I don't do too many political posts because ... well, what can you say. The US government is vile. But there is the occasional specific news piece that is VTK worthy. Listening to Democracy Now! today, I heard two feature pieces that were related and deserved some coverage: the absolution of Maher Arar by a Canadian federal court, and a discussion with Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, about the practices being used by the US gov't, the congressional debate on the issue, and how the writ of habeas corpus would be abolished by both the Bush Administration bill and the McCain-Warner-Graham bill.
I can't say the Maher Arar case has been completely uncovered in US major media, because there was an article on nytimes.com today, but it certainly has not been the story that it should be, considering how ridiculous it is. Appropriately, it has been a huge story in Canada (here's some coverage from the Toronto Globe and Mail). Maher Arar is a computer engineer and a Canadian citizen, who was born in Syria, but lives in Ottawa with his family. He made the mistake of having a conversation with a suspected terrorist in a cafe about ink jet cartridges. The bastard. In September of 2002 he was returning to Canada from a vacation in Tunisia. The flight had a stopover in NYC, where US gov't officials detained him and based on faulty intelligence information from their Canadian counterparts, deported him to Syria despite his protestations that he would be tortured if jailed there. Tortured he was. And he was incarcerated for over a year before being returned to Canada, where he now lives in BC. Yesterday, the Canadian gov't finally admitted that he was a completely innocent man. So he's all set now. Except for the emotional scars. Yeah, that's too bad. But at least he didn't kill us. Which he might have done. This from a DemNow! interview from a few months ago:
MAHER ARAR: I’m completely a different person. I still have fears. I don't take the plane anymore. I don't fly. I lost confidence in myself. I feel overwhelmed. My -- there is some kind of emotional distancing between me and my kids and my family. They ruined my life. They ruined my life, and I have not been able to find a job. People try to -- you know, some people I know, they try to distance themselves from me. It's -- you know, I don't know how to describe it. I don't think there is any word I could use to describe what I am going through. And I thought when I came back it would take me a month or two months or a year or two years to get back to normal life. It’s been two years and four months since I came back to Canada, and there are things that are improved a little bit, but I’m still not the same person, and I’m still suffering psychologically.
Nice one, USA. Nice one, Canada. And this is just one case. I wonder if North America has botched any others. I guess we won't know until everyone gets their fair trial. Thank god for the writ of habeas corpus...
So, everyone's all psyched now that those Republican Badasses in Congress have stood up to the Bush Administration about their torture techniques and whatnot. From DemNow!: "The administration is facing resistance from three key Republican senators on the Armed Services Committee: John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner. The three senators helped pass a measure last week affirming Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibits inhumane treatment." Right on Boys! Maybe Americans are inherently good after all. Yet that rabblerouser, Michael Ratner, can't let us sit back and enjoy ourselves for one damn minute. According to his interview with Amy Goodman this morning:
In both the administration bill and in the McCain-Graham-Warner bill, in both cases you abolish the writ of habeas corpus. The government, the Congress, is abolishing the writ of habeas corpus. The habeas corpus writ is the right to challenge your detention once you’re picked up by the United States. It would apply to Guantanamo. It would apply to everybody in Bagram. And it basically says that anybody picked up, now or in the future or who is there now, no longer has the writ of habeas corpus.
For some reason, for some peculiar reason, nobody is really covering this in the media. Yes, they’re covering the McCain debate over waterboarding and torture and somewhat on the military commissions, but not really the denial of the abolishment of the fundamental writ. If we look at Maher Arar, his is one of the cases. I mean, there may be Maher Arars -- or are, as I know -- in places like Guantanamo and other places in the world, and without an ability to bring those cases to court, the United States can continue or the administration can continue doing what it did to Maher Arar.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, again, maybe part of the reason we don't hear much about this is a lack of understanding of writ of habeas corpus. I mean, it's not even in English. Explain, Michael.
MICHAEL RATNER: Well, it actually comes initially out of the Magna Carta in 1215. And it had to do with when the king just believed he could pick up people anywhere in the world, throw them into a dungeon, never give them a court hearing, and you’d never hear from them again, essentially disappear them. Out of a long struggle for peoples’ rights, the writ of habeas corpus emerged. Then, when we wrote our Constitution in the United States, it was considered the fundamental right essentially against a police state and can only be suspended in cases of rebellion or things like that.
And what it really says is that if a king or the president picks me up anywhere in the world, that I have a right to go into court and say, “What are your reasons for detaining me?” It doesn't say you have to be freed. But it says you have to come up -- government -- come up with a legal reason for detaining me. In other words, it takes detentions, disappearances and puts them into the light of a courtroom, where the government has to justify the detention.
That's the fundamental right that we at the Center for Constitutional Rights won for those people at Guantanamo and which this congress and this president have continuously tried to beat back. We won it in 2004. We got a legislation that Congress had passed to try and get rid of it. We won that again in 2006. And now they’re trying to get rid of it again.
It's really, Amy, the fundamental right that protects us against just arbitrary arrest and disappearance. It's absolutely crucial. And so far, unfortunately -- I just want to emphasize this -- both the administration bill and the McCain bill abolish the writ of habeas corpus. And there should be a massive, massive public campaign about that. People can go to the Center's website and get information about that and get to their senators and say, “Don't abolish the writ.” This is the protection that will protect the Maher Arars in the world, that protect our Guantanamo detainees and protect people who are really disappeared all over the world.
Jesus. 1215? Wow. Seems like we would want to keep that. Otherwise, y'know, the terrorists might win. They hate our freedoms, so we might as well bail on those, so they won't hate us anymore and will stop bothering us. Reminds me of what the Cambridge Cop said at our Area 4 Community meeting last week in regards to what they're doing about the shootings in the neighborhood park: "we're trying to keep the park clear, so you know, they won't have anything to shoot at".
I mean, is it me?