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US’s policy of renditions highlights the moral vacuum at heart of the sole superpower

M.S. Ahmed

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US has become the only world superpower, with the result that its imperial ambitions have inflated enormously. In the past, those ambitions centred on the establishment of a monopoly over economic resources, such as oil, gas and other minerals, and of political control of those countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, that possess them. But with the arrival of president Bush at the White House those ambitions began to include the imposition of Christianity as the world’s dominant religion. Not surprisingly, Bush and the evangelical extremists and neo-cons surrounding him have concluded that Muslim powers (such as Iran) and activists are the main obstacle to their various endeavours.

They are substantially right in their conclusion, as Muslim leaders and activists want Muslim countries to be totally independent and ruled in accordance with Islamic law (though they do not want to impose Islam on non-Muslim countries and peoples). But they are completely wrong in their belief that they have the right to declare war on Islamic groups worldwide and to attack countries ruled by Islamic leaderships. The frequent reports in the international media that Washington is planning to attack Iran are not as idle as they sound to some sceptics. Nor are the reports that set out in detail how Islamic activists (‘terrorists’) are arrested throughout the world and sent (by the CIA) to prisons in countries well-known for their practice of torture and murder. This illegal and ethically reprehensible procedure is known as “rendition”, and is even used by ‘civilised’ Europe, where it is referred to as “extraordinary rendition.”

The first known rendition by the US administration to a country with a record of torture took place in 1995, when Talaat Fouad, an Egyptian Islamic activist, disappeared in Croatia, where he was visiting at the time. Talaat had been sentenced to death in absentia three years earlier by a military tribunal. The Croatian authorities had initially arrested him on an immigration charge, but the USlater arranged his rendition to Egypt, making sure that he was interrogated on board ship before his arrival in Egypt.

Talaat was not the only Egyptian to be subjected to torture on his return to his country. Three years later, a CIA paramilitary team arranged the arrest and rendition of six Islamic activists to Egypt. Their arrest followed rumours that an Egyptian ‘terrorist group’ inAlbania was planning to assault US embassies in the region. It is not surprising that nothing is known about the fate, or even whereabouts, of those arrested and sent back. There are reports that they have been tortured, but they could be dead, as the intensity and methods of torture used in Egypt are known to be horrific. The US, which claims to be democratic, civilised and a protector of human rights, knows that the Egyptian regime of Husni Mubarak shares its loathing of Islamic activists and will cooperate to have them eliminated.

But regardless of where Islamic activists are despatched to, the numbers of those affected has increased dramatically since the attacks in the US in September 2001. Many of those “renditioned” include Muslims with legal residence in Europe and holders of European citizenships. Their ‘rendition’ and the failure of their governments to protect them have already been criticised by human-rights organisations. But, as a report by the Council of Europe last year demonstrates, fourteen European countries have “colluded in or tolerated” the secret transfer of “terrorist suspects” by the US; two of them – Roumania and Poland – may have allowed the establishment of CIA detention-centres in their own territories. Moreover, the report unveiled a “spider web” of landing spots worldwide that are used secretly by the US to transfer “suspected terrorists” to other countries or to US-run detention-centres.

One of the many activists seized in Europe and secretly transferred elsewhere is the former imam of a mosque in Milan, Italy, namely Osama Mustafa Hassan, more widely known as Abu Omar. On February 17, 2003, Abu Omar was kidnapped by the CIA on a street in Milan and transferred to a “high-security prison” near Cairo, where he was tortured. On arrival, he was offered his release on condition that he agree to become an agent for the Egyptian ‘anti-terror’ secret services. He turned down this offer, and was subjected to punishment and torture.

But despite the fact that Abu Omar was ‘renditioned’ more than four years ago, his case is only now in the headlines, and is expected to remain there for some time. The reason is that Italy has been so embarrassed by the revelation of the details of his arrest, transfer and torture that the Italian authorities have decided to put the CIA agents and their local collaborators on trial. Of course, none of the CIA agents are expected to appear in court, but there is a possibility that the court will issue a decision confirming the charges. If this happens, there will be even more detailed evidence of the fact that the US ‘war on terrorism’ amounts to war crimes, and that the real terrorists are not Islamic activists or Islamic Iran but the US, its military and secret services, and those collaborating with them worldwide.

But although such evidence is likely to put pressure on European countries to end their collaboration with the US, the USgovernment can only be forced to be more discreet. Several US court decisions have declared the detention of Islamic activists in the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and their rendition illegal, but the US government refuses to close the infamous detention-centre and end the rendition of its detainees. Indeed, the US government has now openly set up similar centres in sub-SaharanAfrica – ostensibly to engage the “al-Qaeda terrorists” that it claims have infiltrated the region. The real reason is to halt the growing tide of Islamic activities by Islamic groups, such as the Union of Islamic Courts in Somalia; this explains why Kenya and Ethiopia are two of the many countries that are hosts to Washington’s new terror centres. Like the detainees in Guantanamo, most of the inmates of the CIA-run African detentions are unlikely to be charged or tried.

This undisguised escalation of the US war on Islam should be, and will be, resisted by many Muslims and will eventually lead to the removal of collaborators like Husni Mubarak and his ilk from our lands and societies. In the meantime, the amount of damage our foes inflict on us and our lands is up to us to act to limit.

Article from

Crescent International Vol. 36, No. 5

Jumada' al-Akhirah 16, 14282007-07-01

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