Wednesday, July 12, 2006
Don't It Always Seem To Go, That You Don't Know What You've Got Till It's Gone
Remember the old law-and-order saw about how "a conservative is a liberal who got mugged"? How about this: A liberal is a conservative who got thrown in jail without charge. An update to reflect the times....
The 'Realist drew his inspiration from this article in the LA Times with this enticing opening paragraph:
A Los Angeles filmmaker [Cyrus Kar] who was imprisoned in Iraq for 55 days sued Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking military officials Friday, alleging that his detention violated his civil rights, the law of nations and the Geneva Convention.
Here's the background on the story:
Kar, a U.S. citizen and Navy veteran, went to Iraq 14 months ago to make a documentary film about Cyrus the Great, the Persian king who wrote the world's first human rights charter.
On May 17, 2005, the taxi he was riding in was stopped at a Baghdad checkpoint and authorities found components in the trunk that are commonly used in improvised explosive devices. The taxi driver told military authorities that Kar and his cameraman knew nothing about the items, which the driver said he was bringing to his brother-in-law.
Kar also submitted to a polygraph examination and allowed the FBI to search his apartment. They found nothing incriminating, but he was held for many more weeks in various prisons around Iraq, including the notorious facility at Abu Ghraib.
Even after he was cleared by a military court at Camp Cropper, Kar was held another week. Eventually, the camp commandant gave him a letter stating that military judges found him to be an "innocent civilian" under the Geneva Convention.
While in confinement, the suit states, Kar was at various times hooded, restrained "in painful flexi-cuffs" and "repeatedly threatened, taunted and insulted" by U.S. soldiers.
At one point, according to the suit, a U.S. soldier slammed Kar's head into a concrete wall at Abu Ghraib.
Here's the money shot though:
What happened to him in Iraq was "a life-altering experience," Kar said. "I am not a left-wing liberal. I agree with many of George Bush's policies."
But, he added, "I don't think the Constitution has to be gutted to achieve our objectives" in the war on terrorism. "I felt it was my duty as an American to take a stand for the constitutional rights guaranteed to all Americans."
The suit attempts to make the case that the treatment encountered by Kar represents a system-wide problem, not an isolated incident:
"The abuses experienced by Mr. Kar — prolonged arbitrary detention without charge, the systematic denial of access to counsel, and the absence of any court in which to challenge the legality of his detention — are the norm for thousands of persons held in U.S. military detention in Iraq," the suit asserts, citing reports by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the International Committee of the Red Cross and Amnesty International.
Interestingly, military officials take the opposite view: that Mr. Kar's treatment is indicative of a properly functioning process!
"This case highlights the effectiveness of our detainee review process," Brig. Gen. Don Alston said in a prepared statement after Kar's release.
That word, "effectiveness," I don't think it means what you think it means.