Friday, October 19, 2007

GOP Congressman: "Mistakes Happen, People Die"

I dislike the adverbial conjunction 'but.' I find that politicians are very fond of 'but.' It's like waiting atop the roller coaster for the plunge. They begin a sentence on a note of hope, and then comes the 'but.' It happened yesterday in Congress. Not surprisingly, it was a right-wing Republican congressman, Dana Rohrabacher.

The particular setting was unique: the United States, through the House of Representatives, apologized to a Canadian of Syrian heritage, Maher Arar, who was 'captured' in New York in 2002 by US officials and sent to Syria, where he says he was tortured.

According to the BBC, "Mr Arar appeared by video link from Canada because he remains on a US government watch list. A Canadian government inquiry cleared him of any involvement in terrorism. Syria denies that he was tortured. Mr Arar appeared on a giant screen before a joint hearing of House of Representatives committees into "extraordinary rendition". "

Isn't it interesting that Syria was the site chosen by the U.S. Government? Syria, on the 'bad' list of nations in the Bush/Cheney playbook, apparently is 'good' for a few things.

"I was beaten with an electrical cable and threatened with a metal chair, the tyre and electric shocks. I was forced to falsely confess that I had been to Afghanistan," he said. "When I was not being beaten I was put in a waiting room so that I could hear the screams of other prisoners. The cries of the women still haunt me the most."

Mr Arar was later released without charge.

Among those offering their apologies at the hearing was Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler from New York:

"On behalf of my fellow citizens I want to apologise to you, Mr Arar, for the reprehensible conduct of our government for kidnapping you, for turning you over to Syria - a nation that our own state department recognises as routinely practising torture. This conduct does not reflect the values of the American people."

Then came the GOP. It was Rep Dana Rohrabacher who spoke. He said:

The US should be ashamed of what happened to Mr Arar... "BUT that is no excuse to end a programme which has protected the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Americans... We are at war. Mistakes happen. People die".

Donald Rumsfeld is not dead.

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