Richard Littlejohn on torture

This is part two of ‘Richard Littlejohn: The cloaca series

It is vitally important to understand that Richard Littlejohn does not condone torture, but that he does condone torture whenever he writes about it.

I’ve described the Daily Mail writer / reader’s use of the word ‘but’ as essentially an admission that they are about to write something that contradicts the first part of the sentence that has gone before it. For example, the old line ‘I’m not racist, but most crime is committed by black men’ is a typical example of pre-empting an accusation by stating that you are not guilty of something you know you are about to be accused of.

In today’s column Richard Littlejohn uses this exact technique in textbook fashion when he talks about the use of torture on people suspected of being connected to terrorist activities:

I’m not condoning torture, but it would be naive to pretend that it doesn’t exist in less scrupulous parts of the world…

The problem I have with this statement is that his argument is that torture happens, therefore we should accept it and use it when it suits us. Let’s try using the argument with another kind of crime, rape for example:

I’m not condoning rape, but it would be naive to pretend that it doesn’t happen in less scrupulous parts of the world…

You are either against something or for it. You cannot be against torture if you then accept that it happens in other countries and that we therefore ‘can’t discount vital intelligence simply because it hasn’t been gleaned under the Queensberry Rules’. Littlejohn’s argument for the use of torture is always the same: whatever it takes to get results is justified when it comes to ‘terrorists’. Yet what results has torture actually achieved? Littlejohn always argues that those suspected of terrorism are guilty because of where they were ‘picked up’ (he used the exact same argument to suggest that Binyam Mohamed is guilty):

They were arrested variously in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Africa  –  on the battlefield, in Al Qaeda training camps and safe houses, or trying to board planes with fake documents.

This is what Littlejohn lists – and all that he lists – to support his argument that: ‘There seems to be convincing evidence of their involvement in terrorist activity’. Which is complete rubbish, it is precisely because torture has failed to procure any evidence – convincing or otherwise – that these men are eventually being released, many of them after spending several years in ‘detention camps’  – a useful euphemism designed to make us think of naughty schoolchildren passing an hour idly staring out of a window after school, rather than adults locked up for years in a constant ritual of sensory deprivation and other forms of torture. If all these years of torture and detention have left columnists like Littlejohn with no other evidence than the locations where they were originally ‘picked up’ then I would be arguing that not only is torture completely barbaric and amoral, it is also a complete waste of time.

Probably the worst part about Littlejohn claiming that he does not condone torture is not just the fact that he clearly attempts to condone torture for the next few paragraphs of this article, but the fact that he has told us in the past exactly what he thinks about torture: ‘How should we grill terrorists – with a cuddle and a cup of tea?‘. Here he makes it clear in the very first paragraph what he thinks of brown people who allege that they have been tortured with the implicit collusion of the British government:

Maybe I’m in a minority of one here, but I still don’t understand the fuss over Binyam Mohamed.

And he argues that the British should be using torture:

British intelligence officers are accused of colluding in his alleged torture on the basis of supplying a few pertinent questions to his interrogators about what he got up to while he was living here.

That’s their job, for heaven’s sake. They would be failing in their duty if they didn’t make every attempt to glean information from suspected terrorists who want to do us harm.

No one is actually accusing any British officer of physically torturing him, merely of turning a blind eye. There is a legitimate debate as to whether he was tortured at all, in the true sense of the word.

Condoning torture does not get much clearer than that – especially his sinister suggestion that what is accused of having taken place might not be ‘real’ torture. This becomes ever more callous when Littlejohn then goes on to  list the treatment he suggest might not really be torture:

While at Gitmo, he was shackled and deprived of sleep – practices approved at the time by the White House. He is also said to have suffered severe mental stress over threats that he would be removed from U.S. custody and transferred to a more cruel regime.

OK, so the Americans put the frighteners on him, but if they hadn’t cared less whether he lived or died, they wouldn’t have had him on suicide watch.

His treatment wasn’t pretty, but it has to be put in context of the 3,000 people killed in the worst-ever terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

As to his claims to have suffered genital mutilation while in CIA custody in Morocco, there has never been any firm evidence produced.

Littlejohn is happy to suggest that the torture might not have happened because of the lack of ‘any firm evidence’ yet he is happy to condemn as guilty those suspected of terrorism on the basis of no evidence whatsoever. Richard Littlejohn condones, justifies and makes feeble excuses for the use of torture although – as his columns unintentionally make clear – no useful evidence seems to be procured through the use of torture.

The two columns have another link, equally as unpleasant, and it goes like this: ‘OK, so we torture people, it’s not like they’re even British anyway!’. In the case of Binyam Mohamed he argues:

Why did the Government go to such lengths to secure his release from Guantanamo Bay and then charter a private jet to fly him ‘home’ to Britain?

For the umpteenth time, he’s not British. He’s not even a British ‘resident’…

Frankly, he is not our responsibility. We owe him nothing. Why would anyone in their right mind want him back?

In his latest column he makes much the same argument, but in even more extraordinary terms:

we bend over backwards to give succour to our enemies. Only a couple of these men can be described as ‘British’ by any stretch of the imagination.

They are mostly foreign nationals, granted permission to live in Britain, who voluntarily chose to move abroad.

The argument seems at worst to be implying that anyone foreign is our ‘enemy’ and at best to be arguing that as they are not – in Littlejohn’s eyes – technically British they do not deserve our concern or protection from torture. You could argue that the only technicality that makes them not British in Littlejohn’s eyes is their skin colour or religion.

Richard Littlejohn condones the torture of people racially or ethnically different to himself. His calculated ‘but’ is a complete shambles and is contradicted not by the paragraphs that follow in the same column, but also by the attitudes and columns that have come and gone before it. He condones torture not necessarily because he has the stomach for human suffering, but because he does not view people racially different from him as human beings. This is why he goes to such lengths to argue that the people being tortured are not really British (even when they clearly have British passports) and why he can dismiss the 1994 genocide in Rwanda with the question:  ‘Does anyone really give a monkey’s about what happens in Rwanda? If the Mbongo tribe wants to wipe out the Mbingo tribe then as far as I am concerned that is entirely a matter for them’.

Richard Littlejohn is a cloaca, this cannot ever be stated enough.

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