Monday, October 12, 2009

Fouad al-Rabiah, Obama and peace

I linked the case of Fouad al-Rabiah in my last post, but didn't provide any details. I think it is worth talking about more. First, here is Andy Worthington's original article on the subject. It is a long and disturbing read. If you want a shorter and equally disturbing one, here is a new article by Andrew Sullivan in The Times.

From Sullivan's article:

We know that an American interrogator, operating under the authority of the US government, said the following words to a detainee: “There is nothing against you. But there is no innocent person here. So, you should confess to something so you can be charged and sentenced and serve your sentence and then go back to your family and country, because you will not leave this place innocent."

This man had worked at Kuwait Airways for 20 years; he was also a humanitarian volunteer in Afghanistan, who got caught up in the war and found his entry route (via Iran) blocked for exit. Trying to leave via Pakistan, he was caught by US troops and sent to Guantanamo. But even after initial interrogators concluded he was innocent, he was kept there and tortured -- because he couldn't be allowed to leave Guantanamo.

This happened mostly under the Bush administration, but the Obama administration continued to pursue the case despite knowing he was innocent. Says Sullivan (who was, and in some ways still is, one of Obama's strongest supporters):

Shockingly, although Barack Obama’s justice department knew the details of this case, it persisted with the Bush administration’s attempt to prosecute him. Last week, the Obama administration also backed a legal provision to withhold permanently all unreleased photographic evidence of torture in sites and prisons far away from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. And some of us believed we were voting for change.

And a President who defends the torture of a man known to be innocent is rewarded with the Nobel Peace Prize. Tom Lehrer once said that satire died when Henry Kissinger won the peace prize. But was it necessary to stab the dead body again?

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