Magazine article New Internationalist

Cruel Britannia

Magazine article New Internationalist

Cruel Britannia

Article excerpt

Cruel Britannia by Ian Cobain

(Portobello Books, ISBN 978 1846273339)

This meticulously researched history begins with the torture of German prisoners during the Second World War and takes us through its use to help suppress rebellions in Kenya, Cyprus, Yemen, Northern Ireland and Iraq as well as, more recently, to facilitate US renditions to Guantánamo.

A host of methods is used, from electric shocks to truth drugs. But the ones that became part of the modus operandi passed down by generations of British or British-backed torturers were those least likely to mark or kill. So, out are the nail-pulling and arm-dislocating, and in are sleep deprivation, stress positions, waterboarding and general terrorizing: a recipe for long-term mental distress.

The moral argument moves between the value of information obtained through torture - which arguably saved Allied lives during World War Two - to whether people should inflict suffering on each other in any circumstances. …

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