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BBC's Stephen Sackur Backs CIA Torture

Ian Henshall | December 6 2005

Many listeners to Radio 4’s Today Programme will have been shocked this morning to hear their new presenter Stephen Sackur apparently supporting the use of torture.

After giving prime time to the views of an unknown Washington functionary who supported the use of “rough interrogations”, Sackur then confronted Human Rights campaigner Mary Robinson. If Sackur had wished to comply with the BBC’s legal obligation to exercise impartiality he might have said “Is he right?”. Instead Sackur said: “He’s right, isn’t he?”. The tone left no doubt that Sackur believed he was right. A shocked Mary Robinson stumbled as she tried to explain basic elements of the rule of law to a hostile and sceptical interviewer.

Nobody mentioned during the interview that according to evidence released by the American Civil Liberties Union at least fifty of the CIA’s “rough interrogations” have resulted in the ugly painful deaths of the victims. If this is not torture, what is? In giving a platform to an apologist for torture and making it clear they though he was right Sackur and the BBC arguably committed a criminal offence against universal human rights law this morning.

Since the purges at the BBC following the pro-Blair Hutton report, Today has been dominated by presenter James Naughtie. Privately a member of pro-US lobby groups, Naughtie vehemently promoted the myth of Iraq’s WMD before the war. Recently, Naughtie memorably agreed with the preposterous statement of a pro-occupation Iraqi politician who claimed that the US has NOT been killing civilians in Iraq. Now the presence of Sackur, whose wife is an Iraqi exile and who was another vehement supporter of the illegal invasion, threatens the cement the demise of a once respected programme.

Despite the increasing revulsion worldwide against the Iraq war and the use of torture and chemical weapons by the US and its allies, the slide into barbarism justified by the 911 attacks is continuing. The US/UK broadcast media have been captured by the warmongers who are censoring US/UK atrocities in Iraq, condoning torture and the use of chemical weapons and setting up a series of pretexts for further attacks on Iran and Syria.

I appeal to everyone, particularly in the media, to challenge people like Sackur, Naughtie and their bosses in BBC News. Condoning universal war crimes is in itself a criminal offence. In addition, before they justify Washington’s barbarism by recource to Washington’s 911 “War on Terror” legend, perhaps they should ask whether, like the Reichstag Fire, the story is even true.

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