Toronto Star | 18Dec2005 | Orest Slepokura
Letter to Editor

Michael Ignatieff and Torture Lite

Dear Mr Siddiqui,

Re: Michael Ignatieff and Torture Lite (18Dec05 Toronto Star).

Thank you for a very insightful op-ed on the issue of torture, the Bush regime and torture apologist Michael Ignatieff.

It's deeply troubling that the mandarins of the Liberal Party figured they could shoehorn this man in as their standard bearer after Ignatieff expressed support for the practice of torture.

Their elitist (neo-tsarist, if you will) scorn and contempt for voters in the Etobicoke-Lakeshore riding is simply breathtaking.

Orest Slepokura
Strathmore, Alta

Toronto Star | 18Dec2005 | Haroon Siddiqui

Ignatieff now in dubious company over torture

With U.S. lawmakers banning abuse, where does Liberal stand?

Torture. Now that even George W. Bush has disavowed it, Michael Ignatieff, transplanted here from the U.S. as a Liberal candidate, finds himself in such company as Dick Cheney and other right-wing Republicans who still defend, and want to continue, the practice.

The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives have voted against cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment of prisoners.

The British House of Lords has ruled against it.

The European media and public are outraged that Central Intelligence Agency planes used European airspace and airports to transfer detainees to secret CIA-run sites or to jails in countries that practice torture.

In a related matter, the U.S. Senate wants the CIA to disclose its "black sites," the number of detainees and their well-being.

Yet Ignatieff remains on record as supporting Torture Lite, which, in effect, is what the Bush administration claims to have been doing. The explanation never did fool the world and, ultimately, did not fool even the Republican-controlled Congress.

When Republican Senator John McCain, himself tortured as a prisoner in Vietnam, moved to ban the practice by Americans, Bush lobbied to defeat the motion. But it passed 90 to 9.

Cheney asked that the CIA be exempted (if it doesn't do torture, why the need for an exception?) Defying him, the House banned torture, 308 to 122.

By Thursday, Bush folded and had McCain over to the White House. But true to form, he was loath to admit reversal.

At the heart of the debate are two visions: one promoted by Bush, Ignatieff et al. that terrorism is such an evil that we have to set aside our democratic niceties. The other view is that you can't deal with immorality by aping it.

McCain: "We have sent a message to the world that the U.S. is not like the terrorists." Congressman John Murtha, a Democrat: "If we allow torture in any form, we abandon our honour."

Ignatieff also backed the Iraq war, just like Stephen Harper but unlike most Canadians and the Liberal government.

Harper seems to have had a change of heart. He said recently a Tory government would not send troops to Iraq.

Many Americans, too, have changed their views, among them Murtha. A Vietnam veteran who spent 37 years in the Marines, and a longtime hawk on defence, he shook up Washington Nov. 17, 2005 by saying, "It's time to bring the troops home." He denounced the Iraq adventure as "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion."

Bush was so rattled he delivered four speeches to shore up support. He acknowledged failures -- faulty intelligence, bad decisions that helped trigger the insurgency, botched rebuilding efforts, etc. He admitted that at least 30,000 Iraqis are dead.

Yet, he said he was right to have invaded and that he would keep the troops there, because Iraq is central to the security of the U.S.

His logic stacks up thus: He went to war because of weapons of mass destruction, about which he was given the wrong information, but he would have invaded anyway. Iraq was not a threat to the U.S. but, having made it one, he cannot retreat.

The fact is, Iraq is still no threat to America. It is a threat only to the Americans in Iraq.

Murtha is right that it's the American presence that fuels the insurgency. Indicative of this was the ceasefire, temporary no doubt, for Thursday's election, enabling Iraqis to vote in relative peace.

As glorious as the march of the millions was, a more salient fact was that the cessation of hostilities was managed by ordering the American troops out of the cities, away from public sight.

Voters wondered what the peace deal was with the insurgents. As a Baghdad cleric said: "If you can ask them that, why do you ask only for three days?"

Part of the answer is that terrorists like Abu Musab Zarqawi are not the only insurgents. The insurgency is widespread and is not likely to end until the illegal and unwanted occupation ends.

In the election euphoria, it's useful to remember that Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds alike -- 82 per cent of Iraqis, according to a British defence ministry survey -- want the Americans gone.

What does Ignatieff think?