Monday, March 28, 2005

Torture, hope and honour
An aside in another blog – and I can’t find the link now- got me thinking about what we need to do to uphold our better traditions.

It referred to the Abu Ghraib and torture scandals now afflicting us and quoted a German Newspaper from 1946 editorialising in wonder at the prosecution of British occupation troops for abusing German prisoners. This prosecution and the positive shock it gave to Germans played a real and significant part n the re-thinking of Germany, and so of all Europe.

I wonder if this is a report on something my Dad did?

He told me that some months after the war ended he came across a camp which seemed to have no guards at the gates or perimeters . He went into the camp and found German military prisoners crawling around in a state of collapse. In the guardroom were British troops. He asked the officer what was happening and why were there no guards. “They don’t have the strength to escape’ said the officer ‘we don’t feed them’.

My dad had them all arrested and they were tried and convicted. I wonder if that was the incident reported in the newspapers…

My dad was not an angel, but he was a man of integrity and what he did was an expression of our better human responses in bad times, and an example of the best patriotic instincts of the undefinable British.. When our government now apparently condones torture and mistreatment of prisoners they betray my Dad’s memory, and the honour and integrity of so many who have given rather a lot for this country. And deny some of the better things this country has done to set aside less admirable moments. I despise the British Government that wasels its way to this act of betrayal.

In this coming election maybe we should ask the question from Milton’s Areopagitica:

“ Lords and commons of England, consider what Nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the governors: a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point, the highest that human capacity can soar to.”

The Liberal Democrat’s hand on a copy of the Areopagitica as the badge of office for the Party resident, as a symbol of our values. I hope in this election we think what nation we are and how we hope to govern ourselves, and raise our sights to the highest our human capacity can soar to. If being a Liberal party means anything it means living and speaking fully at this moment. Taking a stance against the ‘dark congealment of wood and hay and stubble’ that frightened parties seem to hide behind at election times. I hope not to be disappointed.

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