Once again, we adopted a “do as we say, not as we do” policy when it comes to international human rights. CIA Director Porter Goss testified before Congress on Thursday that the techniques used by his agency “at this time” conform to international standards and do not include torture. However, what is important when the nation’s top intelligence man speaks is not what he says, but what he omits.
The CIA has been criticized in the mainstream media about allegations that it kidnapped European nationals from their home countries and flew them to Syria for interrogation, sometimes holding them for years before they were released. These stories are corroborated by a Canadian man who claims he was tortured before his captors decided he was not connected to al Qaida or other terrorist organizations.
Coupled with the scandals from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison, clear indications exist that the United States has flaunted treaty bans on torture by exporting its dirty work to the “rogue nations” it publicly decries for their human rights records. Also, since the passage of the Patriot Act, domestic guarantees of due process for even American citizens have been in limbo because of the Bush administration’s creative reinterpretation of the Constitution.
If the United States wishes its status as global superpower to have not only military but also moral weight, it must cease any practices that follow the letter but not the spirit of international law banning coercive methods from entering into the lexicon of civilized nations.
It is ironic that an administration that ran on a platform of public morality chooses to apply a different standard to its own global relations.
America’s greatest asset is not its ability to obliterate enemies halfway around the world but its ability to persuade people into adopting its example, a form of “soft power” it risks losing if it strays from the high road.
U-Wire, The Gamecock, University of South Carolina.