Confessions of a Tortured Terrorist: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Posted March 20, 2007 on 5:27 pm | In the category Human Rights, Public Diplomacy, Terrorism | by Jeff

There has been a curious lack of hurrahs for the confession extracted from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed after four years in captivity. While there is no doubt of his ties to al Quada  his confession is tainted by the knowledge that he has spent at least some of those four years being tortured and that the in the end he has confessed to almost everything that has been done to the U.S. by terrorists in the last fifteen years.

This is not to suggest his innocence – rather it is to recognize that the use of torture has reduced the credibility of almost any results coming out of the process. In today’s online Slate Magazine, Anne Applebaum cites major European newspapers’ skepticism over the confessions and indeed, the lack of exultation in the U.S. press is likely due to similar concerns. The use of torture appeals mostly to thugs and bullies who recognize power but not its limits. And, in the case of the current clowns screwing around with America’s reputation, they fail also to recognize the consequences of ignoring basic legal and human rights. In a sense everything the administration is doing in its war on terrorism can be viewed partially through the prism of public diplomacy. And the view that the rest of the world has of a country that tortures its prisoners is decidedly negative.



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  1. In today’s Süddeutsche Zeitung there is a lengthy article on precisely the topic of the controversy about the acceptability of torture in the U.S. It focusses on the great popularity of the tv show “24 hours” and its all-American hero, Jack Bauer, who if necessary indulges in torture in order to carry out actions against terroroists. It is complete with dramatic photo of Kiefer Sutherland in the main role, and quotes him expressing his horror at Guantanomo and other US acceptances of torture under special circumstances. The article might have noted that Kiefer is the Canadian son of actors Shirley Douglas and Donald Sutherland. Shirley was on a banned list for entry into the US for a long time, because she was considered a left-wing agitator by US authorities and was the daughter of the founder of Canada’s universal medicare system, Tommy Douglas. Donald made it his business to play the film role of Norman Bethune, the Canadian doctor on Mao’s long march who remains a great heroic figure in China today. Kiefer comes with a convincing pedigree aimed at the actions of the fictional character he plays so well.

    Comment by Mackenzie Brothers — March 26, 2007 #

  2. The MacKenzie’s are once again onto something here re: the relationship of movies and TV to the public’s attitude toward torture. It seems to some (i.e., me) that people have begun to lose the ability to distinguish between fantasy and reality. We have what are called “reality TV” shows which are of course, fantasy turned into reality, and news on real subjects too often turned into fantasy by he likes of Fox News, the NY Post, etc. This might even happen in Canada.

    Comment by Jeff — March 27, 2007 #

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