Tuesday, September 19, 2006


The Associated Press is reporting today that the United States shipped a Canadian citizen to Syria for interrogation, where he was imprisoned and allegedly subjected to torture. After a year, he was released and now has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

How Could This Have Happened?

In the early 2000's, Mr. Maher Arar met with a man who was under surveillance by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The meeting, Arar maintained, was about how to find inexpensive computer equipment. Without double checking the facts, which is standard RCMP procedure, the Canadians instead asked the United States to put Mr. Arar on a watch list as an "Islamic Extremist Individual."

On September 26, 2002, Mr. Arar was returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. His flight went through New York's Kennedy Airport, where he was detained. It should be noted that he was traveling on a legal Canadian passport at the time. From there, the United States government shipped Mr. Arar to Syria, against his will, where he was imprisoned and subjected to extensive interrogation. This included beatings and whippings with electrical cables. In 2003, the Syrian government released him, with none of the allegations ever proven or charges being filed.

Mr. Arar had his case heard by the Canadian government and Justice Dennis O'Connor gave the following report, "I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada." Additionally, Justice O'Connor concluded:

• That the U.S. government sent Mr. Arar to Syria despite his assertions that he would be tortured.

• That the U.S. government had not been forthcoming with Canadian officials regarding Mr. Arar's case.

• That the RCMP had no basis or grounds for describing Mr. Arar as an "Islamic Extremist Individual."

• That inaccurate information supplied by the RCMP to the U.S. government "very likely" led to the decision to send Mr. Arar to Syria.

• That Mr. Arar had in fact been tortured in Syria and was entitled to compensation.

This Is A Disgrace!

The story of Maher Arar is one rife with missteps by the Canadian government, over-zealousness on the part of the U.S. government to extract information by any manner it deems necessary, and a willingness by the Syrian government to use torture to do so.
It is a deep mark of shame that serves to underscore just how out of control the "War On Terror" has become.

Situations like these must not be allowed to continue. You know who to write.


Blogger Rick said...

Hi John,

Hope all is well. Below is a little something I put up on my blog over the weekend. Thought you might enjoy it.



The Single Greatest Sin of the Bush Administration

(Editorial by Rick Olshak, from http://olshak.blogspot.com, please feel free to distribute with appropriate citation)

I just had the opportunity (between screeches from the kids) to watch "In God's Name," a CNN special with the Clinton Global Initiative. On the whole, I felt hope to be listening to people of different national, ethnic and religious affiliations talking collaboratively and with hope about being able to solve world conflicts that shroud themselves in perceived religious differences. Note the word "perceived"... these are not genuinely religious conflicts in most cases, but disputes over economic and political issues.

The tragedy, of course, in calling these religious conflicts is that they serve to alienate and polarize people of different faiths, or in some cases people within the same faith. This leads people to develop labels such as "Islamic Facists" and remove the need to utilize reason to find solutions that work for all sides. Instead, these terms help separate people and demean the opposition. In short, people can rest comfortably (and ignorantly) knowing that their side is "right" and the other side is "wrong."

The Bush Administration has survived for six years by being able to use simple terms (9/11, WMDs, "with us or against us", "Axis of Evil", "cut and run", Mission Accomplished, Islamic Fascism, and so on) to over-simplify what are genuinely complicated issues on our world. They have used these words and terms in order to be able to justify a lack of engagement with those that don't share the same world view that the Administration holds. This has helped the Bush Administration to be able to avoid discussions which require thought that has not been given, and the application of negotiating points that have never been developed.

This may work for George W. Bush and his cronies, but it has served as an incredible disservice to the rest of the world. During the Clinton years, we reached a general conclusion to the Northern Ireland crisis and made significant strides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. During the 1990s, we saw Israel work collaboratively with many of its Arab neighbors on academic, social, and trade matters, helping these people begin to overcome an environment of distrust.

Since the beginning of the Bush years, we have suffered setback after setback. After the invasion of Afghanistan, the Bush Administration immediately went to work planning for the invasion of Iraq. Trite phrases and flawed intelligence led to what is now widely accepted as an illegal invasion of another nation. Our lack of understanding of the people of Iraq and our inability to anticipate military contingencies in order to utilize the appropriate number of troops, has led to a debacle in Iraq, which is now so in disarray that it will take many years and many lives to resolve. This tragedy has also served as an incredible recruiting tool for terrorists, only insuring that hatred of America and its interests will continue into the forseeable future.

A similar disaster has taken place in Lebanon, where the U.S. has taken a less active role but is no less culpable. The nation of Israel was attacked by Hezbollah (though I won't dredge up the entire history of this particular conflict). Rather than use diplomatic means and limited military intervention to settle this issue and preserve a greater regional peace, Israel invaded southern Lebanon. Worse, they engaged in indiscriminate bombing that resulted in the deaths of over a thousand civilians. The Bush Administration clearly supported Israel in their actions. Thus, U.S. offers to now "stand by Lebanon" tend to fall on deaf ears, and for good reason.

In the same area, both Israel and the U.S. now refuse to deal with elected Palestinian leaders because they are part of Hamas. The rationale for this is that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. But will this lack of engagement ever serve to influence Hamas' position? If it does, it will only enforce Hamas' current view.

Finally, the Bush Administration has refused to engage with the nation of Iran on the issue of nuclear technology (or any other issue for that matter). The Administration simply holds on to its mantra that Iran is a part of the "Axis of Evil" and that Iran must do as the U.S. says. Pleas from other nations (not only with Iran, but earlier with respect to Iraq) to engage in dialogue are treated with disdain, and the constant argument is pushed by the Administration that appeasement and future conflict will be the only result of negotiations. This represents the "enlightened" position of the United States of America.

When you stop and consider these facts, is it not understandable that when a punk like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez stands at the United Nations calling Bush a "devil," his remarks are met with applause? We have emboldened such radical elements to come out against us and find a following because we are completely inept when it comes to bridging political differences.

I find it very interesting that during the Reagan Era most conservatives wished to invest in South Africa, over the protests of many liberals. The reasoning of the conservatives was that by engaging in business with the nation, dialogue would ensue that would make political change possible. Looking back, these people were quite right. The result in South Africa serves as a wonderful example of influencing politics through engagement.

Why then does that same approach not work when dealing with Iraq? With Iran? Why is it that as I write this commentary, American troops are preparing to depart for the Persian Gulf, for what is widely believed to be an attack against Iran that has already been decided upon? Why is it that whenever another nation does not agree with us, we either threaten to bomb them back into the Stone Age (a la Pakistan) or we actually do it? Why does the Bush Administration delude itself into believing that military solutions are lasting solutions that will make people either like or respect the United States?

The damage done in the past six years, and the damage that could still be done in the next two, is staggering. It could quite literally take decades to repair the damage being caused by this one President. And that assumes that the American public would vote for candidates that will contribute to the solution rather than the problem. Unfortunately the American public does not seem capable of offering any guarantees in this regard.

More likely, we will see a step forward and two steps back, rather than make consistent progress. The ultimate result of our approach is not pretty. It will serve to only promote radicalism. Moderates in the Islamic world will disappear as quickly as the middle class is disappearing in America. Imagine such a future. Imagine that the government of Pakistan will ultimately be deposed and radical elements will have a shortcut to nuclear weapons. Imagine that the next act of terrorists may well be the nuclear destruction of a city in Israel, Britain, or in the United States. Imagine that the Saudi government will be overthrown and the price of oil increased to a point where it breaks the American economy. And don't look to Venezuela for help... we already know what their leader thinks of our government.

In the shorter term, it is not difficult to imagine that our impending attack in Iran will have dire consequences. Our naval forces will be attacked, and it is very difficult to protect ships. Many American sailors may be killed. We have more than 100,000 troops in Iraq who are more than vulnerable to missile and troop attacks from Iran, not to mention the massive protests and suicide attacks that will likely break out in Iraq when we strike Iran. Even more members of the Army and Marine Corps, the services that have borne the brunt of service in Iraq, are likely to be lost. And it is not a stretch to think that an attack on Iran will result in terrorists destroying oil production facilities in order to destablize moderate Arab governments and hurt the American eceonomy.

It is far easier to imagine these outcomes than it is to imagine a world in which the Bush Doctrine of "bomb it and ignore questions later" results in the resolution of conflicts and the creation of respect for America. It is easier to imagine these outcomes than it is to imagine a world in which terrorists are discouraged to attack because of the threat of the U.S. military. More likely, we will only serve to draw recruits to radical and terrorist movements, ultimately resulting in the loss of many more lives.

And all of this is taking place because of George Bush and those around him who share his tunnel vision views. All of this is taking place not because Bush and his cronies are stupid, or because they have some malicious anti-American intent. This is all taking place because the of the greatest sin of the Bush administration... arrogance.

For more information on the Clinton Global Initiative, visit: http://www.clintonglobalinitiative.org/

2:49 PM  

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