By Chris Hedges
The Bush administration has called for the respect of human rights in Burma, a pretty safe piece of posturing, but it remains silent as Egypt's dictator, Gen. Hosni Mubarak , unleashes the largest crackdown on public opposition in over a decade. Our moral indignation over the shooting of monks masks the incestuous and growing alliance we have built in the so-called war on terror with some of the world's most venal dictatorships.
Mubarak, who has ruled Egypt for 26 years and is grooming his son, Gamal, to succeed him, can torture and "disappear" dissidents—such as the Egyptian journalist Reda Hilal, who vanished four years ago—without American censure because he does the dirty work for us on those we "disappear." The extraordinary-rendition program, which sees the United States kidnap and detain terrorist suspects in secret prisons around the world, fits neatly with the Egyptian regime's contempt for due process. Those rounded up by American or Egyptian security agents are never granted legal rights. The abductors are often hooded or masked. If the captors are American the suspects are spirited onto a Gulfstream V jet registered to a series of dummy American corporations, such as Bayard Foreign Marketing of Portland, Ore., and whisked to Egypt or perhaps Morocco or Jordan. When these suspects arrive in Cairo they vanish into black holes as swiftly as dissident Egyptians. It is the same dirty and seamless process.
We have nothing to say to Mubarak. He is us. The general intelligence directorate in Lazoughli and in Mulhaq al-Mazra prison in Cairo allegedly holds many of our own detained and "disappeared." The more savage the torture techniques of the Mubarak regime the faster the prisoners we smuggle into Egypt from Afghanistan and Iraq are broken down. The screams of Egyptians, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans mingle in these prison cells to condemn us all.
We know little about what goes on in the black holes the CIA has set up in Egypt. But snapshots leak out. Ibn-al Shaykh al-Libi , who was captured by U.S. forces in late 2001, was an al-Qaida camp commander. He was taken to a prison in Cairo where he was repeatedly tortured by Egyptian officials. The Egyptian interrogators told the CIA that he had confirmed a relationship between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida. The tidbit, used by then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell in his United Nations speech, turned out to be false. Victims usually will say anything to make severe torture stop. Al-Libi was eventually returned to Afghanistan, although he has again disappeared.
Mamduh Habib, an Egyptian-born citizen of Australia, was apprehended in October 2001 in Pakistan, where, his family says, he was touring religious schools. A Pentagon spokesman claimed that Habib spent most of his time in Afghanistan and was "either supporting hostile forces or on the battlefield fighting illegally against the U.S."
Habib was released a few days after The Washington Post published an article on his case. He said he was first interrogated and brutalized for three weeks in Islamabad. His interrogators spoke English with American accents. He was then bustled into a jumpsuit, his eyes were covered with opaque goggles and he was flown on a small jet to Egypt. There he was held and interrogated for six months, according to Joseph Margulies, a lawyer affiliated with the MacArthur Justice Center at the University of Chicago Law School, which is representing Habib,.
Habib claims he was beaten frequently with blunt instruments, including an object that he likened to an "electric prod." He was told that if he did not confess to belonging to al-Qaida he would be anally raped by specially trained dogs. Habib said he was returned to U.S. custody after his stint in an Egyptian prison and flown to Bagram air base, in Afghanistan, and then to Guantanamo Bay, where he was kept until his release. continued