Socialist Worker

A brutal strategy to protect state power

Issue No. 2269

Torture is the logical outcome of imperialism. It flows from the need to repress resistance with force and fear.

The highest levels of the military and political establishment sanction torture. But torture often fails—and sparks more furious resistance.

Torture isn’t about getting information. Rather it is central to what is called “counter insurgency”.

An official British investigation in 1971 found that the British army’s torture techniques “played an important part in counter-insurgency operations in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus and the British Cameroons (1960-1), Brunei (1963), British Guiana (1964), Aden (1964-7), Borneo/Malaysia (1965-6), the Persian Gulf (1970-1) and in Northern Ireland (1971)”.

Beatings, sexual humiliation, hooding, sleep deprivation, bombarding with white noise—the British army pioneered them all. “Counter interrogation” training has been used as a cover to teach torture techniques since 1951.

Canon Bewes, a British missionary, described how the British killed two men “under castration” in Kenya in the 1950s.

British soldiers also sliced off ears, bored holes in eardrums and flogged people to death.

In 1966 Bahrain was still under British sovereignty. The British appointed Ian Henderson to run Bahrain’s security intelligence services. His men beat, electrocuted, whipped, starved and tore the toenails from detainees.

In the early 1970s the British army used torture in Northern Ireland in response to the growing Republican movement and agitation for Catholic civil rights.

The Compton official inquiry decided that “in depth” techniques did not contravene “accepted British army procedures”. The Parker inquiry followed, which led to the government banning the use of torture techniques.

Decades later, and following yet another public inquiry, the British state is still using the same methods for the same purpose.

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