After a two-year investigation, the Canadian government issued a report this week regarding the case of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was abducted by the Bush administration during a layover at JFK Airport on his way home to Canada, and then brought to Syria to be “interrogated.” He was kept in a tiny cell for the next 10 months in Syria and was repeatedly tortured. All along, he was guilty of nothing and had no ties of any kind to terrorism.
Not only did the Bush administration adamantly refuse to cooperate with the Canadian government’s investigation into the abduction of its citizen, it also blocked Arar from obtaining compensation for his ordeal in a U.S. federal court. It did so by invoking the “state secrets” doctrine, convincing a federal judge that the case had to be dismissed because national security would be imperiled if the court looked into the Bush administration’s treatment of Arar.
Despite the stonewalling and coverup by the Bush administration, the Canadian report was able to conclude “categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense.” It also found that both the American government and the Syrian government lied to Canada about Arar’s whereabouts because they knew the Canadians would object to their citizen being brought to Syria to be tortured. Put another way, our government abducted a completely innocent Canadian citizen and deliberately caused him to subjected, in Syria, to the most brutal and inhumane treatment imaginable (where, among other things, he confessed under torture to training in an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan even though he was never in that country).
Now that all of this has been revealed (by the Canadian government, which — as free and open governments do — candidly acknowledged its own unjust role in this travesty), what is the Bush administration’s reaction? Obfuscation, denial, bureaucratic buck passing and outright deceit. The New York Times reports on the reprehensible refusal of Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department even to admit the most basic facts and acknowledge that anything wrong occurred here, let alone to accept responsibility for it and make amends.
If the Bush administration won’t admit error even when it abducts a completely innocent person and sends him to Syria to be tortured for almost a year, when will it? And this is not the first time this has happened — “this” being the abduction by the U.S. and subsequent torture of another country’s citizen who turns out to be completely innocent, followed by the Bush administration’s attempt to block all investigative and judicial scrutiny of its behavior. Even more disturbing than the profound changes occurring to our national character as evidenced by these scandals is the fact that so little public debate and attention is devoted to them.