I was struck by an article that I was reading the other day talking about the fact that the British during World War II, when London was being bombed to smithereens, had 200 or so detainees. And Churchill said, "We don't torture," when the entire British -- all of the British people were being subjected to unimaginable risk and threat.
Now, prisoners at The London Cage were not ordinary Werhmacht soldiers and sailors. Most were SS and Gestapo men suspected of such crimes as murdering British POWs (sort of the equivalent of suspected al Qaeda terrorists?). Still, the methods were harsh. According to the Guardian, a post-war MI-5 assessment found "detailed repeated breaches of the Geneva convention, with...admissions that prisoners had been forced to kneel while being beaten about the head; forced to stand to attention for up to 26 hours; threatened with execution; or threatened with 'an unnecessary operation'."
One SS captain named Knoechlein made a written complaint in which he said he had been "stripped...deprived of sleep for four days and nights, and starved." And that was only the start:
The guards kicked him each time he passed, he alleges, while his interrogators boasted that they were "much better" than the "Gestapo in Alexanderplatz". After being forced to perform rigorous exercises until he collapsed, he says he was compelled to walk in a tight circle for four hours. On complaining to Scotland that he was being kicked even "by ordinary soldiers without a rank", Knoechlein alleges that he was doused in cold water, pushed down stairs, and beaten with a cudgel. Later, he says, he was forced to stand beside a large gas stove with all its rings lit before being confined in a shower which sprayed extremely cold water from the sides as well as from above. Finally, the SS man says, he and another prisoner were taken into the gardens behind the mansions, where they were forced to run in circles while carrying heavy logs.On top of that, Scotland did his best to keep the International Red Cross out of the Cage:
Scotland went on to argue that the Red Cross need not be admitted, because his prisoners were either civilians [technically, Gestapo agents were civilian police officers], or "criminals within the armed forces" [e.g., the SS], and neither, he said, were protected by the Geneva convention.Rough stuff. But was it really too rough for the likes of SS killers? Did it strip the British nation and people of their values? Did it destroy the rule of law in the United Kingdom? Did it pull the British down to the level of Nazi SS/Gestapo brutality?
Those are the questions that Americans really need to ask themselves, today. And President Obama should bone up on his WWII history before invoking Churchill again.
What do you think? Post a comment.
(Hat tip: RealClearPolitics)