A major federal appeals court ruling pretty much sums up what the U.S. government’s pro-empire and pro-interventionist foreign policy has done to our nation.
The decision involves the case of Maher Arar, a man who holds dual citizenship with Canada and Syria. He was returning from vacation to Canada and made the fateful decision to simply change planes at JFK Airport in New York. CIA officials intercepted him and prevented him from boarding his next flight and proceeding on his way. In a word, they kidnapped him.
CIA officials had convinced themselves that Arar was a terrorist. But there was one big problem: they didn’t have any evidence to sustain their conviction. They badly needed a confession.
So, the CIA simply cut a deal with Syrian officials by which the Syrian government agreed to torture Arar and then turn over the resulting confession to U.S. officials.
Why did the CIA officials use Syrian officials to do the torturing rather than do it themselves? Since it would be the Syrians, rather than the CIA, who would be doing the torturing, U.S. officials, especially President George W. Bush, could continue exclaiming to the world, “We don’t torture because torture is wrong.”
One interesting sidelight to the Arar case is that during the year that he was held captive in Syria and being brutally tortured, President George Bush was steadfastly maintaining that the U.S. government was refusing to talk to Syria because Syria was a supporter of terrorism.
Yet, not one single time did any member of the press later say to the president, “Mr. President, you had to have been lying about not talking to Syria because in order for the torture deal over Arar to have been effected, someone from inside your administration, specifically the CIA, had to have been talking to Syria.”
To this day, we do not know how the torture deal with Syria got negotiated, who conducted the negotiations on behalf of the CIA, whether the deal was put into writing, whether Bush or Vice President Cheney expressly approved it, or any other details as to how the deal was made. All the court’s decision says is that Arar was “then removed to Syria via Jordan pursuant to an inter-governmental understanding that he would be detained and interrogated under torture by Syrian officials.”
Of course, this lack of interest in how the torture deal got made shouldn’t surprise anyone. After all, this is the CIA we’re talking about, and we all know that Congress, the courts, and the mainstream press aren’t going to probe too deeply into anything the CIA does, especially when it comes to torture and murder.
Guess what happens. After a year of incarceration and torture, the Syrian torturers fail to establish that Arar really is a terrorist. No confession. No evidence whatsoever. In other words, he’s innocent. All that’s left is the CIA’s conviction that he’s a terrorist.
Arar is ultimately released and sent back to Canada, this time without being intercepted, kidnapped, and renditioned by the CIA. The Canadian government, which had cooperated in the scheme, apologized and paid Arar some $10 million in compensation.
Arar sued the U.S. officials who did this to him. But in a 7-4 decision, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that Arar could not recover damages for what they did to him. The reason? Because the courts are not going to interfere with the government’s rendition program that has been implemented as part of the war on terrorism.
So, there you have it: The U.S. Empire goes abroad and does terribly bad things to people in the Middle East, which brings about the 9/11 retaliation. That act of terrorism then sets in motion the war on terrorism. As part of the war on terrorism, the CIA assumes the power to kidnap, incarcerate, and send people to brutal regimes so that they can torture confessions out of them. And when the victims sue for what was done to them, the answer is: National security demands that your suit be dismissed.
Translation: Thanks to the blowback that the U.S. Empire’s foreign policy produced on 9/11, we can do whatever we want to people, including Americans, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. This is the new order of things in this country. Get used to it. Deal with it. Accept it. This is your new freedom.