I am asking the American government to admit its mistakes and to apologize for my treatment. Throughout my time in the prison, I asked to be brought before a court but was refused. Now I am hoping that an American court will say very clearly that what happened to me was illegal and cannot be done to others.
- Khaled Masri
A German citizen, born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents, is kidnapped while vacationing in Macedonia by the American government on suspicions of ties to one of the 9.11 hijackers. He is then taken to Afghanistan, where he is held, interrogated, and allegedly tortured for four months. At this point his captors apparently realize their mistake (Oops…our bad….).
There are two problems with this scenario. The American government kidnapped a foreign national- a German citizen- and held him against his will- based on the flimsiest of evidence. This, to any reasonable, thinking person, should be viewed with horror. The United States of America, that shining beacon of freedom, now engages in exatrjudicial kidnapping and torture, completely with plausible deniability- all in the name of protecting our own freedom and security. Yes, it’s true; in order to protect our own freedom and security, our government now routinely deprives non-Americans of theirs. And since it’s done outside US borders, it’s perfectly acceptable.
Is this what we have become? a repressive regime ultimately no better than the Duvaliers, Castros, and Ceaucescus that we opposed and reviled over the years? And if we occasionally kidnap and torture and innocent man for four months…well, FREEDOM ISN’T FREE, eh?
BUCHAREST, Romania, Dec. 6 — The Bush administration has admitted it mistakenly abducted a German citizen on suspicions of terrorist links, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Tuesday after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Berlin.
Rice declined to comment on the specific case of Khaled Masri, but said she pledged to Merkel that “when and if mistakes are made, we work very hard and as quickly as possible to rectify them.”
Merkel told a news conference that “the American administration has admitted this man has been erroneously taken.” Her statement appeared likely to escalate scrutiny of the administration’s policy of secretly whisking terrorist suspects away to covert detention centers in other countries for extrajudicial interrogations, a practice known as “rendition.”
Or perhaps more colloquially, “violation of international law”.
Interestingly enough, while Rice may (or may not) be admitting that Masri was held erroneously and illegally, no apology appears to have been communicated to Masri. So, you kidnap a “suspicious” brown person in one country, transport him secretly to another, where he is “interrogated” at the very least and quite likely tortured. Oh, but America doesn’t torture. Right….
Masri, 42, a German national of Lebanese origin, was held for four months in Afghanistan after being seized while vacationing in Macedonia. He filed suit Tuesday in U.S. federal court in Northern Virginia against George J. Tenet, the former CIA director, and three companies allegedly involved in transporting captured suspects on secret flights.
The father of five, who was born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents and moved to Germany 20 years ago, claimed in the lawsuit that he was detained and tortured by U.S. government agents after he was mistaken for an associate of one of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers. He is being represented in the lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union.
Though the success of Masri’s suit is problematical at best, personally I hope he wins big. No one should be able to be kidnapped on a whim, particularly given the flimsy evidence apparently used to justify depriving a German national of his human rights.
In Washington, President Bush refused to discuss the rendition program or secret detention centers Tuesday, stressing that covert operations are needed to protect Americans. He repeated his previous denial that U.S. authorities engage in torture. He made the comments to reporters after a meeting at the White House with the visiting director of the World Health Organization.
Asked if his administration has any plans to change its policies on rendition and the detention centers, President Bush said, “First of all, I don’t talk about secret programs, covert programs, covert activities. Part of a successful war on terror is for the United States of America to be able to conduct operations — all aimed at protecting the American people — covertly.”
He added, “We abide by the law of the United States, and we do not torture.” Nor does the United States “render to countries that torture,” Bush said. “That has been our policy. And that policy will remain the same.”
Since when did it become acceptable for our government to engage in covert activities that involve conducting operations that would be highly illegal if they were to be conducted on American soil? Since when is it acceptable for our government to have one standard for those who don’t “look like terrorists” (e.g.- good, God-fearing White folks), and another for those who do (swarthy brown people)? Time was when America stood for freedom and liberty and the opportunity to flee a repressive and brutal regime. Well, guess what? Since 9.11, we have become that repressive and brutal regime…only we now export our repression and brutality.
It’s at times like these that I barely recognize my own country. In order to protect our freedom and security, we now see it as our perfect right to deprive others of theirs on the flimsiest of evidence. Not only that, we abduct people, whisk them off to secret prisons in obscure places where they can be tortured with no official sanction and air of plausible deniability.
Is this the country we want to be? Is this the beacon of freedom and tolerance that the Founding Fathers envisioned more than 200 years ago? Or are we willing to countnenance “rendition”- merely a fancy name for “kidnap and torture”- as the price of maintaining our freedom and security? Is this the freedom and security we think we deserve? Where we are almost universally hated and despised for the arrogant, Amerika uber Alles bullying that passes for our foreign policy?
WE DESERVE BETTER.