Friday, June 09, 2006

Does Torture Matter to the US?

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By Antoine de Gaudemar

Thursday 08 June 2006

While it contains a striking synthesis of known but difficult to prove information, the Council of Europe's report on the CIA's anti-terrorist activities assumes a particular symbolic importance. In the name of that struggle, many serious human rights breaches have been tolerated since September 11, of which the most flagrant are the existence of the Guantanamo camp, as well as the kidnappings and transfers of suspects by a sophisticated and clandestine system of special planes, compliant airports and "outsourced" prisons. A system that has long benefited from the more or less passive complicity of numerous European states and against which weigh the heavy accusations of torture. That Europe should finally officially react against this arbitrariness and abuse is a strong signal to the American government and public opinion. Even as US public opinion rises up against the Iraq war because it counts its death every day, it seems to close its eyes to the consequences of the war against terrorism in the matter of human rights. Since the cascade of revelations about this scandal, a slow dawning of awareness is taking place in the United States that strengthens the growing opposition to the Iraq war. The Dick Marty report also has the merit of forcing those European states that have been singled out to provide an explanation for their behavior as well as forcing the whole continent to denounce the illegal, but up to now tolerated, practices of the CIA. For such are the stakes: does the fight against terrorism justify the violation of the basis and the legitimacy of a state of laws? No, answers the Council of Europe, and the caution is salutary.

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Practices That Matter Little in the United States
By Laurent Mauriac

Thursday 08 June 2006

Since September 11, 2001, human rights come after the country's security.
Several mentions on CNN yesterday morning, but to insist on the absence of "direct proof"; a dispatch from the Associated Press agency on the New York Times' site ... Yesterday's publication of the Council of Europe's report on the CIA's secret prisons aroused only a calculated treatment in the American media.

For Nancy Snow, a professor of communication at California State University, the media are in unison with the American population, which has not been characterized by a sustained interest in human rights since the September 11 attacks. "The polls and the research shows that those preoccupations take a back seat to questions of national security," she explains. "It's as though we had returned to the Cold War period, and that risks lasting for years still."

A little more optimistic, Tom Malinowski, director of the Washington office of the association for the defense of human rights, Human Rights Watch, observes some progress: "After the attacks, people didn't pay any attention to it; all that counted was self-protection. Now, there are several debates on these questions." He cites notably the amendment prohibiting torture voted in by the Senate in October under pressure from Republican John McCain against the will of the President. According to him, the CIA profits from a certain indulgence with respect to its activities, by their very nature secret, on the part of public opinion. Nonetheless, he notes that even on that question a Senate committee asked the government at the end of May to reveal the existence and location of the secret prisons. "The Council of Europe's report is a summary of what has already been discovered," assures Tom Malinowski. "The fact that it comes from the Council is especially important for European opinion."

The thin American media coverage is also an artifact of the lack of available information. "The government has done a good job of keeping everything secret," deems Steven Watt, a lawyer for the association that defends public freedoms, the American Civil Liberties Union. "The judiciary system has allowed no information to be divulged out of fear of compromising national security."

Nancy Snow considers that the government is implementing a propaganda strategy to limit the impact of worries over human rights on public opinion. The researcher has notably analyzed Bush's many speeches on the fight against terrorism. "He only speaks in generalities. It's a war, the president explains, between democracy and tyranny, between light and darkness, a war that the United States is sure to win because it represents the good. You will look in vain for any complexity in Bush's speeches. The simpler it is, the better it works."

For her, the growing disapproval of the war in Iraq is due above all to the human and financial losses. Public opinion does not question "the war against terror" or the idea that "we are not, all the same, going to accord human rights to our enemies."

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.