Even as the Howard government got its way yesterday with passage of its
anti-terrorism legislation, events around the world showed what
dangerous territory the “war on terror” has been getting into.

Most chillingly, perhaps, in Iraq, where a witness at the trial of Saddam Hussein
described being tortured under his regime in Abu Ghraib prison. A
defence lawyer was able to throw back at her: “I agree that things in
Abu Ghraib were, until recently, bad, but did they use dogs on you? Did
they take photographs?”

As Andrew Sullivan points out, “According to the Wall Street Journal’sdefinition of torture, this woman wasn’t subjected to ‘anything close’ to torture.”

Meanwhile, American secretary of state Condoleezza Rice is in Europe trying to defend the CIA’s interrogation practices. Yesterday’s editorial in The New York Times summed up her task:

It was a sad enough measure of how badly the Bush
administration has damaged its moral standing that the secretary of
state had to deny that the president condones torture before she could
visit some of the most reliable American allies in Europe. It was even
worse that she had a hard time sounding credible when she did it.

European nations are upset, to say the least, about “extraordinary
rendition,” in which suspects are abducted and then transferred to
secret interrogation centres – either the CIA’s own facilities, or
those that have been “outsourced” to countries like Egypt and
Afghanistan, where scruples about torture are (even) less pronounced.
Australian Mamdouh Habib, who maintains this happened to him, says he
has been vindicated by the latest claims.

America’s allies don’t much like being misled
about CIA kidnappings on their own territory. It’s even worse, though,
when the suspects turn out to be completely innocent – as was the case
with German citizen Khaled Masri, “kidnapped by masked CIA agents and held in isolation for five months” in a case of mistaken identity.

According to The NY Times, “Mr. Masri tried to appear at a press
conference in Washington [Tuesday] to discuss a lawsuit … alleging
wrongful imprisonment and torture – but the United States government
has refused to allow him into the country.”

Peter Fray

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