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Friday, February 22, 2008

The use of language

There are times in politics when apparently innocuous language can hide some pretty appalling acts. The phrase 'extraordinary rendition' is a case in point. As a language construct it is fairly meaningless, however as it is practised by the United States and their allies it amounts to the illegal kidnapping and torture of individuals in breach of their rights and of international law.

That so many people have come to accept its use without a mass demonstration of outrage outside the American Embassy underlines how innoculated we have become to some of the attrocities going on around us. It is almost as if we have lost our innocence as a society.

I make these comments because, although the media has reported a government admission that British facilities were used by the US to transport terrorist suspects at least twice, despite repeated government denials – including by Tony Blair - that the UK had any involvement in extraordinary rendition flights, it is hardly headline news.

Moreover the Foreign Secretary apologised not for the fact that two US flights carrying terrorist suspects refuelled at the airbase on the British Indian Ocean territory of Diego Garcia in 2002 but because the government had previously denied it. Apparently, there was an administrative error.

Tell that to the two suspects who were violently kidnapped and tortured and who will never be given the opportunity of a fair trial or the ability to put their case to a jury of their peers. Is it any wonder that we are so cynical about government?
And still people like Michael Portillo don't get it. On "This Week" he said something to the effect that there 225 prisoners at Guantanamo that nobody wanted to see released, as if it had only been the means of getting them there which was being criticised. What was worse was that Diane Abbott did not demur.
New Labour's 'ethical foreign policy' indeed. One day, some of the Labour party at least will look back and burn with shame.
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