Barack Obama

In Wake of Syria Torture Report Remember That the US Has Taken Advantage of the Assad Regime's Brutality

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Credit: Cheotic/wikimedia

Ahead of the ongoing Syria peace talks in Switzerland the U.S. and the United Nations expressed their horror at the findings of a report put together by former war crimes prosecutors, which shows that the Assad regime systematically killed about 11,000 detainees from March 2011 to August 2013. The report is based on roughly 55,000 photographs of the thousands of dead tortured detainees leaked by a Syrian military police photographer, who has defected.

Read the report below (contains graphic images):

The report is shocking. But, as Foreign Policy's David Kenner has pointed out, the U.S. has used the brutality of the Assad regime to its advantage. Kenner's article highlights the case of Maher Arar, a Syrian-Canadian national who, according to the Open Society Foundations, was arrested by American authorities in September 2002 and then sent (after almost two weeks of interrogation) to Jordan, where he was beaten by Jordanian guards at a CIA detention center in Amman before being sent to a detention center in Syria run by the Syrian Military Intelligence.

From Foreign Policy:

The only mystery for Arar is why Americans are shocked at reports of torture in Syrian prisons. "What surprises me is the reaction of some people in the West, as if it's news to them," he told Foreign Policy. "As far back as the early 1990s … the State Department reports on Syria have been very blunt—the fact is, Syria tortures people."

It's a history that the U.S. government knows all too well—because, at times, it has exploited the Assad regime's brutality for its own ends. Arar was sent to Assad's prisons by the United States: In September 2002, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) detained him during a layover at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport. U.S. officials believed, partially on the basis of inaccurate information provided by Canada, that Arar was a member of al Qaeda. After his detention in New York, Arar was flown to Amman, Jordan, where he was driven across the border into Syria.  

"Successive U.S. administrations may not agree with the politics of Bashar al-Assad, but when you have a common enemy called al Qaeda—that changes everything," Arar said. "[S]ince 9/11, Assad's regime has been used for what the media now calls 'torture by proxy.'"

More from Foreign Policy:

The U.S. government has also never apologized to Arar for rendering him to Syria, or admitted that he was tortured in Assad's jails. So it's no surprise, perhaps, that Arar believes U.S. officials' surprise at the latest revelation is more than a little hypocritical.  

"Of course, the U.S. government will always ask for assurances for people not to be tortured," he said. "But they know that those assurances are not worth the ink they're written with. They know that once a person gets there—they know what's going to happen."

During his first presidential campaign then-Senator Barack Obama spoke out against the Bush administration's policies relating to the War on Terror. However, although Obama did order the closing of the CIA's "black" detention sites in January 2009, the Obama administration's record on the treatment of terror suspects is far from ideal

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  1. During his first presidential campaign then-Senator Barack Obama spoke out against the Bush administration’s policies relating to the War on Terror. However…

    Barry had to put on his big boy pants and recognize that civil liberties are a roadblock to gettin’ stuff done.

    1. He’s still running around in kid shorts, if you ask me.

  2. Will there be more calls for the US to invade Syria? I think so. I hope we don’t.

  3. Dude can we jsut like roll with it just this once.
    http://www.Anon-Stuff.tk

  4. …U.S. officials’ surprise at the latest revelation is more than a little hypocritical.

    The U.S.? Hypocritical? I’m stunned. STUNNED, I say!

  5. But we torture Bad Guys, and they torture Good Guys? Also, we do it to protect our freedoms, and they do because oppression and hating Israel.

    Not same at all.

    As Epi said the other day = INTENTIONS.

  6. “Successive U.S. administrations may not agree with the politics of Bashar al-Assad, but when you have a common enemy called al Qaeda — that changes everything,” Arar said.”

    Since the revelations about Bush’s torture policies became public, I have daily posts on this site, through all the years of the Bush Administration, damning them for their torture policies–of terrorists and others alike.

    The only thing less surprising than learning that the Assad regime tortures people is the idea that the United States–or anyone else–would try to do what’s in its own best interests now despite whatever mistakes were made in the past.

    Assume for the sake of argument that Assad is a threat to American security, and do you really think we shouldn’t resist him now because we used him to our advantage in the past?

    We helped Stalin towards the end of World War II. We practically handed him Easter Europe on a platter. You really think that means we shouldn’t have pursued our interests against the Soviets during the Cold War?

    The future unfolds in unpredictable ways. Our interests evolve with those changing situations. It was never in our best interests to use Assad to torture anybody–that was a huge strategic mistake (and moral failure) on the part of the Bush Administration.

    Why having made those mistakes in 2002 means that we shouldn’t pursue our best interests in 2014–whatever they may be–is completely beyond me.

    1. The reasons being given for war/sanctions are the brutality of his regime, not the he is a strategic threat to the US. When the whole reason for going to war is that the guy is brutal but you hired the guy to be brutal for you, that is different then changing your alliance based on changing conditions.

      This is akin to hiring a babysitter because she is not afraid to spank your kids (and you appreciate the discipline) then months later pushing for her arrest and prosecution for child abuse and pretending you are appalled that she would ever hit a precious child.

    2. Why having made those mistakes in 2002 means that we shouldn’t pursue our best interests in 2014–whatever they may be–is completely beyond me.

      Because around these parts, whenever someone commits an evil act, either the US govt. was complicit in said act, or has done something just as bad or worse.

      I mean look at this article. The report alleges that the Assad regime tortured and murdered ~10,000 people, but the bulk of the article focuses on a single person that the US sent to Syria 10 years ago. (And for the record, I am not justifying what was done to Arar.) That’s all you need to know about the thought processes around here.

  7. Sounds just like Saddam.
    “We know he has chemical weapons!”
    “How do you know that?”
    “We gave them to him.”

    “We know Assad is a torturer.”
    “How?”
    “We sent him people to be tortured.”

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