Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Is the U.S. the new North Korea?

Has George W. Bush turned the us into the next North Korea?

Consider this article from The Guardian detailing the kidnapping of Japanese citizens by North Korean spy agencies in the 1970s, at the height of the Cold War:

Five Japanese citizens who were abducted by North Korean spies at the height of the cold war returned to Japan yesterday to be reunited with relatives they have not seen for almost a quarter of a century.

The five, the only confirmed survivors among 13 Japanese nationals North Korea has admitted abducting in the 1970s and 80s, arrived at Haneda airport in Tokyo yesterday afternoon on a government-chartered plane. They will spend about two weeks in Japan before returning together to North Korea.
... after years of denials, the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, told Mr Koizumi during bilateral talks in Pyongyang that his country's special forces had indeed kidnapped Japanese and used them to teach their language to spies.

And this article in Salon detailing U.S. kidnappings and imprisonment of innocent men in the mids of the Bush Administration's declared "war on terror":

Sami al-Haj, the Al Jazeera camerman who was encaged at Guantanamo for years until being recently released, was simply traveling with an Al Jazeera reporter from Pakistan into Afghanistan to cover the U.S. invasion for his news network when he was stopped by a Pakistani immigration officer, turned over to the U.S., kept in an underground Afghan prison for six months, and then basically disappeared off to Guantanamo, where he remained for years, interrogated not about Al Qaeda, but largely about the operations of Al Jazeera...

Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri -- the computer science graduate student at Bradley University, in the U.S. on a student visa -- was arrested at his home in Peoria, Illinois where he lived with his wife and five children, charged with credit card fraud, only to then have his trial canceled at the last minute by George Bush, who declared him an "enemy combatant" and ordered him into military custody, where he remained for years with no charges.

Canadian citizen Maher Arar was also detained at the airport -- on a stop-over at JFK Airport on his way back from a family vacation to his Ottawa home -- and then sent to Syria to be tortured for 10 months, only for it to be discovered thereafter that he was completely innocent, that U.S. officials apprehended the wrong man. German citizen Khaled El-Masri was snatched up while on vacation in Macedonia, accused of being a Terrorist, shipped around to multiple countries, denied access to the outside world, tortured by the CIA for months, only to be released once they realized it was a case of "mistaken identity." And the lead plaintiff in the Supreme Court case, Lakhdar Boumediene, was a Bosnia citizen, living in Bosnia, who was arrested by Bosnian authorities at the request of the Bush administration, investigated, and determined by the Bosnian Supreme Court to be innocent. But upon his being released, U.S. forces inside Bosnia immediately seized him and shipped him to Guantanamo.

The parallels are disturbing. In both cases we have a sovereign government whose intelligence agencies, in the name of furthering national security, kidnap foreign nationals, often on foreign soil, and imprison them thousands of miles from their native country. They are refused any right to habeas corpus, are in many cases imprisoned in complete secrecy, denied any contact with their families and loved ones back home.

Yes, there are differences, of course. And defenders of the Bush administration's lawlessness would no doubt argue that, while the U.S. may have mistakenly imprisoned innocents on certain occasions, the North Koreans knew exactly what they were doing when they snatched innocent Japanese citizens and spirited them off to North Korea to train its spies in the language and customs of their mother country. But the parallels are also striking, and don't speak well of what our nation has become under the leadership of George W. Bush. The kidnapping of foreign nationals by secret operatives working on foreign soil, the secret prisons, the refusal to allow detainees to challenge the legitimacy of their imprisonment; it is all very disturbing. Worse yet, it is worth noting that there is little evidence that North Koreans tortured the people they kidnapped, unlike what U.S. interrogators are reported to have done or facilitated through the practice of "extraordinary rendition" for interrogation to other nations with long histories of torture. The North Koreans may have assassinated a few of their kidnap victims to steal their identities which is, of course, reprehensible and a gross violation of all norms of law and human decency. But then, so is the extraction of information and of signed confessions under torture.

Is the U.S. equal to North Korea in criminality? Certainly not. But when it comes to the kidnapping of foreign nationals and this Administrations' utter contempt for the notion that such prisoners have any rights to due process under U.S. law, the Bush Administration walks hand in hand with the criminal regime of Kim Jong Il.

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