S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

U.S. changes course, but rarely admits it

The current administration's stance is that we must "stay the course" in what is called the war on terrorism. Our current president and vice president are making speeches that have the feel of stubbornly sticking with policies that do not have the approval of the American public.

But if you listen closely there are detectable shifts beginning to appear. For instance, in what could be interpreted as a direct political challenge to Senator Hillary Clinton on her home turf, Fort Drum in New York, according to Reuters,
Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday joined the White House push to counter growing discontent with the Iraq war, acknowledging challenges ahead but insisting "steady progress" had been made on the political and security fronts.

The above quote from Reuters News Service regarding politician Veep Cheney's speech also adds this info:

The Pentagon plans to shrink the American presence -- now at 155,000 -- to about 138,000 after the December 15 Iraqi elections and is considering dropping to about 100,000 around mid-2006 if conditions allow. "Any decisions about troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and the judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C." Cheney said.

Going even further from a different quarter, the Department of State has openly acknowledged the general possibility that the U.S. could make a mistake. Germany heard this as an admission of a specific CIA mistake regarding a German national, however. According to Reuters,

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a rare concession to critics of U.S. policy, conceded on Tuesday that Washington may make mistakes in its war against terrorism and promised to put them right if they happened. But her efforts to present a united front with European allies suffered a setback when U.S. officials took issue with comments by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on the sensitive case of a German national who says he was abducted by the CIA. Merkel told a joint news conference with Rice in Berlin that the United
States had acknowledged it made a mistake in the case of Khaled el-Masri, who says he was flown to Afghanistan by U.S. agents and jailed for five months last year before being freed.

Reluctantly, I must give credit where it is due. Secretary of State Rice has exhibited more courage than either our current president or vice president as she has led our diplomatic efforts in Europe. She has been "walking on a knife edge" because of the extreme difficulty of justifying policies that stand outside the law.
Can we believe this Reuters story is actually a change of course? Time will tell whether there has there been an actual policy change towards torture.

"As a matter of U.S. policy, the United States' obligations under the CAT (Convention against Torture), which prohibits cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment -- those obligations extend to U.S. personnel wherever they are, whether they are in the United States or outside of the United States," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.
U.S. officials said her comments, made during a trip to Ukraine, marked a policy shift toward the international convention on torture. It follows strong pressure from Europe and the U.S. Congress.

Where we originally got into trouble was starting down the slippery slope of doing something that assumes an ability to predict the future. That is the hubris that was behind what happened when we invaded Iraq in a preemptive strike, fighting the so-called "war on terror." That is what happened when we adopted the policy of "exraordinary rendition" of detainees to secret prison all over the world, ignoring one of the most basic legal bedrock protections, Habeas Corpus. Secretary Rice has her work cut out for herself on this one because it is not who we are. According to Reuters,

Rice did not directly address allegations over reports the United States had run secret prisons to hold terrorism suspects in eastern Europe, possibly in Romania and Poland, which Washington has refused to confirm or deny. But she defended U.S. methods in the struggle against militants. "If you don't get to them before they commit their crimes, they will commit mass murder," she said. "We have an obligation to defend our people and we will use every lawful means to do so."


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