U.S. Gets ‘Sovietized’
By Eric Margolis
Sun" -- -- In the late 1980s, I was the first
western journalist allowed into the world’s most dreaded prison,
Moscow’s sinister Lubyanka. Muscovites dared not even utter the
name of KGB’s headquarters, calling it instead after a nearby
toy store, “Detsky Mir.”
I still shudder recalling Lubyanka’s underground cells, grim
interrogation rooms, and execution cellars where tens of
thousands were tortured and shot. I sat at the desk from which
the monsters who ran Cheka (Soviet secret police) — Dzerzhinsky,
Yagoda, Yezhov, Beria — ordered 30 million victims to their
Prisoners taken in the dead of night to Lubyanka were
systematically beaten for days with rubber hoses and clubs.
There were special cold rooms where prisoners could be frozen to
near death. Sleep deprivation was a favourite and most effective
Cheka technique. So was near-drowning in water fouled with urine
I recall these past horrors because of what this column has long
called the gradual “Sovietization” of the United States. This
shameful week, it became clear Canada is also afflicted.
We have seen America’s president and vice president, sworn to
uphold the Constitution, advocating some of the same
interrogation techniques the KGB used at the Lubyanka. They
apparently believe beating, freezing, sleep deprivation and
near-drowning are necessary to prevent terrorist attacks. So did
The White House insisted that anyone — including Americans —
could be kidnapped and tried in camera using “evidence” obtained
by torturing other suspects. Bush & Co. deny the U.S. uses
torture but reject the basic law of habeaus corpus and U.S. laws
against the evil practice. The UN says Bush’s plans violate
international law and the Geneva Conventions.
This week’s tentative agreement between Bush and Congress may
somewhat limit torture, but exempts U.S. officials from having
to observe the Geneva Convention.
Canadians had a shocking view of similar creeping
totalitarianism as the full horror of Maher Arar’s persecution
was revealed. Thanks to false information from the RCMP, the
U.S. arrested a Canadian citizen and sent him to Syria. Arab
states and Pakistan were being used by the Bush administration
for outsourced torture. Syria denies the charges.
Suspects were kidnapped by the U.S., often on the basis of
faulty information or lies, then sent to Arab states to be
tortured until they confessed. The apparent objective of this
“rendition” program? To find a few kernels of useful
information. The Cheka and East Germany’s Stasi used the same
I never thought I’d see the United States — champion of human
rights and rule of law — legislating torture and Soviet-style
kangaroo tribunals. I never thought I’d see Congress and a
majority of Americans supporting such police state measures.
Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln must be turning in their
To me, Canada has always been a haven of moderation, decency,
and rule of law — until the Maher Arar affair shockingly showed
this country could also quickly fall into police state
Arar’s despicable treatment by Canada and the U.S. was the
result of a U.S. witch hunt, plus anti-Muslim racism, stupidity,
bureaucratic cowardice and incompetence.
We saw Ottawa aiding the outrageous persecution of its citizens,
and the U.S. shamefully refusing to aid the Arar inquiry.
Former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who authorized
Arar’s arrest, should face justice for this and many other
malfeasances. The current U.S. Attorney General, Alberto
Gonzales, who denied the Bush administration was responsible for
Arar’s abduction and torture, should be ashamed.
Canada must demand a thorough U.S. investigation, apology, and
guarantee Canadians will never again become victims of such
state-run criminal activity. It’s time for Prime Minister
Stephen Harper to advise his new best friends in Washington that
Canada is not a banana republic.
Officials directly involved in the most sordid, disgraceful case
in Canada’s modern history, must face justice. They are as much
guilty as the torturers who beat Maher Arar mercilessly for 10
Copyright Toronto Sun
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