18 December 2005

Something to watch on telly

If you have television access to either BBC News 24 or BBC World TV, then there's a programme on this afternoon/evening you might want to try and catch. In it, former US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, is interviewed by Sir David Frost. The interview is wide-ranging and covers topics such as Iraq, troop withdrawal, WMD, intelligence, Powell's relationship with Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney, as well as the current hot-potato here in Europe: the practice of extraordinary rendition. Powell is pretty frank in the interview, meaning that it makes for some very interesting viewing.

The interview is being screened on BBC News 24 today at 14:30 GMT and 21:30 GMT and on BBC World TV at 19:30GMT. If, like me, you don't have access to either of those channels, you can read about the interview here, or watch a 6 minute 30 extract online here.

Of particular interest to me is Colin Powell's assertion in the interview that his 'European friends' cannot be surprised or shocked by the news emerging about the practice of extraordinary rendition, with the strong implication being that in fact they knew about it all along. I suspect he is right. Of course, that doesn't make it acceptable; nor does it mean the US shouldn't be put under pressure to stop outsourcing its dirty work to countries with a looser interpretation of the acceptability of torture. But, if true, it does mean that some of the moralistic posturing, shock and dismay currently being expressed by governments here in Europe - Germany included - comes off as pretty disingenuous.

If extraordinary rendition and toture are topics you're interested in, I recommend you have a read of Naomi Klein's recent column in the Guardian: The US has used toture for decades. All that's new is the openness about it, for a bit of the background history which is largely being ignored (not to say rewritten) in this debate on both sides of the Atlantic.