Tuesday, March 07, 2006

A second, largely concurring opinion

I see the Rioja Kid got in there first... Not sure there's too much duplication, though, so here goes:

“When in Sudan, criticise the Yanks.” So begins Aaro’s latest column. The Archbish didn’t go to Sudan, though, to criticise the Yanks. He criticised the Yanks because Sir David Frost asked him whether he thought that Guantanamo Bay was a “breach of international law and a blight on the conscience of America”, and he said what he said in reply to that question. Perhaps Aaro thinks that he should have refused to answer, or said something different. I don’t know.

Does Aaro agree with the Archbish? He starts by saying that “the unfortunate location for his critique doesn’t make the Archbishop wrong”, and leaves the question hanging for a bit. Eight paragraphs later, he comes back to the earlier discussion and says that he’s right. The result of the Bush people playing fast and loose with torture memos and whatnot has been “precisely as Dr Williams has argued: comfort to every tyrant, encouragement to every zealot.” Well, Dr Williams didn’t say anything about encouraging zealots, so Aaro’s account of what Dr Williams has argued isn’t as precise as the word “precisely” might suggest that it is. But this is by the by, and I suppose it’s also the case that since Aaro’s recent piece in the JC we don’t really expect precision from him, which is a pity.

The headline says that “I need answers to a couple of questions on Guantanamo”, but only one question is clearly articulated in the column. Aaro describes the way in which Michael Winterbottom’s film makes the Tipton Three out to be innocent of any wrongdoing (as well as being lovable rogues, etc.), and he says this: “But if that was really the case — if it was so damn simple — why would we need our Tiptonites to be so very innocent in order to make our case [for closing Guantanamo]? Surely the argument would stand whether they were jihadis or not.”

Indeed. We don’t need the Tipton Three to be innocent in order to be able to make the case for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, no. Of course we don’t. And if Michael Winterbottom suggests otherwise, he’s wrong. In fact, the case for whether Guantanamo Bay should be closed or not is entirely independent of the question of whether the Tipton Three were fighting for the Taliban in Afghanistan.

(Does Aaro believe that the Tipton Three were so fighting? He just says that he isn’t saying that he believes this, indeed, he is emphatically not saying that he believes this. It’s a comically careful, carefully comic choice of words.)

That wasn’t hard. Now, can I find another question in this column? I’m not sure I can, apart from ones about the choices Winterbottom made when making his film, perhaps, questions which don’t seem especially interesting.

What else is there? Oh, right. There’s a bit at the end about the trade-off between liberty and security (though Aaro doesn’t quite use these words). He says that he thinks that “Winterbottom and all too many Britons... obliterate the dilemma so that the problem becomes entirely one for the authorities and not for us,” which isn’t an especially clearly expressed thought. And he ends by saying that “Guantanamo is a bad reaction to something real, but none of us quite knows what the good reaction looks like.”

People don’t agree on the specifics on how anti-terrorist police and intelligence work should be conducted, or on the precise detail of the legal framework that should regulate such work, true enough. But this kind of disagreement is often taken to be a fairly good sign of a functioning parliamentary liberal democracy, and almost all the participants in political debate in this country accept something like the logic of the trade-off that Aaro’s described, but which apparently quite a few of us (and Michael Winterbottom, or so I’m told) want to deny. And however much “we” may disagree on the permissibility of 14-, 28- or 90-days detention-without-charge, there’s a reasonable degree of consensus that the rule of law’s a good idea, that torture’s a bad idea, and that, for these and other reasons, Gitmo’s an absolute fucking disgrace. I think that’s probably enough of a good reaction to be getting along with, at least for now.


Blogger Sonic said...

I also noticed that Aaro managed to coin a whole new word.


According to google this seems to be this words first usage (outside online games and dating sites) so I think we should congratulate Mr A.

3/07/2006 09:28:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Neogenocide appears on a dating site? Now, that's what I call kinky.

3/07/2006 11:21:00 PM  
Blogger Sonic said...

Do you think it's his handle?

3/07/2006 11:53:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But if that was really the case — if it was so damn simple — why would we need our Tiptonites to be so very innocent in order to make our case [for closing Guantanamo]? Surely the argument would stand whether they were jihadis or not

The only response to this is tu quoque, Aaro, tu fucking quoque. Nothing in his mealy-mouthed apologia for Gitmo depends on it only dealing with guilty people, so why does he feel the need to smear them?

3/08/2006 06:51:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Somehow my hunch about DA on Newsnight Review seems to have been more accurate than I realised: of course DA isn't actually definding Gitmo, but well, some of those guys must be guilty, so it's all worth it in the end, and Winterbottom's film rubbish because all the liberal left will support it, and give it awards, so there.

Can I be first to get a prediction for DA's defence of the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill (aka the NuLabour Enabling Act)?

3/08/2006 12:43:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

I thought it was a brilliant article. Showed a degree of objectivity about a film and the claims that the Tipton Three are innocent that is sadly lacking in most other papers in the UK. They've all "bought" the T3's story at face value without question.

Whatever happened to investigative journalism? If even a few of the things claimed by DA are true, I think there story is very questoionable.
As for the hypocritical left at the end. I thought it was a brilliant description of the hypocrisy I have to put up with every day in the newspapers about the "war" on terrorism (I don't know if it is a war). DA simply pointed out that they want i oth ways, are not prepared to take the hard decisions (frankly, thank God they aren't in power) and enjoy the luxury of criticising without responsibility (is that a new concept?

Anyway, more please Mr A.

3/08/2006 07:53:00 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

Brilliant article today from DA. About time someone questioned the Tipton Three story.

Whatever happened to investigative journalism?

3/08/2006 07:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

the claims that the Tipton Three are innocent

The Tipton three are innocent, you mug. Nobody, including Aaro and the US Government, thinks otherwise. They were not found on a battlefield; they were picked up in Kunduz city scared out of their wits after having tried to get out to Pakistan. They had never fought against the USA. They were detained in Guantanamo because the Americans believed they had attended an Al-Qaeda training camp in 2000, and they have a decent alibi for this because they were working in the Tipton branch of Curry's. All this could have been sorted out in days if there had been a proper habeas corpus; their lawyer could have rustled up the payslips. However, the Yanks spent six months claiming that they were getting really valuable intelligence from interrogating the Tipton lads.

Aaro is (emphatically) not trying to claim they were "guilty" of being jihadis because they clearly weren't. He's trying to claim that the few scraps of circumstantial crap he managed to dig up amount to a reasonable explanation of how Brother Yank managed to cock it up so badly. It doesn't.

By the way, you can forget about this "what happened to investigative journalism?" bollocks too. Aaro picked these things up from the questioning at the press screening. No other newspaper has run with them because they look like bollocks, and to be honest Aaro is not having the most wonderful run of luck when it comes to fact checking at present.

As for your remarks about "the left", all I can say is you're no David Aaronovitch.

3/08/2006 08:31:00 PM  
Blogger Backword Dave said...

Evil BB, I agree, but to give Aaro credit the claim ("our claim" if you will) that the T3 are innocent is undermined by Michael Winterbottom's "unreliable narrator" fixation. It seems they did enter a war zone after the war had started. There are many possible explanations for this, but glossing over it, and adjusting the facts makes one (ie me) doubt their innocence. However, I'm prepared to accept that after their time in Guantanamo, they were scared. Mr Winterbottom should have been more careful.

As for Rowan Williams, well anti-Anglicanism is the acceptable anti-Semitism of really dim fools isn't it? Anglicans don't answer back. DA's thesis seems to be, the more I think about it, "If Rowan Williams thinks X, then X is palably false, ho ho." This seems to encounter problems with "Rowan Williams thinks he has a beard."

My principal objection to DA's article, which I attempted to articulate in the comments (where I realised I was hamstrung by not being able to link to Dr Williams' words directly) is that Guantanamo was ethically doomed from the start. If the US thought they had an international law-abiding leg to stand on, they would have sited the camp within the Federal US. I think, as I believe that many people do, that the US suffered an outrage in September 2001, and they have the right to bring that outrage's perpetrators (and in some cases its defenders and protectors) to justice. But "bring to justice" for me involves a court, evidence, and a great deal more openness that has been supplied.

I don't know exactly what I want. I've watched a lot of right-wing, pro-TWAT sites go noisily barmy with made up evidence of the venality of our foes. I do think that there's no point trying to deflect criticism of the sort "You said X happened on Y. Yet records show that it didn't." We (and I'm thinking of a certain contributor to this blog) use this tactic a lot. If the other side use it, we should a) if the mistake is ours, fess up, and apologise or b) if the mistake is someone else's point it out, and say, "Much as we support our brother, we believe that he has faltered here."

Speaking a certain contributor to this blog, I believe that he stated the perfect objection to Guantanamo some time previously, and on another blog. But that's up to him to disclose.

3/08/2006 11:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We don’t need the Tipton Three to be innocent in order to be able to make the case for the closure of Guantanamo Bay, no. Of course we don’t. And if Michael Winterbottom suggests otherwise, he’s wrong.

The article is refering to the film. By agreeing with David Aaronovitch about the film you have defeated your point - which was to disagree with David Aaronovitch.

3/10/2006 02:01:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tipton three are innocent, you mug. Nobody, including Aaro and the US Government, thinks otherwise.

That's not true. The US government does believe they came over the border after the war started to fight for the Taliban. They only say their later allegation in Guatanamo bay that they were part of AL Qaeda and used to go to training camps was wrong.

I think David Aaronovitch is saying they are most likely guilty, but even if they weren't guilty, why does the film have to omit and lie to make it's case?

3/10/2006 02:07:00 AM  

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