Video: Andy Worthington Discusses the US Torture Program with Lembit Opik on Press TV


Andy Worthington in a screenshot from "A Simple Question," a Press TV show broadcast in November 2014.I’m posting below an episode of “A Simple Question,” a show presented by former Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik on Press TV, which I took part in (interviewed at my home), along with the journalist Riaz Khan. The show, “American inconsistencies on human rights,” was initially broadcast a few months ago, and asked whether the United States’ use of torture has affected its reputation worldwide. I have just found it, in two parts on YouTube, so I’m now posting it here.

The five questions discussed in the show were:

1) Which countries do you consider guilty of using torture?
2) How do you feel about the use of torture in Guantánamo Bay, especially the use of force-feeding?
3) What impact does the use of torture have upon the reputation of America internationally?
4) Do you feel that the use of torture has had an impact on the level of the terrorist threat against Americans in the US and abroad?
5) What should America do about its use of torture?

The videos of the show are below:

I spoke about the importance of the UN Convention Against Torture, and, on Guantánamo, I spoke about the official use of torture at Guantánamo between 2002 and 2004, under instructions from then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the current problems with force-feeding mentally competent hunger strikers, which is condemned by doctors worldwide, and the underlying truth — often not contemplated by people thinking about Guantánamo — that indefinite imprisonment without charge or trial is itself a form of torture.

I also spoke about how the torture program developed, mentioning, for example, the role played by John Yoo, the law professor who, while working in the Justice Department, at the Office for Professional Responsibility (the branch of the DoJ responsible for advising the executive branch of its legal obligations), wrote the notorious “torture memos” that purported to redefine torture so it could be used by the CIA.

I also spoke about the disappointment I feel that President Obama has blocked all efforts to call for accountability in the US courts, and the US submission to the UN Human Rights Council, which took place just before my interview, as well as Appendix M of the Army Field Manual, mentioned in those UN hearings, which still allows torture techniques to be used.

The interview took place before the publication of the devastating executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report into the CIA torture program, but that doesn’t affect the questions addressed in the show.

I hope you find it interesting. Much of it is given over to US students responding to the questions posed by the show, which you may or may not find worthwhile, as there are some shocking examples of ignorance on display, but I was happy with my own contributions.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, the director of “We Stand With Shaker,” calling for the immediate release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

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2 Responses

  1. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy.

    Yes, some of those students uttered some completely unsupportable assertions. In particular, some of the students said, (paraphrasing) “Okay, the way we treated those guys, now treat those guys, isn’t pretty. But remember, those guys are there for a reason. No one got sent there who hadn’t done something wrong.”

    How can apologists for the detainee program make demonstrably incorrect assertions, like that “no one got sent to Guantanamo who hadn’t done anything wrong”? Demonstrably a large number of the captives hadn’t done anything wrong.

    I strongly suspect that at least some apologists are sincere, but have employed backwards reasoning. American culture constantly transmits the meme that America is special, unique — that it is not only the first democratic republic, but that it has the right to claim to be the free-est, most democratic country in the world; the country with the greatest respect for human rights. Any other democratic countries are only imperfect pale reflections of the USA in the rights their citizens enjoy and their respect for human rights.

    I think President Obama called this the principle of “American exceptionalism”. I think American kids absorb this meme before they reach the age of reason. So, it is an unquestionable fact. I think many of the sincere apologists — like some of the students interviewed for this show — don’t really have any problem reconciling the known fact that the USA used torture, and held men without ever laying charges against them, with the unquestionable meme that the USA is the “World’s free-est country”(TM).

    Since the notion that the USA is the World’s free-est country is an unquestionable given learned before they reached the age of reason, any individual the USA held for years without ever laying a charge before a real court HAS to have done something really really bad. To consider any other explanation requires considering that the USA may not always have followed the principles of the USA’s founding fathers.

    It is completely backwards, and sad.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, arcticredriver. That’s a very good explanation, I think, of American exceptionalism.
    I too noticed the quote you mentioned, which seemed to me to be particularly ignorant, although it is something I’ve heard before – the unfounded “no smoke without fire” argument.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo and We Stand With Shaker. Also, photo-journalist (The State of London), and singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers).
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