January 21, 2004

If This Is Not Over the Line, There Is No Line

Katherine R of Obsidian Wings finishes her series of posts on the Maher Arar case:

Obsidian Wings: Arar #14: A Plea for Bipartisanship in "Interesting Times": As Ted Barlow said last November, "I support the vigorous investigation and prosecution of terrorists and terrorist suspects. But if this isn’t over the line, then there is no line." It is not acceptable to me for my country to send people to be tortured on scant evidence, or on evidence gained from other torture sessions. I don't believe it makes my family any safer in the long run, and even if it did I would not support it.

Maybe that's not what happened. I've looked at this very carefully, and it seems the most likely explanation to me, but I could always be wrong. But I think it is beyond dispute that we need an investigation.

Yes, it might damage Bush politically, and no, I would not shed any tears over that. But I think it would lead to Ashcroft's replacement at most, and the public will not blame Bush too much for overreacting in the name of protecting us from terrorists. Anyway, some things have to matter more than politics. These are dangerous times, and historic times--surely we can manage to agree onsomething more important than a do-not-call registry.

So, how do we get an investigation, you ask? Umm...well...er...

What Ted Barlow said. If this is not over the line, then there is no line.

Posted by DeLong at January 21, 2004 08:02 AM | TrackBack


I don't think it is acceptable to send any to be tortured, no matter what!

Posted by: big al on January 21, 2004 08:19 AM


There is no line. Isn't that the obvious conclusion? America continues the way it does because of the refusal of people to believe that what they were taught about it in grade school was false.

Posted by: rpuchalsky on January 21, 2004 10:15 AM


At least some of us think it is our responsibility to make what we were taught about America in grade school true.

Posted by: Brad DeLong on January 21, 2004 10:22 AM


Brad, you are fighting the good fight. The scary thing is that what used to seem like simple common decency and common humanity is starting to seem, under this regime, like some kind of wild eyed idealism. Now you've identified "grade school" as the source of the problem, however, I can better understand the government's clearly stated intentions under NCLB to essentially do away with public schooling.


Posted by: Kate Gilbert on January 21, 2004 11:40 AM


Canada is flipping out too, if it's any consolation.... They've raided the house of one of the reporter's working on the case and plan to charge her under the secrets act. Whee.

Posted by: Katherine on January 21, 2004 03:54 PM


I'm sorry, but I have to wonder about the tone I've seen once or twice here, as if this is new. I mean, during the 1970's and 1980's the US government trained torturers throughout Latin America, financed the most terrible regimes (at one point El Salvador's government had more money coming from the US than from its own taxes) and directed what amounted to terrorism programs. The line has been crossed repeatedly over many years, and by many administrations.

And I don't mean this as anti-Americanism. I know many other governments would act the same way if the incentives were aligned right. In fact, perhaps that's what makes me most angry -- the Bush regime may be filled with a particularly ruthless and blinkered crowd, but it is dangerous to see problems of state support for terrorist actions and torturers as ones of individual bad guys.

Posted by: Tom Slee on January 21, 2004 04:45 PM


"Canada is flipping out too, if it's any consolation.... They've raided the house of one of the reporter's working on the case and plan to charge her under the secrets act. Whee."

Yes, the RCMP launched raids, but that is just the RCMP shooting themselves in the foot because somebody got desperate to try and stem the huge public outcry. There isn't nearly enough climate of fear and hysteria in Canada to avoid a public outcry. In Canada, the Arar case is regular front page news, major political figures have to deal with it on a practically daily basis, the Prime Minister had to publicly let it be known that he was specifically raising this issue with Bush in person, etc., etc.

Posted by: Ian Montgomerie on January 21, 2004 06:40 PM


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