Daily Archives: December 5, 2011

Legitimizing Canadian Torture

Former CSIS director and advocate for torture, Jim Judd. (Photo: Fred Chartrand, Canadian Press)

Just under fifty years ago our prime minister was Lester B. Pearson, onetime president of the United Nations General Assembly and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Now we have this:

Canada’s spy agency was so reliant on information obtained through torture that it suggested the whole security certificate regime, used to control suspected terrorists in the country, would fall apart if they couldn’t use it.

That’s the essence of a letter written in 2008 by the former director of CSIS, Jim Judd, obtained by The Gazette.

It suggests a disturbing acceptance by the national security agency of torture as a legitimate strategy to counter terrorism

Let’s make this very simple. Any Canadian citizen who practices or authorizes the use of torture should be charged, tried, and incarcerated in one of the new prisons the Harper government, despite our falling crime rate, has decided we need. The only obvious increase in criminality in Canada at the moment is at the top.

War Criminal, Cont’d

George Bush has cancelled a trip to Switzerland amid demands for his arrest for war crimes:

Former U.S. President George W. Bush has cancelled a visit to Switzerland over fears he could have been arrested on torture charges.

Mr Bush was due to be the keynote speaker at a Jewish charity gala in Geneva on February 12.

But pressure has been building on the Swiss government to arrest him and open a criminal investigation if he enters the country.

Criminal complaints against Mr Bush alleging torture have been lodged in Geneva, court officials said.

Human rights groups said they had intended to submit a 2,500-page case against him in the Swiss city tomorrow for alleged mistreatment of suspected militants at Guantanamo Bay.

Left-wing groups have also called for a protest on the day of his visit, leading organisers at Keren Hayesod’s annual dinner to cancel Mr Bush’s participation on security grounds.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch and International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) said the cancellation was linked to growing moves to hold him accountable for the use of torture, including waterboarding.

Frye on Democracy 3

Here’s an editorial, “Law and Disorder,” published in Canadian Forum, July 1949. This was a time when the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union began to get fully underway with a “Red Scare” that would soon bring Joseph McCarthy to the fore as the chief demagogic fomenter of national paranoia and the compromised rule of law that comes with it. To appreciate this editorial’s continuing relevance today, substitute the war on Communism with the war on terror. 

The present Communist witch-hunt in the United States has rather paralyzed liberal criticism, because of the complexity of factors and uneven distribution of sympathies involved. On the one hand, the democratic tradition gives the widest possible freedom of action in politics; on the other hand, the American people feel that in the present state of affairs Communists are for all practical purposes agents of Russia and active enemy aliens. Thus Communism is legal, but discouraged by intimidation; it cannot be prosecuted so it has to be persecuted. Unlike the witch-hunt of 1919 the present moves against Communism have a good deal of popular support, as Russia has thrown away all the vast good will which, a few years ago, she could have had for the asking from the American public. Liberals and intellectuals who find in Communism the enemy of everything they stand for hardly know what to say, as they disapprove of the means employed while recognizing a certain amount of of sense in the anti-Communist drive.

The trouble is that there is no substitute for a reign of law except a reign of terror. If steps are taken against Communism outside the regular legal channels, they cannot help being violent and arbitrary. Without a legal definition of Communism, which would protect the Communist as well as the non-Communist, there is nothing to stop some people from calling anyone a Communist whom they regard as sufficiently dangerous. Without definite legal procedures, there is nothing to stop the anti-Communist drive from being led by people with lynching mentalities, who regard the processes of law as too cumbersome and slippery to work properly in an emergency situation. Whatever good the Dies and Thomas committee hearing may have done, the evil of intimidation, character assassination, forcible suppression of evidence, and the spreading of terrorized insecurity among government employees far outweighs it. To try to outlaw something by outlawed means in the name of the law is a hopeless paradox, and every step in contempt of law taken by a democracy brings it so much nearer to the processes of police espionage, torture, and secret arrest which democrats hate so much in the totalitarian countries.

There are great and perilous difficulties involved in declaring the Communist party illegal, but at least such a procedure would put all suspected people to some extent under the democratic guarantee of personal security and presumption of innocence prior to legally proved guilt. The law may be imperfect, and even more imperfectly administered, but still it does possess our inherited liberties. As it is, the real Communists are far less vulnerable than their innocent bystanders to the reckless mud-slinging, private feuds, and official spreading of slander which have resulted from the Thomas hearings. (CW 11, 224-5)