Posted by: sean | January 5, 2007

Ordinary Iraqis and extraordinary rendition

The New York Review has articles about torture and extraordinary rendition (subscription only) and ordinary Iraqis. The latter reviews Anthony Shadid’s book Night Draws Near, which was recommended to me by an Iraqi diplomat friend of mine. I recently met Shadid in Beirut, and he’s an extremely nice guy, and judging from his recent coverage of Lebanon, I can understand why his book would be really good. (Unfortunately, I haven’t picked it up yet.)

The piece on extraordinary rendition helpfully brings together the stories of some of the more publicized victims of the Bush Administration’s policy as well as some of the reporting done by CIA plane watchers who helped uncover the story of the “black sites” in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Under review are the Canadian Government’s report on the rendition to Syria and subsequent torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar and Steven Grey’s Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Torture Program:

Edward Walker Jr., a career diplomat, was the US ambassador in Egypt between 1994 and 1997 when some of the first renditions took place. According to Walker, there were only a few occasions when the procedure was used, and they concerned men who were wanted by the Egyptians for terrorist acts allegedly committed there. Walker thought it was a good policy. “They were bad guys, and they were set on causing harm. And you know it’s not a perfect world,” he told Grey. But he was under no illusions about how they would be treated. “I cannot believe that anybody that was involved in this,” he said, “didn’t in his heart of hearts, if he was halfway intelligent, think that they were getting abusive interrogation techniques that were tantamount to torture.”

Grey asked Walker: “When Condoleezza Rice and the President now stand in front of people and say we don’t send people to countries where they torture, are they telling the truth?”

Walker replied: “No, they’re not telling the truth.”

A former CIA officer was more colorful. “Coming out and saying ‘we don’t do torture’ is as bad as President Clinton saying, ‘I didn’t have sex with that woman.'” he told Grey. “It’s a bare-faced lie. Of course we do torture. Imagine putting President Bush’s head under water and telling him to raise his hand when he thinks he’s being tortured. Give him the water-board treatment, and he’d be raising his hand straightaway.”

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