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Nicholas Kristof writes in reg..., 2003-03-04 00:00:00 | Main | Students are walking out in p..., 2003-03-05 00:00:00

The USG is insisting it won't use torture on terrorism suspects but shoots itself in the foot when it keeps insisting it can legally torture at will. As one US official says, "God only knows they're going to do with him". I don't believe for a second that they have any serious compunctions about using torture, and niether does the government.

I have problems with the use of torture on terrorism suspects because a) information extracted under torture is suspect, that its use in Saudi Arabia confirms this, and which may very well be demonstrated by cases of false information being the basis for terror alerts; and b) they are suspects. There should at least be some modicum of due process - and military tribunals would hardly provide a modicum in my mind - to authorize the use of so-called "discomfort" to extract information. Lord knows the analysis used by the USG to legitimize its other policies, such as their budget predictions and the WMD claims used to justify war on Iraq, are shoddy enough to call into question their claims about "known" terrorists. One should consider taking a more principled stand, but the practical case ought to be sufficient for anybody.

I don't see a real reason not to have a trial to establish that the evidence against a suspect is sufficient to classify them as a suspected terrorist - before the use of such ostensibly limited torture - under the jurisdiction of a civillian judge. Except that such procedures might help push the "war on terrorism" out of the distorted contortions of our policy that only target US enemies and leftist activists, and would extend constraints over the definition of terrorism enforced by the government - which is part of the worry on part of human rights and civil liberties activists: the definition is easily over-extended, as it has in the past and has in specific cases since 9/11, to target people engaging in non-violent resistance, minorities, and otherwise innocent people for no good reason. There should be oversite by qualified civillian authorities, and there isn't any for foreigners and nothing impressive about the government's case against citizens.

A quick list of some reports of "terrorism" suspicions - clauses of the Patriot Act - being used to target harmless people: badgering the telecom industry for information on US citizens; police harassment of flyer campaigns and people who have gas cans in their car; putting activists on no-fly lists, greens on no-fly lists, and people who read the wrong books on no-fly lists; using plainclothes saboteurs against non-violent marchers with cameras; FBI targetting indymedia and harassing dissenters; declaring sit-ins a terrorist act; 2,000 'disappeared' and thousands arrested en masse; yadda yadda.

Also, with respect to the Khamid Muhammad story, I think there's serious questions to be made with respect to how this reflects on the "war on terror". The parade of commentators on the cable news lauding this as proof that we can have our cake and eat it to are overlooking reports that a) this is a based off a lucky break from an undisclosed tipster: "Sources tell Time that agents had been led to his hideout through the earlier arrest of an Egyptian in Quetta who had been in contact with Mohammed. Neighbors, wary of the lone Arab who appeared in their working-class area, tipped off the police, hoping for a reward."; b) the ISI is the one that actually snagged him; that c) it's possible the ISI is trying to protect terrorists when they can because; d) the ISI is itself an extremist organization that is cooperating with the US only so much as it needs to protect itself from serious retalliation and retain its control over Pakistan - the ISI's support for anti-terrorism is half-hearted and apparently motivated in part to garner support for keeping the Shi'ites in northern Pakistan under control; and e) this probably suits the hawkish USG because terrorism can be and is being used opportunistically to legitamize and fuel support for unrelated and criminal foreign policies, such as the Iraq invasion and US operations in Columbia, nevermind allowing them to push through a Republican domestic agenda that the population doesn't support.


:: posted by buermann @ 2003-03-04 00:00:00 CST | link





    go ahead, express that vague notion
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