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Don't Forget Maher Arar's Rendition to Syria

Maher ArarPresident Obama has just announced that the U.S. government has decided to formally recognize the rebel group that is trying to oust Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power.

The rebel group, however, seems not to be overly impressed with the president’s announcement. According to the New York Times, Andrew J. Tabler, a senior fellow and Syrian expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, stated, “But it’s happening in the context of resentment among the Syrian opposition, especially armed elements, of the White House’s lack of assistance during the Syrian people’s hour of need. This is especially true among armed groups.”

Moreover, Obama’s announcement was coupled with an official designation of part of the rebel group, the Nusra Front, as a terrorist organization that is affiliated with al Qaeda. Apparently, that designation didn’t impress the rest of the rebel group, given that they’re all fighting together to oust the Assad dictatorship. The Turkish Weekly quotes Brigadier Col. Yasser al-Abboud, a rebel commander: “That is such a dangerous imputation. So far, we did not see any of their acts to be counted as a terror attack. They are brave soldiers who fight against the gang in the administration.”

It seems to me that another important factor in all this is going to be the rendition-torture partnership that the U.S. government entered into several years ago with the Assad dictatorship. That’s the partnership in which U.S. officials kidnapped Canadian citizen Maher Arar and renditioned him to the Assad regime for the purpose of torture.

How do they explain that to the Syrian rebels, especially if the rebels end up prevailing and establishing a new regime in Syria? Sure, today the U.S. government is supporting the rebels, but what about back then? When the brutal Assad dictatorship was in total control of the country and wasn’t threatened by a revolution, the U.S. government obviously had no reservations about working with it to torture people for the U.S. government.

One might even get the impression that the U.S. government loves submissive and compliant dictators who are solidly in power but then eager and willing to double-cross them and go the other side when it looks like the dictator might be ousted from power. That was certainly the case with Egyptian military dictator Hosni Mubarak, whom U.S. officials supported with cash and armaments for decades to enable him to maintain the dictatorship’s brutal grip on power over the Egyptian people. Then, when it appeared that the Egyptian people who had suffered for decades under that brutal U.S.-supported dictatorship got close to ousting Mubarak from power, the U.S. government jumped ship and went over to the side of the protestors.

One of the most fascinating parts of the Arar kidnapping and rendition is that we still don’t know how the whole thing went down. Too bad the mainstream press is so compliant and submissive when it comes to these things because maybe they could have put the heat on President Bush and President Obama to explain how it came about.

Who were the American negotiators who struck the deal with the Syrian officials? Was the deal put into writing? Did President Bush sign off on the deal? What were the exact terms of the agreement? Were the methods of torture specified? Were any guarantees issued? How much did the agreement cost U.S. taxpayers? Did any U.S. officials express any reluctance about working with one of the most brutal dictatorships in the world? How was the Assad dictatorship chosen? Did its proficiency with torturing Syrians play an important role in its selection?

Alas, we don’t know the answer to any of those questions. Supposedly, “national security” is at stake, whatever that means.

In fact, owing to that nebulous, meaningless term — “national security,” the federal judiciary has proven even more submissive toward the military and the CIA than the mainstream press. When Arar sued for what U.S. officials had done to him, in concert with the Assad dictatorship, the federal courts denied him the right to bring his suit. The reason? “National security,” they said, would be threatened if the suit were permitted to proceed.

Now, think about that. What does that mean? After all, the Syrians obviously know the details of the rendition-torture agreement, how it came into existence, and how it operated. They were a party to it! They know what they did to torture the guy. U.S. officials know all this too.

So, how in the world could “national security,” whatever that term means, be threatened if Arar’s legal suit disclosed what Assad and Bush both know? It’s just another example of how the much-ballyhooed term “national security,”  a term not even mentioned in the Constitution, is used as a shield to cover up and protect official wrongdoing by the U.S. national-security state — and the vitally important role that the U.S. judiciary plays in enabling such cover-ups and wrongdoing.

My hunch is that if the Syrian rebels get close to the center of power in Damascus, CIA agents will be rushing in to seize Assad’s Mahar Arar file, as the CIA did in Libya when Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi was on the verge of falling. Of course, much to the CIA’s chagrin, Human Rights Watch beat it to Qaddafi’s files and disclosed to the world the rendition-torture partnership that the U.S. government had with that dictator. Oh, by the way, the United States is still standing despite the fact that the American people, along with everyone else, learned this dark and nefarious “national-security” secret of the U.S. national-security state.

What’s going to be the result if the Assad dictatorship is ousted and replaced with a new regime? That’s, of course, impossible to predict. But there is a distinct possibility that the new regime isn’t going to be a best friend of the U.S. government, unless, of course, the U.S. government is successful in purchasing a friendship by funneling billions of dollars of cash and armaments into the coffers of the new regime.

The entire sordid mess is just one more example of the moral and political bankruptcy of the entire national-security state apparatus and the philosophy of foreign empire and interventionism that statists have foisted upon our nation. The best thing Americans could ever do, for themselves and the world, is to bring all troops home from everywhere and discharge them into the private sector, dismantle the standing army, military-industrial complex, and national-security state, and end the policy of empire and interventionism, including foreign military bases, foreign aid, rendition-torture partnerships, and U.S. government involvement in the internal affairs of other countries. That’s the key to freedom, prosperity, and harmony with the people of the world.

Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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