(First Published On Personal Blog 7/6/2012)
Abu Bakr al-Qayed, the bother of the late Abu Yaha al-Libi (another US “target kill” by drone) was quoted as saying to Reuters news agency that “the United States talks human rights and freedoms for all, but the method they used to kill him is savage.” He called the killing by Americans of al-Libi, (allegedly second in command of al Qaeda) “heinous and inhumane” pointing out that, “we are in the 21st century and they (Americans) claim to be civilised and this is how they take out people.” He continued by saying, “regardless of my brother’s ideology, or beliefs, he was a human being and at the end of the day deserves humane treatment.”
I agree with Abu Bakr al-Qayed … the basis of human rights philosophy and practice is that it is not selective, you do not choose who is “worthy” of basic human rights. Once that road is taken it becomes a very slippery slope and when a nation adopts torture techniques or “outsources” abuse to other countries it embraces its own ethical downfall.
Sadly America has a long history of human rights abuses. Let’s not forget that way before we had heard of Guantanamo, US prisons were used to hone torture techniques. In fact the Tucker Telephone was invented at Arkansas State Penitentiary, the device consisted of “an old-fashioned crank telephone wired in sequence with two batteries. Electrodes coming from it were attached to a prisoner’s big toe and genitals. The electrical components of the phone were modified so that cranking the telephone sent an electric shock through the prisoner’s body.”
Rewind to an old Newsweek report (Feb 20th, 1967) and we find that US prisoners were punished with “beatings, whippings, torture with pliers and needles put under their finger nails.” Inmates were also injected with deadly viruses in exchange for a slight reduction in their prison sentence as part of medical experimentation programmes against the Nuremberg Code. Blood bought from these contaminated prisoners was then exported around the world and used in the UK as haemophilia “treatment”… referred to in the House of Lords as “the worst medical treatment disaster in the history of the NHS.”
The figures for those killed in this one unethical practice alone at the hands of the US, (aided by the UK government turning a blind eye) far outnumber those that died in 9/11. How do I know? I was a litigant… both prisoners and patients were involved in legal proceedings, cases often settled out of court with a silence clause implemented. My message to Hilary Clinton, remember what was happening in your own backyard regarding human rights abuses when hubby Bill was Governor of Arkansas.
I testified to this at the Archer public inquiry and both lawyers and members of the press asked “why don’t we know about this?” Good question! Firstly they failed to ask relevant questions at the appropriate time. Secondly, the US and its allies are extremely good at covering up their own human rights violations… They are helped by use of procedure such as “public interest immunity” (it’s not in the public interest to know such things) and more recently, failing to answer Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. Now there are proposals which could further aid the US and UK in withholding knowledge of alleged “state initiated abuse” from the public if people are conned into accepting Ken Clarke’s proposals for “secret courts”. I baulk when I hear his title… Secretary of State for Justice. Ask yourself… In whose interest are secret courts?
Now killing has become more sophisticated due to technological advances and the subjects of inhumane practice are often at a distance of thousands of miles away in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia… the daily drone strike.
Most of those killed have never been through a court process… they are “alleged terrorists” not proven. Often victims of drone strikes are in fact civilians such as 4 year old Shakira, a little girl, burnt and disfigured, left for dead among the rubbish… America practices the policy of “a drone a day, keeps the terrorist away”… or does it? There is a strong argument that drone attacks radicalize young people… Can we realistically expect those who see their communities devastated at weddings and funerals, attacked from the skies, not to react.
There is a culture of human rights abuses in the US, it is inherent in major institutions. Former US soldiers often describe to me how they were taught to dehumanise “the enemy” during basic military training and learnt how to march to racist chants. Some tell of their shame at their actions during service. No surprise then that the suicide rate of US soldiers is higher than those killed in combat… 18 veteran suicides a day was the last figure I read. Any wonder that we hear of beatings in Bagram and atrocities against civilians in Afghanistan carried out by soldiers “just following orders”… They are the orders of the US military and government who lead by example… a Nobel prize winning President who checks down a “kill list” and chooses who is next to die! In the case of Abu Bakr al-Qayed, the name on a list was his brother!
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.