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Morning Report 12/5/05The Gloves Are Off


Ins and outs of U.S. intrigue over CIA rendition flights and AIDS

(White House; Steve McCann/Penn. Office of Health Education)

Europeans are taking off the gloves in preparation for Condi Rice‘s visit this week, angered over the revelations of hundreds of CIA rendition flights in and out of their airports.

Overshadowed, for now, is the Bush regime’s even more threatening stance on the old in-out.

In that policy debate on how to fight AIDS, European officials are putting on the gloves, and asking others to do so as well.

Not George W. Bush, of course. He doesn’t roll that way. Last week, in marking World AIDS Day, the EU told the Bush regime: No glove, no love. EU officials again criticized the Bush regime for its ideological approach to sexually transmitted diseases. As Der Spiegel noted December 2:

For World AIDS Day on Thursday, the European Union released a statement that was seemingly critical of US efforts to combat the deadly disease.

Robin Gorna, head of the U.K.’s Global AIDS Policy Team, told the German magazine:

“Europe takes a wider view, a much more comprehensive approach. We need to reach young people to talk about young people and reproductive health. We need to close the prevention gap, we need to make sure than men in Africa have more than six condoms a year. Those are the things that really need our attention right now, and if it is right for an individual to abstain, then that is good news, but that is only part of it.

The other thing is that we want countries themselves to put in place the programs they need. As donors, we shouldn’t be dictating each country’s policy. We should support them and make sure they have the evidence they need, and then it is up to them to put their programs in place.”

That’s not what the U.S. is doing overseas. On this side of the Atlantic, however, Bush and his faith-based allies on Capitol Hill have escaped major splashes of criticism for their dunderheaded policy toward AIDS.

And the White House has continued to lie about the effectiveness of its decision to push abstinence first and condoms sometime after that. The White House site for AIDS propaganda sums up the administration’s policy — and the lie:

The United States Is Working With Our Partners To Provide Treatment And Expand Prevention Efforts That Emphasize Abstinence, Faithfulness In Marriage, And The Correct Use Of Condoms. This strategy — pioneered by Africans — has proven its effectiveness, and America stands behind the ABC approach to prevention.

The “ABC approach”? “Pioneered by Africans”? The “correct use of condoms”? To see how the Bush regime rolls, turn to Human Rights Watch’s report from this past March 30, “The Less They Know, the Better: Abstinence-Only HIV/AIDS Programs in Uganda”:

Government officials in both Uganda and the United States routinely characterize Uganda’s HIV prevention strategy as “ABC,” where A stands for abstinence, B for being faithful, and C for condom use.

This acronym is designed in part to give the impression that Uganda has always encouraged abstinence as part of its anti-AIDS efforts, and that abstinence contributed significantly to marked declines in HIV prevalence in Uganda in the 1990s. Again, this impression is misleading. Delayed sexual debut was and continues to be one of many messages provided by Ugandan AIDS educators; however, Uganda did not implement abstinence education on a large scale until the United States began promoting these programs internationally around 2001. Moreover, there is scant evidence that abstinence (as opposed to other behavior changes) contributed significantly to reported declines in HIV prevalence in Uganda in the 1990s.

Many veteran AIDS educators in Uganda told Human Rights Watch they had never heard of “ABC” until the United States branded Uganda’s success with this alphabetical sound-bite. While ABC proponents have been able to uncover elements of Uganda’s AIDS strategy that support the ABC model, the definition of ABC in the 2003 U.S. global AIDS strategy — Abstinence for youth, Be faithful for married couples, and Condoms only for “high risk” populations — is a uniquely American invention.

The HRW report summarizes the consequences of this faith-based bullshit approach that started in the first year of Ronald Reagan‘s administration, when conservatives and religious nuts began exercising their now-strong grip on our genitalia:

Widely hailed as a leader in the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immune deficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), Uganda is redirecting its HIV prevention strategy for young people away from scientifically proven and effective strategies toward ideologically driven programs that focus primarily on promoting sexual abstinence until marriage.

Although endorsed by some powerful religious and political leaders in Uganda, this policy and programmatic shift is nonetheless orchestrated and funded by the United States government.

Pioneered in the United States in 1981, “abstinence until marriage” programs (also known as “abstinence only” programs) teach that abstaining from sex until marriage is the only effective method of HIV prevention and that marriage between a man and a woman is the expected standard of human sexual behavior.

Numerous U.S.-funded studies have shown these programs to be ineffective at changing young people’s sexual behaviors and to cause potential harm by discouraging the use of contraception.

The effect of Uganda’s new direction in HIV prevention is thus to replace existing, sound public health strategies with unproven and potentially life-threatening messages, impeding the realization of the human right to information, to the highest attainable standard of health, and to life.

Coercing poor African countries is even easier than coercing the American public. Same thing’s going on with the White House’s portrayal of its CIA rendition flights.

To operate above the law, the Bush regime thought it could get away from the Constitution’s strictures by setting up a prison in Guantánamo Bay, which is technically not in the U.S.

But that hasn’t worked quite as well as planned, and setting up interrogation centers right here in the U.S. is not an option — yet. Hence the rendition of prisoners to friendly torturers around the world.

Back here in the U.S., the public is being liberally lubed up to accept Rice’s coming renditions about the renditions. It’s all a preemptive strike to blunt the expected harsh criticism this week during Rice’s trip to Europe.

The Cheney-Rumsfeld cabal sent advance man Steve Hadley (you know, Bob Woodward‘s White House pal) to the Sunday talk shows to soften up the already soft parts of the U.S. establishment press. Sure enough, this morning the New York Times‘s Joel Brinkley led with this yawner:

Just before she leaves for a trip to Europe on Monday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice plans to offer the Bush administration’s first studied defense in the debate over reports of a network of secret prisons for terror suspects in several European countries.

But even as she tries to quell concerns, a senior aide said, Ms. Rice would not confirm that the prisons exist. That has been the government’s stance since news articles about the prisons were published early last month.

“She is going to be addressing these issues in a comprehensive way,” Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, said on Fox News Sunday. “One of the things she will be saying is look, we are all threatened by terror. We need to cooperate in its solution.”

As I noted yesterday, even the Brits are pissed, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is demanding an explanation.

But what’s worse than Hadley making the rounds of the talk shows is that the strongest denial from the Bush regime in the Times of what Dana Priest of the Washington Post has reported on the rendition flights is this crap about a “studied defense”:

On Sunday, a senior State Department official said “she will provide a comprehensive response” to Mr. Straw emphasizing “our adherence to our laws and our international obligations.

“We don’t torture people, and we do not send people to be tortured,” said the official, who agreed to discuss the subject on the condition of anonymity because a discussion for attribution would violate administration policy.

Look, that’s not a denial. Is anyone supposed to believe it? After all, Bush himself has already said publicly: “We do not torture.” So who cares if a “senior State Department official” says it? I strongly believe in the shelter of anonymity for whistleblowers and other sources of information. But this is not one of those cases. In this case, we’re not talking about information. We’re talking about an unnamed official saying Rice “will provide a comprehensive response.” That’s not news. What’s the “comprehensive response”? What’s the “studied defense”? That would be a news scoop for which a journalist could rightly grant anonymity to a source.

But this crap was just PR, given under the cover of anonymity.

Worthless, in other words. As worthless as battling AIDS by emphasizing abstinence over condoms.

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