Tuesday, November 04, 2003


Maher Arar, Canadian citizen, was released October 5 from 10 months in a Syrian jail where he was tortured by Syrian intelligence. Today he spoke out for the first time. The story he told of confinement should make the hardest heart shudder:

Speaking publicly Tuesday for the first time about his experiences, Mr. Arar described a nightmarish series of beatings, threats and said that he had spent more than 10 months in a cell the size of "a grave."

"The past year has been a nightmare," he said. "What I went through is beyond human imagination."...

He said that he was beaten on every part of his body with a frayed electrical cable and repeatedly threatened with electric-shock torture. "At the end of the [first] day, they told me tomorrow would be worse."

Ready to invade Syria yet? Not so fast.

Turns out the U.S. put Arar there.

Maher Arar, a successful businessman, was one of two Canadian citizens arrested in the U.S. during flight layovers in the wake of 9/11. Syrian by birth, he was interrogated by U.S. officials and then deported. Procedures in effect up to that time called for deporation to the last stopover, which would have been Zurich. Instead, he was deported to Syria, from which he had fled to avoid military service as a teenager, where he was accused of involvement with al-Queda and subjected to the tender mercies of the Syrian police.

If this recap doesn't jog your memory, don't feel bad. Although Googling "Maher Arar" turns up 5,500+ hits, with entire sites devoted to his cause and ample controversy at the time of his arrest in the blogosphere and international human rights groups, you will get exactly one hit on CNN, one hit on Fox (which no longer works), zero hits on MSNBC, and zero hits on The New York Times. WaPo had a whopping two stories, one of them only in the last month. In the other article, from this June, Anne Applebaum of Slate sneered:

In Canada, meanwhile, a great fuss was raised when a Canadian citizen, Maher Arar, was deported by U.S. immigration officials to Syria. News reports said the man had been "disappeared" -- as if the United States were a Latin American dictatorship. It then turned out that the Canadian Mounties had been investigating the man for a year and had quietly asked the U.S. government to pick him up.

As we can see, such a characterization is absurd on its face. He wasn't "disappeared" at all; we knew exactly where he was at all times. And no one cared. As for Canadian complicity:

John Harvard, a member of Parliament, asked [Solicitor General Wayne] Easter: "Aren't you as mad as a wet hen over the behavior of the Americans? They took a Canadian citizen . . . and they sent him to a Syrian gulag." He called on the Canadian government to lodge an official protest with U.S. officials.

Easter, who apologized for Arar's ordeal, said the police assured him they were not involved in the decision to deport him. He said the United States "indicated that had happened on the United States' soil and it was their decision."

Recall the intellectual climate in the wake of 9/11, when pundits in High Places placidly contemplated the benefits of outsourcing interrogation of suspected terrorists to countries like Egypt, Malaysia, and other countries where the fine points of human rights were not always punctiliously observed. Such lamentable decisions would be justified, we were told, in pursuit of the great good.

While these cretins forgot all about their enthusiasm for U.S.-sanctioned torture, Osama Bin Laden spent the last 10 months living in cave, and this man spent them living in a box.

Yet another success story in the War on Terror.

[Update: With thanks to alert reader pablodiablo, I corrected the date of Arar's release.]

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