As depressing an exercise as it is to parse the Bush administration’s words on state-sponsored torture (and I continue to boggle at the fact that the “state” in that phrase actually refers to the US), we really have no choice but to do so. The Europeans have come to that realization, and it’s high time that the holdouts in this country did, too.
Re: those skeptical Europeans, from the NY Times’ Richard Bernstein: Skepticism seems to erode Europeans’ faith in Rice.
“It’s clear that the text of the speech was drafted by lawyers with the intention of misleading an audience,” Andrew Tyrie, a Conservative member of Parliament, said in an interview. Mr. Tyrie is chairman of a recently formed nonpartisan committee that plans to investigate claims that the British government has tacitly condoned torture by allowing the United States to use its airspace to transport terrorist suspects to countries where they are subsequently tortured.
Parsing through the speech, Mr. Tyrie pointed out example after example where, he said, Ms. Rice was using surgically precise language to obfuscate and distract. By asserting, for instance, that the United States does not send suspects to countries where they “will be” tortured, Ms. Rice is protecting herself, Mr. Tyrie said, leaving open the possibility that they “may be” tortured in those countries.
Others pointed out that the Bush administration’s definition of torture did not include practices like water-boarding – in which prisoners are strapped to a board and made to believe they are about to be drowned – that violate provisions of the international Convention Against Torture.
Andrew Mullin, a Labor member of Parliament, said he had found Ms. Rice’s assertions “wholly incredible.” He agreed with Mr. Tyrie that Ms. Rice’s statement had been “carefully lawyered,” adding: “It is a matter of record that people have been kidnapped and have been handed over to people who have tortured them. I think their experience has to be matched against the particular form of language the secretary of state is using.”