Friday, January 16, 2009

Unfinished business

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette 
by Gene Lyons
No sensible person wants to see the United States become the kind of country where "regime change" means flinging the party out of power into dungeons.

That said, it's nothing short of pathetic to observe pundits who urged President Bill Clinton's impeachment for lying about a private sexual matter rending their garments over the prospect of holding Bush administration insiders responsible for war crimes including kidnapping, torture and even murder.

Excuse me, make that "extraordinary rendition," "enhanced interrogation" and a series of regrettable accidents. Or something. Even the Bush administration seems not to have invented a bureaucratic euphemism for prisoners found beaten to death in solitary confinement. And how did President Bush, who claimed a dictator's power to imprison thousands purely on his say-so, determine them to be "enemy combatants"?

Not by anything resembling evidence in many cases. Some were certainly guilty of plotting against the United States. Many have confessed, although confessions obtained by torture aren't worth the blood they're written in-one reason several hundred "detainees" remain in military prisons in Guantanamo and Afghanistan today. Others were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time or belonged to the wrong tribe. Some were grabbed up by Afghani and Pakistani warlords eager to collect $5,000 U.S. bounty payments.

Others, such as Canadian telecommunications engineer Maher Arar or German national Khaled el-Masri reportedly were snatched because their names resembled somebody else's, stripped naked, drugged, beaten, transported to secret "black sites" and brutalized. Although guilty of nothing more than being of Middle Eastern descent, by the time U.S. authorities admitted his innocence and returned him to Canada, Arar had signed numerous false confessions of plotting with al-Qa'ida in countries where subsequent investigation proved he'd never been.

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