Posted by: Randy Allgaier | November 13, 2007

Rendition and American Torture: The Loss of our Morality and our Credibility

Yesterday I went to see the movie “Rendition”. It disturbed me greatly- not because it is graphic in its depiction of American torture, but because I know that this country is torturing people- and this movie was a disturbing reminder. It is hard to shake the sickness I had while watching this. Have we become the enemy that we purport to be fighting? It is incomprehensible to me that we actually have a debate in this country about whether water boarding is torture or not. What has happened to us? As long as our country goes down this path- I fear that the terrorists have won- this is exactly what they want us to do.

Amnesty International uses the term “rendition” to describe the transfer of individuals from one country to another, by means that bypass all judicial and administrative due process. In the “war on terror” context, the practice is mainly – although not exclusively – initiated by the USA, and carried out with the collaboration, complicity or acquiescence of other governments. The most widely known manifestation of rendition is the secret transfer of terror suspects into the custody of other states – including Egypt, Jordan and Syria – where physical and psychological brutality feature prominently in interrogations. The rendition network’s aim is to use whatever means necessary to gather intelligence, and to keep detainees away from any judicial oversight.

However, the rendition network also serves to transfer people into US custody, where they may end up in Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, detention centres in Iraq or Afghanistan, or in secret facilities known as “black sites” run by the USA’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). In a number of cases, individuals have been transferred in and out of US custody several times. Muhammad Saad Iqbal Madni, for instance, was arrested by Indonesian intelligence agents in January 2002, allegedly on the instructions of the CIA, who flew him from Jakarta to Egypt, where he “disappeared” and was rumoured to have died under interrogation. In fact, he had been secretly returned to Afghanistan via Pakistan in April 2002 and held there for 11 months before being sent to Guantánamo Bay in March 2003. It was more than a year later that fellow detainees, who said he had been “driven mad” by his treatment, managed to get word of his existence to their lawyers.

Rendition is sometimes presented simply as an efficient means of transporting terror suspects from one place to another without red tape. Such benign characterizations conceal the truth about a system that puts the victim beyond the protection of the law, and sets the perpetrator above it.

Renditions involve multiple layers of human rights violations. Most victims of rendition were arrested and detained illegally in the first place: some were abducted; others were denied access to any legal process, including the ability to challenge the decision to transfer them because of the risk of torture. There is also a close link between renditions and enforced disappearances. Many of those who have been illegally detained in one country and illegally transported to another have subsequently “disappeared”, including dozens who have “disappeared” in US custody. Every one of the victims of rendition interviewed by Amnesty International has described incidents of torture and other ill-treatment.

Because of the secrecy surrounding the practice of rendition, and because many of the victims have “disappeared”, it is difficult to estimate the scope of the programme. In many countries, families are reluctant to report their relatives as missing, for fear that intelligence officials will turn their attention on them. Amnesty International has spoken to several people who have given credible accounts of rendition, but are unwilling to make their names or the circumstances of their arrests and transfers known. Some cases come to light when the victim is released or given access to a lawyer, although neither event is a common occurrence in the life of a rendition victim.

The number of cases currently appears to be in the hundreds: Egypt’s Prime Minister noted in 2005 that the USA had transferred some 60-70 detainees to Egypt alone, and a former CIA agent with experience in the region believes that hundreds of detainees have been sent by the USA to prisons in the Middle East. The USA has acknowledged the capture of about 30 “high value” detainees whose whereabouts remain unknown, and the CIA is reportedly investigating some three dozen additional cases of “erroneous rendition”, in which people were detained based on flawed evidence or confusion over names.

However, this is a minimum estimate. Rendition, like “disappearance”, is designed to evade public and judicial scrutiny, to hide the identity of the perpetrators and the fate of the victims.
“They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started telling thing,.” said Vincent Cannistraro, former Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, describing what happened to a detainee who was rendered to Egypt.

Those who have been rendered to other countries for interrogation have said they were beaten with hands or sticks, made to stand for days on end, hung up for falaqa (beatings on the sole of the foot) or deprived of food or sleep. In some cases, the conditions of detention, including prolonged isolation, have themselves amounted to cruel treatment. Yet no one can investigate this, much less stop it, because the condition and whereabouts of most rendition victims remain concealed.

There is little doubt that transfers are intended to facilitate such abusive interrogation. The former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, Vincent Cannistraro, told Newsday newspaper in February 2003 that a senior al-Qa’ida detainee had been sent from Guantánamo Bay to Egypt because he was refusing to cooperate with his interrogators. In Egypt, Vincent Cannistraro said, “they promptly tore his fingernails out and he started telling things.” Robert Baer, a former CIA official in the Middle East, told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC): “As I understand it, there’s a lot of franchising stuff out. Syria is a country, like Iraq, where they torture people. They use electrodes, water torture. They take torture to the point of death, like the Egyptians. The way you get around involving Americans in torture is to get someone else to do it.”

The US government has claimed that renditions do not lead to a risk of torture. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice insisted that: “the United States has not transported anyone, and will not transport anyone, to a country when we believe he will be tortured. Where appropriate, the United States seeks assurances that transferred persons will not be tortured.”

Even if one were to accept the premise that rendition is not intended to facilitate interrogation under torture, reliance on such “diplomatic assurances” would not satisfy the absolute obligation not to transfer any person to a country where they risk torture or other ill-treatment (the principle of non-refoulement). Indeed, the premise on which such assurances are based is inherently self-contradictory. If the risk of torture or ill-treatment in custody is so great that the USA must ask for assurances that the receiving state is not going to carry out such a crime, than the risk is obviously too great to permit the transfer. Most states asked to provide such assurances have already signed binding legal conventions prohibiting torture and ill-treatment, and have ignored them. Moreover, the use of diplomatic assurances creates a situation in which neither state has an interest in monitoring the agreement effectively, as any breach of the agreement would implicate both the sending and receiving states in internationally prohibited acts of torture or ill-treatment.

Before 11 September 2001, rendition was largely thought of as a means of returning suspected terrorists to the USA for trial. President Bill Clinton’s Presidential Decision Directive 39 of June 1995 states: “When terrorists wanted for violation of U.S. law are at large overseas, their return for prosecution shall be a matter of the highest priority.” If we do not receive adequate cooperation from a state that harbors a terrorist whose extradition we are seeking, we shall take appropriate measures to induce cooperation. Return of suspects by force may be effected without the cooperation of the host government, consistent with the procedures outlined in [National Security Directive 77], which shall remain in effect.”(6) National Security Directive 77 was issued by President George W. Bush in January 1992, and its contents remain classified.

Speaking before the Senate Judiciary Committee in September 1998, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh noted: “During the past decade, the United States has successfully returned 13 suspected international terrorists to stand trial in the United States for acts or planned acts of terrorism against U.S. citizens… Based on its policy of treating terrorists as criminals and applying the rule of law against them, the United States is one of the most visible and effective forces in identifying, locating, and apprehending terrorists on American soil and overseas.”

At the same time, however, other US agencies were making provision to render terrorist suspects to third countries, where the goal was not trial, but to keep them in custody, out of circulation, and without access to US courts. Michael Scheuer, former chief of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, said that the CIA had originally proposed a programme to bring suspects back to the USA and hold them as prisoners of war. When this failed to gain administration approval, in 1995, the rendition programme to Egypt was proposed and accepted. The goal was to “get the guys off the streets”, said Michael Scheuer, and to seize documents, computers and any other information that could be exploited for intelligence. He also noted, however, that it was still White House officials who called the shots: they “told the CIA what to do, and decided how it should pursue, capture and detain terrorists… Having failed to find a legal means to keep all the detainees in American custody, they preferred to let other countries do our dirty work”.

Publicly, however, it continued to be suggested that rendition was a means of ensuring that terrorist suspects stood trial. In 2000, in a statement before the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, CIA Director George Tenet said: “Since July 1998, working with foreign governments worldwide, we have helped to render more than two dozen terrorists to justice. More than half were associates of Usama Bin Ladin’s Al-Qa’ida organization. These renditions have shattered terrorist cells and networks, thwarted terrorist plans, and in some cases even prevented attacks from occurring.” The meaning of the phrase “render… to justice” is not entirely clear. Amnesty International has asked the CIA for details of who was rendered and to where, and the dates of their trials, but has received no response.

In 2004, George Tenet testified to the US Congress’ 9/11 Commission that the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, which added a Renditions Branch in 1997, “has racked up many successes, including the rendition of many dozens of terrorists prior to September 11, 2001.” In later remarks, he clarified that there had been at least 70 renditions to foreign countries; no trials were mentioned.

“All I want to say is that there was ‘before’ 9/11 and ‘after’ 9/11. After 9/11 the gloves come off… ‘No Limits’ aggressive, relentless, worldwide pursuit of any terrorist who threatens us is the only way to go…” said Cofer Black, Director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Centre from 1999 until May 2002, in a statement before the 9/11 Commission.

Since 11 September the focus of rendition practice has shifted emphatically; the aim now is to ensure that suspects are not brought to stand trial, but are handed over to foreign governments for interrogation – a process known in the USA as “extraordinary rendition” – or are kept in US custody on foreign sites. What was once an inter-agency operation was apparently turned largely over to the CIA under a still-classified directive signed by President Bush in September 2001. The minority and majority leaders of both chambers of Congress were apparently notified of the CIA’s new powers, but were not consulted on or even shown the directive.

The directive is said to give the CIA the power to capture and hold terrorist suspects. Prior to its signing, the CIA could capture suspects, but had no authority to keep them in custody. This had been part of the reason for establishing the rendition program in the first place; it enabled the CIA – and other US intelligence agencies – to capture suspects and ship them off to client states without having to produce the evidence that would justify detention or trial. Roger Cressey, who was deputy counter-terrorism director at the White House in 2001, told UPI: “We are going to make mistakes. We are even going to kill the wrong people sometimes. That’s the inherent risk of an aggressive counter-terrorism program.”

As the practice of rendition has shown, mistakes are indeed made and lives are ruined. Some in the US government have tried to justify rendition and “black sites” by saying they are a necessary means of capturing and holding the “worst of the worst”, and that “renditions save lives”, yet there is no legal or judicial mechanism to ensure that this is the case. The methodology is to grab first, sometimes on flimsy or non-existent evidence, and to ask questions later.

Without a transparent process, based on the international standards and customary rules that bind all states, the program of rendition and secret detention is eroding the human security and rule of law it claims to protect. For all practical purposes, the USA has created a law-free zone, in which the human rights of certain individuals have simply been erased.

On January 27, 2003 President Bush, in an interview with the New York Times, assured the world that “torture is never acceptable, nor do we hand over people to countries that do torture.” Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer who was born in Syria, was surprised to learn of Bush’s statement. Two and a half years ago, American officials, suspecting Arar of being a terrorist, apprehended him in New York and sent him back to Syria, where he endured months of brutal interrogation, including torture. When Arar described his experience in a phone interview recently, he invoked an Arabic expression. The pain was so unbearable, he said, that “you forget the milk that you have been fed from the breast of your mother.”

Arar, a thirty-four-year-old graduate of McGill University whose family emigrated to Canada when he was a teen-ager, was arrested on September 26, 2002, at John F. Kennedy Airport. He was changing planes; he had been on vacation with his family in Tunisia, and was returning to Canada. Arar was detained because his name had been placed on the United States Watch List of terrorist suspects. He was held for the next thirteen days, as American officials questioned him about possible links to another suspected terrorist. Arar said that he barely knew the suspect, although he had worked with the man’s brother. Arar, who was not formally charged, was placed in handcuffs and leg irons by plainclothes officials and transferred to an executive jet. The plane flew to Washington, continued to Portland, Maine, stopped in Rome, Italy, then landed in Amman, Jordan.

During the flight, Arar said, he heard the pilots and crew identify themselves in radio communications as members of “the Special Removal Unit.” The Americans, he learned, planned to take him next to Syria. Having been told by his parents about the barbaric practices of the police in Syria, Arar begged crew members not to send him there, arguing that he would surely be tortured. His captors did not respond to his request; instead, they invited him to watch a spy thriller that was aired on board.

Ten hours after landing in Jordan, Arar said, he was driven to Syria, where interrogators, after a day of threats, “just began beating on me.” They whipped his hands repeatedly with two-inch-thick electrical cables, and kept him in a windowless underground cell that he likened to a grave. “Not even animals could withstand it,” he said. Although he initially tried to assert his innocence, he eventually confessed to anything his tormentors wanted him to say. “You just give up,” he said. “You become like an animal.”

A year later, in October, 2003, Arar was released without charges, after the Canadian government took up his cause. Imad Moustapha, the Syrian Ambassador in Washington, announced that his country had found no links between Arar and terrorism. Arar, it turned out, had been sent to Syria on orders from the U.S. government, under a secretive program known as “extraordinary rendition.” This program had been devised as a means of extraditing terrorism suspects from one foreign state to another for interrogation and prosecution. Critics contend that the unstated purpose of such renditions is to subject the suspects to aggressive methods of persuasion that are illegal in America—including torture.

Arar is suing the U.S. government for his mistreatment. “They are outsourcing torture because they know it’s illegal,” he said. “Why, if they have suspicions, don’t they question people within the boundary of the law?”

Rendition was originally carried out on a limited basis, but after September 11th, when President Bush declared a global war on terrorism, the program expanded beyond recognition—becoming, according to a former C.I.A. official, “an abomination.” What began as a program aimed at a small, discrete set of suspects—people against whom there were outstanding foreign arrest warrants—came to include a wide and ill-defined population that the Administration terms “illegal enemy combatants.” Many of them have never been publicly charged with any crime. Scott Horton, an expert on international law who helped prepare a report on renditions issued by N.Y.U. Law School and the New York City Bar Association, estimates that a hundred and fifty people have been rendered since 2001. Representative Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts and a member of the Select Committee on Homeland Security, said that a more precise number was impossible to obtain. “I’ve asked people at the C.I.A. for numbers,” he said. “They refuse to answer. All they will say is that they’re in compliance with the law.”

Although the full scope of the extraordinary-rendition program isn’t known, several recent cases have come to light that may well violate U.S. law. In 1998, Congress passed legislation declaring that it is “the policy of the United States not to expel, extradite, or otherwise effect the involuntary return of any person to a country in which there are substantial grounds for believing the person would be in danger of being subjected to torture, regardless of whether the person is physically present in the United States.”

The Bush Administration, however, has argued that the threat posed by stateless terrorists who draw no distinction between military and civilian targets is so dire that it requires tough new rules of engagement. This shift in perspective, labelled the New Paradigm in a memo written by Alberto Gonzales, then the White House counsel, “places a high premium on . . . the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians,” giving less weight to the rights of suspects.

It also questions many international laws of war. Five days after Al Qaeda’s attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Vice-President Dick Cheney, reflecting the new outlook, argued, on “Meet the Press,” that the government needed to “work through, sort of, the dark side.” Cheney went on, “A lot of what needs to be done here will have to be done quietly, without any discussion, using sources and methods that are available to our intelligence agencies, if we’re going to be successful. That’s the world these folks operate in. And so it’s going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective.”
In a history-making lawsuit, the ACLU has challenged the CIA on behalf of Khaled El-Masri, an entirely innocent victim of rendition who was released without ever being charged.

The lawsuit charges that former CIA Director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct Mr. El-Masri, beat him, drug him, and transport him to a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan. The corporations that owned and operated the airplanes used to transport Mr. El-Masri are also named in the case. The CIA continued to hold Mr. El-Masri incommunicado in the notorious “Salt Pit” prison in Afghanistan long after his innocence was known. Five months after his abduction, Mr. El-Masri was deposited at night, without explanation, on a hill in Albania.

The United States government has yet to acknowledge its unlawful abduction and mistreatment of Mr. El-Masri. No U.S. official has been held accountable for violating Mr. El-Masri’s well-established rights to due process and fair treatment and the Fourth Circuit decision makes it virtually impossible to challenge the government in court.

In response to written questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation for Attorney General, Michael Mukasey said that waterboarding – mock drowning prosecuted by the United States as torture since 1902 – was “repugnant,” but refused to call it illegal.
In his 172-page response to Senate Judiciary committee questions, Mukasey refused to comment on the legality of any specific interrogation techniques, claiming that it would be inappropriate to comment on them until he had been briefed by the Justice Department on “the actual facts and circumstances” of how they may have been used.

These facts are disturbing to say the least. The fact that we are having a national debate about torture techniques is abhorrent. We have lost our national morality and our credibility.


  1. […] Rendition and American Torture: The Loss of our Morality and our Credibility Filed under: Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, Gitmo, Neocons, Rendition, Torture, Waterboarding — jr @ 11:36 pm Rendition and American Torture: The Loss of our Morality and our Credibility […]

  2. […] Randy Allgaier put an intriguing blog post on Rendition and American Torture: The Loss of our Morality and our ….Here’s a quick excerpt:This had been part of the reason for establishing the rendition program in the first place; it enabled the CIA – and other US intelligence agencies – to capture suspects and ship them off to client states without having to produce the … […]

  3. Ohhh Randy,, why did you have to go and start a chat about torture… you already know how a war machine like myself is going to respond 🙂 I haven’t seen the movie and probably won’t, but let me read your post and I’ll be back…. It is my new mission in life to bring you to “the dark side” , use the force Luuke…

  4. LOL! I have to say- although we disagree vehemently on virtually everything- I like your sense of humor and your sense of “fair play” and rational debate. Of course I am not shocked that you might have a “reaction” to this post. I was actually surpirsed you didn’t react to my presidential choice. As for bringing me to the darkside- my dad has been trying to do that for years!

  5. I ma so busy these days,,, I really enjoy your articles,, you do it so well and I consider it a wonderful way for my writing to improve… we just have to work on your content though..

    As for your Presidential choice, he hasn’t gotten the nod yet… I am happy that at least its not “her”…

    I personally would love to see Newt Gingrich give it a shot, he is in my opinion the smartest and most capable man out there, I’m definately not a Gulliani guy though. You need to run a little more than a city to handle a Nation…

    Could we agree that ANYONE but “her” would work???
    I gotta read your article…

  6. Well- we certainly agree about Rudy. I agree with you about running a city—- but I also find it immoral the way he has capitalized on 9/11 both politically and financially (through his consulting firm).

    I also agree that Newt is brilliant- but I disagree with him on many issues. There are lots of smart people I disagree with (including you) but there are fundamental differences I have with them about what government is and what the Constitution really means.

    Believe it or not- I really respect Mike Huckabee because I feel that he has integrity and has a social conscience but we have some fundamental differences so I couldn’t vote for him- but I certainly respect the man.

    As far as anyone but Hillary—- Nah, I don’t think we can agree about that one. I think she is brilliant, I know she has flaws- but who doesn’t? When you read my article endorsing Edwards- you will notice that I really would not have a problem with any of the top three Dems- Edwards, Obama or Clinton.


  7. I promise in the next few days I will read your articles, work is slowing…
    The main thing I like about Huckabee is he endorses the FairTax, I am wholeheartedly behind it… what do you think?

    I agree everyone has their flaws on all sides of the aisle,,, but “she” is fatally flawed in my opinion…

    You know I watched the debate last night and the last one as well, this might sound insane but the only dem that sounded sincere and authentic was Kucinich! Not to mention his hot wife:)

  8. I actually agree that our tax system is completely broken. All you have to do is listen to what Warren Buffett has to say about this! The wealthy pay less in taxes (in percentage of income) than those of us in the middle class do! That’s just wrong.

    I don’t know if you are a “Supply Side” sort of guy, but I don’t think that supply side economics works.

    I find it fascinating that you found Kucinich to sound sincere and authentic. I actually can’t stand him (and I’m a liberal!) I find his sound bite speech to be more hollow than any of the other candidates.

    His hot wife- well I think you know by now that this would not be a priority for me (you have read my “about” page, haven’t you?) I hope knowing that I am a gay man (in a 19 year relationship) living with AIDS and living in San Francisco doesn’t stop you from commenting on my blog. I know – I am probably a charicature of everything you dislike about liberals!

  9. Well I can’t stand him either but I think he honestly believes what comes out of his mouth, whereas the others are only “performing” at best.
    No, I never read your about me page really, but it makes sense now, lol. Nah, it won’t make me stop talking with you, but now along with bringing you to the “dark side” I have to explain to you the wonder that is woman! LOL kidding
    Ahhh you poor confused fella…

    I read your article and I find a common theme that I am having a hard time sinking my teeth in. The constant mention of things like, “judicial oversight”, terrorist as “victims” & the CIA as “perpatrators”, Amnesty International and the International Declaration of Human Rights. I’m still stewing on it…

    I will leave you with this though, Islam does not like or necessarily follow that declaration imposed on us by the flawed U.N.

    from wiki
    Predominantly Islamic countries, like Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia, frequently criticized the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for its perceived failure to take into account the cultural and religious context of non-Western countries. In 1981, the Iranian representative to the United Nations, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, articulated the position of his country regarding the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by saying that the UDHR was “a secular understanding of the Judeo-Christian tradition”, which could not be implemented by Muslims without trespassing the Islamic law.[6]
    There are 57 Muslim nations who are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference[7]. On 30 June 2000, the OIC officially resolved to support the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam[8], an alternative document that says people only have “freedom and right to a dignified life in accordance with the Islamic Shari’ah”[9].

    Now about those women…..

  10. Well- I have to admit not being a fan of fundamentalist Islam but for that matter- I think any fundamentalist relgion is dangerous- Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu etc. Most confilcts in this world have at their basis religious intolerance. We in the west have no better track record, in my humble opinion.

    Being a gay man- I don’t relish being in a society that will execute me because of who I am. Or- as in the case of the President of Iran when he appeared at Columbia University- deny that people like me exist in his country! Well- come to think about it- maybe they have executed them all.

    Reagrdless of the problems that exist due to fundamentalism- I still think that if we condone torture- or conveniently ship “suspected terrorists” off to other countries to outsource torture- we really have become no better than the evil we say exists in our enemies.

    And don’t forget we seem to support Islamic countries when it is in our interest to do so. Seems like not long ago we were supplying weapons to the Taliban to fight the Russians and supplying support to Sadaam in order to fight the Iraqis. And what country is the home of Al-Qeda? Saudi Arabia- our “good buddies”.

    Seems that we have convenient memory loss in this country- let alone a rather flexible relationship with a sense of moral authority.

  11. Yes it is a very tangled web we weave with the Saudi’s and the like. I personally wouldn’t mind if the world stopped buying their oil and they were sent back to the stone age. We don’t have to bomb them, just bankrupt them!
    Newt Gingrich has some interesting ideas regarding offering “rewards” or “incentives” for the first hydrogen auto. And if we could get those nit wits at the Sierra Club to shut up and let us drill in Alaska and the Gulf in the meantime, that would be a good start.

    Returning to torture, water boarding is mental stressing to exctract information. They are in no real danger of drowning. In SERE school we were water boarded. We didn’t know it was coming and it freaked me out, but I was never in any real physical danger. All this attention to the issue has only accomplished one thing. Prompted the bad guys to train against it… thanks guys!! LOL

    I have a picture you may think is funny here

  12. Hmmmm- I guess you would disagree with Senator John McCain- who was held and tortured in Viet Nam that waterboarding is torture. You state that you were never in danger of drowning. Well- I think that torture’s ultimate goal isn’t death anyway.

    Regarding the picture- it reminds me of the picture of President Bush and Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia holding hands.

    Americans may raise an eyebrow at men holding hands, but in the Arab world, affection among men is common, and without sexual connotation.

    “Holding hands is the warmest expression of affection between men,” said Samir Khalaf, a sociology professor at American University of Beirut in Lebanon. “It’s a sign of solidarity and kinship.”

    In fact, if a man chooses not to touch another in a greeting, it can be interpreted as a sign of distance or disdain. Kissing cheeks, long handshakes and clutching hands are meant to reflect amity, devotion and most important, equality in status, noted Fuad Ishak Khuri, a social anthropologist, in his book, “The Body in Islamic Culture” (2001).

    Strangers, on the other hand, do not kiss or hold hands, and the strong do not kiss the weak, wrote Mr. Khuri, who died in 2003. And because the sexes are segregated, men rarely have the chance to touch or show affection toward a woman.

    “Arab culture has historically been segregated, so emotions and feelings are channeled to the same sex,” said Musa Shteiwi, a sociology professor at the University of Jordan. “Men spend a lot of time together, and these customs grew out of that.”

  13. Having lived for extended periods in the middle east I know it is very common, I just thought it was a funny picture after his comments at the University

    If your looking for me to say its torture, yes I think it is…
    but I do not feel compassion for these people the way some do…I would inflict much worse on them because I have seen first hand their brutality..

  14. I agree about the irony of the picture v. Ahmadinejad’s comments at Columbia that there are no gays in Iran. There very well might not be- they may all have been executed.

    I worry about saying its okay to torture anyone- even the most loathesome. It makes me wonder if we have become the very thing that we are fighting. I would hope that we could maintain our moral high ground- if we don’t what’s the difference between us and them?

  15. Randy I think, no, I know, the difference between us and them is illustrated by the very fact that you and I are having this discussion.

    Two people, who obviously should never drink and talk politics together 🙂 , are having a discussion, openly debating the legitimacy of government actions. Well, you are questioning, I think we should slice their eyelids off and make them watch beastiality movies 24/7, while making them eat can after can of spam…

    oops,,, see, I could never say that in Iran or such. Look at whats going on in Sudan with the British teacher and mohammed the teddy bear. Randy, these people are outside with knives and machetes calling for her death…… because she names a stuffed animal mohammed!

    Another difference is we do try comapssion, we are on the moral high ground, but Randy, I beg of you and all other demmies out there…… understand that these people WANT TO KILL US! We have turned the other cheek, we have tried diplomacy,,,,, now its time for people like me to be unleashed and annhiliate these people from the face of the earth.

    Sorry, you got me going……

  16. I ageee that part of what makes us different than fundamentalist Muslims is that we can have these conversations openly- I couldn’t agree more. I have an inherent problem with fundamentalism of any sort- because it breeds the sort of behavior that is being exhibited by nations like Iran- hate that comes in the form that my way is right and yours is wrong and therefore you do not deserve to live.

    There are fundamentalist Christians- like Fred Phelps- and many others that hate and revile me because I am gay and would gladly see me dead.

    I have been the victim of vicious hate (physically and verbally) right here in the good ol’ USA- so I guess its hard for me to say that the Muslims have a corner on the hatred market. When you are a victim of hate- and are assaulted due to that hate and know others who have been killed due to that hate- in your own country… it really does give you pause to reflect on the whole issue of hate.

    Maybe this is where you as a conservative and I as a liberal have a fundamental difference. I feel that my own integrity and morality are paramount and hold to these values regardless of what comes at me- including assault- If I do not I fear that I am no better than those that hate me and want to see me dead. If I am no better than they- I really believe that I have become them.

    For me there is a line in the sand of moral behavior that is more important than mere existence- otherwise that existence makes no sense. I fully respect how you feel about this issue- it is a fundamental core question for humanity- and there are no easy answers. For me- existence doesn’t make sense wthout holding on to the very values I treasure the most. It’s what I hold on to in order to give me life meaning.

    Yikes we went from political debate to a philosphical existential discussion! 🙂

  17. I can’t even spell extisbiminimulation, much less understand philosophy…
    I agree with a moral line in the sand, however our existence is being threatened. Theres no place to hide or run, violence must be answered with overwhelming violence.
    I hold no delusions when it comes to our governmental policies, foreign or domestic, but I am glad I am on this team and I will defend it to the end.
    Partisian stone walling obvioulsy doesn’t work, and I think you may have touched on the pulse of a core reason it is a reality today.
    Many people think the civil war was all about slavery, when, based on what I have read, it was a war of many reasons. Taxes, annexation of land, and most importantly, the imposition of anothers way of life on another. Make sense?
    I think that is a core problem to many, if not all, of America’s problems. Too many little groups looking to shove their beliefs or lifestles on the “other guy”….
    Sure there are many Westboro Baptist Church types out there, and I have found many times that those so against the gay lifestyle are in fact dealing with that demon themselves… not calling you a demon mind you, figure of speech…

    I think I just confused myself…..

  18. spelling

  19. Well- I still question whether or not we deserve to exist if we become the evil that we revile.

    About the Civil War- I’m not exactly sure why that came up, but I will address it.

    My partner’s family is from Tennessee and has lived in the Knoxville area since the late 1700’s, He has all sorts of family letters from the Civil War era- incidentally his relatives went to Indiana in order to fight on behalf of the union-and through those letters- many written in the field- the war was about slavery.

    I have often found that the arguments that the Civil War was about more than slavery is a revisionist reading of history.

    I too have a family with a long history in this country- tracing some of my mother’s family back to the 1600’s Massachusetts. I say this only because I want you to know that my family has had a stake in what this country is- and I do love our country and I have worked in areas of public policy for most of my career. I am sure that you wouldn’t be a fan of the policies on which I have worked!

    I also believe that our Constitution is one of the most brilliant concepts ever developed by mankind- precisely because it addresses our shortcomings.

    But our Constitution had a tragic flaw that we are still rekoning with- racism. When the very conrnerstone of our country enshrined racism – until the Reconstruction Amendments- by counting negroes as 3/5 of a human being- we have had to live with that legacy This was a compromise that was insisted upon by the southern states – or the Constitution would not have been ratified. N

    Not to mention that the Missouri Compromise of 1820 had everything to do with slavery.

    Racism never stuck me as much as it did at a moment in time about 10 years ago. I was in Washington DC with a colleague of mine who is African American who’s parents were both physicians and who himself had gone to Columbia University- we were both well dressed. We were trying to get a cab to Capitol Hill and he told me that I should hail the cab- because I would get one and he wouldn’t. It struck me that I would never be able to comprehend what it must be like to live one’s life with that constant reminder about being judged for who you are because of your skin tone and living with that legacy of hate and prejudice in your life every day- informing every action including hailing a cab.

  20. […] Rendition and American Torture: The Loss of our Morality and our Credibility […]

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