Friday, December 9

Why Condi roiled Europe
By Chris Mullin. Los Angeles Times, Dec 9, 2005

MANY AMERICANS will be puzzled, and perhaps even a little hurt, that Europeans reacted with such incredulity to this week's denial by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that the U.S. has been ghosting suspected terrorist prisoners to countries where they are likely to be tortured.

Let me explain. First, Rice's statement appeared to have been very carefully lawyered. On the face of it, an assertion that the U.S. has not transported anyone to a country "when we believe he will be tortured" looks pretty watertight. But "will be" is the key phrase. She should have said "may be."

Second, she said: "Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that the transferred persons will not be tortured." This is risible. Just how much weight should we attach to a piece of paper signed by a member of, say, the Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan or Moroccan security services promising that the suspect will not be tortured? Even a cursory knowledge of the human rights situation in the countries concerned suggests the answer is: not much.

Third, it has recently become apparent that many Americans have a different definition of torture than that which prevails in Europe — and indeed in much of the rest of the world. Europeans have watched with incredulity what appears to be a serious debate in the United States about whether "waterboarding" (immersion just short of drowning) constitutes torture.

Fourth, Rice's protestations of innocence have to be matched against the known facts. There are witnesses. A small number of people have emerged alive from this secret gulag, and the stories they tell are wholly at odds with the bland assertions in her statement.

Fifth, if cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment isn't being applied, then what's it all about? Why has this vast, secret web been constructed, if not to ensure that whatever is happening takes place beyond the reach of U.S. law?

Finally, of course, some of us have long memories. We have been here before — in Chile, El Salvador, Iran under the shah, Vietnam … you name it. [...more]


Hot Air: Summit Heads to a Close with No Sign of Progress
by Andrew Buncombe, Independent,UK, December 9, 2005

They came promising to talk and hoping to agree to more talks. And they have talked and talked. And by tonight, if all goes well, they will have secured an agreement requiring them to come back and talk some more.

At the United Nations climate change talks in Montreal it seems the urgent task of tackling global warming is a long and slow process. But officials claim, perhaps as you might expect, that important progress is being made.

The US has refused to adopt legally binding targets to cut the emission of greenhouse gases, and has insisted it will not agree to any binding commitments for the post-2012 periods. It has said it will not agree to "negotiations" on such an issue and refuses to agree that it involved in such a "process".

The Environment Secretary, Margaret Beckett, who is representing the presidency of the EU, said yesterday that most of the obstacles stopping the Kyoto protocol along have been overcome. She said she had experienced "false euphoria" before, but said the mood at the talks was positive.

That is partly because expectations on entering these negotiations were so low. Officials said they were not expecting to come away with any new targets for cutting emissions of greenhouse gases once the first stage of the Kyoto process ends in seven years, but simply a commitment to continue negotiations about that process post 2012.
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