the Disillusioned kid: The Strawman and his Brain
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Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Strawman and his Brain

One of the great things about blogging is the cool people who get in touch with you on the basis of something you've written. Sometimes people even send me stuff they think I'm likely to find interesting, which saves me the effort of having to go and find it. Which is good, because when it comes down to it I'm really quite lazy. Anyway, one of my sources over at Blairwatch slipped me this link which leads to the transcript of Jack Straw's oral evidence to the Foreign Affair's Committee last week. Like so many official documents it doesn't exactly make for riveting reading, but dig into it and there's a few nuggets which at the very least merit a blog post.

The Committee began by asking the Foreign Secretary various exciting questions about Britain's relationship with the EU and the highly contentious matter of the UK's rebate. They then turn to allegations of US "rendition" of terror suspects for torture. I don't intend to examine the allegations in toto, others have done a far better job of that than I ever could (see e.g. Blairwatch and Craig Murray's blog), nor do I want to tackle the Strawman's hypocritical platitudes about the imorality and questionable intelligence value of torture. Instead my focus here is on the role played in this whole affair by a small british controlled island in the middle of the Indian Ocean.

The day prior to his appearance before the Committe, Straw had replied to a question by Ming Campbell on the issue of rendition flights. Fellow LibDem Paul Keetch, pressed the Foreign Secretary for some further clarification of that reply:
Q29 Mr Keetch: Foreign Secretary, can we be clear about your answer yesterday to my colleague, Sir Ming Campbell, when you used the expression "UK territory and airspace". Does that include British dependent territories overseas?

Mr Straw: Diego Garcia.

Q30 Mr Keetch: Diego Garcia or RAF Akrotiri in the southern base area of Cyprus?

Mr Straw: The search was related to the UK mainland, all right, and the requests that I received in 1998 related to the UK mainland. What I can say to you, and I will need to make some more enquiries and come back to this Committee about your question about Diego Garcia, not in relation to any rendition but certainly in relation to other activities based on Diego Garcia that United States government does seek our permission, but I cannot give you a specific answer on that.

Q31 Mr Keetch: Because your colleague Iain Pearson told the Committee in answer to a question from me two weeks ago that his definition when he sought advice from his officials of UK territory and airspace did include Diego Garcia, did include Akrotiri and, indeed, did include Gibraltar - I threw that one in as well - so it would be very helpful if we could have that direct view, particularly, obviously, on Diego Garcia.

Mr Straw: Can I say that had the search thrown up examples of requests, then, of course, I would have reported them to the House via the answer to Ming Campbell, but you asked me a very specific question about whether what I had in mind there was UK mainland territory.
The Strawman's ignorance on this point is particularly significant in the context of reports that the US base on British-controlled Diego Garcia is being used as a Guantanamo-style detention and interrogation facility, perhaps even utilising interrogation methods that Amnesty International might not approve of. Is it really credible that Straw would not be sure about whether his reply was specific to the mainland? Somebody must have known. Why didn't he ask? Is this indicative of incompetence or something more sinister? I'm note sure there's enough evidence to draw a conlusion either way, but neither possibility reflects particularly well on Straw.

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