I know it’s considered heresy to criticize the U.S. government with respect to foreign affairs, but sometimes it’s just necessary to point out the disingenuousness and hypocrisy of the U.S. national-security state. There are lots of good examples that one can draw upon but since Syria is in the news, that’s a good one to focus on.
Today, the official U.S. policy is that Syria’s dictator Bashar al-Assad is a bad guy and an enemy of the U.S. Empire. For the past year or more, U.S. officials have been cheering on the Syrian revolutionaries, notwithstanding the fact that many of them are anti-American fanatics who hate the U.S. Empire for its policy of empire and interventionism and, given half-a-chance, would kill as many Americans as possible with terrorist attacks. Right now, U.S. officials are wringing their hands over whether to arm the Syrian revolutionaries or impose “no-fly zones” over Syria. Along with Israeli officials, they’re also vociferously protesting the decision by Russia to sell anti-aircraft systems to Syria.
Of course, there is no question but that Assad is a dictator and a brutal one at that. If there was ever a dictator who deserved to be ousted from power, he’d fit the bill.
So, what’s wrong with this picture? Where does the disingenuousness and hypocrisy come in?
Well, take a wild guess as to who the U.S. national-security state partnered with as part of its war on terrorism.
You guessed it! Bashar al-Assad and the brutal Syrian dictatorship he rules over.
Think about that: Our very own government partnering with one of the most brutal and oppressive dictatorships in the world, a dictatorship that it piously and self-righteously says must now be ousted from power.
Wouldn’t that rank as disingenuousness and hypocrisy?
Syria was chosen by U.S. officials to serve as one of their rendition-torture partners. Why Syria? Precisely because of this dictatorship’s willingness to brutally torture people and because of its competence in doing so.
The infamous case of Maher Arar comes to mind. Arar was returning to Canada from vacation with his family. Unfortunately for him, his flight had a stopover in Washington, D.C. U.S. officials used the opportunity to take him into custody and accuse him of being a terrorist. After two weeks of interrogation, during which they prohibited him from having an attorney, Arar steadfastly refused to confess to being a terrorist.
So, U.S. officials decided to rendition him to Syria with the understanding that if anyone could make him talk and confess, it was the Syrian dictatorship that could do so.
According to Wikipedia,
Despite the recent public rhetoric, at the time of Arar’s deportation, Syria was working closely with the United States government in their “War on Terror.” In November 2003, Cofer Black, then counterterrorism coordinator at the U.S. State Department and former director of counterterrorism at the CIA, was quoted as saying “The Syrian government has provided some very useful assistance on al Qaeda in the past…. In addition, the [George W. Bush] administration noted the cooperation and support by Syria in fighting al-Qaida as a reason for its opposition to the Syria Accountability Act.”
How long was Arar brutalized in Syria? For more than 10 months. His cell was three-feet by six-feet, with no lights and lots of rats. Brutally beaten on a regular basis, he confessed to being a terrorist. “I would do anything to stop the torture,” he said.
Notwithstanding his confession, Syrian officials finally released Arar from custody, stating they couldn’t “find anything” to sustain the terrorism charges.
U.S. officials piously claimed that they were just innocently deporting Arar without knowledge or intent that he would be tortured by Syrian goons.
But it was obviously just one more U.S. government lie.
For one, they could have deported him to Canada, given that he was primarily a Canadian citizen. (The reason he was still a Syrian citizen was a technical one: Syria prohibits its citizens from renouncing their Syrian citizenship.)
More important, when Arar later sued the U.S. government for illegal kidnapping and conspiracy to torture, guess how U.S. officials responded. They asked that the lawsuit be dismissed based on the State Secrets doctrine, a doctrine that the U.S. Supreme Court created back in the 1950s in a case that shielded fraudulent conduct by the U.S. national-security state from scrutiny.
So, here they are piously and innocently claiming that it was just a normal deportation while, at the same time, telling the federal courts that the lawsuit threatened to unearth secrets that threatened “national security.”
Not surprisingly, the federal courts deferred to the military and the CIA, as they almost always do. They dismissed Arar’s suit in order to protect U.S. national-security state secrets pertaining to its rendition-torture program (and notwithstanding the U.S. government’s position that this was just an innocent deportation).
To this day, we don’t know how the deal with Syrian officials to accept custody of Arar and torture him got established. Was the contract in writing? What were its precise terms? Who negotiated it on behalf of the U.S. government? Did President Bush sign off on the deal? How about dictator Assad? Did Bush and Assad shake hands on the deal?
Alas, the American people are not permitted to know such things. Under the national-security state apparatus under which they live, Americans are expected to just keep their heads down, not ask questions regarding “national security,” and just keep looking forward.
Of course, Assad isn’t the first dictator that the U.S. national-security state has embraced, supported, and partnered with. The list includes brutal dictators in Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Chile, Guatemala, and many more.
But wouldn’t it be more honest if U.S. officials simply said “We’re renouncing our partnership with this dictator and now supporting his ouster” rather than couching their opposition in disingenuous and hypocritical propaganda?