Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was detained at a New York airport in 2002 by U.S. officials and sent off to Syria where he was tortured, testified before the United States Congress yesterday —by video conference. He could not appear in person because he is barred from entering the U.S. on the grounds of alleged terrorist links, despite having been cleared earlier this year of having any such connections by an exhaustive public inquiry in Canada. As we noted here some months ago, the Canadian government has already apologized to Mr. Arar for its role in the travesty and paid him some $10 million in restitution.
But in a remarkable turn of events yesterday, members of Congress from both parties apologized to Mr. Arar. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) told Mr. Arar that he had seen all the classified material upon which the U.S. administration still bases Mr. Arar’s terrorist status, and assured him:
…there is nothing there that justifies the campaign of vilification against your name … or justifies denying you entry into this country or characterizing you as a terrorist in any way.
Three cheers for the U.S. Congress. The Bush administration, on the other hand, not only refuses to relent in its campaign against Mr. Arar, but it has invoked provisions of national security so that Mr. Arar cannot even sue the U.S. government for its actions in detaining him and sending him off to be tortured.
True, Mr. Arar is just one of countless cases now where what I call the folly of Colossus, otherwise known as the most blundering and misguided administration in the history of U.S. foreign policy, has shattered the lives of ordinary citizens. There are millions living in agony still in Iraq and millions more who have fled as refugees. We may never know the details of their stories of suffering or the horrible consequences to be reaped by the young pople growing up without parents, without limbs and without hope. But we know Mr. Arars’ story. We know exactly what was done to him, the injustice exacted upon him, the torture and pain inflicted on him and the arrogant intransigence of an executive branch of government that continues to label him with the dreaded “T” word. And yet, in listening to this man’s testimony, one detects no hatred or desire for revenge on his part. He seems only to want to know why this was done to him by a country he still admires and a people he respects.
It is an outrage that should offend the conscience of fair-minded Americans everywhere.