Friday, February 24, 2006

Turning a blind eye on rendition

The British government has consistently denied that it knew that British airspace and airports were being used by the US to assist in its policy of extraordinary rendition. Then the National Air Traffic Services spilled the beans, revealing that the CIA's torture planes had ravelled through and landed in Britain "on a number of occasions". That number seems to be more than 200. But still the government denies everything, with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw declaring that he

[knows] of no occasion where there has been a rendition through UK territory, or indeed over UK territory, nor do we have any reason to believe that such flights have taken place without our knowledge.

And Tony Blair has gone further, insisting that there is "no evidence" that British airspace has been used for the transport of prisoners. But he won't look, and he won't ask for an assurance that kidnapped prisoners are not being transported through Britain. In the circumstances, that amounts to a wilful blindness to rendition, a "don't ask, don't tell" policy for torture. And the reason for it is simple: according the British government's own legal advice, if they knew, it would be illegal. And so they cover their eyes and plug their ears, and ignore the screams and the blood - because otherwise, they might have to do something about it. And that would be so unseemly, wouldn't it?