Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bob Herbert On The Barbarian Government

If kidnapping and torturing an innocent man is O.K., what's not O.K? This is how Bob Herbert ends his column on the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian innocent whom the United States rendered to Syria for torture. The Syrians put Mr. Aher into a cell:

The underground cell was tiny, about the size of a grave. According to court papers, "The cell was damp and cold, contained very little light and was infested with rats, which would enter the cell through a small aperture in the ceiling. Cats would urinate on Arar through the aperture, and sanitary facilities were nonexistent."

Mr. Arar's captors beat him savagely with an electrical cable. He was allowed to bathe in cold water once a week. He lost 40 pounds while in captivity.

Remember that he was innocent and sent there by the United States government.

The Center for Constitutional Rights in New York filed a suit against the government on Mr. Ahar's behalf. Now the judge has said that the case cannot be handled because doing so would reveal state secrets:

In a ruling that basically gave the green light to government barbarism, U.S. District Judge David Trager dismissed Mr. Arar's lawsuit last Thursday. Judge Trager wrote in his opinion that "Arar's claim that he faced a likelihood of torture in Syria is supported by U.S. State Department reports on Syria's human rights practices."

But in dismissing the suit, he said that the foreign policy and national security issues raised by the government were "compelling" and that such matters were the purview of the executive branch and Congress, not the courts.

He also said that "the need for secrecy can hardly be doubted."

Under that reasoning, of course, the government could literally get away with murder. With its bad actions cloaked in court-sanctioned secrecy, no one would be the wiser.

Er, ok?