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Thursday, 23 April 2009

It's not the grunts, it's the generals who need prosecuting

As the sirens close in on those who designed the torture regime in the Bush administration, this is a quite astonishing interview with one of its key actors.

Janis Karpinski ran Abu Gharib prison in Baghdad, source of those awful photos as well as jail sentences for some of the grunts who worked in it. Karpinski ended up getting demoted.

As the paper trail gets longer she unleashes on those who wouldn't defend those grunts at the time: Rumsfeld's cabal. Those who spoke of 'bad apples'

Here's Karpinski on the Daily Show.

I feel pretty much the same about the police officers who assaulted people at the G20 demos.

Those grunts were allowed to do what they did by both their superiors and by politicians (not just Jacqui Smith but Boris and Ken before him). All in an atmosphere, like that created by Bush and Cheney for US troops and contractors, of free reign for the police created by Blair.

Anyone who exercises the sorts of powers - lethal powers - that soldiers and police officers have needs to be well-managed as it should be obvious from human psychology and several thousand years of experience that they will abuse them if they are not managed. They are ultimately responsible for their actions but, like with a manslaughter charge, their superiors are equally culpable.

Tony Blair said in 2004:
"We asked the police what powers they wanted, and gave them to them."
Not what they 'needed', what they 'wanted'. Very important distinction.

In some ways you could say that Ian Tomlinson was a victim of Tony Blair.

Gawd help me, I'm going to quote a Tory, former home secretary Willie Whitelaw from the 1980s.
He boasted how after any security lapse, the police would come to beg for new and draconian powers. He laughed and sent them packing, saying only a bunch of softies would erode British liberty to give themselves an easier job. He said they laughed in return and remarked that "it was worth a try".
This is entirely the right approach - and I just love the reference to 'softies'.

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