Tom Regan

The Torture Policy

US foreign policy in the Middle East came under heavy fire from Human Rights Watch, a leading human rights organization. In its latest world eport, the organization accuses the Bush administration of using torture and inhuman treatment of detainees as "a deliberate strategy in its war on terror." These policies have created an atmosphere of tolerance of abuse around the world.

"It's not simply a matter of neglect, or command failure," he said. "Rather the use of torture and inhuman treatment was the Bush policy. It was reflective of a deliberate decision by the most senior Bush administration officials to fight terrorism without regard to one of the most basic prohibitions there is in international human rights law." Reuters reports that the group said the evidence showed abusive interrogation cannot be "be reduced to the misdeeds of a few low-ranking soldiers, but was a conscious policy choice by senior US government officials. The policy has hampered Washington's ability to cajole or pressure other states into respecting international law, said the 532-page volume's introductory essay."

"Fighting terrorism is central to the human rights cause," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "But using illegal tactics against alleged terrorists is both wrong and counterproductive."

Mr. Roth also said the tactic was fueling terrorism recruitment, "discouraging public assistance of counterterrorism efforts and creating a pool of unprosecutable detainees."

The White House dismissed the criticism and said it did not torture terror suspects.

"I think when a group like this makes some of these assertions, it diminishes the effectiveness of that organization," [White House spokesman Scott McClellan] said. "The United States is a leader when it comes to advancing freedom and promoting democracy, and we will continue to be. We are the leader."

In England, The Guardian reported Thursday on new information it had received about the British government's knowledge of the US practice of rendition - the secret transfer of terror suspects to interrogation centers in Europe and Asia where they may have been tortured. The paper reported that the leaked document shows the Blair government is trying to "stifle" attempts by members of Parliament to find out just how much Britain knew about what some MPs are calling the CIA's "torture flights."

The BBC reports the leak memo shows that the US may have used British airports to transport terror suspects to the secret prisons far more often than the two times the government has officially admitted.

The information was contained in a leaked Foreign Office briefing paper that had been sent to the Prime Minister Tony Blair's office advising it how to handle the fallout from "controversy over CIA rendition flights and allegations of Britain's connivance in the practice."

SOTU Divides Foreign Media

As the U.S. media focused primarily on plans laid out by President George W. Bush in Wednesday night's State of the Union Address to overhaul social security, foreign media zeroed in on his comments about Iraq, and warnings he issued to Syria, Iran, and other countries in the Middle East.

Radio Netherlands said that while Mr. Bush only mentioned 9/11 once Wednesday night, "the president's foreign policy remains rooted in the trauma of that day."

Qatar-based satellite news network Al Jazeera said Bush used his state of the union speech to prepare the world "for more death and destruction" when he warned Iran and Syria that they were "in his sights."

Not all foreign media saw Bush's words as being so threatening. Columnist Michael Gawenda, writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, believes that Bush's speech showed he is actually changing his foreign policy.

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