Condoleezza Rice's contradictory, misleading and outright false statements about the US and torture have taken America's moral standing - and her own - to new depths.
Rice arrived as the enforcer of the Bush administration's torture policy. She reminded the queasy Europeans that their intelligence services, one way or another, are involved in the rendition of hundreds of suspected terrorists transported through their airports for harsh interrogation in countries like Jordan and Egypt or secret CIA prisons known as "black sites." With her warnings, Rice recast the Western alliance as a partnership in complicity. In her attempt to impose silence, she spread guilt. Everybody is unclean in the dirty war and nobody has any right to complain. "What I would hope that our allies would acknowledge," she said, "is that we are all in this together."
Rice arrived in Berlin on the heels of a Washington Post report about the rendition, to a secret CIA jail in Afghanistan called the Salt Pit, of a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, who was tortured and imprisoned for five months in a case of mistaken identity. After meeting with Rice, Merkel announced that Rice had acknowledged that the U.S. had made a "mistake" in the case. But Rice countered with a statement denying she had said that at all. The reconciliation with Germany was botched; Merkel was embarrassed; and Rice's credibility, at least in the German press, was left in tatters.
Rice had hoped to quell the controversy before she landed. On Monday, as she boarded her plane at Andrew Air Force base in Washington, she delivered a lengthy statement on torture. Her speech was remarkable for its defensive, dense and evasive tone. It was replete with half-truths, outright falsehoods, distortions and subterfuges.
Her remarks can never sway or convince any European leader, foreign ministry or intelligence service, which have the means to make their own judgments. In her effort to persuade world opinion and reassure the American public, she raised the debate over torture to greater prominence and virtually invited inspection of her claims.
And this woman is the Secretary of State of the United States of America. It's shameful. Just shameful.