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Can We Also Investigate the US-Syria Torture Partnership?

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Maher Ararby Jacob G. Hornberger

I don’t get U.S. officials. They’re so outraged over the brutality of the Syrian regime. They calling for an investigation into atrocities committed by Syrian forces against the Syrian people as part of the regime’s effort to suppress a rebellion against the regime. They are also demanding regime change in the country.

So, what is there not to get?

I don’t understand when and how U.S. officials got their born-again fervor against Syrian president Bashar Assad and his dictatorial regime.

After all, it was only 10 years ago that U.S. officials entered into a partnership with the Assad regime in which the Syrian dictatorship agreed to take custody of a man whom U.S. officials suspected was a terrorist and to torture him into confessing. Yes, the same regime that U.S. officials are now saying is too brutal and needs to be ousted from power.

For some unknown reason, U.S. officials were reluctant to take their suspected terrorist to Guantanamo or some secret international CIA prison camp to be tortured into confessing. So, they instead sent him to Syria to be incarcerated indefinitely without trial and tortured.

The man’s name is Maher Arar. After U.S. officials delivered Arar into the clutches of Assad’s brutal dictatorship, Arar was held in a small cell for almost a year and brutally tortured by Syrian goons. Unable to come up with any evidence of terrorism after a year of incarceration and torture, however, Syrian officials finally released him, whereupon he returned home to Canada.

Questions naturally arise, some of which we know the answers to and others we do not.

Did U.S. officials know that Syria was a brutal dictatorship when they delivered Arar into the custody of Syrian officials? They had to have known that. The whole world knew it. The Assad regime didn’t become a brutal dictatorship just recently. It’s been that way for a long time, long before U.S. officials delivered Arar into its custody.

In fact, the brutal nature of the Assad regime has got to be the reason that U.S. officials entered into their torture partnership with the Assad regime. They wanted Arar incarcerated without trial and brutally tortured, and they knew that the Assad dictatorship was good at those sorts of things. Indeed, the brutality of the Assad regime has got to be what attracted U.S. officials to do business with it.

So, why the born-again fervor against the brutality of the Assad regime today? What’s changed? Why did U.S. officials value Syria for its brutality in 2002 but oppose it today?

We don’t know the answers to those questions, in large part because the mainstream American press and the U.S. Congress have both consistently refused to press the U.S. government for details of the Syria-U.S. torture partnership.

Who negotiated the particulars of the deal in which Arar would be delivered into the clutches of Syrian officials? Was it the CIA and, if so, which agents in particular did the negotiating? Or was it the Pentagon? The State Department?

Was the deal reduced to writing? What were the terms of the deal? Did the parties agree on any particular torture methods that were to be used to extract a confession or was that to be left to the discretion of the Syrians? Did the president of the United States sign off on the deal? Was he aware of it?

Why can’t Americans know the answers to those questions? After all, we’re talking about a regime that U.S. officials say should be targeted for official investigations for war crimes. In fact, the Assad regime is considered so brutal that many American interventionists are now calling for a military intervention to oust the regime from power.

Okay, then why did the U.S. government partner with that same regime? Why did the U.S. government value the Syrian regime precisely because of its brutality — the same type of brutality that is now being cited as a reason for investigation and regime change?

How about a full congressional investigation into the Maher Arar case? How about subpoenas being issued to the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department to produce all officials and all documents relating to the torture partnership between the U.S. government and the Syrian dictatorship. How about requiring every single U.S. official who participated in the torture partnership between the U.S. government and the Syrian dictatorship to testify fully as to how the partnership came into existence, when it did, what the terms of the partnership were, who knew about it, and who approved it?

Until the U.S. government and the American mainstream press confront the torture partnership between Syria and the U.S. government, which victimized Maher Arar, the U.S. government’s protestations against the Syrian regime today come across as nothing more than a hypocritical and opportunistic attempt to replace the U.S. government’s torture partner with a new one.
 
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.


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