Staggering, tortuous

February 21, 2010 at 7:52 pm (Human rights, Jim D, media) ()

Can anyone tell me what, exactly, is objectionable about the following statement:

“The violation of basic human rights at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo…must be roundly condemned…But we reject the double standards by which too many on the left consider the violations …by democracies to be more serious than far worse infractions commited by other countries”?

…And why the Senior Editor (politics) of the New Statesman, if I follow him correctly, seems to think that it amounts to condoning the use of torture?

22 Comments

  1. Lobby Ludd said,

    What’s the statement?

    Give us a hand here, will you?

  2. Andrew said,

    Jim, you do realise that Nick Cohen has form, as an apologist for torture.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/…/comment.terrorism

    • Andrew said,

      Nick cohen was one of the co-authors of that statement, as well.

  3. Lobby Ludd said,

    Call me lazy. but I don’t think I am obliged to read a lengthy reference in order to then guess at what you are trying to say.

  4. voltairespriest said,

    Personally I can’t see why a condemnation of the use of torture has to be accompanied by any caveat. Therefore surely if someone condemns the use of torture in the West (which they should), there isn’t any obligation to qualify such a statement by saying, say, that “Al-Qaeda are vile extremists who advocate killing”. The latter statement is plainly true, but ultimately irrelevant to the former one.

  5. Jim Denham said,

    Lobby, the statement is what I quoted, taken directly from Mehdi Hasan’s “Dissident Voice” column in the Staggers – which I’ve linked to.

    Andrew: the question does not relate to the provenance of the statement from which those words were extracted (by Hasan, not me)…but to the words themselves: I repeat, whats’s wrong with them?

    By the way, here’s Cohen’s position on torture:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/feb/14/nick-cohen-human-rights-binyam-mohamed

  6. Lobby Ludd said,

    Why is silly boy Cohen’s ‘position’ of any consequence?

  7. Jim Denham said,

    Because an earlier comment’er, Andrew called him an “apologist for torture” and – in all fairness – I thought it was worth linking to a recent column by him in which he makes his position clear. That’s all.

    By the way, Cohen may be a “silly boy” but at least he’s not an apologist for genocide and clerical fascism, like – say – John Pilger or Seamus Milne.

  8. Arthur Seaton said,

    Cohen is however an explicit apologist for sending terror suspects over to countries where they will be tortured. This is an apology for the use of torture whichever way you look at it. It is disingenuous to suggest otherwise.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/nov/05/comment.terrorism

    There are principled left-wing humanitarian opponents of cultural relativism, the anti-imperialism of fools etc, but Nick Cohen is no longer one of them, as he is neither left-wing nor a humanitarian any more.

  9. Jim Denham said,

    You’re right, Arthur: Cohen is, these days, politically very dodgy. The article you’ve linked to is terrible. On the other hand, the more recent article I linked to makes it clear that he *does* oppose torture *in principle*. It clearly contradicts the logic of the earlier article. I think he’s very confused to the point of chronic political instability – possibly torn between the rightist (Aaronovich, etc) wing of the “decents”, and his own radical-left background. Even so, he’s still a much more serious and honest commentator than the Pilgers, Milnes and Chomsky’s of this world, imho.

  10. resistor said,

    Cohen might oppose torture *in principle* (except he doesn’t have any principles) but he is in favour in practice. He also supports rendition and assassination.

    As for, ‘a much more serious and honest commentator’ – the man’s a pathetic drunken liar.

    Hang on, now I see why Denham likes Cohen, they have so much in common.

  11. Jim Denham said,

    Resister (quoting me on Cohen):

    ‘…a much more serious and honest commentator’

    Resister (about me): “Hang on, now I see why Denham likes Cohen, they have so much in common.”

    At last, “resister”: we agree on something!

  12. resistor said,

    Jimbo, its a bad sign if you believe your own propaganda.

  13. Jim Denham said,

    It was your propaganda, Resister…and you’re right: it’s a bad sign when I take an anti-semite like you serioiusly. I’ll stop it.

  14. resistor said,

    Denham, you’re the one who tried to excuse the pro-war, pro-rendition, pro-torture and proven liar Nick Cohen. What’s your motive?

  15. voltairespriest said,

    Is this some sort of exaggerated courtship ritual?

  16. skidmarx said,

    On the other hand, the more recent article I linked to makes it clear that he *does* oppose torture *in principle
    Actually it makes nothing clear. It is a diatribe against the world that appears to set up a position that human rights can only be defended in the most abstract way, and then he launches into abuse against Amnesty, Moazzem Begg, judges, anyone who might think it worth pointing out that one reason why torture is bad,m’kay, is because it doesn’t work, and it’s quite hard to identify even the most twisted of logics that might make the whole thing hang together.

  17. Jim Denham said,

    Got to disagree, Skidders: Cohen’s position in that latest piece is (it seems to me) quite clear. He opposes torture *as a matter of principle* but not on the utilitarian grounds that it doesn’t work. Because (as I read him). he’s saying if you oppose torture primarily on that (utilitarian) basis, what would you say if someone showed that it *does* work? Rather like the argument against capital puniushment on the (dubious) grounds that it’s *not* a deterrent…

    Maybe we should ask Cohen himself to clarify his position if that article isn’t plain enough for you?

  18. skidmarx said,

    A number of people in the comments on the article have made a similar point to mine. I suggest you read them.

    Few if any of those against torture are actually saying that if it worked it would be OK. Cohen is setting up a straw man, to cover himself while he launches into an attack on those opposing torture. Incidentally his comment about Amnesty not realising they’re not dealing with “metrosexuals” reminds me of an early part of Clive Stafford-Smith’s “Bad Men” where he relates how those detained at Guantanamo had been told by the Americans that he was a Jew and a faggot to try and keep them away from him. Cohen follows in that tradition of obfuscation.

  19. Jim Denham said,

    I have read them, Skidders: I just don’t agree with them.

    I’m presently trying to persuade Cohen to write something here to clarify his postion. But I have to say that I think his most recent article on torture (I linked to it in my comment on 21 Feb, above) is clear enough in its opposition, even if you don’t agree with some of the other points he makes in the course of his argument.

    And to go back to my original posting, I note that no-one (except VP) has yet attempted to answer my question:

    Can anyone tell me what, exactly, is objectionable about the following statement:

    “The violation of basic human rights at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo…must be roundly condemned…But we reject the double standards by which too many on the left consider the violations …by democracies to be more serious than far worse infractions commited by other countries”?

  20. Clive said,

    I don’t know about ‘objectionable’, Jim – but there is some force to the idea that ‘violations’ by democracies are particularly worthy of denunciation, both because democracies are not supposed to do such things, and because we live in one of the democracies in question. The quote above can be read, I think, as giving with one hand (‘must be condemned…’) only to in fact take it away (‘more serious’ violations are what we should really be bothered about).

    And I must say I read Cohen’s recent stuff as edging much more towards the idea that the threat to democracy is so great that all this stuff about torture is bleeding hearts who never have to make hard moral choices… Be good if you do get him to clarify.

  21. resistor said,

    So Cohen opposes all those trying to stop torture, supports deporting prisoners to states that use torture, but really is against torture? Pull the other one!

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