Hated by educators
And public alike
How does it feel to know
You'll never again be the cause
Of a teacher's strike?
My argument for the limited use of coercive interrogation (“torture” by another name) is essentially this: If you think it is ever justifiable to drop bombs in an attempt to kill a man like Osama bin Laden (and thereby risk killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children), you should think it may sometimes be justifiable to water-board a man like Osama bin Laden (and risk abusing someone who just happens to look like him).
Again, which is worse: water-boarding a terrorist or killing/maiming him? Which is worse, water-boarding an innocent person or killing/maiming him? There are journalists who have volunteered to be water-boarded. Where are the journalists who have volunteered to have a 5000-pound bomb dropped on their homes with their families inside?This is, quite frankly, silly. Nobody is arguing that torture is morally worse than murder. Yet simply saying that some ethically permissible acts in war are worse than torture is not a ethical argument in favour of torture. For instance, wars involve the mobilisation of large armies, and many of the men and women in those armies are likely to be put in harm's way and a lot of them will die. That is a tragedy of war, and in a hypothetical just war scenario it is unavoidable, but necessary.
There are journalists who have volunteered to be water-boarded. Where are the journalists who have volunteered to have a 5000-pound bomb dropped on their homes with their families inside?These journalists generally regret their choice and nearly unanimously come out after withstanding only a few seconds of waterboarding to insist that it's a form of torture. Take this video of right-wing radio host Mancow Muller being waterboarded. His intention was to prove that it wasn't a form of torture, yet all it took was a few seconds to convince this die-hard right-winger that waterboarding isn't frivolous. It's probably more accurate, therefore, to say that journalists ill-advisedly opt to be waterboarded and regret their decision later on. That leaves us where, exactly? If suddenly a bunch of journalists opt to be placed in an iron maiden on the erroneous belief that the spikes won't penetrate the flesh so much, does that say anything about whether or not it's an acceptable way to treat prisoners in wartime?
If you think it is ever justifiable to drop bombs in an attempt to kill a man like Osama bin Laden (and thereby risk killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children), you should think it may sometimes be justifiable to water-board a man like Osama bin Laden (and risk abusing someone who just happens to look like him).My italics. At the very least, this is a frank admission of where a pro-torture policy will end up taking you. Inevitably you will every so often get the wrong guy and end up submitting an innocent person to tremendous acts of barbarism and cruelty. Torture is wrong regardless of the guilt or innocence of the person being tortured, but its reality is made all the more horrifying when considered in the context of the authorities having got the wrong guy. Instead of seeing this statistical certainty as a reason to prohibit torture in all circumstances (better to let a guilty man go unpunished than punish an innocent), Harris runs head-on into it and admits that he's OK with torturing someone who 'happens to look like' the suspect you're after as long as your intention is to obtain intelligence for the war on terror.
We will not torture anyone under any circumstances unless we are certain, beyond all reasonable doubt, that the person in our custody has operational knowledge of an imminent act of nuclear terrorism.This is actually the only time that Harris tries to limit his defense of torture to only the single most extreme scenario of nuclear terrorism. As noted above, his other writings reveal him to be much more cavalier about the subject, showing him justifying its use even if there's a low chance of its yielding useful information, and willing to take the risk of torturing someone who "looks like" the suspect providing the intention is good.
'The woman's a genius! She may be, in her own estimation, 'as thick as a plank', but Princess Diana has an unerring eye for bandwagons...
What a masterstroke it was to time her visit to Washington last week to coincide with the release of First Wives Club - a film about abandoned wives which has taken America by storm.
Just as the misery of dumped wives, and their triumph through revenge, became the talking point among film-goers, who should waft over and present herself as a suitable icon? Why, the brilliant, beautiful Diana - the ultimate Queen of Broken Hearts. For the first time in public she removed her wedding ring. A coincidence? I think not.The Daily Mirror, meanwhile, published a piece in June 1997 (two months before Princess Di's death) headlined 'Why Doesn't Di Have a Real Gal Pal?; Men Fall at Her Feet but No Woman Stays Close for Long' that recounts the apparently tempremental, hostile personality of a royal diva unable to make friends for herself:
The fact is that Princess [sic] has a way of behaving and saying things that tends to drive people away.
The large turnover in her staff is evidence enough of that. They just don't stay. Since she married in 1981, I reckon she's got through nearly 100...
For the fact is that to be a friend of Diana is hugely demanding.
You have to be prepared to take calls even at 3am to assure her she is wonderful.
You have to tell her constantly that she looks good and that the papers have been unkind to her. [Enduring England: I wonder why she would think that?]
And, when it is glaringly obvious she has behaved badly or selfishly, you have to tell her that she was quite justified in her actions.
Girlfriends are prepared to do all this up to a point, but they admit that it can become just too exhausting.
And so they walk away.The brilliance of Mantel's piece was to examine the way royal women are (in Diana's case, literally) sacrificed onto the pyre of tabloid gossip and speculation in a way which has nothing to do with the reality of royal lives, but with the inhuman constraints and demands of monarchical duty. Is it too much to wonder if the strained quest to find perfection in the public spectacle of the Duchess of Cambridge is at least a little bit a desire on the part of the public, ventriloquised by the media, to atone for the oftentimes ghastly treatment of Diana at the hands of the scathing op-ed? The public displays of grief upon Diana's death were surely at least partially an effort at whitewashing history. Now, in Kate, we have a chance to do it all again. Don't mess things up this time, guys.
[Benedict's] continued presence in the Vatican is necessary, otherwise he might be defenseless. He wouldn't have his immunity, his prerogatives, his security, if he is anywhere else...
(If he lived anywhere else) then we might have those crazies who are filing lawsuits, or some magistrate might arrest him like other (former) heads of state have been for alleged acts while he was head of stateBy 'those crazies' I guess he means those people who prosecuted guys like General Pinochet. Isn't it funny that, yet again, those who have the most to lose from the exercise of universal jurisdiction are its fiercest opponents?
'I am rather less convinced by human rights lawyers who try to claim that it is in their hands that our freedom rests.'This is just blatant populism, and relies on the hope that you hate lawyers and people in suits more than you hate elected politicians. Suffice to say, nobody is claiming that human rights lawyers are the guardians to the keys of freedom, but that the judiciary is under an obligation to apply the law, and guidance papers are not of the same legal standing as Acts of Parliament.
On the contrary, when I see lawyers making up the law through a perverse interpretation of a principle in the European Convention on Human Rights I begin to feel a little of the same sense of powerlessness which ruled the lives of people who lived under Eastern European autocracies.Here's where the article delves into mindless stupidity. Lawyers do not 'make up the law', but rather the judiciary is applying laws handed down by parliament itself in deportation cases, to which Article 8 claims may apply in exceptional circumstances. The comparison with Communist states is ludicrous, since the powerlessness of communist autocracies came precisely from a lack of legal oversight and human rights protection for individuals. It was a lack of lawyers, rather than an abundance of them, which is in part reasponsible for totalitarian excess.
The guidance needed issuing because the law had become a farce. Since the Human Rights Act came into effect more than 100 foreign criminals have evaded being returned to their homeland on the grounds that it would harm their family life.Meaning that roughly 10 cases per year are decided in favour of a defendant alleging that his/her Article 8 rights would be violated with little to no public interest being served by the deportation. There are no comparisons for us to deduce whether or not this is the norm. Placing the claim within its relevant context would require comparing it not just with the amount of times Article 8 claims fail, but in deportation cases involving criminals which don't invoke Article 8 at all. Yet Ross Clark goes to no effort to contextualise his claims, and hopes you won't notice the shoddy reporting. Unlike Theresa May, however, Ross Clark does provide some (dubious) examples:
They include Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, a failed asylumseeker who mowed down 12-year-old Amy Houston in Blackburn in 2003. In spite of the fact that he had no right to be in the country anyway – and that he had other convictions for harrassment and possessing drugs – he was allowed to stay in Britain by virtue of having fathered two children after serving his jail sentence.This is at least a real judgment, but the lack of any links on the piece to which readers can fact-check the piece for themselves should give some indication of the general level of rigor and intellectual discipline of the summary. If readers are interested, they can look here for the facts and judgment, as well as a summary of the immigration judge's assessment. Contrary to what the tone of Clark's summary of the judgment implies, merely having two children does not automatically establish Article 8 rights which override deportation proceedings. A quick reading of the actual judgment itself finds that the immigration judge was not just considering the Article 8 rights of the Aso Mohammed Ibrahim, but more crucially, his children:
I am satisfied that the relationship is of such significance that can genuinely be characterised as family life and that the best interests of the children is such that the Appellant should not be removed from the UK. Were it not for the children my view with regard to the matter may be [sic] different. However I find that the disruption and interference in the family lives of the children and therefore of the Appellant and [ ] would be of such significance that it is not proportionally justified to remove the Appellant from the UK.The Upper Tribunal further noted that had Aso Mohammed Ibrahim been subject to deportation proceedings at the time of the offense, his case would have likely been unsuccessful. In the intervening seven years since he had committed the offense, however, he had fathered two children, whose best interests, said the immigration judge, would not be served by having their father sent back to Iraq. Had the deportation proceedings been started at the time of the offense, they would have likely succeeded. So really, the anger is to be directed at the government for taking so long to issue deportation proceedings, rather than at the Human Rights Act and the judiciary for allowing Ibrahim's claim to succeed. The second example Ross Clark uses is of Mr. Rohan Winfield, but since the case is unreported, I strongly doubt that Clark has actually read it. I would hope to see legal commentators in the popular press refrain from commenting on things before they've actually, you know, read them. The only reference I can find to the case is in this Telegraph piece, which goes into no detail whatsoever with regards to the judge's reasoning or the merits of the case. Therefore Ross Clark's commentary on it is, quite simply, untrustworthy.
We now have an immigration policy which turns away entrepreneurs and PhD students yet puts a large “welcome” mat out to overseas criminals.This is just a false dichotomy. If we're talking about the immigration policy approach to PhD students and entrepreneurs, that's another matter, but Article 8 rights of the families of criminals don't have any bearing at all on whether or not skilled workers are allowed into the country. It's simply lazy, sloppy thinking to think of them as somehow legally connected, and this is in no way a relevant or insightful criticism of UK immigration policy. Article 8 is not a 'welcome mat' and is not successful in all cases - criminals are still deported for committing crimes, but if the criminal's family would have their own rights violated (being, as they are, you know, innocent people), then it is a relevant consideration to ask what the actual objectives of deportation are, and do they outweigh the distress to the children of never being able to see their father again?
All article 8 of the Human Rights Act has achieved is to provoke a baby boom among criminals who know that if they can manage to father a child before deportation proceedings are completed they have a good chance of being allowed to stay in Britain.Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Yet it seems that amongst the editors of The Express, all that will suffice is for a writer to pluck bogus claims from his arse and hope nobody notices he's making shit up. This is just a completely ludicrous, unsubstantiated, made-up piece of propagandistic drivel. If only ten cases regarding Article 8 are decided every year in favour of the defendant, not all of them will involve children. So less than 10 cases each year hardly constitutes a 'boom' amongst criminals. There is no evidence for this claim whatsoever and it shouldn't have gotten past an editor, if the editor was interested in facts rather than political spin.
Yet according to Lord Woolf the most outrageous aspect is not that violent criminals are allowed to escape deportation but that Theresa May should dare to challenge the judges who have made the rulings.
Yesterday he claimed that her remarks “undermined the rule of law” on the grounds that a minister should not dare question the rulings of judges.Translation: "I have not read the relevant cases, and I've only read summaries of the controversy, so I presume Lord Woolf was angry that ministers criticised judges." I'm guessing that Ross Clark used the "undermined the rule of law" quote because that's the only part of Lord Woolf's statement that isn't behind a Times paywall. Here's what he actually said:
'It behoves ministers to be circumspect in their remarks, particularly the Home Secretary, who has responsibilities for upholding the rule of law. What is said in debate in Parliament does not change the law.
If the Home Secretary is not pleased about a decision and thinks that it is wrong or not in accordance with the law, then she has the right to go to the Court of Appeal.
If the law needs changing, she can go to Parliament...'In other words, Lord Woolf was expressing concern at the Home Secretary's lack of understanding of constitutional process, in keeping with the criticisms expressed on this blog and elsewhere, than the fact that she dared to criticise judges.
Even if you do believe that the right of convicted criminals to choose to live in Britain should take precedence over the rights of the rest of us – which I suspect is rather a minority viewpoint – you surely must recognise the primacy of Parliament, which last July voted to approve the new guidelines.Except that nobody has disagreed with parliamentary sovereignty, they are instead taking issue with the claim that a debate and subsequent vote in The Commons should override the statutory law, as well as the international and domestic case law.
Yet one judge quoted by May justified his ruling to allow a foreign criminal to stay in Britain with the words that the debate in Parliament amounted only to “weak scrutiny”.It's always a shame when columnists take two words from a judgment as evidence to back up their claims - the phrase 'weak scrutiny' was used to contrast the weight accorded to guidelines voted for by the House of Commons in comparison to primary legislation and case-law.
A democracy functions on the principle that elected politicians make the law and the courts enforce it. When judges start trying to make the law as well as enforce it we are sliding towards judicial dictatorship.Reading this, you might be forgiven for forgetting that we are talking about an Act of Parliament, here! Article 8 was passed by Parliament in 1998 one year after a landslide victory for New Labour in 1997. It applies in cases where people have a familial interest and in which the rights not just of the criminal but of his/her family are potentially violated. If judges made a distinction between the families which are worth consideration, such as those of criminals being deemed worthy of no right to legal redress absent even an Act of Parliament saying so, then that is the legal regime which embodies more the characteristics of a judicial dictatorship.