Thursday, March 17, 2005

PRES. BUSH SPOKE OPENLY TODAY for the first time about the C.I.A.'s "extraordinary renditions" policy: returning Arab and Muslim detainees arrested by U.S. troops to their countries of origin. The detainees are then detained and interrogated in their own countries -- countries widely known to practice torture. In his comments today, Bush said the U.S. does not believe in torture but has a right to protect itself (from threats of harm that presumably are irrelevant to the renditions program, since not one single detainee who has been kidnapped and sent to another country has been charged with any crime, and Bush has not mentioned any specific act of violence that was discovered and prevented through the renditions program).

Since the U.S., according to Bush, does not believe in or practice torture, the U.S. would be morally obligated not to turn prisoners over to countries that everyone knows practice torture. And Bush does not deny that these other countries practice torture; he does not deny that the U.S. knows they practice torture. But, he says, what the U.S. does is "arrest people and send them back to their country of origin with the promise that they won't be tortured. That's the promise we receive."

And that, according to the president and the C.I.A., is how the U.S. complies with laws that prohibit sending prisoners to countries that torture. We ask the countries that are notorious for torturing prisoners to give us "verbal assurances" that they will not torture the prisoners we send them. And, of course, they don't. Or, at least, we assume they don't. If they do, it's not our fault. We're covered. We asked them not to. And they promised us they wouldn't. So we're morally in the clear. Aren't we?

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