Friday, March 18, 2005

Extraordinary Rendition, Redux

This is a follow up to a call and response begun here.

To start off, Mike has found one instance where someone was allegedly shipped to a country that is not his home country, Khalid el-Masri. He is, not surprisingly, unwilling to give the government any benefit of the doubt. His second case, that of Maher Arar, is more problematic than he would have you believe. Mike started out by saying that:

As a point of fact, Arar's "home country" is Tunisia, not Syria.
I pointed out to him that, in fact, his wife's family is from Tunisia, he is from Syria. Good manners would dictate that he would acknowledge the error before moving forward with what is a decent argument. Instead, he moved right on to declaring that Arar's home country is Canada. Any port in a storm, I guess. Click read more

The problem as I had already pointed out, is that Canada gave us the information leading to his arrest and was not interested in having him repatriated. I don't know what the law is on this and neither does Mike. But Mike's comments would lead you to believe this is a simple case of a Canadian citizen who got the shaft rather than Canada helped aid the deportation of this guy.

As an aside, "rendering" is not a euphamism for torture as Mike suggests in his response:

On vacation in Macedonia, he was arrested and flown to Afghanistan where he was
tortured, uh, I mean where he was “rendered”.

Rendering is the process of delivering a suspect to a country. If we catch a wanted Mexican criminal in the US and deliver him to Mexico, that is called rendering. If an American bounty hunter goes into Mexico and catches someone wanted in America, then brings him back, that is called Extraordinary Rendition. The extraordinary part is that we are taking possession of someone in a foreign land. Mr. Arar was captured in America and was therefore rendered (not extraordinarily as Mike continues to suggest). It is no small point as there is a pretty big difference between A) sending CIA agents into Canada and plucking one of their citizens out to send to a third country and B) capturing a wanted man on US soil and then deciding what country to send him to (where, remember, the decision was made simple by one country not accepting him).

On to other points: Mike would have us believe that Masri's case is not unique. Yet, it is the only case he has. I pointed out that the New York Times reported that half of all detainees were rendered back to friendly, non-torturing, western nations. I pointed this out to suggest that the ER policy was not designed to be a free torutre pass. Mike completely ignored this fact and continues to assert that we simply ship everyone off to be tortured. Why? Not sure, but if you believe the ER system is designed as a free torture instrument for the US, there is really no way to explain sending people to England or France. If, on the other hand, the system is set up to send these people back to their home countries, the fact that many go back to England, France and other western countries makes sense. Again, Mike cannot give the US government the benefit of the doubt on anything. His nonresponsiveness to this point is telling.

If we make a mistake on sending someone somewhere, I think we need to come clean. If we are sending someone (correctly) to a country that practices torture, I think there is a good and legitimate argument to make that we should simply refuse to repatriate people to a country that tortures prisoners. Several countries refuse to extradite people to the US because of our use of the death penalty.

Mike believes I have set up a strawman with the "Gitmo or torture" (paraphrasing his paraphrase) comments. Actually, this would be a false choice argment, not a strawman. But it is not a false choice argument as it is a reflection of the real choice made by the lawyers for the Yemeni men in question. The issue is stay in Gitmo or be sent back to Yemen. My point is that liberals spent a solid year suggesting that Gitmo features systematic torture and human rights abuses, now we are supposed to believe that Gitmo is fine. Not "nightmarish but better than Yemen", but fine (otherwise, the lawyers would be pushing for them to be moved, no?)

Mike, are most of the people in Gitmo people we picked up off the streets of Toronto or out of the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan? Does it matter to you at all? I can see different standards of evidence required for holding someone captured in Detroit rather than Kabul. I'm not sure where, how or if you are drawing lines here. I'll draw one: when we catch people on a live battlefield in Afghanistan they are by definition either a POW or enemy combatant. POWs are not entitled to all the same rights as American suspects in a criminal or civil trial. They are often sent back to their home countries at some point during or immediately following a war. They don't get the choice of where to be sent. Bad things sometimes happen to them (witness the widespread execution and/or imprisonment by the Russians of Russians captured then released by Germany).

Final point: wow, I am totally blown away by the terrifying ordeal suffered by the Kuwaiti at the end of your comment. You mean he had to be interrogated by an attractive woman. Wow. I hope he can recover from that horrifying moment. What? You say she flirted with him and was sexually suggestive. Good God, man. Call the ACLU. Then she played to his prejudices with a comment about Jewish lawyers. Wow. Truly, I have seen the enemy and he is us. What do you suppose interrogations are like? I guess we should not use women at all since that probably offends his sensibilities. Maybe a woman could be in the room provided she is covered in a Burkha and is serving tea to the interrigator and the prisoner. She would have to prove she wasn't Jewish or unclean, maybe. Mike, a woman dressed like our common friend would be seen as both attractive and sexually provocative to a strict Muslim man. Even if his judgement was in line with ours on sexuality, so what?

PS: believe it or not, it is not uncommon for police or military interrogators to try to drive a wedge between the captive and his lawyer. It doesn't mean she was an anti-semite; it means she was pretty reasonably sure he was. And she played off it.


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