February 15, 2010
Rum, buggery and the lash
Posted by: Chris
Winston Churchill famously said, "The real traditions of the British Navy are rum, buggery and the lash." The same was apparently true for the Army as well.
The most remarkable part of John Crawford's story isn't the 70-year-old's ongoing legal responsibility to report to potential employers his 1959 conviction for "buggery" (a.k.a. sodomy) or even the many jobs he lost and humiliation he endured for admitting to consensual sex as a 19-year-old with his 22-year-old boyfriend.
It's the "enhanced interrogation tactics" the British military and civilian police used to extract the young soldier's confession:
His ordeal began after being posted to Aldershot barracks in Hampshire for military service.
When a gay friend at the barracks went absent without leave, military police turned their attention to Crawford. "They obviously knew he was gay, but they hadn't got anything on him – other than being camp. But they had got me. And if I knew him, then I must be one as well."
Crawford was held in a cell for three weeks, during which he was deprived of sleep by being forced to sit on a chair at night. "They badgered me and badgered me to admit I was a 'fucking queer', and I wouldn't." Then they decided to call in the civilian police.
These officers, he said, started a daily beating that involved wrapping him in blankets while was kicked and punched on the floor. He said he was then placed in a yard each day. Overlooking the yard, he recalled, there was a grassy embankment where hundreds of cadets would sit twice a day to drink tea.
"Can you imagine in the 50s? Oh look there's the 'fucking queer'. I had this from hundreds of people twice a day. I had to sit in this yard. I couldn't go anywhere."
Finally he relented to the pressure and confessed to being gay. Under duress, he told them about Derek, his 22-year-old partner who, months later, found himself with Crawford in the dock at Winchester crown court where both were convicted.
How ironic that all these years later, a leading American conservative like Dick Cheney could throw his support behind allowing gays to serve openly in the military, while in the same interview endorse yet again the same sort of torture that Crawford's tormenters used to beat his confession out of him more than a half-century ago.
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