12/10/2005 12:30 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Reading The Pictures: Sinister Minister


This picture of Condi Rice is much more revealing than one might think.

Since becoming S.O.S., Condi Rice has proved quite capable of finessing White House disasters, always playing the solicitous cop to Bush, Cheney and Rummy's intransigent one. This week, Condi faced her biggest damage control project yet. In light of escalating European discontent involving reports of secret U.S. prison facilities in their own backyard, Condi had the political task of facing up to the controversy without copping to the facts themselves.

After wearing down more liberal Europeans with a steady stream of hair-splitting and lawyerly rhetoric over U.S. torture policy, Rice met the press with the new German Chancellor, Angela Merkel. In the news conference (link), Merkel freely referred to aspects of the detention story at the same time Rice maintained the pretense of secrecy. By the end of the week, a new status quo had been achieved. The liberals had had their say and European leaders could treat the scandal as if they could and couldn't see it at the same time.

If the allies were mollified for the moment, however, many photographer weren't. This shot of Rice and Merkel standing on the balcony of the German Chancellory virtually bangs us over the head with the theme of the clandestine and the symbolism of secret prisons the C.I.A. terms "black sites." Moreover, it's a nice rendition of what Condi does best. She turns her back on the public, pretending that the torture issue is not another quasi-legal Administration blind spot but instead an expectable shadow we should just ignore.

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(image: Michael Kappeler/AFP/DDP. Berlin, Germany. December 7, 2005. Via YahooNews)