The United States has lost so much of its credibility and prestige on the world stage because of its heavy-handed interrogation tactics that President Bush’s insistence that US interrogators don’t torture holds as much water as “Iran denying it has a nuclear weapons program,” a retired Navy lawyer says.
There is a growing perception around the globe that the CIA’s alleged use of tactics such as waterboarding puts the US alongside some of the very regimes it is fighting in ignoring fundamental human rights. The latest valley of US credibility came this week when a Canadian government document put the US on a watch list of countries where prisoners could be tortured. Others on the list included Iran, Syria, China and Afghanistan.
Navy Lt. Cmdr Charles Swift, who defended Guantanamo Bay detainee Salim Ahmed Hamdan, said the Canadian document demonstrates the extent to which even the US’s closest allies are wary of its stance in the war on terror. He cited warnings from former Secretary of State Colin Powell and others that Guantanamo Bay needed to be closed to improve foreign relations.
“When they go into a diplomatic meeting … it’s the first thing on the agenda,” Swift said. “It starts to jeopardizes cooperation in intelligence gathering, police work, and ultimately potentially extradition and other issues.”
The Canadian training manual that warned of potential US torture mentioned Guantanamo Bay and invoked US interrogation practices such as “forced nudity, isolation and sleep deprivation,” although Canada’s foreign minister said the documents conclusions do not represent official government policy.
Swift said there were credible reports that those practices as well as waterboarding have been used by US interrogators, which is part of the reason the US has so little credibility.
“In the world community, it’s … like Iran denying they have a nuclear weapons program,” he said. “The question always is, ‘Well let us inspect it. Let us take a look at it.’ The country replies, ‘No no, that’s national security; we’re not going to do that.’ And people become suspect.”
Swift compared the US to other countries, “We may parse it legally, they are not in Europe or Canada or Great Britain. They call it for what it is, torture. This debate, which for us, continues politically in Congress is over in Europe. It’s over in Canada. We’re losing it there, it’s done.”
The video from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast January 17, 2008 is available here.