Friday, October 26, 2007

We all loose...

I made no post on Sept. 11 this year. For me it was too horrible to wallow in the sadness and depression of recalling that day. But so much of our lives today is impacted by that day. So much about our country was twisted... So that we almost don't recognize it any more.

In the days after 9/11 a terrible mistake was make. I'm not talking about foreign policy or the start of the war drums. No. A simple mistake was made by a pilot who forgot a radio in his hotel room. Later, a hotel employee "found" the radio in another room. A room where an Egyptian man was staying.

And this is where things went very wrong. This is where men in good faith did something that changed America. The FBI believed they had a 9/11 conspirator. He denied the radio was his, but of course, a terrorist would do that. Never mind that the radio doesn't fit into any terrorism scenario. These were the first few days right after the attack and no one knew how it had been planned or executed. All the FBI agent knew is that an Egyptian national had a radio used by pilots. This was all the proof he needed. But when the Egyptian wouldn't give him what he wanted he threatened to sick the Egyptian Security forces on his family back home.

These guys wouldn't simply make life unpleasant, they would very likely torture those who they suspected might be associated with terrorists. Let me be clear. He didn't threaten the Egyptian with torture, this is before we started sending people to secret CIA facilities where we only used the most human and White House sanctioned torture. He told the man the Egyptians would get his family, and Egypt (A country I love and hope to visit again some day) does not fuck around with terror suspects. Like Israel and Syria they can and will do all the things the Geneva convention forbids. Beating the feet with steel rods, electrical shocks to the genitals, drilling into flesh or worse.

The man was in a catch 22. Confess to something he did not do and his life would be over, but his family might be safe, or insist is his innocence and risk his families torture. He confesses. The radio is his. "Where did you get it?" asks the FBI agent. But the man can't tell his because it wasn't his. He makes up several stories, which only makes him look more guilty.

Then the real owner of the radio showed up. There was no plot. There was no evidence. There was no terrorist. The man was released.

This was the first misstep. But it would be followed by many more. In our zeal to find and punish those we felt were responsible we threw out the investigation play book and started cutting corners. Taking shortcuts to get justice. The War or Terror looks like and episode of "24" where he will break our own laws, ignore treaties, even torture in pursuit of the 'enemy'.

A lot of people talk tough about fighting terrorism. They take that anguish from 9/11 and channel it into a focussed beam of hate and grim determination to do "whatever it takes" to stop it from ever happening again. Give these people a gun and tell them that "that guy over there is a terrorist" and they might well shoot the guy themselves.

"So we made a mistake with this Egyptian guy, it was all sorted out, no harm no foul" you say.

But if the owner of the radio had not come back for it the Egyptian would very likely have been sent to Gitmo , or worse. We would have put an innocent guy and likely his family as well, into the meat grinder we have created and we would have destroyed them.

Only a short time ago almost half the detainees at Gitmo were released. We simply didn't have ANY evidence they were Al Qaida. "Horay! The system works!". But we had imprisoned them in closet sized cells there for YEARS. If they didn't hate America before, they sure as hell do now.

Look, I want to stop terrorist plots just like everyone else. I just don't want to destroy the country I love to do it. I want us to THINK before we act. Political candidates these days are trying to make themselves out as "Men of Action". You know what, we have those guys. They're called Marines. What I want are thinking men. Because action without thought is folly. And when we act like animals we all loose.

What's your opinion?

1 comment:

Ed Dale said...

I am tired of the neocons owning the title patriot. I am a patriot. I love and believe in this country. I believe in our ideals - freedom of thought, action and belief. Why are we trading our liberty for security? When did it become OK in this country to spy, wiretap, arrest, detain, and kill people without the support of law?