I direct you to a sober and characteristically thoughtful critique of my position on rendition from Norman Geras. Norman argues:
"Oliver makes it clear that he is not defending the use of rendition for purposes of torture; that he envisages it as a preliminary to due process indeed. What he is defending, in other words, is a 'cleaned-up' version of the institutional practice that - there is evidence for concluding - has actually been countenanced by the Bush administration. But this is not a purely philosophical discussion; the weight of political emphasis is very important. If the real practice of extraordinary rendition has been to accommodate or encourage the use of torture, that emphasis ought to be on condemning what's wrong with it, rather than on defending it in a purified version."
I agree with Norman that this is not a purely philosophical debate, and so I'll respond with a practical example. When the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal was brought to justice by France, the European Commission of Human Rights specifically rejected the defence claim that his rendition from Sudan was illegal. Norman might counter that French justice is a case apart from states where human rights violations and even torture occur. But that surely supports my argument: the proper objection is to abuses of rendition, and the role of European governments is to anticipate and prevent them.
Norman is a political philosopher of weight and erudition. So it's fortunate for me that my critics also include numerous contributors to the discussion threads at "Comment is Free". Here's one:
"I have just finished reading your article in the paper edition of the Guardian. Kamm, after reading the garbage, I am filled with hate and despise towards you. You are despicable. You are simply detestable. Your articles are deplorable. Your articles are garbage and rubbish, always..... You have a twisted mind which needs to be examined.
"But for your information, CIA was behind 911. That was such a complex operation to be planned from a cave in remote area of Afghanistan!! There are a lot more evidence of the former than the latter! I am beginning to believe OBL is a fictitious character created by the likes of you to carry out their War of Aggression against nations."
"Kamm will be charged with war crimes because his articles have encouraged the act of aggression against a sovereign nation, the ultimate war crime. But don't worry he'll have plenty of company with nick cohen and his charming wife mel phillips, con coughlin, david aaranovitch to name just a few that will be sharing a rather large cell."
Nick and Melanie, eh? I had no idea.
In my view, the most powerful argument against renditions is that, because they require a lower standard of evidence than a criminal court, then abuses - against the guilty, never mind the innocent - are much more likely to occur. The human costs as well as the diplomatic opprobrium that a policy of rendition risks are high. Given the importance and moral gravity of that objection, it is extraordinary - and not in my view a good thing - that we militants in the war on terror instead get quite so many 9/11 truth campaigners, Media Lens supporters and others of a Gallowayesque persuasion to contend with, at least so far as my normal debating forums are concerned.
UPDATE: I've made a correction to this post. Originally I said that "the European Court of Human Rights specifically rejected the defence claim that his rendition from Sudan was illegal". For Court, read Commission. (Till 1998, individual plaintiffs did not have direct access to Court, but applied indirectly through the Commission.) This doesn't affect my point about Carlos's rendition. The Commission ruled that there was no violation of the European Convention of Human Rights in the rendition, and rejected Carlos's application.