Mon Nov 27th, 2006 at 09:19:15 AM EST
I was somewhat taken aback when the current Ambassador of the United States to Austria, Susan McCaw, replied to a question of whether the United States are actually going to close Guantanamo anytime soon (as Bush had suggested rather disingenously in a recent visit to Vienna):
"As I have just explained, we will need to work in cooperation with other countries [to shut Guantanamo down]. Many of the remaining prisoners come from countries in which they would probably be tortured if we simply sent them back. [My Translation]
She then reaffirmed this line answering a similar question:
"The United States has been very pro-active to ensure that prisoners are only sent back to countries in which they are not being tortured." [My Translation]
This strikes me not only as very hypocritical given the recent U.S. record regarding torture, but also as extremely disingenous. The U.S. would certainly have the means to secure the safety of the remaining prisoners should it really want to do so and I wonder how credible this concern is in any case. Similarly, claiming that
"It will take international cooperation to close Guantanamo."
clearly deflects from the main issue which is the lack of political will to do so in the United States.
Well, I wouldn't want to read too much into this. I often find interviews with diplomats who work in Embassies or at international institutions frustrating, because their representational duties prevent them from revealing anything interesting and often result in the parroting of the most worn out talking points. As she herself said at the end of the interview:
"I was disappointed by the negative opinion many Austrians have about President Bush. I see it as part of my duty to explain his positive message." [My translation]
It is notable, though, that she would be so insensitive as to actually argue that one reason Guantanamo cannot be closed immediately is that the U.S. are concerned about the possible torture of repatriated detainees. It reveals either a deeply held conviction of inherent U.S. goodness which somehow gives U.S. torture a positive quality, or her contempt for the European public which is supposed to swallow these arguments.
As a side note, public internet interviews don't seem to be a very good forum. It is usually almost impossible to ask follow-up questions which allows the interviewee to get away with talking points and falsities.