Friday, September 21, 2012

When the chickens come home to roost

Back in 2003, Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric living in Italy, was kidnapped, flown back to Egypt and tortured. The kidnappers were 23 Americans, all but one were CIA agents. The Americans did their deed with the assistance of five Italian intelligence agents.

Because kidnapping and torture sound like bad things, the US government coined the term extraordinary rendition to refer to the practice of kidnapping foreign nationals and shipping them to secret prisons where they would be held incommunicado and tortured around the clock.

The big, bad arrogant Americans figured they could do whatever the fuck they wanted to, regardless of where they were because they were, well, Americans, and this was President Bush's War on Everything Terrorism.

But apparently someone forgot to send a copy of that memo to the Italians who weren't altogether happy that US agents were running roughshod on Italian soil. Despite pressure from both Washington, and Rome, prosecutors in Milan carried on with the case and the 23 Americans were all convicted in absentia in November 2009.

Now, almost three years later, the highest appellate court in Italy has upheld the convictions - and urged the prosecution of the Italian intelligence agents for their roles in the kidnapping of Mr. Omar.

The convictions are largely symbolic as the Italians have never sought to extradite the Americans - not that the American government would ever allow its agents to be extradited to another country to face criminal charges for their conduct. That's what we do to them.

Just imagine the furor, if you will, that would arise should a foreign government kidnap an American citizen off the streets of some town over here and take them halfway around the world to face criminal charges for some act carried out under cloak of national security. Imagine the reaction if a former US president was ever indicted, arrested and brought before another country's court to face charges of crimes against humanity.

Yet we have no problem kidnapping people in other countries and taking them somewhere where representatives of our government torture, humiliate and shame them for no other reason than they can.

I say good that something decided to grow a backbone and stand up to the inhumane and illegal practices of the US government. If our leaders and representatives thought they could be arrested and charged with crimes against humanity somewhere else in the world, maybe, just maybe, they might think twice before acting like a bunch of thugs for whom the law doesn't apply.

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