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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We never condone torture" - well, only a bit
A shocking, shocking book that should be read by everyone especially British politicians. The author makes scrupulous and extensive use of his sources which must have taken months of painstaking work in the (UK) National Archive at Kew and elsewhere including interviews with victims, past torturers and gleaning every scrap of material from published work including...
Published 21 months ago by Tony Farson

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6 of 15 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars poor empathy lets down a considered work
Two stars may seem harsh but I had difficulty reading this without some basic issues.

The term "interrogation" is banded about from the start without clarification - it covers everything from a willing chat to thumbscrews. But it appears the author likes the impact of it more.

A distinct lack of empathy for the times in the 40s, means that the...
Published 20 months ago by City gent


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "We never condone torture" - well, only a bit, 12 Jan 2013
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A shocking, shocking book that should be read by everyone especially British politicians. The author makes scrupulous and extensive use of his sources which must have taken months of painstaking work in the (UK) National Archive at Kew and elsewhere including interviews with victims, past torturers and gleaning every scrap of material from published work including memoirs from British Parachute Regiment personnel who at times refused to hand over prisoners to be tortured. From WWII though Palestine, Kenya, Northern Ireland up to Iraq we British tortured our enemies.

Apart from the necessary grisly detail this book is as much about how politicians have evaded and lied by using clever lawyerly phrases - "we never condone torture". But the British clearly exported our detainees to special "Interrogation Centres" where either the job was done for us and we sent the required questions, or MI5 or MI6 operatives stepped back into the room in between bouts of torture. In the face of statements by victims politicians set up "enquiries" when they knew all along what was happening because of their own involvement. The last Labour Government comes out particularly badly after the US famously "took the gloves off" after 9/11. Named cabinet rank politicians agreed rendition of British subjects to Guantanamo and in many cases authorised torture in Pakistan and Iraq as the secret services eventually required "cover" against being hung out to dry if the facts came out. Cameron came into power saying he would put a stop to it but is now processing new laws to enable court trials to be held in camera "in the national interest" to prevent details leaking out. The secrecy is needed because of the risk of radicalising Muslims at home and abroad, Britain losing the moral authority to criticize other regimes' use of the same methods and political parties' fear of a backlash by electors.

Throughout the author is completely clear about the very real threats posed to British military and civilians at the various periods in time that were used to justify torture. We need a grown up public conversation about what is happening and what is justifiable and what isn't. The most shocking thing is, as the author concludes, that the British would rather not know.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We do not do torture!, 27 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture (Hardcover)
Ian Cobain's book is well written and confirms his assertions on British torture with cross references and Freedom of Information data. This book is a must for the open minded reader.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "civilised west" using medieval torture methods in its war on terror., 17 Nov 2012
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An extremely well researched work revealing the dark side of the "civilised west" as it carries out its twenty first century war on terror. Ian Cobain reveals, in a balanced and therefore credible manner,that Britain and America, together with some of its allies in a range of foreign countries, are using medieval and prolonged torture methods which we all thought had been left behind in the in the dark ages.
Illegal rendition seems an almost weekly occurrence
It is essential for the west to win the hearts and minds of its enemies, real or perceived, and to do so they must retain the moral high ground.
However, to engage in savage torture as a means of extracting "intelligence" creates more embittered enemies and deepens the hatred for the west.
This book should be compulsory reading for all politicians, intelligence and military officers as it opens a window into which we can disappointingly see that Britain is not the country of fair play we all thought it was and only foreigners engage in foul, underhand tactics.
Overall, a fascinating read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A REVEALING INSIGHT INTO GOVERNMENT'S DECEPTION, 20 Oct 2013
This was a very revealing and eye opening book. It details a history of torture and other nefarious activities under the aegis of successive British governments. Britain will appear to be no different than some tin pot dictator, except our 'methods' are more sophisticated. The book deals with events since the end of the Second World war including Northern Ireland, Kenya, Cyprus, Aden and the latest war time activities of the UK in Iraq and Afghanistan. The most despairing part was the way anyone connected with Germany after the end of the Second World War, after all that we said about Nazi concentration camps, and retribution that was meted out to civilian populations after the killing of Germans, were treated. Inevitably the book is written from the angle of the UK's constant ignoring of Human rights. The book is exceptionally well researched, and the arguments put forward very convincing and feasible. A must read for those who are interested in what governments decide to tell us or not because they believe will become disillusioned with their lies and fabrications, and not believe them on whatever they care to tell us.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing Read, 28 Dec 2012
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Cruel Britannia is one of the most disturbing books I have read. It catalogues the abuse by British interrogators during the Second World War, the Cold War, the colonial period, scientific advances, Northern Ireland, Iraq, Afghanistan and rendition where British subjects were kidnapped, taken to a third country and tortured.It also exmines the cover ups by both major political parties over the last 75 years to ensure that this practice could continue in defiance of the Geneva Convention and the European Court of Human Rights. It is uncomfortable reading especially when the excuse given is that "It's for our own good!" Not in my name it's not and I write as an ex soldier who took part in some of these conflicts.
The perpetrators should be tried as war criminals.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bought on a whim - but glad I did, 15 April 2013
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James "goldcd" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Absolutely fascinating and well researched book.
Overview would be - "erm, yes we do torture and always have" - and here are some references if you don't believe me.

Part I particularly liked was the way the book was structured, with chronological chapters devoted to particular conflicts and the successive ones referencing back to the previous. The point it drills home is that the reported cases we're aware of were not isolated incidents, but part of of an on-going institutional culture, that has just occasionally been made visible.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating & brutal insight, 21 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture (Hardcover)
Although the topic is nothing new, the book gives the reader a more in depth explanation of how the corrupt & double dealing establishment of this country work.

Perhaps if more people read the book they would realise that other countries regimes are merely copying us & not being the so called demonised savage that we are lead to believe.

An excellent read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slap and Tickle: A History, 17 Aug 2014
Cobain provides a fascinating, thoroughly well-research and genuinely revelatory contribution to our understanding of the ways in which our government has been willing to dispense with the rule of law and basic moral standards in response to various security threats since the second world war.

It begins with the creation of various detention centres( torture chambers) during the second world war, most notoriously the "London Cage", surreally located in the very ritzy neighbourhood of Kensington, where German prisoners of War were tortured to extract vital intelligence in the fight against Nazism and the possibility of an imminent invasion, treatment which continued in the immediate aftermath of the war in order to secure convictions against those, rightly or wrongly, suspected of War crimes.

Cobain then moves the narrative to cover the depressingly similar response of British imperial forces to various insurgencies, from the kikuyu uprising in Kenya, Eoka insurgency and various reistance movements in Malaya, Aden, Mandate Palestine (only touched upon here) and British Cameroon. In each case Britsh colonial powers singularly failed to undertstand local grievances and instead responded to political unrest with the utmost brutality. During these counterinsurgency operations interrrogation techniques were refined through a depressing sequence of trial and error , encompassing humiliation, beatings, stress positions, sleep deprivation, starvation and also extending to more experimental techniques such as sensory deprivation, use of drugs such as LSD and hypnopaedia.

British use of torture, however, was not limited to a racist contempt for indigenous populations of the empire, it was used against British subjects in Northern Ireland during the "troubles", duiring a brutal policy of internment.

What is most striking about using torture as a method of intellingence gathering in counterinsurgency conflicts is how it completely failed in virtually every instance to address security threats and further alienated indigenous populations. In the case of Northern Ireland it drove many more people into the arms of paramilitary organisations leading to a massive upsurge in violence.

Cobain brings things right up to the present day, outlining out outsourcing of torture to countries particularly Pakistan as a tactic in the war on terror. Cobain proves beyond any reasonable doubt of massive government collusion in the torture of terror suspects by foreign intelligence services at the behest of their British colleagues as well as the systematic use of torture by Britsh forces on Iraqi detainees following the 2003 invasion. What is most disturbing is the level of government collusion and their attempt to block both parliamentary and public enquiries, and to change legislation to make it harder for information on the use of torture to reach the public domain.

One of the books greatest strengths is that throughout Cobain incorporates newly declassified documents now availible under the freedom of information act, these are marshalled to impressive effect and render the book a genuinely new and original contribution to the subject

Overall, a clear, concise and sobbering assessment that is extremely well told and burns with a righteous indignation. Deserving of its many positive reviews and more than deserving of your time.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Repeatedly Denied British Deliberate Ill Treatment and Torture For Over 70 Years, 12 May 2014
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This review is from: Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture (Hardcover)
I have wanted for a long time to understand the UK position on human rights and torture. On the face of it the UK is one of the world's leading nations standing up for humane and fair treatment of human beings and the impression is that UK laws and attitudes may contrast sharply with many other nations which are known not to uphold similar standards of decency, justice and fairnness. The impression is that the UK has led the world in campaigning for human rights and for pursuing the cause of international legislation which ensures just treatment for the innocent and humane treatment of the guilty.
Unfortunately more recent information, particularly around the Afghan and Iraq wars, has raised serious doubts about the voracity of these impressions. There is continually emerging a whole series of entirely contrary reports and allegations which clearly indicate that the face of moral rectitude presented by governments and senior ministers is a facade behind which lurk some of the most sinister and duplicitous behaviour. Because of continuing official denials it is not normally possible to know with any certainty what UK governments have been doing in our name. Cruel Britannia explains with easilly intelligible clarity that there is a world of difference between what the sharp suited fraternity say happens and what, in secret, they commission and sanction. Ill treatment of others is not natural for most of us but the UK has for generations gratuitously ill treated captives, prisoners, freedom fighters and opponents. The personnel who have been responsible for the dirty work are briefed, encouraged, sponsored, guided and trained by an establishment dedicated to the ill treatment of others, secretly and with deniability in mind.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant survey of the British state's real behaviour, 25 Jan 2013
By 
William Podmore (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture (Hardcover)
Journalist Ian Cobain uses official documents and accounts of witnesses, victims and experts to expose the British state's repeated, systematic use of torture since World War Two. In Germany in 1945, this included the torture of Soviet citizens.

The Parker Commission's Report of 1972, set up in response to public outrage at the revelations of officially sanctioned torture in northern Ireland, confirmed its existence. Lord Gardiner's Minority Report called the interrogation procedures `secret, illegal, not morally justifiable'. The Report recalled the British Army's practice of torture in all its `counter-revolutionary operations' - in Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, British Cameroons (1960-61), Brunei (1963), British Guyana (1964), Aden (1964-67), Borneo and Malaysia (1965-66) and the Persian Gulf (1970-71).

The British state routinely denies all allegations of torture and smears those making them. It claims that it does not collaborate with torturers. It funded Amnesty International in the belief that AI would focus on exposing torture in socialist countries.

Prime Minister Edward Heath told the House of Commons in March 1972 that the five standard torture techniques "will not be used in future as an aid to interrogation. The statement that I have made covers all future circumstances." That June, the Joint Intelligence Committee issued a Directive on Interrogation by the Armed Forces in Internal Security Operations, whose secret Part II allowed the techniques. Heath approved the Directive.

Since 1987, the CIA has kidnapped suspected terrorists, with no regard for lawful extradition procedures. In 1995 President Clinton authorised the practice of extraordinary rendition.

The British state was and is complicit in the USA's extraordinary renditions and torture. It too subcontracts torture to the secret services of Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan. Under Blair and Straw, MI6 also ran its own rendition programme, delivering opponents of Colonel Gaddafi to Libya's secret service.

Straw told the Foreign Affairs Committee in December 2005, "Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claim that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition, full stop, because we have not been." But they had been, so all the conditions that he called false were true.

Intervention in other countries' internal affairs inevitably generates programmes of torture. Armies, being necessarily ignorant of other countries' cultures, have recourse to torture in a futile, counter-productive effort to find out what is going on.
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Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture
Cruel Britannia: A Secret History of Torture by Ian Cobain (Hardcover - 1 Nov 2012)
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