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22 September 2006


The film "Brazil" begins when a bureaucrat swats a fly buzzing around his office, and the dead fly guts splatter on a government form, and change the name TUTTLE to BUTTLE. That night a government anti-terror squad, all its agents in black and wearing masks to hide their faces, crashes into Mister Buttle's apartment, throws a chain and leather hood over his head, hands an official receipt to his wife, and drags him away to a detention center, where he's tortured to death.

"Brazil" was directed by Terry Gilliam, written by Tom Stoppard and Charles McKeown. It's set in the near future.

It was released in 1985, so if you watch it now -- and I can't recommend it strongly enough -- it's set in the recent past.

It's about the war between terrorists and government anti-terrorist police. It's extremely difficult to tell the difference between the terrorists and the government anti-terrorist police. It's a comedy. Here's a bit of dialogue from "Brazil":


Inside there is a connecting door to he next door room but the only person in the immediate room is a pleasant-looking FEMALE TYPIST, wearing headphones, chewing gum and typing with great facility. Sam approaches the Typist who, busily typing, twinkles a greeting (mimed) and silently mouths the words...

It won't be long now.
(she carries on typing)
Sam nods, and stands quietly by her. He can hear tiny sounds coming through her headphones. He looks down at the piece of paper in the typewriter. He reacts a bit strangely, perhaps even winces. We see the close up of the words being struck crisply on paper.

AHHHH, Oh God... No, don't... UHH, please... I... STOP!! I can't stand... AIIEEEE.

(quietly, still typing)
Can I help you?

She is looking at Sam helpfully, holding one of the earphones away from her ear. From this earphone we can just hear quietly...

Oooooooh... aaaaaahhh... please... arrrrrghhhh no...please... Oh God, No... No, stop, I don't know...

I'm looking for Officer 412/L.

What cost are we willing to pay to keep fighting the war on terror -- at least the way we've been fighting it so far?

You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs, of course, but how many eggs can we go on breaking, and what's an egg worth?

Or, to put the metaphor in focus: You can't fight terrorism without abducting a few perfectly innocent citizens and sending them to police-state dictatorships to be tortured for ten or eleven months.

Here is where we've arrived. Anyone who's known to be a Muslim now lives under a permanent cloud of government suspicion, and is fair game for any kind of government action.

In a past era in Europe, the Designated Detested Ethnic/Religious Group under the permanent cloud of government suspicion -- at least the most populous group -- were Jews. For about ten years all over Europe, being a Jew was a Flee or Hide or Die deal.

For about five years, being an American citizen of Japanese ancestry earned you an automatic place in a government concentration camp, in wooden barracks, behind barbed wire. During World War II, no citizen of Japanese ancestry was ever convicted of a crime against the US war effort.

Now, in the USA and so sadly in Canada, being a Muslim -- having one of those Muslim-ish names -- is the only credential you need to find yourself under the shadow of the cloud.

You have legal rights as a Canadian or American citizen.

But when push comes to shove, when the war on terror throws the leather hood over your head, you'll have far fewer rights than a non-Muslim citizen.

I can't predict how long the black cloud will hover over Canadian and American Muslims. It's one of those History Things.

Twenty years from now, an entirely different ethnic or religious group may be the ones who have to flee or hide as a target of political pressures on the bureaucrats charged with doing things that the government can sell to the public as making us safer.

Ramadan begins on Sunday 24 September. I wonder how many Muslims in North America will sit this Ramadan out, stay at home, and not want to be seen with hundreds of other Muslims at the mosque.

There was once certainly a time and a place where a Jew would have been wise to stay away from the synagogue on Yom Kippur. (Rosh Hashanah is Saturday-Sunday 23-24 September, Yom Kippur is Monday 2 October.)

There isn't much solidarity, political or spiritual, between Muslims and Jews these days. That's certainly an advantage to the politicians and bureaucrats who design and wage the war on terror. It's easier for government flying monkeys to swoop down on a Muslim and fly him 6000 miles away to be tortured for 10.5 months when only other Muslims are screaming bloody murder about it -- and they have to be very cautious about how loudly and how rudely they complain.

Exactly how could an objective, uninvolved person ascertain with confidence and certainty that the war on terror isn't actually a war against Muslims? What's "the smoking gun" that proves this isn't about Christendom's deepest and oldest feelings about Islam?

Or are we politically afraid even to ask that question?

Because we're genuinely afraid, and being politically manipulated because we're genuinely afraid.

Then there is the dismal question of how well the war on terror works.

In movies and television dramas about terrorists, a phone rings in a secret government office, and brilliant and dedicated (and young and handsome and beautiful) anti-terrorist specialists use computers and satellites and high-tech surveillance techniques to identify the terrorists and thwart their evil schemes. Americans are safe again in 60 minutes or 101 minutes.

Well, I can't tell you how well the war on terror is really working.

That's a secret.

Already, hours after the release of the Canadian government's Arar Commission Report, a retired senior Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer expressed his discomfort with the report, because he thinks it's told the terrorists too many secret details about how Canada and the USA wage the war on terror.

Yes, this essay is concerned about people, their fundamental rights, their right to face police and courts with the right to defend themselves, to be represented by a lawyer, to have the right of habeas corpus -- the right to petition a judge to challenge the government over the detention of any human being.

But this essay is equally concerned with who and what the United States will be and who and what Canada will be if the war on terror continues to work the way it does, and no politician or caucus of politicians says clearly: No, that's enough, that's too much.

We could win the war on terror and find that we've become indistinguishable from al-Qaida, from the Taliban, from the one-party police-state tyranny of Syria.

What did we stand for before 9/11? Why did Chinese human-rights protesters in Tiananmen
Square in 1989 choose the Statue of Liberty as the papier mache symbol of what they wanted?

What have we become five years after 9/11? What will we be seven years after 9/11?

When the war on terror is over, will the government give back all the rights and protections they temporarily suspended? Will the government give back some of the rights they temporarily suspended?

Will the government tell us clearly and fully which rights they suspended?

The most soothing lullabye at times like this is: "Well, I'm not a Muslim, so I have nothing to worry about. This doesn't concern me."

Don't read the stuff below just to make me happy. Naturally what happened to this guy will Never happen to you. But if it Ever does, I've emphasized a Very Useful Practical Tip that you should pay close attention to.

This is the story of a Canadian citizen named Buttle.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Maher Arar

This article documents a current event.
Information may change rapidly as the event progresses.

Maher Arar (born 1970) is a Canadian software engineer born in Syria. On September 26, 2002, during a stopover in New York en route from Tunis to Montreal, Arar was detained by the United States Immigration and Naturalization Service who were acting upon information supplied by the RCMP[1]. Despite carrying a Canadian passport, he was deported to Syria in accordance with a U.S. policy known as "extraordinary rendition". Arar was then held in solitary confinement in a Syrian prison where, according to a Commission of Inquiry headed by Justice Dennis O'Connor, he was regularly tortured until his eventual release and return to Canada in October 2003. The episode strained Canada-U.S. relations and resulted in the creation of a public inquiry in Canada "into the actions of Canadian officials dealing with the deportation and detention"[2] of Arar. The commission's final report cleared Arar's name and was sharply critical of the RCMP and other Canadian government departments.

Early life and career

Arar, who holds both Canadian and Syrian citizenship, moved to Canada at the age of 17 in 1988 to avoid mandatory military service.

Arar earned a bachelor's degree in computer engineering from McGill University and a master's degree from the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (a branch of the Université du Québec) in Montreal. At the time of his deportation Arar was employed in Ottawa as a telecommunications engineer. He is married to Monia Mazigh, who has a Ph.D. in finance from McGill. They have two young children: Barâa and Houd.

Arar speaks French, English and Arabic.

Detention and deportation

On September 26, 2002, Arar was returning to Montreal from a family vacation in Tunisia. During a stopover at JFK Airport he was detained by United States immigration officials. They claimed that Arar was an associate of Abdullah Almalki, a Syrian-born Ottawa man whom they suspected of having links to the al-Qaeda terror organization, and they therefore suspected Arar of being an al-Qaeda member himself. When Arar protested that he only had a casual relationship with Almalki (having once worked with Almalki's brother at an Ottawa high-tech firm), the officials produced a copy of Arar's 1997 rental lease which Almalki had co-signed. The fact that US officials had a Canadian document in their possession was later widely interpreted as evidence of the participation by Canadian authorities in Arar's detention.

He was deported to Syria on October 7 or 8. The Canadian government was notified on October 10, 2002 and Arar was later discovered to be in the Far'Falastin detention center, near Damascus, Syria.

The deportation was condemned by the Canadian government and by groups such as Amnesty International. On October 29, 2002, the Canadian foreign affairs department issued a travel advisory strongly cautioning Canadians born in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and Sudan against travel to the United States for any reason. The advisory prompted US conservative Pat Buchanan to describe Canada as "Soviet Canuckistan".

The American ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, later told Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham that all Canadian passport holders would be treated equally. In November 2002, Canadian privacy commissioner George Radwanski recommended that birthplace information be removed from all Canadian passports, in part because of fears of profiling in the United States and other countries. The recommendation was not implemented, but Canadian passport regulations already allowed citizens to request that this field be left blank.


Arar was imprisoned in Syria for 10 1/2 months, during which time he claims he was tortured and forced to sign a false confession which purported that he had trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. The Canadian government accepts Arar's allegations as fact, and the Commission of Inquiry agreed that he had been tortured. However, the United States Attorney General has stated that he has seen no evidence other than Arar's own account that Arar was tortured. Arar says that he was kept in a 3-foot by 6-foot, dark, underground cell, beaten and threatened with electrocution. He was further traumatized by overhearing other prisoners being tortured.

He had some visits from diplomatic officials, but he did not tell them that he was being tortured until their seventh visit, after which conditions improved for him. His explanation for waiting was that his jailers were in the room during the visits and that they had warned him beforehand not to discuss his treatment or he would be punished.

Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh conducted an active campaign in Canada to secure his release.

Release and subsequent controversy

Arar was released on October 5, 2003, 374 days after his deportation to Syria. He returned to Canada, reuniting with his wife and children.

After Arar's release, the controversy continued over his treatment by the US and over the role that Canadian police and government officials may have played in his deportation and interrogation. The United States claimed that the RCMP had provided them with a list of suspicious persons that included Mr. Arar.[3] It was also discovered that Canadian consular officials knew that Arar was in custody in the United States but did not believe that he would be deported. The Canadian government maintains that the decision to deport Arar to Jordan was made by American officials alone.

The Canadian New Democratic Party continued to push for a full judicial inquiry. In December 2003, Ambassador Cellucci said that American domestic security would trump respect of Canadian citizenship and that the United States would not change its policy on deportations to third countries.[4] Prime Minister Paul Martin replied by demanding that Canadian passports be respected.[5]

In January 2004, Arar announced that he would be suing then American Attorney-General John Ashcroft over his treatment,[6] but the US government invoked the rarely-used State Secrets Privilege in a motion to dismiss the suit. The government claimed that to go forward in an open court would jeopardize the United States' intelligence, foreign policy, and national security interests.

On January 21, 2004, the RCMP searched the residence of Ottawa Citizen journalist, Juliet O'Neill as part of a related investigation into leaks from security sources.[7][8] On November 12, 2004, an Ottawa judge ruled that the RCMP must reveal much of the information that was used to justify the search. The material was sealed by a justice of the peace at the request of the police.

At a summit meeting in Monterrey, Mexico, on January 13, 2004 Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin and U.S. President George Bush reached an agreement, sometimes referred to as the Monterrey Accord, which obliged the United States to notify Canada before deporting a Canadian citizen to a third country. However, according to a news story in the Toronto Globe and Mail, Stephen Yale-Loehr, lawyer and adjunct professor of immigration and asylum law at Cornell University told the Arar inquiry "the Canada-U.S. agreement prevent a recurrence of the Arar affair is ineffective and legally unenforceable."[9]

Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, ran unsuccessfully as the NDP candidate in the Ottawa South riding in the 2004 federal election.

TIME magazine chose Arar as Canadian Newsmaker of the Year for 2004.

On February 16, 2006, Brooklyn District Court Judge David Trager dismissed Arar's lawsuit against members of the George W. Bush administration.[10] Although Trager discounted legal arguments by the defendants, he based his decision on national security grounds, not legal reasons.

Official investigations into Arar's case

Garvie report

On September 25, 2004, the results of an internal RCMP investigation by RCMP Chief Superintendent Brian Garvie were published. Though the version released to the public was censored, the Garvie report documented several instances of impropriety by the RCMP in the Arar case. Among its revelations were that the RCMP was responsible for giving American authorities sensitive information on Arar with no attached provisos about how this information might be used. Also, Richard Roy, the RCMP liaison officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs, may have known of the plan of deporting Arar to Syria but did not contact his supervisors. Additionally, Deputy RCMP Commissioner Garry Loeppky lobbied hard, in the spring of 2003, to convince his government not to claim in a letter to Syria, that it "had no evidence Arar was involved in any terrorist activities" because Arar "remained a person of great interest."

In response to the Garvie report, Arar said that the report was "just the starting point to find out the truth about what happened to me" and that it "exposes the fact that the government was misleading the public when they said Canada had nothing to do with sending me to Syria."

Public inquiry

On February 5, 2004, the Canadian government established a commission of inquiry under Dennis O'Connor, Associate Chief Justice of Ontario to investigate and report on the actions of Canadian officials.

On June 14, 2005, Franco Pillarella, Canadian ambassador to Syria at the time of Arar's deportation, said that at the time he had no reason to believe Arar had been badly treated, and in general had no reason to conclusively believe that Syria engaged in routine torture. These statements prompted widespread incredulity in the Canadian media, and former Canadian UN ambassador responded to Pillarella asserting that Syria's human rights abuses were well known and well documented by many sources.

On September 14, 2005, the O'Connor commission concluded public hearings after testimony from 85 witnesses. The US ambassador at the time of the incident, Paul Cellucci, refused to testify.

On October 27, 2005 a fact-finder appointed by the Arar inquiry released a report saying that he believed Arar was tortured in Syria. He said that Arar had recovered well physically but was still suffering from psychological problems caused by his mistreatment.

The final report, released on September 18, 2006, categorically states that there is no evidence linking Arar to terrorist activity, that the RCMP passed false information on to US authorities, and that the RCMP leaked untrue information to damage his reputation. The report also confirms that he was tortured while in Syria. [11]

When asked about the report and if he thought the U.S. Department of Justice owed Arar an apology, U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales responded by saying that:

Well, we were not responsible for his removal to Syria, I'm not aware that he was tortured, and I haven't read the Commission report. Mr. Arar was deported under our immigration laws. He was initially detained because his name appeared on terrorist lists, and he was deported according to our laws. Some people have characterized his removal as a rendition. That is not what happened here. It was a deportation. And even if it were a rendition, we understand as a government what our obligations are with respect to anyone who is rendered by this government to another country, and that is that we seek to satisfy ourselves that they will not be tortured. And we do that in every case. And if in fact he had been rendered to Syria, we would have sought those same kind of assurances, as we do in every case.[12]

US denials

Robert H. Tuttle, the US ambassador to Britain told the BBC:

"I don't think there is any evidence that there have been any renditions carried out in the country of Syria. There is no evidence of that. And I think we have to take what the secretary Condoleezza Rice says at face value. It is something very important, it is done very carefully and she has said we do not authorise, condone torture in any way, shape or form."[13]

See also

* Extraordinary rendition


1. ^
2. ^
3. ^
4. ^
5. ^
6. ^
7. ^ 404 error. Toronto Star. Retrieved on 2006-09-19.
8. ^ O'Neill, Juliet (22 January 2004). CJFE calls on government to rein in the RCMP after raid on journalist's home. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE). Retrieved on 2006-09-19.
9. ^ Tandt, Michael Den (June 8 2005). "Deportation pact useless, inquiry told". The Globe and Mail: A10. Retrieved on 2006-09-19.
10. ^ Harper, Tim, "U.S. ruling dismisses Arar lawsuit", Toronto Star, Feb. 17, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-09-19.
11. ^
12. ^ Transcript of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras at Press Conference Announcing Identity Theft Task Force Interim Recommendations. U.S. Department of Justice (September 19, 2006).
13. ^ US embassy close to admitting Syria rendition flight, The Guardian, December 27, 2005

External links


* Maher Arar's official site
* "Maher Arar: Timeline", CBC, updated October 27, 2005
* Arar Commission official site
* Legal Filings in Maher Arar's lawsuit against John Ashcroft From the Center for Constitutional Rights
* Interview with Arar on the Disappeared In America website
* Falsehoods led to man's torture, report says

News coverage
Wikinews has news related to:
U.S. flight logs back Maher Arar's claims, The New York Times finds

* Explanation offered for his Detention
* CBC News early report
* CBC News report
* CBC - Maher Arar reported freed
* Canada starts an investigation
* BBC - Interview with Robert Baer about the role of the CIA in the Middle East

Retrieved from ""

Categories: Current events | 1970 births | Living people | Syrian people | Canadians deported | Arab Canadians | Foreign relations of Canada | Muslim Canadians | People from Ottawa | McGill University alumni | Torture victims | Public inquiries

* This page was last modified 19:09, 21 September 2006.
Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.


The Washington Post (Washington DC USA)
Friday 22 September 2006
Page A14

Gonzales Revisits
Deportation Remarks

Department Aims to Clarify Comments
on Case of Canadian Sent to Syria

by Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's claim this week that the Justice Department was not responsible for sending Canadian software engineer Maher Arar to a Syrian prison in 2002 was the result of imprecise wording by Gonzales and a misunderstanding by those who reported his remarks, according to a Justice Department spokeswoman.

The matter turns on the meaning of the word "we."

[US President George] Bush acknowledged the existence of secret CIA prisons abroad Sept. 6, 2006, as he called for the authority to try prisoners by military commissions.

On Tuesday, a day after a Canadian government commission concluded that the Syrian-born Arar was "interrogated, tortured and held in degrading and inhumane conditions" for 10 months after being falsely accused of terrorist ties, Gonzales was asked whether the department owed him "an apology."

"Well, we were not responsible for his removal to Syria," Gonzales replied. "I'm not aware that he was tortured, and I haven't read the commission report."

Gonzales was aware that in 2002 the Immigration and Naturalization Service arranged Arar's removal from the United States and his delivery to Syria after he was accused of ties to al-Qaeda, spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos said. The INS has since been transferred from the Justice Department to the new Department of Homeland Security and is known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Since Arar was officially deported, Scolinos said, his case was "an immigration-related issue." She said Gonzales was trying to "make that point" because "immigration matters are no longer handled by the [Justice] Department."

On the question of torture, Scolinos said, "My understanding is that the U.S. government received what they believed to be reliable assurances that he would be treated humanely, consistent with international treaties and conventions." Gonzales, she said, was "emphasizing that point."

Arar, now 36 and living in Canada, sued the U.S. government in federal court, but the case was dismissed on national security grounds. He filed a notice of appeal Sept. 12, according to the Center for Constitutional Rights, a legal group that is handling his case.

The possibility of further litigation may have limited what the Justice Department is prepared to say on the matter, said some U.S. officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to discuss the matter.

Canada's House of Commons unanimously agreed Wednesday that "apologies should be presented" to Arar on behalf of Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who earlier acknowledged that Arar had been done "an injustice," balked at going that far, saying it might influence negotiations with Arar's lawyers over possible compensation.

Arar's ordeal began in New York City on Sept. 26, 2002, a year after the al-Qaeda attacks there. Changing planes on his return trip to Canada after visiting Tunisia with his family, he was arrested on what the commission concluded was false information, provided to the FBI by Canadian law enforcement, that he had al-Qaeda connections. After being held for 12 days, he was flown in a government plane to Jordan and transported over land to Syria, the nation he had left as a 17-year-old.

U.S. officials later confirmed that the order to deport him was signed by then-Deputy Attorney General Larry D. Thompson. They said it would be "prejudicial to the interests of the United States" to send Arar home to Canada, despite his Canadian citizenship.

The Canadian government was not informed until he was gone.

U.S. law prohibits sending anyone, even on national security grounds, to a country where he or she is likely to be tortured. Although the State Department has long branded Syria a human rights violator, then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft responded to Canadian protests by saying the Syrian government had assured that Arar would be treated humanely.

On Tuesday, Gonzales also repeated the administration's denial that Arar's removal was part of the practice of secret "renditions" of terrorism suspects to third countries where they could be more aggressively interrogated. "That is not what happened here," he said. "It was a deportation."

Even if Arar "had been rendered to Syria," he said, "we would have sought those same kind of assurances" against torture.

- 30 -

Correspondent Doug Struck in Toronto and staff researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.


Abbas Halai said...

arar's case is a damnation to what it means to be a canadian citizen.

oh and deniro was brilliant in brazil. i love gilliam. you should watch "the time bandits". it has one of my favourite little people, david rappaport.

Bob Merkin said...

I'm trying to think of a Gilliam film that disappointed me, and I can't. My superoverwhelming favorite is "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen."

But "Brazil" -- well, it's so much more than a brilliant movie. It's a year's worth of graduate-level international politics and human rights studies. It's a year's worth of the most important questions educated people can possibly ask this year about the relationship between Government and the Individual.

I'm a huge Stoppard fan, but Gilliam's movies are so starkly unique because he comes to movie making from visual art, from cartooning. The very first of his movie work I ever saw was a long animated television commercial for a luxury car in "The Magic Christian."

I had an awful lot of fun and pleasure watching "The Brothers Grimm," and if that wasn't one of Gilliam's greatest achievements -- who cares? Who else is thinking about these things in movies these days? Who else is thinking about ANYTHING in movies these days?

And Harry Tuttle the Plumber in "Brazil" -- I'd gladly say that was deNiro's finest (and certainly most unexpected and unself-conscious) role. I love it when the Authorized Government Plumbers come to Sam's flat, and Sam tells them to go away, the air-conditioning problem fixed itself.

I think that's Bob Hoskins who looks at him and says:

"Machines don't fix themselves."

Which is perfectly true. They don't.

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