Like I said yesterday, Condi's trip to Europe is quickly becoming a huge embarrassment for an administration that is totally bereft of not just morality but also basic logic.
On the issue of secret renditions through European air-space, Rice made a broad aknowledgement that mistakes may have been made:
Any policy will sometimes result in errors, and when it happens, we will do everything we can to rectify it.But she still defended the practice of renditions:
If you don't get to them before they commit their crimes, they will commit mass murder. We have an obligation to defend our people and we will use every lawful means to do so.But Condi, that's the whole point: it is not lawful to grab people off the streets in foreign countries and rush them off to foreign torture centres! Oh, but you don't render prisoners to countries that torture, do you? Even George agrees:
We do not render to countries that torture, that has been our policy and that policy will remain the same.So tell us, why DO you fly these kidnapped people around the world, to places like Morroco, Egypt, Uzbequistan and Albania? If not for the purpose of torture, then WHY???
You have no answer, do you?
The Khaled El-Masri case has become the focus of debate in Germany this week. The new German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said she had discussed the case with Rice, who admitted the US made a mistake:
"I'm pleased to say that we spoke about the individual case, which was accepted by the United States as a mistake...," Merkel said in response to questions about the Masri case, which has caused a furor in Germany.Chalk one up for the tough-talking new German Chancellor, right? But then US officials travelling with Rice immediately denied she had admitted an error:
While the U.S. government had informed Germany about his detention and release, it did not say that was a mistake, one senior administration official told reporters.These comments were made as Rice's entourage (conveniently) flew out of Germany en route to Romania. In other words, it's the old Bush media one-two: you tell people what they want to hear, in carefully chosen words, to get the headlines you want. Then deny you ever said anything of the sort.
"We are not quite sure what was in her head," he said, referring to Merkel.
We all know that the Bush administration never, ever, ever admits to mistakes. I suspect what's happening here is that the Bush team is looking for an out of court settlement with El-Masri (who is suing the CIA). Of course, when the case finally settles for a hefty (taxpayer-funded) fee, you can be sure that there will be a silencing clause that gags any further discussion or publicity for the case.
I suspect the German government completed their DNA alaysis of El-Masri's hair a long time ago, but have chosen not to publicise the embarrassing results prior to discussion with US officials. I suspect Rice did admit the USA's error in private to Merkel, but is not willing to do so in public. So Rice is trying to tip-toe through the diplomatic minefield, giving Merkel a chance to look good on camera while still holding the line for the Bush cabal. Either that, or Merkel was not supposed to go public with Rice's admission of guilt, so the Rice team immediately denied she said it. Either way, it's very messy.
And of course the issue of prisoner renditions has so far over-clouded that other embarrassing issue, secret US torture prisons. On to Romania for more on that one...!
The stakes are high: Although they have curried favor with the U.S., any proof of complicity could leave the former communist nations isolated and scorned in a Europe demanding a full accounting from Washington, and threaten Romania's drive to join the European Union in 2007.Debate centres on the CIA's secretive use of Romanian airbases near the Black Sea. A former Romanian PM says his country has no idea what the USA might have been doing on the airbases:
"There were some bases we put at the Americans' disposal. We can't know what happened there," former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who served 2001-2004 and now heads the Chamber of Deputies, conceded Tuesday.So what's Condi's clever solution to this diplomatic dilemma? I know, why doesn't the USA take full control of the airbases! Hey presto, look at that - another Guantanamo Bay has just been born!
Meanwhile, a new AP poll shows that Bush and Rice are playing to a supportive US audience in their embrace of torture tactics:
In the poll, about two-thirds of the people living in Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Spain said they would oppose allowing U.S. officials to secretly interrogate terror suspects in their countries. Almost that many in Britain, France, Germany and Italy said they felt the same way. Almost two-thirds in the United States support such interrogations in the U.S. by their own government.People seem to think that it is OK to torture people if it is the only way to get the information you need. The problem is (particularly when the person being tortured is innocent), you probably won't get the information you need so much as the information you want. But for the purposes of the Bush team's Spin Wars, that's good enough.
So here's a questions for all those who support torture: where are the results? Where are all the results of this fantastic torture policy? Hey? Where are the imprisoned Al Quaeda leaders? Where's Osama? Where is all the evidence that can be presented in a genuine Democratic court of law to convict these people? Hey?
Sigh... No wonder Bush & Co. cannot even get a four-year-old case like Jose Padilla's through due process in a legitimate court. The criminals are running the government...
UPDATE: SBS has news on Masri's lawsuit (NB: it seems the innocent guy's name is Masri, while the guy the CIA was after was called El-Masri):
He said his aim in filing the suit against former CIA director George Tenet was to force the US government to acknowledge his mistreatment and apologise.It should go without saying, shouldn't it?
"I want to know why they did this to me and I want an official excuse,"
Mr Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, told a Washington press conference via a satellite link from Germany.
The 42-year-old unemployed car salesman, and father of five, said he had flown to the US on Saturday to present his case but was denied entry at Atlanta airport and put back on a plane to Germany.
Mr Masri said the whole experience had left him a broken man.
Anthony Romero, ACLU executive director, said Mr Masri's case highlighted the "culture of impunity" that has developed under the administration of US President George W Bush.
"It should go without saying that forcibly kidnapping foreign citizens,
holding them without access to a lawyer and brutalizing them is not only illegal but immoral," he said.
By the way, for any Aussie readers, I thoroughly recommend you watch the second part of Dateline's BBC special, "The Power Of Nightmares" on SBS tonight at 8:30. Try to get your friends and family to watch it too. A real eye-opener!
UPDATE 2: The Financial Times takes a good look at the threefold failures of Rice's Mission Implausible:
In the wake of the CIA allegations, Mr Bush will probably have to start again from scratch. Who knows, he could even reconsider the benefits of international law.YET ANOTHER UPDATE: The NYT says " it would be hard to imagine a more sudden and thorough tarnishing of the Bush administration's credibility than the one taking place here right now."