This week the Intelligence and Security Committee after years of investigation came to the conclusion that the security services of the UK were complicit in torture during the years that followed 9/11. The level of involvement ranged from passing on information which led to torture to actually witnessing the torture of detainees.
“In our view the UK tolerated actions, and took others, that we regard as inexcusable,” the committee said .
The report issued by the committee also highlights how the UK turned a blind eye to torture by its allies namely the United States, a country with which the UK has always claimed to have a “special relationship”. In the months and years following 9/11 the US played a vital role in dictating the UK’s foreign policy position.
In the reports executive summary, it states “from the evidence we have seen and heard, it is undeniable that the UK Agencies at Head Office level were aware of reports that some detainees held by the US had been mistreated” .
This is not the first time the UK has been accused of being complicit in torture. In 2010 Theresa May issued an apology to Libyan Abdelhakim Belhaj after an M16 tip-off led to the arrest of Belhaj along with his pregnant wife in 2004. He was subsequently rendered to Libya by the US and tortured.
In a letter to Belhaj, Thressa May said “It is clear that you were both subjected to appalling treatment and that you suffered greatly, not least the affront to the dignity of Mrs Boudchar who was pregnant at the time” .
The report also found that British intelligence officers turned a blind eye to the torture of Abu Zubaydah the infamous US prisoner who was waterboarded 83 times. Despite being aware of the mistreatment of Abu Zubaydah British intelligence continued to pass questions to the US to be put to him.
All these separate incidents are not one offs and the lack of action upon them cannot be simply put down to an oversight by officers. These are examples of blatant complicity in torture of people who in some cases had nothing to do with terrorist activity.
The real irony of all this is the fact that the Muslim community in the UK is continually told that they do not do enough to prevent terrorism. Mosques, Islamic schools and madrassas are lectured about supporting British values, teaching about tolerance and what it means to be British. Yet when those very same “values” are thrown in the dustbin for the sake of intelligence it is all so easy to turn a blind eye.
Although there has been widespread condemnation at Britain’s actions there is no real surprise that all this was happening. There is little doubt that after 9/11 liberalism as an idea holds no real value in the foreign policy of the Western world. It also has no real value when it comes to the treatment of Muslim prisoners.
The West saw the greatest battle in a post 9/11 world to be against Islam and according to them its inspiration for acts of terror. However, on closer examination the real war is not on terror but against liberalism itself. The West are fighting a battle against their own values, the very same ones they send to the Muslim world strapped to uranium depleted bombs.
As the stakes get higher the more the West is prepared to compromise on things they supposedly hold dear. To an outsider it seems like a self-defeating process that erodes liberalism for the sake of upholding it.
However in a scenario where despite years of bombing and diplomatic manoeuvres the West has failed to make any real inroads into winning the hearts and minds of the Muslim world -the West has very little choice. The abandonment of liberalism at home and abroad is akin to a chess player’s final move. Capitalism as an ideology, democracy as political system and liberalism as a concept are all dead. Britain, like its allies, have no more moves left and are now playing beyond the rules, redefining the game as they go along.
What has becoming abundantly clear is that there needs to be some kind of reformation of liberalism: an idea which seems more at home in the torture ridden times of the dark ages.