The Extraordinary Kim Howells

Always a pleasure to report on the latest successes of an old friend, Pontypridd MP and Middle East minister Kim Howells.
Last time Howells had a walk-on part at What Is Wales? it was over some silly old stuff about Iraqi Oil.
But now he’s back – and thanks to Private Eye for bringing this one to my attention. This time he causes a return to a grim topic, so-called “extraordinary rendition”.
As Private Eye reports: “Even on the last day of the Blair regime, Howells was sticking to the line that the US does not fly torture victims in and out of British airfields”.
The report takes its lead from this fascinating exchange in the House of Commons (anoraks should click back over previous sections of the Hansard record for the full debate).
Suffice to say the following exchange confirms the former NUM firebrand remains reluctant to burn bridges to Bush.
Tory Geoffrey Clifton-Brown asked him: “May I again press the Minister to make a statement here today that the British Government utterly refuse, refute and condemn anything to do with what is commonly known as extraordinary rendition involving torture?”
“Absolutely,” said the good doctor. “I give that undertaking totally. We are completely opposed to such activities. They are a violation of every international treaty that we have signed up to and of British law, and I hope that that is clear.”
Then, chipped in another Conservative Andrew Tyrie, “Will the Minister clarify whether in saying that he is condemning the policy that the United States has developed during the past seven or eight years for large numbers of extraordinary renditions? Is it British policy publicly to make our Government’s dissociation from that policy crystal-clear to the Americans?”
Er. “No,” responded Howells, “I am not criticising American Government policy. The honorable gentleman assumes that the Americans are torturing people. I certainly do not have such information, but he is very clear about it. I disagree entirely.”
Tyrie bit back: “Is the Minister seriously suggesting that the overwhelming body of evidence that has been produced in Washington to show that the Americans have been engaged in rendition, a policy that involves cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment that amounts to torture, does not exist or has been made up? Is he suggesting that it is just a figment of the imagination of people on the Opposition Benches?”
Howells replied: “No, it certainly is not a figment of the imagination. Such treatment would not take place in Britain, in British prisons or in prisons that Britain is responsible for administering in any other territory.”
So, just like the Americans, it’s a case of ‘not on our soil – someone else’s’. How convenient.
As noted here in December, extraordinary rendition is a way of using one’s power to cause unpleasantness at third hand. Like the gangster don who has never seen blood but has the power of life or death by silently waving his hand and sending a killer on his way.

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