Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Simple Humanity

Today's Los Angeles Times has an editorial dealing with the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who got caught up in the Global War On Terror and spent a year being tortured in Syria thanks to the United States.

Maher Arar, the Canadian software engineer who was mistakenly expelled by the United States and imprisoned in Syria, may yet have his day in court. A federal appeals court in New York has scheduled a new hearing on whether Arar can sue U.S. officials who participated in one of the worst injustices of the so-called war on terror.

In 2002, Arar was seized by U.S. agents at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport on the basis of inaccurate information provided by Canadian police linking him to terrorists. He was flown to Jordan and then sent to his native Syria, where he was imprisoned and, Arar says, tortured for a year before being released. ...

The Canadian government has since acknowledged its role in this horrific blunder and has apologized to and compensated Mr. Arar for the mistake. The US government, however, refuses to do so. In fact, it continued Mr. Arar on the "watch list", which means the Canadian can't do any traveling outside of Canada, even though the reason for keeping him on that list is the same mistaken information that got him shipped to Syria in the first place.

In response to this, Mr. Arar sued the US government, and recently a three judge panel of the New York federal appeals court threw his case out because the judges bought the government's argument that to allow the case to proceed would jeopardize national security and because Mr. Arar, who entered the US illegally (because of the Canadian mistake), had no constitutional rights. That is the decision being reviewed by the same appeals court on its own motion.

Here's what I consider to be the money quote in the editorial:

The administration's truculence leaves it to the courts, not for the first time, to temper post-9/11 zealotry with a concern for civil liberties and simple humanity.

Civil liberties and simple humanity: now there's an old fashioned set of values, eh?

It's like I keep telling my friend Jeff, a brilliant doctor and a very humane man except when it comes to handling those he believes are responsible for 9/11 and every other wrong done to the US and Israel since then. It's not about them. It's about us. It's not who they are. It's about who we are, what we believe, what we stand for, what we think is important in a democracy.

Jeff is having a hard time wrapping his head around that, but at least he tries. This administration? Not so much.

154 days.



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