Friday, January 26, 2007

Arar Revisited

The Sad, but True Significance of The Arar Case

There are a number of reasons that I post a fair bit on the case of Maher Arar. One is that as a Canadian, I sometimes get news that isn't reported in the States, or that is under-reported. As a Canadian, I sympathize with a fellow Canadian who has been so egregiously mistreated by the U.S. government, and I am deeply offended by the Administration's arrogant assumption that an American's rights are more significant than someone else's rights. But it goes WAY beyond that.

Up until now, my posts on Arar largely have been limited to reporting the facts. Consider this the consequent outpouring of rage. For a case timeline, read this synopsis by the CBC.

The Arar case is exemplary of the kind of treatment that has been experienced by at least dozens, perhaps hundreds, of others whose names we will never know. The only reason Maher Arar's name ever came to light is that the Canadian government knew from the outset that he was in American government hands when he was kidnapped by the FBI on September 26, 2002. That's right, kidnapped. To dignify what happened as an arrest would misrepresent the facts. Arar was never charged with any crime, never given access to a lawyer, never afforded any of the due process guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and its attendant Bill of Rights. I won't even use the CBC's weasel word 'detained.' He was kidnapped, and the officials responsible should be charged with that crime.

Without the due diligence exercised by the Canadian government to obtain his release, Maher Arar may never again have seen the light of day after having been kidnapped by persons in the employ of U.S. agencies acting under color of authority. And it is my considered belief that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people in situations not too much unlike that of Maher Arar were simply disposed of (killed) after extensive torture showed them to be innocent. Arar himself has said that this case's significance lies with those whose kidnap was not protested by their government, or whose government never knew they had been kidnapped. His experience is the mere tip of a very large and very ugly iceberg.

Let's look at the facts. The disclosure of photos of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib prison led to little more than the pitifully weak argument that these were isolated cases attributable to low-ranking individuals who were acting outside of sanctioned guidelines. Lynndie England and a few others were responsible. Hogwash!

Revelation followed revelation. Memos from Rumsfeld, signing statements from Bush, secret flights condemned by the EU. Always accompanied by this idiotic appeal for secrecy from the most secretive government America has ever known. Their message, "No, flat out, never: We. Do. Not. Torture! But, no you can't see the relevant documents because we don't want to give away our techniques to the enemy." Poppycock!

Then, when the truth was revealed beyond a doubt - the most damnable lie possible, "This is nothing new - everyone knew this all along (though we were denying it just last week)." Balderdash!

And as always, "If you oppose our abuses of power (which, by the way, aren't happening) you must want the terrorists to win." Bullshit!

Maher Arar was indisputably 'detained' (kidnapped), inarguably 'deported' (renditioned), and unquestionably 'questioned' (tortured) at the hands of U.S. officials or their surrogates with authorization from the administration. Alberto Gonzales is still perjuring himself to cover it up, more than four years after the initial crime. The facts strongly suggest the program of rendition to be widespread.

Steel yourself. What follows is the ineluctable logic that reveals the source of my rage. We are going into a torture scenario that will never be seen on cable television's 24, or in any other corporate media fiction. Where we are going is much more real than that, proven to be real by the experience of Maher Arar, Jose Padilla, and others. We are of necessity going into the mind of those who would torture a fellow human being, and exploring their reasoning, however repugnant that may be. You have been warned.

Here's the thing. You, the torturer, have had someone under your control for some time now. He or she has been waterboarded, beaten repeatedly, their genitals electrocuted, their fingers and toes broken, their teeth extracted one by one, whatever you could think of to extract the desired information about involvement in some heinous act of terrorism against the United States of America. Early on, you got this person to 'give up' friends and acquaintances as co-conspirators. They too were 'detained' and subjected to the same treatment.

But the thing is, none of it panned out. The friends and acquaintances came up with stories of conspiracies too, after sufficient 'persuasion', but no two stories ever matched up. After all the abuse that you, the torturer have inflicted, you must reluctantly conclude that the person is innocent. The ticking time bomb scenario was nothing but an overused dramatic device, a phantom threat with no more basis in reality than the chimera of WMDs that got us in this mess to begin with. As the infamous internet infidel Delos McKown once remarked, "The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike."

So what do you do now? Your victim knows intimately the techniques you used on him. It has been repeatedly stressed to you that allowing these techniques to become known will benefit the terrorists. Your orders must have come from high in the chain of command - black helicopters don't come from nowhere, after all. Any tale this person would bring to the outside world would be an immense embarrassment to the Administration, far more so than if he had been guilty. Should he be released you, the torturer could face trial for human rights violations at least, possibly war crimes. You can't just let him go.

So what DO you do now?

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