiracy to commit the crime.

If the AP reports are true than the Trump Administration is as guilty as sin and Mad Dog should start seriously thinking about clearing out his desk.

Of course, there is the original Trump argument that “torture absolutely works.”  And besides, suspected terrorists deserve it—don’t they?

The first thing is that the victims are often just that—suspected. They are arrested, detained and subjected to degrading torture which will scar them for life on the basis of suspicion. They have not been tried in any court of law.

Last Monday, 26th June, was International Day in Support of the Victims of Torture. The International Bar Association and the UN High Commission for Human Rights marked the occasion with a joint conference at King’s College London. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the High Commissioner for human rights, made it absolutely clear that torture does not work. It dehumanizes victims and torturers and the information it extracts is highly suspect if not totally misleading and unreliable.

I can assure anyone listening or reading this that If any grinning sadistic torturer bearing an  electric appliance came within ten feet of any of my body parts,  I would tell them anything they wanted to hear—truth or not.

* American expat journalist Tom Arms is a regular contributor and author of the forthcoming book “America: Made in Britain.”

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • David Pocock 30th Jun '17 - 12:00pm

    100% agreement. I can’t believe we have these discussions still and not left this in the medieval times it should have been. Even if it worked it still can not be justified morally.

    Thanks for the article Tom, it makes me think too of the issue of who we sell arms to this side of the pond and what those arms end up doing.

  • I agree, it’s disgusting. But only under Trump? Or were the old allegations only being made by the anti-American American Left.

  • nvelope2003 30th Jun '17 - 2:54pm

    Most torturing is done by private individuals to other private individuals, in the home or work place. When are we going to do something about that ?
    When are we going to deal with acid attacks which maim people for life ? It seems there is a culture of silence on these matters which is not just the result of ignorance.

  • Ronald Murray 1st Jul '17 - 5:19pm

    This is so true the US administration has been out of control for many years. The torture techniques included research by a British Doctor and naturalized US citizen practicing his psychological drug assisted techniques in a Canadian hospital in the fifties. Remember the USA will stop at nothing to expand their empire and influence at any cost they got California and New Mexico by faking incidents. Entered the Vietnam war by sinking one of their own ships. Guantanamo Bay itself is an outrage not as bad as the dark sites. The same old gang always involved Bush, Cheney etc.

  • Ronald Murray 1st Jul '17 - 5:30pm

    They apply the same Shock and Awe to impose their financial systems on occupied countries and it is often doomed to fail. I can recommend a book the “The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein”. How US industry capitalizes on War and Disaster. They no longer seem to be the good old USA if it ever existed I still think most Americans are repelled by Torture it is counter productive. How dare they think they are better than ISIS while they carry on as they do.
    I served in the British Intelligence Corps where we were told torture a prisoner and you go to jail.
    Finally the Twin Towers were an inside job anyone could see the controlled demolition. Followed by removal of evidence by Federal Authorities.
    Sadly it seems President Trump could easily be led along by this secret government. Theresa May better watch who she snuggles up to.

  • Joseph Bourke 1st Jul '17 - 5:59pm


    was this kind of evidence “the Twin Towers were an inside job anyone could see the controlled demolition” the basis of your reports when serving in the British Intelligence Corps?

    “How dare they think they are better than ISIS while they carry on as they do.” US military commanders and pesonnel on par with ISIS – Really?

    …”we were told torture a prisoner and you go to jail.” Probably, because senior officers and government ministers don’t want to see this kind of thing happening again .http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-27714715

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