Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Sidney Blumenthal on Condoleezza Rice

Today's must-read: Sidney Blumenthal's Salon op-ed blasting Condi Rice.

Rice, Blumenthal writes, is a back-stabber:

The metamorphosis of Condoleezza Rice from the chrysalis of the protege into the butterfly of the State Department has not been a natural evolution but has demanded self-discipline. She has burnished an image of the ultimate loyalist, yet betrayed her mentor, George H.W. Bush's national security advisor Brent Scowcroft. She is the team player, yet carefully inserted knives in the back of her predecessor, Colin Powell, climbing up them like a ladder of success. She is the person most trusted on foreign policy by the president, yet was an enabler for Vice President Cheney and the neoconservatives. Now her public relations team at the State Department depicts her as a restorer of realism, builder of alliances and maker of peace.

...a manipulator:

Rice arrived as the enforcer of the Bush administration's torture policy. She reminded the queasy Europeans that their intelligence services, one way or another, are involved in the rendition of hundreds of suspected terrorists transported through their airports for harsh interrogation in countries like Jordan and Egypt or secret CIA prisons known as "black sites." With her warnings, Rice recast the Western alliance as a partnership in complicity. In her attempt to impose silence, she spread guilt. Everybody is unclean in the dirty war and nobody has any right to complain. "What I would hope that our allies would acknowledge," she said, "is that we are all in this together."


In Germany, Rice was greeted by the new chancellor, Angela Merkel, eager to repair relations with the Bush administration made awkward by former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's opposition to the Iraq war. Rice's visit was supposed to smooth over the conflicts of the past, but instead it surfaced new ones that indicated that the divisions between Germany -- and Europe -- and the U.S. are rooted in the Bush administration's fundamental policies.

Rice arrived in Berlin on the heels of a Washington Post report about the rendition, to a secret CIA jail in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit, of a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, who was tortured and imprisoned for five months in a case of mistaken identity. After meeting with Rice, Merkel announced that Rice had acknowledged that the U.S. had made a "mistake" in the case. But Rice countered with a statement denying she had said that at all. The reconciliation with Germany was botched; Merkel was embarrassed; and Rice's credibility, at least in the German press, was left in tatters.

...a propagandist:

"Torture is a term that is defined by law," said Rice. "We rely on our law to govern our operations." She neglected to explain that "torture" as she used it has been defined by presidential findings to include universally defined methods of torture, such as waterboarding, for which U.S. soldiers were court-martialed in 1902 and 1968 specifically on the basis of having engaged in torture.

But the Bush administration has rejected adherence to the Geneva Conventions as "quaint," in the term of then White House legal counsel and now Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; rejects torture as it is defined in the United Nations Convention Against Torture (although the U.S. is a signatory); and rejects torture as it is interpreted by other international expert bodies, including the European Human Rights Court, whose judgments are binding on the nations of the Council of Europe.

"The United States does not permit, tolerate or condone torture under any circumstances," Rice insisted in her statement. "Moreover, in accordance with the policy of this administration: The United States has respected -- and will continue to respect -- the sovereignty of other countries." But was the kidnapping of the Egyptian suspect in Italy that has resulted in the 22 indictments of CIA operatives a fiction? Have the Italian prosecutors been made aware that the event was a figment of their imaginations? Was holding el-Masri, the innocent German, not a violation of the sovereignty of another country?

Rice continued: "The United States does not transport, and has not transported, detainees from one country to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture. The United States does not use the airspace or the airports of any country for the purpose of transporting a detainee to a country where he or she will be tortured." But the German government was reported to have a list of 400 flights over European airspace for the purpose of renditions. And Amnesty International reports that there have been 800 such flights. Once again, Rice relies upon her own definition of "torture" to deny it.

She went on: "The United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured." In fact, the U.S. receives assurances from those countries that it would be unlikely that the suspects will be tortured, a technical loophole that provides for a washing of hands. Everybody on all sides understands that there will be torture, as there has been.

Rice's legal interpretations were authoritative, bland and bogus. It is hard to say whether they should be called Orwellian for their intentional falsity or Kafkaesque for their unintentional absurdity.

and a flat-out liar:

Since 2003, Rice has repeatedly told representatives of Human Rights Watch and other similar organizations that the U.S. does not torture. There is no trail of memos tracing her involvement in the titanic struggle over U.S. torture policy between Powell and the senior military on one side and Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and John Ashcroft's Justice Department on the other. Was the national security advisor completely out of the loop? On Nov. 19., ABC News reported, "Current and former CIA officers tell ABC News there is a presidential finding, signed in 2002, by President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, approving the [harsh interrogation] techniques, including waterboarding."

That technique has its origin in the Spanish Inquisition. Indeed, in 1490, a baptized Christian who was a secret Jew, a converso named Benito Garcia, was subjected to water torture. The process drew out of him a confession of the ritual murder of a Christian child by crucifixion to get his blood for a magic ceremony to halt the Inquisition and bring about Jewish control. The incident greatly helped whip up the fear that led to the expulsion of the Jews in 1492, as described by James Reston Jr. in his new book, "Dogs of God: Columbus, the Inquisition, and the Defeat of the Moors."

Since the Inquisition, the method of waterboarding has been little refined. But Rice, like Bush, says we did not and will not torture anymore.

1 comment:

Gary said...

Compare John Kornblum & picture Ben Bot