Sunday, November 20, 2011

Maher Arar on Real News

Maher Arar was just on The Real News. The beginning and ending of the interview were about his own experience being rendered and tortured as early casualties in the war on terror's incredible arrogance towards the whole world. Maher Arar and Khaled al-Masri are why I'm writing this post right now. I remember watching Dana Rohrbacher's obnoxious excuses when Arar appeared at a session of Rep. Nadler's Judiciary subcommittee. They were the stories through which I discovered how horrified I was with Bush and Cheney.

When Obama was elected, I decided I needed to find a way to genericize what I was concerned about. The global war on terror is an ongoing engine for individual outrages. It isn't tied to a particular president and vice-president. The policies might take a turn for the fair or unfair over the years, but the danger of ancillary damage to innocent bystanders is going to remain so long as a government feels that they must prevent a miss and certain costs are acceptable towards that end.

We have to keep Maher Arar's story and Khaled al-Masri's story at the ready and never forget. I hope we will get better, split hairs finer and have fewer mistaken identity stories, fewer false positives, innocent people rendered, if not by appealing to the leaders' sense of right and wrong, then by court judgments that make it so expensive or politically damaging that they become more careful. According to Dana Priest and according to Stanley McChrystal, we *aren't* getting better yet.

Unfortunately, under Bush and under Obama, Maher Arar has gotten no justice from the U.S. courts system. This is from the transcript of the Real News interview:

"Maher is a human rights advocate now, whose story gained public attention after American authorities falsely accused him of being linked to terrorists. Despite being a naturalized Canadian citizen, Arar was then rendered to his birth country, Syria. There he was subjected to torture, like incessant beatings, and with electrical cables, and confined to a cell the size of a grave. After his release in 2003, Canada and Syria found him to be completely innocent of all allegations ... Maher is joining us from Ottawa. We'd like him to be able to visit the United States, but he can't, 'cause he's still on a no-fly list, he's still not allowed in. And even though everyone else in the world acknowledges the fact that he was not guilty of anything, the United States finds it a national security concern to admit they were wrong."

Note: the middle of the interview was about the current situation in Syria, which is a different kind of thing to remark on. Confusing. My feelings about Syria, Libya and even the Arab Spring is that innocents matter. I don't trust any guerrilla army, no matter how righteous they are. The ends don't justify the means if the means involve wrecking the life of innocents along the way. If you're intervening to stop a massacre? Well maybe- but I don't agree with liberal hawks if liberal hawks think you can kill one group of children to save another.

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