Sam I Ain’t

“We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks,” tweeted the US President in an astonishingly word perfect justification for Jihad. Not even his chummy use of ‘folks’ could limit the despair of the admission which was rather like the Pope saying, and I paraphrase, “We gave a whole lot of young boys a great education, but we f****ed some of them.”

Ask anyone who has found themselves at an ‘anonymous’ self-help group and they’ll say that the first step to recovery from damaging habits is owning up to them. And, though possibly this really is a, “My name is Uncle Sam and I’m a torturer,” hand wringing, mea culpa, past cleansing, new brooming, flush of moral anxiety, I suspect its timing has more to do with the Obama administration taking the very last opportunity to do this before it can be buried by the Republicans when they take over in the senate in the new year. And if they get bogged down in the backlash, hey, it’s win-win for Hillary. You’ve got to admire the political nous of the man who thought to rename the CIA Headquarters, without a hint of irony, the ‘George Bush Center for Intelligence’, meaning his name will now get associated in every ripple of this scandal. That man was, of course, George Bush.

Still, no one can feel comfortable welcoming the US to Officially Morally Bankrupt Anonymous; even if the announcement, though a shock, comes as no surprise. Hints, accusations and court cases have rumbled under for years. No one, except a few redcoats, really thought Guatanamo was a cushier place than the Skegness Butlins and ‘extraordinary rendition’ has become a worn phrase long before anyone admitted it really was a thing. This may well be the moment, while everyone is looking the other way, for Mr Assange to slip smugly out of the Ecuadorian embassy for a quiet drink with Mr Snowden.

The CIA has, of course, known the report on their interrogation tactics was coming for some time and my inner conspiracy theorist is starting to wonder if much of the publicity that the, almost credulity stretching, ISIS brutality has been garnering in the last few months could have been, in fact, orchestrated as ‘first strike’ damage limitation by the CIA. “It’s a brutal world out there friends, and we’re doing, a whole lot of things that are right, oh, but we’re torturing some folks.”

I guess we’ll find out if the ISIS stories start to dry up over the next few months. Unless it is in the interests of pre-electioneering

I can never let my inner conspiracy theorist out for too long or it starts wondering things like whether show-off Jihadi John could by a CIA operative? It’s not like he’s been beheading any US military personnel but pesky journalists and earning ‘maximum baddie’ stars for decapitating aid workers.

Of course we may never know as this 525-page report is merely a summary of a 6,000-page document which remains classified.

The ramifications are clear though. The foot-soldiers in the battle for hearts and minds might as well pack up and go home on indefinite leave. Though Obama may be hoping that the admission of flaws puts the US one step ahead of all the other despots in denial, the message that Western style democracy has the power to spread freedom across the world seems no longer arguable. Give people the right to choose their leaders and still they’ll pick monsters, just monsters who share their prejudices. There’s no moral high ground, freedom is relative, governments are corrupt and Butlins is actually quite fun. It turns out that all you need to cope with any of these things is a strong sense of irony.

How do we know? British pride has taken no end of knocks since the end of Empire. Our perseverance in World Cup humiliations is a testament to this. But then our fine sense of the ironic, the fact that almost everything we say can be placed in inverted commas, is how we’ve learnt to cope with an unjust world. We find a way to laugh, if somewhat bitterly, and if you give us the first few notes of a song we’ll give you an extraordinary rendition.

 

First published in

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