Blair's imam-catchers

Blair is a nasty piece of work. Even so, we have to stand in a bit of awe at the audacity of his latest pronouncements. They take us back to a distant era in which he would surely have flourished, when the threatened bombing of the Parliament, or the poisoning of the queen, produced a fair share of martyrs – this time not Islamic ones, but Catholic. That supercilious righteousness would have served him well then – and since, apparently, the police are to stage raids on mosques, Blair might really want to read up on the techniques of his spiritual ancestors. He needs what Queen Elizabeth had: a Richard Topcliffe. Talk about a torturer for all seasons – Topcliffe’s techniques have often been imitated – most recently by the American military in Iraq – but never really topped.

Topcliffe had a licence to operate a rack in his own house – an ingenious idea that Blair might consider reviving. I’m sure Blunkett would be just the man to operate a stretching machine.

Here’s a description of Topcliffe excerpted from J. Heath: Torture And English Law: An Administrative and Legal History from the Plantagenets to the Stuarts. The “Young” here is another, less colorful, rack master. Southwell, of course, is the famous Jesuit. The other names are of Catholics:

…It was also to Topcliffe and Young that, in 1591, the Law Officers were directed to leave Thomas Clinton. if torture seemed necessary: as “butchers’, the two men were linked in Southwell’s letter, of January, 1590, to Aquaviva. According to the Gerard autobiography, after Gerard’s arrest, his second examination—without torture—was before the two of them, at Young’s house. Their relative roles in the Government’s business deserve consideration. The Gerard autobiography seems to regard Young as the key figure in the politico-religious police of the metropolis. He was a justice of the peace, proceeding as such, although with peculiar determination, sometimes upon instructions from the Queen. generally in a special working relationship with the Council. Topcliffe was not a justice of the peace and indeed held no public office. He was, however, fanatically hostile to Roman Catholicism and successful in attaching himself to the highest centers of influence. Sometimes, he received instructions from the Council. and—including the case of Thomas Clinton the Conciliar records show nine instances of his employment where torture might be used. However, he attained to a special working relationship with the Queen herself and came to occupy in the prosecution of Roman Catholics for politico-religious offenses a position de facto resembling that of a justice of the peace, but without territorial limits being placed upon his authority within the realm, and to command from the Judicature more deference than any ordinary prosecuting justice would have received. Moreover, he found the funds to organize a considerable force of agents. He may be regarded, to this extent, as a primeval common ancestor of Pinkerton’s and the FBI.”

Ah, that Topcliffe spirit – just the thing for the current occasion. An imam-catcher, and a volunteer at that. Topcliffe also had a modern way of combining his work and his dick – he impregnated one of the Catholic women he caught, had one of his servants marry her, and used her info to uncover a hiding priest.

Heath’s conclusions concerning Elizabeth’s sanctioning of torture are in the purest spirit of Blairism.

“What may be true is that torture was not used, for whatever result, in an entirely cynical mood: that it was not used without a fairly strong sense that the examinate had brought it upon himself by withholding the truth. Before the present period, several relevant Conciliar records in political or politico-religious cases, and one in a case of ordinary crime, refer to obstinacy of the examinate. During the present period, there are seven more although in only one does the record contemplate an ordinary crime. Of course, such references might have been humbug, but we may recall the case of William Weston who. as above noticed, escaped torture, although there is no reason to suppose that without it he liberally supplied the authorities with means of destroying other Roman Catholics.”

Hear hear for English humanitarianism! This is the stuff. A cynical mood is far from “our way of life,” the Blairist can well say. And if they are going to criticize, out on their ear! The British have always been against foreigners coming into a country and taking things over and kicking the natives around … uh, well with a few exceptions.


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Brian Miller said…
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