Conservatives Against Torture


As the British Coalition government settles in, it is becoming a kind of foil for the remnants of American conservatism. In the US, the Republicans rail against any subsidized access to health insurance for the working poor. In Britain, the Tories have quarantined the health service from any spending cuts. In the US, the GOP never stops talking about the need to restrain spending, but have yet to come up with any serious proposal to do so. In Britain, the Tories and the Liberals have set out the most devastating cuts in spending  - more stringent than Thatcher. And because they are not ideological fanatics, they have also raised taxes on consumption to increase revenue. Presented with far less evidence of torture by their predecessor than Obama did, they have done the right thing - and initiated a full-scale inquiry. Here's Cameron's statement today:

Our services are paralysed by paperwork as they try to defend themselves in lengthy court cases with uncertain rules. Our reputation as a country that believes in human rights, justice, fairness and the rule of law - indeed for much of what the services exist to protect - risks being tarnished. ... Mr Speaker, while there is no evidence that any British officer was directly engaged in torture in the aftermath of 9/11, there are questions over the degree to which British officers were working with foreign security services who were treating detainees in ways they should not have done.

About a dozen cases have been brought in court about the actions of UK personnel, including, for example, that since 9/11 they may have witnessed mistreatment such as the use of hoods and shackles. This has led to accusations that Britain may have been complicit in the mistreatment of detainees.

The longer these questions remain unanswered, the bigger the stain on our reputation as a country that believes in freedom, fairness and human rights grows.

After July 4, only one country in the Anglo-American alliance is still dedicated to the rule of law and the prosecution of war crimes: the old country. And it has taken a Tory prime minister to do what Barack Obama has not the slightest spine (yet) to tackle here.

(Photo: prime minister David Cameron and foreign secretary William Hague by Leon Neal/AFP/Getty.)