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"It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious." -- Obama
August 6, 2014 12:21 PM   Subscribe

The CIA Must Tell the Truth About My Rendition At 12 Years Old.

Khadija al-Saadi was 12 years old in 2004 when her family was abducted in Hong Kong and taken to Qaddafi's Libya, where her father faced torture and death as a political dissident. The operation was organized by CIA and MI6 in cooperation with Libyan intelligence. Years later, the British government paid out a £2.23m settlement for its role in the kidnapping. An account of the operation is thought to be included in the US Senate "torture report" that is finally being prepared for release.
posted by grobstein (35 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
This story is just the twilight. The true darkness is yet to.emerge. Will we confront it or cower from it like children.
posted by humanfont at 12:42 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


> Will we confront it or cower from it like children.

I suspect we'll slink away from it and pretend it didn't happen, like petty criminals.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:08 PM on August 6 [24 favorites]


petty criminals spend their life fearing that the repercussions for their crimes will come to them.

the people responsible for torture and the kidnapping of children have no such fears.

petty criminals cannot tell the court system to 'look forward, not backwards' when confronted with their crimes.
posted by el io at 1:17 PM on August 6 [11 favorites]


"It’s important for us not to feel too sanctimonious."

This statement seems so insane to me. Failing to acknowledge and confront your own wrongdoing is the very origin of sanctimony.
posted by compartment at 1:21 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


Maybe he meant it as foreshadowing
posted by Hoopo at 1:25 PM on August 6




Still the shining city on the hill if you can refrain from looking too closely at the constitution of said hill.

Polite people call it "aggregate."
Yet key evidence is available for anyone to read on the internet: a Libyan intelligence fax with my father's name and "rendition" scrawled over it; transmissions between the Libyans and the CIA organizing who would pay for the plane; faxes detailing the plane's landing requirements. They were found in an abandoned intelligence compound after Colonel Gaddafi fled Tripoli during the Libyan revolution.
So, so banal.

The writer's father is Sami al Saadi, who was a member of an anti-Gadaffi group called the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LFIG) and who had fought the Soviets in Afghanistan.
posted by notyou at 1:36 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


Polite people call it "aggregate."

Nobody calls noncombatant's bones "aggregate".
posted by mhoye at 1:38 PM on August 6


petty criminals cannot tell the court system to 'look forward, not backwards' when confronted with their crimes.

Correct - this is a privilege of tyrants.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:57 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Still the shining city on the hill if you can refrain from looking too closely at the constitution of said hill.
posted by brina at 1:58 PM on August 6


This statement seems so insane to me.

He's a bit tone deaf where diction is concerned. "We tortured some folks."

Some folks? Seriously?

Given his formative years (Indonesia, Hawaii, California, NYC, Boston), I've assumed that it's an affectation, like his dropping the g at the end of gerunds. To be faux folksy. Now I wonder if it hasn't become ingrained.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:03 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


The fact is that universal surveillance is just getting started.

Another fact is that just a few people can cause world-wide havoc, via technology, or low-lever leveraging of technology (e.g. 9/11 massacre).

Another fact is that when threatened with diabolical, random threats of violence, citizens will rationalize away their privacy rights in order to feel more safe (even if they aren't).

Another fact is that no matter how full-proof the security system, or the surveillance system that underlies it, there is always going to be someone(s) who will find a way to hack it.

Either we find a way to "democratize" surveillance - make it as transparent as possible - or we are starting down the rabbit hole of outside control that will make today's abuses seem like children's sandbox play. This is our challenge.

That aside, also consider how commercial surveillance (a la Facebook and Google) is contributing to the non-transparent side of surveillance, and how we unwittingly contribute to the furtherance of uncontrolled surveillance by letting these companies off the hook, as they use surveillance to drive profit.
posted by Vibrissae at 2:27 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Another fact is that when threatened with diabolical, random threats of violence, citizens will rationalize away their privacy rights in order to feel more safe (even if they aren't).

Maybe if people weren't terrified of the "other". Maybe if we weren't all socialized to be terrified of the "other", or death, for that matter. Maybe if we were concerned about the right things.
posted by maxwelton at 2:40 PM on August 6


Another fact is that when threatened with diabolical, random threats of violence, citizens will rationalize away their privacy rights in order to feel more safe (even if they aren't).

True enough, though I would argue that the government is even faster off the mark to pick up those rights. Trust us.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:48 PM on August 6


Some folks? Seriously?

It seems to me that "folks" got really entrenched as "friendly" politician-speak during the George W era. Am I wrong? It feels like they all do it now. I think it's used to soften blunt statements about YOU PEOPLE or THOSE PEOPLE or SOME PEOPLE, but reflexively tossing it into an admission of torture does not work so well.
posted by Kabanos at 2:53 PM on August 6 [2 favorites]


Stupid theory here: Is there any connection between our tolerance for being monitored by the government all the time and the other story on the front page about monitoring our kids all the time?
posted by clawsoon at 2:56 PM on August 6 [9 favorites]


Folks is a pretty good term. He could have said we tortured some bad guys, evil doers or terrorists. Instead he chose a word that did not give an excuse to the defenders of torture. Now he sits in his oval office arguing with the DCI and intel bureaucracy lawyers about how to redact the Senate's report.
posted by humanfont at 3:52 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that "folks" got really entrenched as "friendly" politician-speak during the George W era. Am I wrong?

If so, time to de-trench it. In any event, W. at least grew up in Texas, and is credible as a good ol' boy who'll be hosting this years superbowl party for the whole congregation and then some. Obama? Not so much. (And I would criticize W for any similar use of the word.)

Instead he chose a word that did not give an excuse to the defenders of torture.


Have to disagree, esp given the context. To me "folks" implies a geniality that the verb belies. It softens the victims, suggests that this was just a little friendly horseplay between friends. Folks don't mind a little bit of rough house, a little ribbing, a little teasing, a little - torture. Sounds like part of an SNL skit, and not a very funny one.

He could have owned up to reality with "People". "We tortured some people." Torture. People. Both good descriptive neutral words.

That's all , folks.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:09 PM on August 6 [3 favorites]


Yes, let's keep arguing about his diction, because that's the crux of the problem here.
posted by axiom at 4:41 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


Yes, let's keep arguing about his diction, because that's the crux of the problem here.

"But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better."
posted by Mr. Six at 4:52 PM on August 6 [4 favorites]


What a terrible, terrible legacy.
posted by odinsdream at 5:03 PM on August 6


"Folks" is easier to say than "people;" is easier to say than "humans;" is easier to say than "child;" than "daughter;" than "Khadija al-Saadi" and the countless others. "Folks" is not nearly good enough.
posted by amicus at 5:14 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


From info at The Rendition Project page on Sami al Saadi.

"He was subjected to beatings with ropes and sticks and was beaten, kicked, punched and subjected to electric shocks to the neck, chest and arms. He recalls being interrogated by Libyan, American, British and Italian agents, and some agents that spoke French. "
posted by larrybob at 6:06 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:15 PM on August 6


I'm not sure what the trouble is with "folks" here. Folks is an intimate word, used to describe people within the circle of your tribe. It is, frankly, far more evocative than 'people' or 'our fellow human beings' when it gets down to feeling sympathy for the victims and realizing that you've harmed your own cohort rather than outsiders.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:05 PM on August 6



This story is just the twilight. The true darkness is yet to.emerge. Will we confront it or cower from it like children.

I suspect we'll slink away from it and pretend it didn't happen, like petty criminals.


I imagine most of us will be in the darkness...

Watching the zany exploits of the superheroes in Guardians of the Galaxy while enjoying some overly buttered popcorn and supersize soft drinks.
posted by formless at 7:15 PM on August 6


Well, at least we've found a way to criticize Obama, rather than focus on the people who did the actual torturing.
posted by dirigibleman at 7:21 PM on August 6 [7 favorites]


He's a bit tone deaf where diction is concerned. "We tortured some folks."

Obama always says "folks" instead of "people." Don't blame Obama — blame those who are averse to the word "people" ("those people...") — they're the reason why you so often hear politicians using the more soothing word "folks."
posted by John Cohen at 8:12 PM on August 6


petty criminals cannot tell the court system to 'look forward, not backwards' when confronted with their crimes.

Correct - this is a privilege of tyrants.


Yes, the privilege of politicians, Democratic and Republican.
posted by John Cohen at 8:14 PM on August 6


It is natural to take elements from this case and apply it to your own debates, whether political or lexical. I'd argue, though, that the story here is truly international; in reality, it's a damning indictment of the world order that we live in, where no global/ regional superpower -not US, not UK, not China (through Hong Kong) - comes out looking clear.

To briefly recap, how this family was tortured , or whether US, UK and Hong Kong governments were implicit in the torture is not a matter of conjecture; evidence to that effect came out when Tripoli fell:
CIA correspondence with Libyan intelligence, found in spy chief Moussa Koussa’s office by Human Rights Watch after the fall of Tripoli, states that “we are…aware that your service had been cooperating with the British to effect [Sami al Saadi’s] removal to Tripoli…the Hong Kong Government may be able to coordinate with you to render [Sami al Saadi] and his family into your custody.”
We also reasonably know why the Brits and Americans handed these folks people over to the Libyans; it was part of Tony Blair's Deal in the Desert, the details of which Khadija al-Saadi evocatively compares with her family's situation then.

In that sense, I would actually argue that the only question here is whether the Americans in power now are troubled by this or not. Because we know that neither Tony Blair nor Jack Straw had no trouble sleeping:
Both Tony Blair, prime minister at the time, and Jack Straw, the then foreign secretary, have denied any knowledge of illegal rendition of dissendents [sic; apparently HuffPo UK needs a spell-check] to Libya.

Straw said in a statement on Thursday: "At all times I was scrupulous in seeking to carry out my duties in accordance with the law, and I hope to be able to say much more about all this at an appropriate stage in the future.”
We also know that the Tories are also not troubled by this; in fact, they've just passed a law that lets cases like this avoid regular trial:
As a special advocate, you are able to see and hear both the “open” and “closed” evidence. But often, the Government witness will refuse to answer particular questions in open court, and the issue will have to be pursued by the special advocate in closed hearing. But, after seeing the closed material, I am prohibited from speaking to my client. So I will never know if he had an alibi or innocent explanation and nor will the court.’
So all that remains to know is if Americans would acknowledge the extent of the global programme that enabled a 12-year-old kid's torture to happen.
posted by the cydonian at 9:45 PM on August 6 [1 favorite]


I must agree with the seemingly trivial criticism of the word "folks," because it softens the verb, lets the listener be more amenable to the clause that follows. If he'd said "we tortured children and other innocent people," for example, we'd not be so willing to let him insert the "but" clause, that urges us to move on, and let the inconvenient bygones be buried in an empty field somewhere, so they can be forgotten. No. He used the language the way his writers know it's supposed to be used. Folks is the spin he wanted. A folk is not a damaged child. A folk is some person who sits on a porch, playing neat music on a badly-tuned banjo. Newspeak keeps on knocking at my door.

English is as precise a language as we need it to be. By conjuring a person, or even people, perhaps we would be more interested in the part where we'd hear "...therefore, those guys will go to jail for their criminal activity"--well, war crimes, actually. But this slippery slope is precisely the one they need to avoid: accountability trumps hubris, but only in the proper hands. Nobody guards our guardians, and they seem to be insane.

I deplored B-43 the same way I'd deplore a bull in a china shop--dumb beast, oblivious of the damage it causes, yet not blameless. Obama seems to know better. More's the shame.
posted by mule98J at 8:24 AM on August 7 [4 favorites]




That's a great story! Reading it, I forgot where I saw it and started planning to make it its own post.
posted by grobstein at 6:54 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]






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