Choose the Right Leaders or the Wrong Ones will Choose You

The subject(s) of torture and human rights sprang into our focus of attention this week. It would be easy for us Chaps to be smug about Gitmo and all that kind of thing. How unlike the home life of our own dear political prisoners, we might say, and how shocking what those abominable Yanks did.

‘Speaks loudly to the times’: a detail from The Torture Report. Photograph: Nation Books

The graphic history of torture under the Bush presidency is a salutary reminder that the figure who popped up again in the last couple of days was not always so keen on human rights, and only seems less of a war criminal by comparison  with the present incumbent.

Perhaps we Chaps should be grateful that we come from a different sort of place. Until, that is, we remember who wrote the textbooks.

British soldiers assist police searching for Mau Mau members, Karoibangi, Kenya, 1954. Photograph: Popperfoto/Getty Images

Kabugi Njuma’s pockets were filled with mud. He was forced to run in 38C (100F) heat carrying a bucket laden with 36kgs (80lb) of earth on his head until he confessed to Mau Mau activities.

He died of a heart attack at Aguthi special detention camp in September 1958. His body bore bruises consistent with blows from a stick. The British colonial administration in Kenya recorded that he died of natural causes.

Ten days later, at Githiriri camp, Kibebe Mucharia was beaten to death by two interrogators with rubber strips torn from shredded tyres. He had already been convicted but would not confess to further crimes. The interrogators were sentenced to three years in prison for manslaughter.

This Chap is prompted to these thoughts, strangely, by the interventions of two old comrades-in arms — each other’s, not ours — on what seems at first glance like the side of the angels. George ‘Dubya’ Bush, former holder of ‘The Worst President Ever’ award, now emerges as a champion of human rights, meaning what his successor is not upholding. Meantime his old ‘oppo’ and partner in war crimes, Tony Bliar (sic), seems to want to take pole position as ur-European, stumping for the UK to Remain.

We Chaps are (sparringly) at odds on the latter. But even this Chap is forced to muse … if that’s who’s leading the ‘Remain Charge’, are we really heading into the right valley? And if the other one is fronting a call for human rights and easing up on immigrants, what are we not seeing?

This Chap remains as confused as the other Chap.

Who wouldn’t be? Even weirder is that Dubbya spent the last 8 years in a  totally non-public, don’t criticise, don’t get involved role. It is clear that something triggered him. Maybe it was this


… and he is now ‘rushing out’ to do something?

As for Bliar – this Chap won’t go on …. but he should just shut up. Bliar that is, not this Chap. If this Chap shut up, the whole point of the bally blog would disappear up it’s own HTML!

Oh – and the Mau Mau uprisings? Well – as they say – they were different times. And one chap’s terrorist is another chap’s freedom fighter – if you see what I mean. Even Idi Amin fought for us Brits against the Mau Mau.

Of course yes there is primarily the ingrained bias of who writes the history and from what perspective. This chap has touched on this topic before … though a reader might have thought it was about maps, it is really about who has the pen. Be you the historian, the cartographer, the dictator, a modern day Winston Smith, or simply the guy (it generally is – even if the room is full of women)  in the meeting room that wanders around like a stalking lion, seeking the pen so that he can draw on the Whiteboard. The fact is that the pen truly is mightier than the sword. (Though this chap is not sure that this is what the proverb writer had in mind when he wrote what he wrote.

But that’s another thing … entirely.