Water Darby Dyar, professor
of geology and astronomy, commented in the March 3 Boston Globe
on the discovery of evidence that water once flowed in abundance
on the surface of Mars. Putting the discovery into context, Dyar
told the Globe’s Beth Daley, “There has been evidence
before for water on Mars. [But] we have always left the door
open for water, or carbon dioxide, or something flowing. This
shuts that door.” Dyar, who is helping to provide background
data to NASA for the Mars Rover project, was also quoted in a
March 2 Globe article telling readers that NASA was about to
release “significant findings” from Mars.
War on Terrorism Shouldn’t Stoop
By Christopher H. Pyle
This commentary ran in the Sunday Republican on
Here are two stories about our war on terrorism that deserve
more attention than they have received.
The first is about Maher Arar, a Syrian-born
Canadian who was seized by our government while lawfully passing
through Kennedy Airport and delivered to Syria, where he was
interrogated under torture for 10 months. The second involves
a little noticed report on the incarceration of hundreds of equally innocent
immigrants rounded up by our government after Sept. 11.
Arar was a victim of an international watch
list, indiscriminately generated by computers. He was not a terrorist.
He didn’t know any terrorists,
but he was assumed to be one because of the remotest of computer-generated
associations. According to the Canadian police a man who had witnessed the
signing of Arar’s apartment lease knew an Egyptian who knew a person
mentioned in an al Qaida document. According to Syrian intelligence, a cousin
of Arar’s mother had joined the Muslim Brotherhood, years after Arar
had left Syria permanently for Canada. That’s all it took to make Arar
a “person of interest.”
But our government did not just question him,
or send him on to Canada for more questioning. It put him on
a private jet and flew him to Jordan, where Jordanian agents
beat him before delivering him to Syrian intelligence. The Syrians
questioned Arar under torture for 10 months before deciding he
was not a terrorist.
The kidnapping of this Canadian citizen was
not an isolated act by rogue American agents. It was part of
a program, secretly approved by President Bush, called “extraordinary
In effect, Bush has secretly abrogated the laws
and treaties governing extradition and deportation, and assumed
for himself - and the CIA - total control over the fate of persons
protected by our Constitution. He claims the power to make these
people “disappear,” as if he were an Argentine general rather
than a president under our Constitution.
Attorney General John Ashcroft has refused to
answer questions about this secret program, other than to say
that the Syrians, whose use of torture is frequently protested
by the State Department, had promised not to torture him. Ashcroft
has not explained why it was necessary to send Arar to Syria,
if our government’s
purpose was not to have him questioned under torture.
Arar is not the only victim of the Bush administration’s lawless “war” on
terrorism. The Justice Department’s own inspector general has documented
how thousands of innocent men from the Middle East were detained for months,
on Ashcroft’s orders, without charges or trial here in the United States.
Hundreds were held in a maximum security prison
in Brooklyn, N.Y., where they were chained hand and foot, slammed
into walls, strip-searched repeatedly, mocked as they prayed,
and subjected to sustained periods of sleep deprivation.
The inspector general’s first report on these abuses was released last
June. It received some press coverage, but has yet to be the subject of hearings
in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Although Ashcroft’s detentions failed to uncover a single terrorist,
the attorney general declared that he had “no apologies” for the
abuses his inspector general had uncovered. Ashcroft’s Civil Rights Division
and the Bureau of Prisons undertook their own investigations, but quickly found
no reason to prosecute or punish the guards.
So the inspector general’s staff did some more investigating and eventually
found the “missing” videotapes that confirmed the abuses. Among
other things, the tapes prove that when the detainees were first delivered
to the prison, guards shoved their faces into an American-flag T-shirt taped
to the concrete wall. Eventually, our flag was stained with blood of these
According to President Bush, al Qaida’s terrorists “hate freedom.” If
they kill, torture or abuse our people, we will punish them for “war
crimes.” Fair enough, but when his administration does the same to innocent
people in the United States, in violation of their constitutional rights, what
should we do?