Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Michael: Render Unto Bush el-Masri

The ACLU has filed what is sure to become a landmark lawsuit in the history of the Bush Administration’s violations of domestic, constitutional, and international law in pursuit of a ill-conceived, extra-legal jihad against ‘terrorists’. The suit aims to shed light on and end the practice of deporting foreign nationals to third countries that practice torture for the purpose of interrogation – a practice known in New Speak as ‘Extraordinary Rendition’. The suit, filed in the Federal circuit of Virginia, is titled El-Masri v. Tenet, and it alleges:

”On December 31, 2003, Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was forcibly abducted while on holiday in Macedonia, detained incommunicado, handed over to United States agents, then beaten, drugged, and transported to a secret prison in Afghanistan, where he was subjected to inhumane conditions and coercive interrogation and was detained without charge or public disclosure for several months. Five months after his abduction, Mr. El-Masri was deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania.

Sounds like a bad dream, doesn’t it? However, many credible sources indicate it is all too real. Tenet himself admitted in testimony before the 9/11 commission that ‘rendition to justice’ was a key tool in counter-terrorism efforts and that as of that time over 70 rendition operations had been carried out. Memoranda prepared by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel have consistently advanced the position that foreign nationals held at such facilities, outside U.S. sovereign territory, are unprotected by federal or international laws. The Bush Executives own statements and arguments hoist them by petards of their own weaving.

Even if the whole thing is nothing but an abduction fantasy of alien nationals (and, yes, there is an allegation that El-Masri was anally probed – is anyone surprised anymore by our intelligence services apparent prurient interest in anal rape?), the Bush Executive has already given the world plenty of good reason to believe the practice is American policy. After Abu Ghraib, Gitmo, alleged violations of the laws of war regarding the use of restricted weapons, and allegations of a secret archipelago of CIA prisons in Eastern Europe and throughout the world, our government has no credibility left to make a denial stick. If there were a credible allegation that Bush had two heads, at this point, I think many people around the world would believe it.

The lawsuit proceeds under the currently disfavored Alien Tort Claims Act, alleging violations of the Fifth Amendment’s prohibition of arbitrary detention, the Convention Against Torture, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Geneva Conventions. The suit is based on the investigation of el-Masri’s allegations by the Office of the Prosecuting Magistrate in Munich. Germany opened an investigation into Mr. El-Masri’s allegations that he had been unlawfully abducted, detained, and interrogated in Macedonia and Afghanistan. German officials easily corroborated Mr. El-Masri’s account that he had traveled to Macedonia and had been detained shortly after entering that country and returned to Albania. To evaluate Mr. El-Masri’s account of his detention in Afghanistan, German authorities conducted scientific tests, including radioactive isotope analysis of Mr. El-Masri’s hair. Those tests were consistent with Mr. El-Masri’s account that he had spent time in a South Asian country and had been deprived of food for an extended period.

I have always felt a certain contempt for the ‘good’ Germans during the Nazi regime who might have known that terrible violations of peoples’ rights were being carried out in the name of defending the Fatherland, but did nothing. Now I, and you, know the bitter reality of knowing that your government is committing atrocious acts and being powerless to stop them. Luckily, we have strong civic organizations, such as the ACLU, that we can support in their efforts to stop such perfidy.


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