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Stop This Brutality In Our Name,
Mr Blair

21 January 2002

This is what is being done in the name of humanity, civilization and the British people.

These prisoners are trapped in open cages, manacled hand and foot, brutalized, tortured and humiliated.

We are assured they are cruel, evil men, though not one has been charged, let alone convicted, of any offense.

Yet that does not justify the barbaric treatment they are receiving from US forces. Barbarism which is backed by our Government.

Tony Blair says he is standing shoulder to shoulder with President Bush. Not on our behalf, he isn't.

Mr Bush is close to achieving the impossible - losing the sympathy of the civilized world for what happened in New York and Washington on September 11.

Today he celebrates a year in office. He came to the presidency after a squalid vote-fix, yet in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center, he achieved enormous popularity among the American people.

The treatment of the prisoners in Cuba is no more than a sick attempt to appeal to the worst red-neck prejudices.

The pictures showing how these men are being abused were actually taken by an official US photographer.

The President and his head-banging associates are proud of them, proud of the cruelty inflicted in their name, proud of the vengeance they are taking.

What the American President does is his business. But what our Prime Minister does is ours.

Tony Blair has played a unique role in the war on terrorism. He persuaded Mr Bush to calm down in the days immediately after September 11.

He has done more to forge and hold together the great alliance of nations which is dedicated to ridding the world of terrorism.

Today he should be playing another leading role. He should be telling George W. Bush that the treatment of the prisoners in Cuba is not acceptable.

If Mr Blair thinks it is, he should have a word with his wife, Cherie. She is a leading human-rights lawyer.

His Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, said last week that the prisoners should be treated humanely. They clearly are not. Once again, Mr Straw has failed to make the slightest impact.

Even if these men had been found guilty, they should not be treated like this. It is not doing anything to help the war on terrorism. These pictures will do the opposite - inflame the belief among some young Muslims that America is their enemy.

Anyway, who are these prisoners? It is said that some may not belong to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda at all, but were members of the Taliban. That was a horrific regime and the Afghani people are delighted to be rid of it. But it achieved power with the help of the United States and the UK.

Since September 11, America has walked a fine line between fighting for humanity and lusting after revenge. The treatment of these prisoners shows how far the balance has tilted the wrong way.

If Mr Bush insists on following this path, the rest of the world should leave him in no doubt that he walks it alone. And Tony Blair should be leading the protest.

What is happening at Guantanamo is a disgrace. It must not be done in our name, Mr Blair.

Published in the Mirror © 2002

Index page on Response to attacks in US


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