While rightly ignoring the Government on grammar schools, Peter Hitchens writes:
Typical Russians, eh? They kidnap a man and his pregnant wife in broad daylight, then hide them in a secret prison in an Asian airport where they wield sinister influence. There they begin to torture him. Despite the fact that she is obviously pregnant, they chain her to a wall and put a hood over her head, for five days.
Next, they swathe her from head to toe in duct tape (in agony, because one of her eyes is taped open) and fly them both to Syria so he can be tortured more thoroughly for several years. With the two chained and bound prisoners comes a delivery note from the Russian spy chief to his Syrian opposite number: ‘This is the least we could do for you, to demonstrate our remarkable relationship’.
This is the sort of disgusting behaviour we have come to expect from the Kremlin. Except that I have changed the details. This story is not about the Kremlin. It is about the British Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, and our allies in the American CIA. And the man we helped kidnap, Abdel Belhaj was not sent to Syria, but to Libya, whose then despot we were courting.
All the details of this unspeakable, lawless operation are known, and cannot be denied. They came out into the open only because a group of militiamen happened to stumble on the papers in an abandoned office in Tripoli.
The government has admitted their truth by apologising for them, and writing a large cheque (with your hard-earned money, of course) to Mr Belhaj’s wife, Fatima Boudchar. Nobody is even trying to deny them, though the Labour Government ministers in charge at the time (2004) seem to be having some trouble remembering the episode.
There are plenty of things you can think about this, including whether those involved, politicians and civil servants alike, ought to face some kind of justice. I would not hold out many hopes.
My point is this. So much of our current frenzy against Russia and Syria is based on a claim of moral superiority. Do we have any such superiority if we kidnap people and send them to tyrants to be tortured? So shoudn’t we stop pretending that our hostility to Russia and Syria has a moral purpose – and explain what, in that case, our motive really is? Or are we embarrassed that our motive is almost as sordid as the miserable Belhaj episode?
Certainly since before the 2003 Iraq invasion, which members of the current government mostly supported, this country has been implicated in the most horrible actions, many of which will probably remain secret forever.
Strangely, many of these kidnaps and much of this complicity in unspeakable tortures was justified by our moral fury against Al Qaeda, a movement with whom we now co-operate in Syria. It is also quite possible to argue (and I do) that the Iraq invasion was the gravest political mistake of our age, closely followed by David Cameron’s attack on Libya.
We are now hurrying towards serious war in the Middle East, lashed to the strange, seemingly unhinged figure of Donald Trump, whose vain, pouting, writhing performance on Tuesday night was one of the most frightening things I have ever seen in my life. Could it possibly have been plainer that he views us not as allies but as minions? And why shouldn’t he, if we collaborate with the CIA in actions like these?
A proper British government would cease this sort of co-operation, whatever little treats and pats on the head we may be offered in return for it. And a proper British government should also stand aside from war policies in the Middle East which will only lead to still more terror, torture and pain.
Talking of war, and Syria, many of you may have noticed frequent references in the media to a body called the ‘Syrian Observatory for Human Rights’, often quoted as if it is an impartial source of information about that complicated conflict, in which the British government clearly takes sides. The ‘Observatory’ says on its website that it is ‘not associated or linked to any political body.’
To which I reply: Is Boris Johnson’s Foreign Office not a political body? Because the FO just confirmed to me that ‘the UK funded a project worth £194,769.60 to provide the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights with communications equipment and cameras.’ That’s quite a lot, isn’t it? I love the precision of that 60p. Your taxes, impartially, at work.