Like most good anarchists, I read Antiwar.com on a regular basis. They are to be commended for the outstanding work they do, and for the fact that they do it with such consistency. Recently, James Bovard posted an entry in the blog concerning the Obama Administration’s refusal to permit discovery in the case of Maher Arar, a man who was tortured in Syria after “his” government in Canada willingly and volitionally worked with “our” government in supplying false information, leading to his arrest and deportment. The comment I left at Antiwar under Bovard’s blog post has been removed. It was brief and somewhat sarcastic, but I thought the point was clear. Perhaps it was a technical glitch, or the comment was taken at face value instead. I posted a far lengthier comment at Chris Floyd’s invaluable website, and I hope he’ll keep it there, because my reaction to the Canadian government’s complicity in this man’s torture is not unwarranted.
Neither Bovard nor Floyd expounded much on the Canadian side of this issue, perhaps because the Canadian government apparently apologized and made some financial compensation to Mr. Arar. (There was even some mention somewhere on the web that they may not have cooperated had they known he would be sent to Syria. I will not bother linking, because I feel it is largely irrelevant.) The way that these issues are normally approached, this is the reaction people often have, I suppose, when a government “remedies” one of its many wrongs. Therefore, I cannot intelligently comment on Bovard’s or Floyd’s opinion of the Canadian government’s involvement or subsequent “sorrow.” I can only give you my view of this “apology.” Brace yourself.
The Canadian government is “sorry”? So what? After being tortured in a Third World prison, a nightmare from which you may never see yourself rescued, when just days before you were standing in an airport in the midst of one of the world’s most peaceful and prosperous cities, so what? Mr. Arar is my age. I grew up in a peaceful American suburb, where my parents still leave the doors unlocked all day long, even when they’ve left the house for several hours and gone miles away. Mr. Arar grew up in Syria. What would it be like for such a man to come to this continent when he’s 17 and see what life is like here, to get used to it, to rely upon it, to enjoy it? Then the government that promises all of this and more shows its true colors (the red in their flag is apparently no accident), cooperates with a neighboring government in supplying false information, and is complicit in sending an innocent, peaceful, married father in his thirties straight to hell, to be beaten for hours at a time, days on end, with shredded cables, while listening to other men scream. For this, they are “sorry,” after months of legal negotiations with his expensive lawyer whose every action is regulated by them. So what?
Now, I’m an overly sensitive individual. That’s just my nature. If something this horrendous happened to me, I probably would not survive it, at least not emotionally. It is entirely possible that Mr. Arar is a lot tougher. Maybe he’s able to pick up the pieces of his life and move on. Maybe he has a supportive wife, and maybe his two kids are just adorable. They are now millionaires, thanks to the Canadian government’s marvelous ability to steal money, so perhaps this will give him some comfort. In short, maybe Mr. Arar will be able to find joy once again in his life. Again I say: So — the fuck — what?
A man’s ability or inability to overcome a year of being subjected to the absolute worst of humanity, abhorrent behavior on par with Nazi atrocities, the Rape of Nanking, and Hiroshima, coupled with a legally acceptable apology, does not compensate for the irreparable damage done. The Canadian government — the bureaucrats who followed him, spied on him, informed on him, stalled his government-approved lawyer for months, and stole money from innocent bystanders to pay for their sickening actions — have gotten off scot-free. Not a single one of them was beaten with a shredded cable, even once. And two Internet writers, whose abilities and intelligence outshine mine at every turn, had too little to say about this aspect of the story. They rightly condemned the government claiming lordship over this part of the land mass, but it’s not enough.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Canadian government’s actions, the United States government’s actions, the Syrian government’s actions, are all the same. They are all complicit. They are all filled with people who think that stealing for the government is “morally good” while all other stealing is “morally bad,” and needs to be hidden from the peasants when they do it regularly. They are all comprised of people who think that killing when the government says to is “necessary and proper” while all other killing is “suspect and dangerous,” therefore, when it hasn’t been passed into law, they have to cover it up. They are now filled with people who think that torturing terrorists is “acceptable” but torturing innocents is “unconstitutional,” hence their torturing of Mr. Arar has to be legally compensated. These governments may also be comprised of a few people who are willing to say that stealing is stealing and murder is murder, but who also mistakenly believe that if we just change one or two aspects of this law or that constitution, we will have the necessary checks and balances in place; if we just go back to what Jefferson talked about — a man who owned other people, who refused to give them their liberty, who purchased massive amounts of land out from under the people who depended upon it for their lives and did so with other people’s money, who sat atop the bureaucracy for eight years — then we’ll be just fine. Then Mr. Arar won’t be tortured anymore.
The government is a system of initiatory coercion. Coercion leads directly and immediately to death, which I hope to explain in a follow-up article in greater detail. [Author’s Note: The article has since been written, entitled “Coercion Is Death.”] In short, coercion, being an anti-individual phenomenon, leads to four deaths in succession, as I see it now. Coercion first kills volition, then relationships, then wealth, and finally, when it goes on long enough, the individual himself. Of course, if someone puts a gun to your head, or beats you hard enough with a shredded cable, all four deaths happen at once, but never out of that order. Permit me to make a syllogism based on this conclusion:
Major premise: Coercion leads directly and immediately to death, therefore it is death.
Minor premise: The government cannot exist without first initiating coercion.
Conclusion: Government is death.
I submit to you that this is not my opinion, but a logical conclusion based on fact. If, prior to my publishing another article about the nature of coercion, any readers have any facts concerning this phenomenon that have not yet sunk into my smaller-than-average brain, please feel free to let me know. But if I’m right, think about that fact: Government is death. Not government is “evil,” or government is “unnecessary,” or government is “too big,” or government is “useless.” That’s just opinion. (Four of mine, actually.) I’m talking about irrefutable fact: Government is death.
The death-oriented government of Canada went after one of its own because of his odd name, his light-brown skin and his handsome but unusual beard. They initiated coercion against Mr. Arar; therefore, they have permanently killed a part of his individuality, a part that might have been shared with at least two other individuals who are dependent on him, physically and emotionally (remember what I said about the death of relationships). I wonder if any responsible journalist will ever follow up on his two kids, named Barâa and Houd, a few years from now, when they are young adults. I wonder what they’ll say about what, if anything, has changed about their dad. They may never know, but because of what I know about coercion, most especially the type of sickening, soul-wrenching coercion used on Mr. Arar, although he himself may never fully know, some very significant part of him is now dead. Forever. For which the Canadian government is safely, legally sorry, with other people’s money. I’m sure every bureaucrat involved in this sordid bloodletting has been fired. (I hope that sarcastic comment doesn’t get accidentally deleted.)
As I did in my remarks at Chris Floyd’s website, let me relate a story I just finished reading not too long ago, about a man who was willingly tortured to “cure” his homosexuality at my alma mater back in the 1970s (quote from Connell O’Donovan):
“I also personally recall an Affirmation meeting [a support group for gay Mormons] in 1988 when a man showed up calling himself only David. He sat alone in a corner during our meeting and became extremely jittery when anyone approached him. I spoke with him but he requested that I remain at least six feet in distance away from him. He then rolled up his shirtsleeves and showed me his arms. The deeply scarred skin on the inside of his arms looked like raw hamburger and I almost vomited from the sight. He informed me that he had participated in electric shock therapy at BYU in 1977 and had been allowed to turn up the voltage as high as he wanted to. The results were badly burned arms and a complete inability to come physically close to any male without him emotionally breaking down from the trauma. His homosexual desires were as strong as ever but he was unable to touch another man even for a simple hug, he had no heterosexual desires whatsoever, and he was constantly on the verge of suicide. David never returned to Affirmation and I suspect from his fragile emotional state that he did not survive his ordeal for much longer.”
Also as I pointed out at Floyd’s website, “This is what a man who has been tortured WILLINGLY goes through. What does a man who is in fear for his very life endure?… [Arar] is forever changed, forever scarred. He is damaged goods. He will never look at the world the same way again. He is just as traumatized, if not much more so, than every broken, indoctrinated soldier returning from this war.”
This is what the Canadian government, its subsequent investigations (paid for with stolen money), its bloviating, its legal maneuvering, its “shock” at its own misdeeds, its unforgivable complicity, has wrought. This is what the government will always deliver after promising freedom and security. This is government. This is coercion. This is death. And virtually everyone with whom you come into daily contact believes in this institution.
Eternal shame on the government of Canada.
This article was originally published at “Strike The Root” on June 23, 2010. It has been reprinted here with permission.