Condoleeza Rice , in her statement yesterday (December 6, 2005) on extraordinary rendition, would have us believe that rendition is some kind of benign airplane trip we are sending people on to countries where they can receive the justice due them.
In her statement she said flatly, "the United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances."
She further said:
-- The United States has respected -- and will continue to respect -- the sovereignty of other countries.
-- 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.
-- 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 her statement, Rice maintained that extraordinary rendition is carried out in cases where the local government does not have the capacity to prosecute a terror subject. So why have some "terror subjects" been kidnapped in some European countries, as well as in countries we call our allies, like Pakistan and Thailand? Rice argues that we must do this because the war on terror is unlike any war we have ever fought. While we did not call them terrorists, the US military in Vietnam often "rendered" captured Viet Cong to South Vietnamese officials for interrogation and "justice."
There is one reason, and one reason only, that the Bush administration kidnaps suspected terrorists in sovereign countries and flies them surreptitiously to other countries. Because the Bush administration's definition of what exactly torture is amounts to an ill-defined, murky prevarication, it knows that when it renders (sounds like some kind of cattle slaughterhouse) a suspected terrorist to a foreign country, it can waffle on whether these men will be tortured or not. The intelligence apparatus of Egypt, for instance, can go down the list and check off the American definitions and say "nope, we don't do any of that." Of course, left unmentioned is the special list that Egypt has developed of its own methods of torture -- and these days, torture has become a finely tuned, many headed hydra of horrible techniques.
Because the list of torture techniques is so long these days, unless it is included in the list of defined methods of torture banned by the US government, it gets overlooked. Waterboarding is a case in point. The Bush administration currently allows sleep deprivation, stress positions, and waterboarding. I have seen two conflicting definitions of waterboarding one in which the subject is tied to a board and plunged into water, and the other in which a cloth is put over a subject's face and water is poured onto the cloth so the subject feels like he is drowning. In either case, if this is not torture, what is?
Even if US officials on the scene ask for reassurances that the country to which someone has been rendered will not use torture (as defined by the US, of course), it is clear that the definitions of torture from country to country vary widely. I am sure there are methods of torture in some countries that we haven't even imagined yet. It is simply impossible for Condoleeza Rice to make flat assurances about torture.
The philosophical basis underlying Condoleeza Rice's statements on December 6, 2005 have deep roots. Here's a report about her approach from November 11, 2002:
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice yesterday said President Bush 'has given broad authority to a variety of people to do what they have to do to protect this country… It's a new kind of war," she told Fox News. "We're fighting on a lot of different fronts.' Rice's comments came after Amnesty International questioned Bush on the Nov.3 attack using a Hellfire missile, which killed senior al Qaeda thug Qaed Senyan al-Harthi, a key plotter in the deadly October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Al-Harthi and five others were killed by a missile fired by an unmanned Predator drone operated by the CIA. Amnesty International asked the United States to issue a statement that it does not support 'extra-judicial executions.'" (Aly Sujo, "We're Ready to Unleash More Hellfire," the New York Post, November 11, 2002)
It's a small step from extra-judicial execution to torture and it's a small step from "broad authority to do what they have to do" to "extraordinary rendition" for the purpose of torture.
It's a "new kind of war" explains and forgives everything.
The Bush administration, from the very beginning, has made it clear that all bets are off.
"As early as Sept. 16, 2001, Vice President Dick Cheney, in his first interview after the 9/11 attacks, said, ‘It's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective'… In February 2002, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "The reality is, the set of facts that exist today with al-Qaeda and the Taliban were not necessarily the set of facts that were considered when the Geneva Convention was fashioned." (Amanda Ripley, Redefining Torture, Time Magazine)
The silence on this issue of most of our Congress is a national shame.