Thursday, March 02, 2006

CIA Polish gulags update

When Human Rights Watch came to Brussels last week everybody expected some New Evidence of gulags and US Auschwitzes in Poland. But we were disappointed. (photo: Szymany airstrip – number one destination for War on Terror Package Tours?)

Instead, Joanne Marines from Human Rights Watch seemed to go over the same material that the NGO released to the Washington Post, so sensationally, last November.

HRW told the Euro parliament that it has "convincing circumstantial evidence" that Poland and Romania had harbored CIA prisoners on their territory. Presumably they are referring to the famous flight logs which show that CIA planes landed a few times in Szymany airstrip to and from Afghanistan and Guantanamo and other ‘black sites’.

All that we knew already. This blog has always been skeptical of the slightly hysterical accusations of gulags and worse. You would have thought from the reports that Poland had turned itself into the Central European equivalent of Abu Graib.

That’s not to say that the CIA is full of angels and saints - that would be silly. Monstrous things have happened in the name of ‘national security’ – especially since the ‘war on terror’ has given governments and secret services carte blanch to act as they see fit. But laying the blame on Poland and Romania ignores that fact that plenty of other countries have been allowing planes full of people, who didn’t willingly book a flight on War Against Terror Package Tours, to land at their airports

Some members of the special EU parliamentary committee seem to agree. Italian MEP Jas Gawronski said, “Hundreds of such flights take place in Europe. If we don't get solid proof that the ones in question transported prisoners then the whole issue is not worth debating.”

Don’t expect the parliamentary committee to get to the bottom of the matter. It has no powers to make witnesses swear an oath, nor has it any powers to make the witnesses come and testify. They have already asked Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell etc to come and have a chat but the US doesn't seem to think the committee is important enough to bother with. And they are probably right.

The HRW accusations have implications for Poland’s image in the world in general, and the Muslim world in particular. So it’s time for HRW to put up some decent evidence, or shut up.

And then maybe we can get back to debating if we should be having this war against abstract nouns in the first place.

Lots more Polish news stories here.


Becca said...

In this New York Times article, they report how not only is the European Parliament having problems finding evidence, but that countries are refusing to cooperate with the Council of Europe. They asked if any of their officials had been involved in the extrajudicial transportation or detention of terrorism suspects. The answer?

'No country said yes; some failed to reply adequately or at all. [The Secretary General] singled out Italy and Poland for special criticism, as well as two former Yugoslav republics, Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Albania's response was so cursory it was not even included.'

sonia said...

This definition of human rights abuses seems a bit weird to me. Nobody accuses East European countries of actually torturing anyone. The only accusation is that the CIA lied (or didn't lie)to those governments about who was inside some airplanes that landed on their territory. Even if it's true, that's hardly a crime against humanity.

And even if the HRW actually proves that some Taliban or Al-Quaeda prisoners were held in a camp or a prison in Eastern Europe, it still isn't illegal according to the international law, unless they were tortured or killed without trial.

beatroot said...

The thing that worries me about the prisoners is that they are being held without trial - and they can do that because they have declared a 'war on terrorism' - although nobody has actually made a formal declaration of war against anybody because this is not, of course, a 'war' at all.

But the language of war and fear can be used to justify ignoring human rights.

Becca - the British have had over 100 flights touch down on their soil, the Germans even more. Poland has not even had ten flights touch down here. But nobody is suggesting that 'gulags' are in operation in the Tower of London! I wonder why?

One of my beefs is that the Democrats in the US - and Clintonite NGOs like HRW - are using Poland and central Europe to bash Bush.

Which just goes to show how pathetic the opposition to Bush from liberals in the US has been these past few years. They cannot win arguments against the Republicans so they use irrational fear (P&O to bash Bush, they use 'gulags' to bash the CIA... They seem unable to form coherent opposition to Bush because, in fact, they agree with most of Bush is about (war on terror, war on Iraq...) If they can't beat foolslikethe Bush regime now then they never will.

And that's sad. The only people worse than the Bushies are some of their opponents.