Bad Men (4 stars)

Clive Stafford Smith

Bad Men (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)


Clive Stafford Smith has been privy to some horrible maltreatments of human beings down the years. As a Cornishman with dual UK/US citizenship, he is seen as a saviour to the many Death Row prisoners he has tried to rescue from lethal injections, gas chambers, electric chairs or any other of the appalling fates which are decided by custodians in the Land of the Free. But surely nothing could have prepared him for the stories of disgusting abuse he learned of when meeting a batch of new clients shackled in the Cuban hell of Guantanamo Bay.

Bad Men is partly a treatise on the pros and cons of torture, or ‘human resource exploitation’ as the US have gently coined it in the post-9/11 era. But mainly it’s a painful first-hand account from the naïve innocents at the business end of the War on Terror, who have suffered horribly at the hands of a nation and its leaders who conveniently ignore the constitutional rights and human decency they once held so dear. While the military thugs attempt to break down the detainees using a mixture of psychological terror and physical brutality, Stafford Smith watches in shock and awe as the Pentagon spins out of control, claiming the three suicides of inmates last June are ‘an asymmetrical act of war’ and ‘a good PR move’. Above all, this is a succinct argument on how the US and UK are continually messing up foreign policy, losing the support of citizens and governments around the world who would be natural allies.

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