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06 December 2005

very subtle, quiet kerosene in a room where people are smoking

Daniel Dombey, European Diplomatic Correspondent
for The Financial Times (London UK).


The previous post -- a United Nations declaration signed and agreed to by scores, maybe a hundred nations in 1948 -- well, This Is The Way The World Should Be.

This post, a filched newspaper column by Daniel Dombey, correspondent for The Financial Times, reporting from Belgium -- well, This Is The Way The World Is.

So here's another new German word, Weltschmerz. Literally it means "World Pain." But it is defined as

mental depression or apathy
caused by comparison of the
actual state of the world
with an ideal state

(Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition)

Vleeptron recommends you not make this comparison a lot or too much. Or you will experience the Weltschmerz, grosse-Zeit.

Following its usual Copy & Paste Burglary, Agence Vleeptron-Presse has decided to Run This One Straight, without our usual penchant for boldfacing, Funny Colors, banging certain passages up to 96-Point (Second-Coming) Type, etc.

[AVP does confess that we switched some ", to ," and ". to ." because That Is The Way God Punctuates, and The Financial Times is Wrong to punctuate that way, so we Fixed It.]

Whether you are American or European or Canadian or Mexican or KualaLumpurian or Vleeptronian, please read this entire article very carefully.

Horrible Nasty Loud Explosive Violent Things are happening in the world right now, it don't take Sherlock Holmes to notice that.

But also Very Subtle Things are happening in the world right now. Quiet Things. Camouflaged Things -- like the chameleon whose color always matches the color of its background so you can't see it.

Any jerk with a notebook and a pencil or a TV crew can report on the Loud Explosive Violent Stuff. (I have often been this jerk.) How smart or perceptive do you have to be to write 14 paragraphs about a bomb that goes off in the amusement park or an airliner that falls out of the sky?

But here, a journalist named Daniel Dombey, writing for a daily financial newspaper -- probably resembling the USA's Wall Street Journal -- has done a very remarkable job of explaining Some Very Subtle Diplomatic and Political Things.

======================

Daniel Dombey is the FT’s European Diplomatic Correspondent.

Based in Brussels, he covers transatlantic issues such as Europe’s plans to lift its arms embargo on China, the role of Nato and the EU’s negotiations with Iran.

The development of the EU’s foreign policy and the activities of Javier Solana, the man slated to become the EU’s foreign minister, are a key part of his beat.

Daniel also follows the enlargement of the EU - a process that has been described as the most successful foreign policy in the world and which now affects countries such as Turkey, Croatia and - perhaps - Ukraine.

Daniel has worked in Brussels since 2001 and previously covered a series of beats including EU competition policy, which led him to write extensively about the European Commission’s battle with Microsoft. He started writing for the FT in Mexico and has also worked for the newspaper in London.

Daniel contributes to Brussels briefing, FT.com's insiders' guide to what's happening in Brussels

E-mail Daniel Dombey: daniel.dombey@ft.com


=======================

First Mr Dombey has noticed the Subtle Things. Most journalists who are covering Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's diplomatic trip to Europe will either not notice these Subtle Things, or else if they notice these Subtle Things, they will not want to touch them or go anywhere near them or spell them out.

They are Subtle, but they are Political Kerosene in a room where a lot of people are smoking cigarettes.

There's a lot of Outrage in the Weather Over Europe right now. The purported abduction by the CIA of a German citizen, his purported captivity for five months in Afghanistan. And these many flights over the airspace of European nations, and stopovers and refuelings at European airports and military bases. And inside these airplanes, the suspicion and accusations are mounting that someone was drugged and shackled and being sent far away to be "interrogated" for a long, long time, in a place without pay phones.

This phrase seems to win the Diplomat Prize For Saying Nothing:

"The US has respected --
and will continue to respect --
the sovereignty of other countries."

Of course, doesn't every Secretary of State and every American President and every Vice President and every Secretary of Defense say that on every overseas trip?

But Daniel Dombey is trying to crack the Secret Code of Diplomacy. And here is his translation of what Secretary Rice said:

Before you throw bricks through the expensive plate-glass window of the US Embassy for violating your nation's sovereignty -- well, we didn't violate your nation's sovereignty. We told your government we wanted to do this, and we asked your government for its permission. And they said Yes, Ja, Oui, Si, Da, go ahead. And your government also agreed to keep quiet about it, and not tell its citizens.

Maybe Daniel Dombey got it wrong. Maybe you can't extract that from "The US has respected ..."

But Daniel Dombey has a lot of guts, and a lot of brains, to truly try to understand and truly try to explain exactly what's going on during this Wild Weather Political Season in Europe and the USA.

~ ~ ~

The Financial Times
Tuesday Dec 6 2005 . All times are London time.


Europe / Brussels briefing

Rice’s European
troubleshooting
fails threefold


Daniel Dombey in Brussels

Published: December 6 2005 20:10 | Last updated: December 6 2005 20:10

[by] Dan Dombey

The continuing controversy over US "secret prisons" and abductions in Europe -- coupled with Condoleezza Rice’s failure to clear the air - has made life difficult for European governments, but created even more perils for the US’s attempt to put transatlantic relations on an even keel.

In her response to allegations about the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities in Europe, the US secretary of state failed to get to grips with European perceptions that President George W. Bush’s America is a wild, brutal place that contrasts with the peaceful, law-abiding EU.

Ms Rice’s statement this week included three big legal arguments, all of which fell far short of bringing the debate to a close.

She spent most of her time justifying the US use of "rendition" -- transporting suspects from third countries without the say-so of a judge -- in what US officials say is the first official acknowledgement of the practice since September 11.

"There have long been many cases where for some reason the local government cannot detain or prosecute a suspect and traditional extradition is not a good option," she said. "In those cases the local government can make the sovereign choice to cooperate in a rendition. Such renditions are permissible under international law and are consistent with the responsibilities of those governments to protect their citizens."

She added that the US and other countries had used renditions for decades, and that the French government’s abduction of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal in the 1990s was judged as legal by the European Commission of Human Rights.

But the problem is that to say that some renditions have been held to be legal is not the same as proving that all such abductions are legal. As extra-judicial measures, renditions are legally controversial by definition. In addition, one principal feature of Carlos the Jackal’s case was that he was put on trial -- unlike many of the US’s detainees.

In another major argument, Ms Rice strongly denied that the US used renditions so that detainees could be tortured. "The US does not transport, and has not transported detainees from one countries to another for the purpose of interrogation using torture," she said. "The US has not transported anyone and will not transport anyone to a country when we believe he will be tortured."

The problem with the first of those comments is that it is a statement about the US’s motive for doing something -- and therefore is not provable one way or another.

The problem about the second is that it seems at odds with claims by former detainees such as Maher Arar, a Canadian software engineer, who claims he was tortured in Syria after US officials handed him over to the local police and Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen who says he was tortured in a US prison in Afghanistan.

And the overall difficulty with Ms Rice’s argument about torture is that the European public is deeply sceptical about legalistic US interpretations of the term that may exclude intensive interrogation techniques.

The final big legal argument mounted by Ms Rice was much more discreet. She made no reference to secret detention facilities. US officials regard allegations of large-scale CIA prisons in Europe as wildly overblown. But what the secretary did say was: "The US has respected -- and will continue to respect -- the sovereignty of other countries." And here the EU is hoist on its own petard.

When asked whether Washington told its European partners about CIA flights in their airspace or detention facilities on their soil, US officials refer back to Ms Rice’s words about sovereignty. The clear implication is that the US kept EU nations broadly informed of its activities.

This seems to be right. Allegations that the US kept Germany’s government informed about Mr el-Masri’s detention as long ago as May 2004 have not been contested. Germany’s new foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeir, who at the time held regular briefings with German intelligence, faces difficult questions as to why he did not inform the Munich state prosecutor investigating the case.

Even Spain, whose government is often at odds with the US and was in a dispute just last week about its sale of arms to Venezuela, has tried to calm down the furore. José Bono, defence minister, responded to the allegations by saying he was not prepared to "encourage anti-American sentiment."

Europe’s dilemma is that it is caught between its willingness to work with Washington and its own public opinion.

While realpolitik is often the order of the day in European capitals, EU public opinion has a particularly dim view of President Bush and perhaps an inflated view of "European values."

After all, torture isn’t a peculiar American failing -- it’s a predictable, though deeply lamentable response to a terrorist threat. In the 1970s, the British government "interned" paramilitary suspects without charge and subjected them to treatment such as sleep deprivation and blindfolding. In the 1980s, a group sponsored by the Spanish government carried out a "dirty war," involving torture and summary execution, against supposed terrorist suspects.

Such events seem to have been forgotten by many Europeans however. That is why the CIA allegations has done so much damage for the US’s image in Europe, damage Ms Rice’s legalistic response has done little, if anything, to put right.

The talk of torture, prisons and renditions is often over simplistic and seen as a sign that the transatlantic gap is growing and that America does not respect international law.

As a result it could become still more difficult for European governments, particularly in the west of the continent, to cooperate with the US on the issue that Washington judges the most crucial in the world -- the war against terror.

In February George W. Bush made a much publicised trip to Brussels, as part of an extensive "outreach" to Europe that has seen administration officials travel to the EU capital almost every week.

Washington had realised it need to work closely with its European partners if it was to get what it wanted on the world stage.

Some diplomats say that the current uproar has undone all that work - particularly because Washington has not translated its new thinking into a big symbolic action such as the closure of the detention centre on Guantanamo Bay.

In the wake of the CIA allegations, Mr Bush will probably have to start again from scratch. Who knows, he could even reconsider the benefits of international law.

- 30 -

3 Comments:

Anonymous patfromch said...

The Financial Times is owned by the Finacial Times Group. Now that lot is currently being owned by a comany called Pearson
http://www.pearson.com/
I was able to google 'em via
http://www.cjr.org/
I suspect Murdoch Propagnda, but I can't get any further.I can't pinpoint these bastards. Now since you're an old journo, could you give a hint for further research ?

18:36  
Blogger SteveHeath said...

Solid stuff, appreciate the straight-ahead reset sans usually welcome AVP Visual Enhancements.

I would type more, but I am headed down to take out the trash to our dumpster while wearing my cutoff shorts and tshirt. Please don't hate me.

Steve in Clearwater FL USA (temp about 65f at nite).

21:47  
Blogger Bob Merkin said...

hmmm okay the question of provenance (who owns this rag) and bias or right-leaning has come up re The Financial Times.

Beats the crap out of me. When in UK, the FT is a nice-looking broadsheet newspaper that I have almost never read. I like The Times of London, The Guardian, sometimes The Independent -- and then just for Exotic Candy, the British tabloids, they're a lot wilder than the USA tabloids.

In the USA I also don't read the Wall Street Journal. Financial news isn't my obsession. But the WSJ has a well-deserved reputation for some brilliant feature news writing, stuff that isn't pegged to Finance and Business, but just about Interesting and even Human Things. I suspect the Financial Times has this same attitude -- there's More To The World than just the stock market and the Balance of Trade.

You go first, you're closer -- find out who really owns the FT. It smells much too high-brow for it to be owned by Bread-and-Circuses (or Termite Culture) Murdoch. This article was a tremendously serious analysis of some very subtle things. And it wasn't trying to Make Anybody Happy. This article was unabashedly a Messenger bearing some Very Bad News for just about all the powerful people in the USA and Europe.

As for SteveH -- well, I guess I've tipped my hand. In poker, they call it a "Tell" -- a player's sign that he's bluffing, or a player's sign that he really has 4 aces. I think this is one of the most well-thought-out and important articles I've run into since Vleeptron began. And I guess my Tell is that I didn't even screw with the typography. Let the readers of Vleeptron read it exactly the way the dude and his newspaper wrote and published it.

(Tomorrow Vleeptron goes back to its old naughty habits of screwing around with everybody's typography, 'cause it's Fun.)

23:42  

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