….The war on terror
knows no frontiers and the crimes committed in its name have stalked
freely across the continent, in the full cognisance of its rulers.
Originally, the subcontracting of torture – ‘rendition’, or the handing
over of a victim to the attentions of the secret police in client
states – was, like so much else, an invention of the Clinton
administration, which introduced the practice in the mid-1990s. Asked
about it a decade later, the CIA official in charge of the programme,
Michael Scheuer, simply said: ‘I check my moral qualms at the door.’ As
one would expect, it was Britain that collaborated with the first
renditions, in the company of Croatia and Albania.
Under the Bush
administration, the programme expanded. Three weeks after 9/11, Nato
declared that Article V of its charter, mandating collective defence in
the event of an attack on one of its members, was activated. By then
American plans for the descent on Afghanistan were well advanced, but
they did not include European participation in Operation Enduring
Freedom; the US high command had found the need for consultation in a
joint campaign cumbersome in the Balkan War, and did not want to repeat
the experience. Instead, at a meeting in Brussels on 4 October 2001,
the allies were called on for other services. The specification of
these remains secret, but as the second report to the Council of Europe
– released in June this year – by the courageous Swiss investigator
Dick Marty, has shown, a stepped-up programme of renditions must have
been high on the list. Once Afghanistan was taken, Baghram airbase
outside Kabul became both interrogation centre for the CIA and
loading-bay for prisoners to Guantánamo. The traffic was soon two-way,
and its pivot was Europe. In one direction, captives were transported
from Afghan or Pakistani dungeons to Europe, either to be held there in
secret CIA jails, or shipped onwards to Cuba. In the other direction,
captives were flown from secret locations in Europe for requisite
treatment in Afghanistan.
initiated this system, the abductions it involved were not confined to
members of the North Atlantic Council. Europe was eager to help
America, whether or not fine print obliged it to do so. North, south,
east and west: no part of the continent failed to join in. New Labour’s
contribution occasions no surprise: with up to 650,000 civilians dead
from the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, it would have been
unreasonable for the Straws, Becketts, Milibands to lose any sleep over
the torture of the living. More striking is the role of the neutrals.
Under Ahern, Ireland furnished Shannon to the CIA for so many westbound
flights that locals dubbed it Guantánamo Express. Social-democratic
Sweden, under its portly boss Göran Persson, now a corporate lobbyist,
handed over two Egyptians seeking asylum to the CIA, who took them
straight to torturers in Cairo. Under Berlusconi, Italy helped a large
CIA team to kidnap another Egyptian in Milan, who was flown from the US
airbase in Aviano, via Ramstein in Germany, for the same treatment in
Cairo. Under Prodi, a government of Catholics and ex-Communists has
sought to frustrate the judicial investigation of this kidnapping,
while presiding over the expansion of Aviano. Switzerland proffered the
overflight that took the victim to Ramstein, and protected the head of
the CIA gang that seized him from arrest by the Italian judicial
authorities – he now basks in Florida.
Further east, Poland
did not transmit captives to their fate in the Middle East, but
incarcerated them for treatment on the spot, in torture chambers
constructed for ‘high-value detainees’ by the CIA at the Stare Kiejkuty
intelligence base, Europe’s own Baghram – facilities unknown in the
time of Jaruzelski’s martial law. In Romania, a military base north of
Constanza performed the same services, under the superintendence of the
country’s current president, the staunchly pro-Western Traian Basescu.
In Bosnia, six Algerians were illegally seized at American behest, and
flown from Tuzla – beatings in the aircraft en route – to the US base
at Incirlik in Turkey, and thence to Guantánamo, where they still
crouch in their cages. In Macedonia, scene of Blair’s moving encounters
with refugees from Kosovo, there was a combination of the two
procedures, as a German of Lebanese descent was kidnapped at the
border; held, interrogated and beaten by the CIA in Skopje; then
drugged and shipped to Kabul for more extended treatment.
….Almost six years
in, we seem no closer to pulling ourselves out of this quagmire.’
Indeed. Not a single European government has conceded any guilt, while
all continue imperturbably to hold forth on human rights. We are in the
world of Ibsen – Consul Bernick, Judge Brack and their like – updated
for postmoderns. Pillars of society, pimping for torture.
What has been
delivered in these practices are not just the hooded or chained bodies,
but the deliverers themselves: Europe surrendered to the United States.
This rendition is the most taboo of all to mention.