War On Terror: Europeans Demand Justice For All
It appears that the American government's enthusiastic ignoring of basic human rights in the pursuit of terrorists has finally caught up with them. Their staunchest European supporters have begun to distance themselves from any stance that even looks like it could condone their actions.
From Great Britain, where Tony Blair has promised to have all British troops out of Iraq by 2008, to Italy, where right wing magistrates who have been zealous in their pursuit of terror suspects, have laid charges against American intelligence operators for kidnapping, the Coalition of the Willing is fast whittling away. What could cause the rats to flee the sinking ship so fast? The answer is two simple words, extraordinary rendition.
Extraordinary rendition was (and, hopefully, not is anymore) American Intelligence's practice of seizing suspected terrorists and sending them on unmarked airplanes to countries that practice torture in the hopes of getting the suspects to cough up information. Although this practice has been going on since at least 2002, it wasn't until the details of Syrian born Canadian citizen Maher Arar's plight came to light that people's attention has been drawn to it.
From the outset Mr. Arar's case was mishandled; first by Canadian Intelligence that passed on fabricated reports to the Americans about his potential terrorist connections. This was compounded by the illegally handing over of Mr. Arar to a foreign government, the Americans, when they requested he be transferred to their facilities for interrogation based on the erroneous report's information.
When the American's couldn't get him to confess to anything they shipped him off to Syria in an unmarked plane accompanied by CIA. Agents. They deposited him in Jordan, because Americans don't have official relations with Syria, where he was beaten the second he got off the plane, and then shipped to Damascus where he was imprisoned and tortured for ten months.
All this information came to light during a judicial inquiry into the wrongful treatment of Mr. Arar by the Canadian security services. The upshot of the report was that the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was forced to resign; the Prime Minister of Canada had to issue a public apology to Mr. Arar, and the Canadian government had to pay him $115 million in damages.
It has also cooled off what would have normally been warm relations between a Conservative Canadian government and a like-minded American administration. The American government is not only refusing to apologise for its mistreatment of a Canadian citizen, but they are even reluctant to admit that they have anything to apologise for. In spite of Stockwell Day's (Canada's Foreign Minister) best efforts Mr. Arar remains on the American no fly list to this day.
What's behind the American reluctance to admit to any possibility of wrongdoing on their part in the case of Mr. Arar? Is it simply a matter of "being at war means not having to say your sorry", or is there some other reason? According to the Globe and Mail article linked to above senior Canadian and European diplomats and government officials claim it's because the Americans are worried about opening themselves up to culpability in around twenty other similar cases in Europe.
Last week the European Parliament released a report condemning the 1,245 flights made by the CIA in European airspace and the twenty cases of European citizens being subjected to extraordinary rendition. Currently there is one case before the Italian courts, one before the Germen, and eighteen others pending throughout the continent.
The matter of the flights might seem a trivial matter, but it's who was on the planes and what was being done with them that has European governments so concerned. Italy's government was actually voted out of office this week due to one thirty-seven minute stopover by an unmarked plane at Rome's international airport.
The problem was that it was the CIA plane carrying Mr. Arar to Jordan. The concern is that since Mr. Arar was for all intents and purposes being abducted, he was being taken somewhere against his will illegally and his captors knew he would be mistreated, how complicit is the Italian government in the matter.
Did whoever gave permission for the plane to land at the airport know who was on the airplane and what was going on? Or had the Americans gone behind their backs and carried out illegal activities on Italian soil?
In one case in Italy a magistrate has indicted 26 US citizens, including Italian CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady on charges of kidnapping in the rendition of Mustafa Osama Nasr. The Milanese Cleric had been seized by CIA agents in 2003 and flown to Egypt where he was imprisoned, tortured, and sexually abused by his captors.
Five Italians were also charged in the case, including the head of their Security forces, Nicolo Pollari, who has been forced to resign. In case any one thinks that this the work of anti-American trouble makers, or left-wing politicians in Italy, the magistrate responsible, Armando Spataro, is know for his pro-American positions, and his centre right politics.
He has worked for thirty years fighting the Mafia and internal terrorist organizations in Italy, and he say that he and his colleagues "were absolutely sure that it was impossible to fight terrorism without respect for the law". He continued by saying that he hopes this investigation will prove that it is impossible to win over Islamic terrorism without respect for the law.
While the American government is of course denying any and all complicity in these events, and the men indicted will not be coming to Italy any time soon to face the charges, Italian law allows people to be tried in absentia. Thus all the defendants could end up being found guilty as charged and facing arrest if they ever set foot on Italian soil again.
The biggest irony of that whole case is that same magistrate has found cause to hold Nasr on terrorism charges, but not based on any evidence supplied by the Americans or the Egyptians. The only charge he has been able to lay against Mr. Nasr has been membership in an illegal organization. He believes the case would have been stronger against Mr. Nasr if not for the US practice of rendition, now he says the terror fighters are just as guilty as the terrorists.
The philosopher Friederick Nietzsche said, "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And when you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you." It appears that the European governments and individulas who were once allied with the American cause in the fight against terror have decided that the Americans did not heed Mr. Nietzsche's advice and have fallen into the abyss of becoming as bad as those they are hunting.
Perhaps because the Europeans have had more experience with being monsters, or having their countries be the breeding ground for those who would justify any means with the end result, they have decided it is time to draw their own line in the sand. Maybe it appears idealistic to some, but remember as well that they have fighting terrorism for thirty plus years longer then us in North America so they aren't blind to the realities of the situation.
What ever you may or may not think of their actions or their beliefs, the truth of the matter is that the European governments that were once staunch supporters of the US fight against terrorism are no longer willing to allow the civil and human rights of their citizens be denied no matter what the reason.
In some eyes the actions of the American government make them no different than the terrorists who they are hunting. In their quest for justice the Americans have ignored justice for too long and it's now coming back to haunt them.