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Aug 24 2010

The shrinking credibility of the US government: The case of Shahram Amiri

As a result of all the shameful things the US government is doing in the name of fighting terrorism, it now has little credibility when it comes to claiming any moral superiority over other nations. It can no longer credibly condemn arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention, denial of habeas corpus, torture, and summary executions by the governments of other countries. Of course, the government still does so within the US, knowing that the compliant US media will never point out the hypocrisy. This self-delusion is so complete that Americans are often shocked, just shocked, when people in other countries point out well-established facts that show the US in a bad light.

The recent bizarre case of the Iranian scientist Shahram Amiri shows this lack of credibility. Amiri claimed that the US kidnapped him and brought him to the US and tortured him, hoping to get him to implicate the Iranian government in a nuclear weapons program. He sought refuge in the Pakistani embassy before returning to Iran. The US government denied Amiri’s charges of kidnapping, saying that he had come to the US voluntarily and then changed his mind: “Last month, the U.S. State Department spokesman, P.J. Crowley denied that Amiri had been abducted, saying that “we are not in the habit if (sic) going round the world kidnapping people.”"

Really, P. J. Crowley? We are not in the habit of going round the world kidnapping people? Where have you been the last decade? There was once a time when the official statement of a high US government official would be believed over that of an unknown foreigner. But there is only one location where that is true anymore and that is in the presence of the establishment media. It says a lot about the complicity of the US press corps that it did not immediately get convulsed with derisive laughter when Crwoley said this. Justin Raimondo over at the libertarian Antiwar.com provides the proper response:

Given the numerous instances of “extraordinary rendition” in which our government has been engaged, and no doubt continues to be engaged, one wonders how Senor Crowley can say that with a straight face. But then again, being an official spokesman for the US Department of State no doubt requires some sort of facial surgery – or, perhaps, an industrial-strength shot of Botox – to achieve the desired results.

Let no one berate us libertarians for describing the US government as a criminal enterprise: it isn’t disloyalty to the country, or even a penchant for overstatement, that drives us to such rhetorical excesses. It’s the story of what happened to Shahram Amiri: it’s the lies, the thuggery and hubris of a ruling elite that believes it can get away with anything. Such is their contempt for the American people – and the peoples of the world – that they think we’ll swallow any tall tale, no matter how crudely fabricated, because we’re just not as smart as their cunning selves.

However, it looks like they’re not cunning enough by half, having blown the Shahram operation and exposed their embarrassingly inept tradecraft.

For further evidence of how low the government has sunk from the noble ideals expressed in the constitution and declaration of independence, read this email from an FBI agent (released by the ACLU) that details what he saw on a visit to Guantanamo.

day11.jpg

(For more torture documents, see here.)

I came across these torture memos (thanks to the Progressive Review) just after reading The Translator, a memoir by Daoud Hari who lived through the horrible carnage in Darfur and then worked as an interpreter for western media, in the process getting captured and tortured by the various rebel groups and the government of Sudan. The similarities of what he experienced with the torture practices of the US government were chilling. When are Americans going to realize that they have allowed their government to adopt the practices of some of the worst dictatorships in the world?

Those who voted for Obama thought that he would undo the excesses of Bush-Cheney and restore some moral backbone. The fact that he has expanded and extended those abuses shows clearly that when it comes to civil liberties, Obama and his Democratic Party supporters are hypocrites.

Recent newspaper reports have said that Obama is worried about losing liberal support. Really? What a surprise! But he needn’t worry. As long as people are locked into the mindset that they must support their party at all costs, he is somewhat safe. As David Sirota documents, there are many who call themselves “the left” but really are just Democratic Party apparatchiks, willing to overlook and even support actions by Obama and the Democrats that they would have vociferously condemned if done by a Republican. The ACLU says that Obama has made Bush/Cheney the ‘new normal’. This website accurately sums up the situation:

Considered historically, it will become clear that the job of Republican governments is to invent novel, ad hoc expansions of state power, while the job of Democratic governments is to consolidate and systematize them. Far from repudiating supposed Bush-era “excesses,” the Obama regime has sought–usually successfully–to entrench and to codify them.

These appalling practices are justified on the basis that they are necessary to protect us from terrorism. But there is a great danger in sacrificing the law and principles in pursuit of evil. This scene from the play A Man For All Seasons by Robert Bolt (which was made into a great film in 1966) nicely captures what is at stake:

William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of the law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ‘round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast. Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of the law, for my own safety’s sake!

As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

POST SCRIPT: al Jazeera on the Sharam Amiri story

1 comment

  1. 1
    HP Bryce

    This topic has the potential to be a powder keg. I will try to be careful to make my statements and try not to strike a match in the process.

    I am against the torture and mistreatment of combatant and illegal combatant prisoners. While I was in the Gulf War Pt.1 the unit I was assigned to took several hundred prisoners while driving through southern Iraq and Kuwait.

    Those prisoners were treated with respect and as much dignity as possible. They were all given water and the same MREs (Meal Ready to Eat)that we had but we removed all the pork meal prior to passing them out to respect their beliefs. After being fed, watered and some brief paperwork they were picked up and transported. This was the end of my experience with these people.

    The scandals that have happened over the last several years has angered me. There was a time in history where thousands would commit suicide rather than be taken prisoner by US forces (Okinawa, and several other locations in Japan). I would hate to see people go back to that way of thinking.

    On the other side of the coin however, we can not say there has been any change in the treatment of US personnel who are captured. No respect has been shown for respect and even the basic sanctity of life.

    I only wish that we can catch those rouge personnel who cause discredit to themselves and their chain of command quickly for just charges and that no chain of command abuses its situation or special powers.

    The respect for each others prisoners is a must. No matter what strong emotions are in play. All sides need restraint and respect. A prisoner is a non-combatant; not a bargaining chip or a resource.

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