On the day that the president delivered his State of the Union Address, Reuters released the results of a BBC poll of nearly 30,000 people in 28 nations that strongly disapprove of United States' foreign policy with respect to the war in Iraq, as well as our handling of those we detain at Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere. As those most closely involved with the poll have suggested, it is not merely U.S. mishandling of the war, and human rights, but the hypocrisy of claiming to bring law and order to the Middle East when the U.S. is seen as itself a law breaker.
And on that same day, from the Associated Press, comes news that the European Parliament has given thumbs up to release of a report which says that many of the most prominent European Union member states, including England, Italy, Germany, Poland, and Ireland, knew about, and enabled the CIA to use their air space to transport terror suspects to clandestine holding cells, a practice known as extraordinary rendition. Indeed, some of the countries who reportedly participated in making their air space available to U.S. agents refused to join coalition forces in Iraq, and/or withdrew their forces from the beleaguered territory. So it is then that while nearly 70% of the world condemns the American government's violations of Geneva Conventions, and conduct in Iraq, their own governments quietly look the other way, enabling the CIA to transport prisoners from countries that honor to Geneva and forbid torture to those where torture has yet to be proscribed. If the findings of this parliamentary committee report are conclusively authenticated, one way or another, as a result of the actions of this president and his regime, all of Europe now has blood on its hands.
While, at this point, there are only allegations of misconduct, and complicity on the part of many prominent European nations in their collusion with the CIA flights, charges that date back to 2005, the refusal of a few powerful EU officials to comply with the probe suggests that something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and that the impetus for cooperation might involve some kind of behind the scenes quid pro quo.
Clearly, the actions of our own government with respect to the treatment of those we detain at Guantanamo Bay, and other openly acknowledged holding cells worldwide are, at best, dubiously legal, the practice of holding a prisoner secretly, and without access to trial, is against the law in Europe, and those governments who are proven to have collaborated with the CIA in covertly moving prisoners will be in violation of that continent's human rights agreements, and subject to penalties. What are the penalties in the U.S. for breach of international covenants, and agreements?
In Europe, if a country's collusion in extraordinary rendition can be substantiated, it will be in violation of the Chicago Convention, a global agreement to ensure that the military and police get special permission to land aircraft. To proceed with this practice without express approval, in advance, is analogous to the NSA electronic surveillance program's practice of not obtaining FISA court warrants before monitoring telephone, and/or Internet activity of alleged terrorists. Importantly, both aiding and abetting the CIA in its practice of covertly transporting detainees using of airspace of a EU member state, and in monitoring emails of suspected terrorists without first obtaining a warrant from a FISA court are illegal practices, and could have some serious consequences, at least in Europe. By way of contrast, our government's ongoing, and expedited, data mining, and snooping has resulted only in handwringing, and half-hearted threats.to date,
While, to date, no European government has ponied up to the report's allegations, or acknowledged any complicity in these CIA covert "anti-terror operations" activities" and, for the most part, the European Parliament dismisses these allegations as being based on "hearsay," at least they are on the table, and open for discussion. And, although Conservative members of the EU suggest that the wording of the report is tentative, and not definitive, there is consensus that measures need to be taken to stop European airspace from being exploited for purposes of extraordinary rendition again.
If nothing else, one thing is obvious: Europe has been actively investigating breach of international covenants with respect to secret activities by our government for nearly two years now. Where is the dialogue, and discovery, about extraordinary rendition in our own Congress? Will there be an investigation, and demand for accountability from those who have engaged in this pernicious practice? How much will we, in this country, come to know about what our government has been doing in secret, and to whom, in violation of international law, using our tax dollars, and compromising our national security? We have heard barely a word about the practice from Congress; that needs to change before our worldwide approval rating ever will.