Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The nightmare is real

The Truffle asks about torture's "nightmare scenario":

Suppose an innocent person ends up in Gitmo?

Suppose this very person is subjected to--what's the right-wing PC term?--"advanced interrogation techniques"?

See, there's such a thing as mistaken identity. A perfectly innocent man may have the same name as, say, an al Qaeda operative. Or he may bear a close resemblance to said operative.

Setting aside the implication that torture is more justifiable if applied to the guilty than the innocent (it's not - it's unjustifiable if done to anyone), the scary thing is that this has already happened. The victim's name is Maher Arar, who was arrested by US authorities in New York in September 2002 while returning home to his native Canada. However, he wasn't sent to Guantanamo, but rendered to Syria, where he was tortured for almost a year. He was beaten with electrical cables, threatened with falaqa and electrocution, and kept in a lightless three foot by six foot "grave" for a cell. In the end, he signed a false confession, in which he admitted to training with Al Qaeda, before being released to Canada. The Canadian government has since publicly cleared him of any links to terrorism, and given him C$10.5 million in compensation. In the US, a lawsuit against the government was dismissed after the government invoked "State Secrets Privilege" in order to cover up its wrongdoing, and the US government still refuses to admit that it made a mistake.

This nightmare is real. And rather than rising up in revulsion at it, the US people have just shrugged their shoulders and gone about their business. While Arar's story has been widely reported, the American people either do not know or do not care that their government tortured an innocent man. He was, after all, just a foreigner.