I planned to have a nice, lazy Saturday today. Then I found out about this.
It's the stuff of complex political thrillers, possibly set in a fantasy world, such as George R R Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. And it would probably sell pretty well, if it was a novel, and if it had a slightly less messy, drawn-out, utterly inhuman and unsatisfying ending.
Because he was unlucky enough to share a name with a suspected terrorist, Khalid El-Masri - a German citizen - was secretly seized by the CIA, held for many months, tortured, malnourished, and generally treated hideously. And this went on even after US authorities knew it was a mistake.
He was interrogated again and again. He began a hunger strike. One day before 4 weeks had elapsed he was granted an interview, at which he was basically told that they did not care if he was innocent; he was staying. All this time, nobody, not even his family, knew where he was or what had happened. It took an intervention from Condoleeza Rice to get him released. And when he was released, he was secretly dumped in rural Albania with no means of getting home. They, too - understandably given his condition - thought he must be a terrorist.
And even though everybody knows now that it was all a horrible mistake, he will never get any kind of compensation, or even an apology.
Apparently, an apology and compensation would require a lawsuit, which would break US secrets. And evidently, procedure and paranoia matter more to the powers that be than the most fundamental decency.
I cannot even begin to comment. I just have no words.
It all took place several years ago, but re-emerged on Wikileaks. Jack of Kent makes the reasonable point that Wikileaks itself, by making itself unaccountable, does not entirely fit the definition of liberal - but at this tearing-my-hair out point, I have to say: so what? It's at moments like these that I feel like I am transported into a nightmare world where everybody fights dirty. Wikileaks is not entirely what I would call honest; but I have more admiration for them than I do for those they expose. In a better world, Wikileaks could be open, as could more of politics . . .
The hideous thing is that while people can campaign admirably on so many issues, I fear that on this, our cries will fast turn to whispers. Largely, I suppose, because there's nothing we can do. We can't change how secret, powerful organisations work. I doubt they'd take much notice of protests or campaigns, other than perhaps to find ways of dealing with those who they think started them. We could try to elect governments who don't support them; but, again, the secrecy prevents us finding out who does - although, as I guess many of us suspected, both Tory and Labour are falling over each other to be first to kneel before the United States.
A friend once told me earnestly, "Countries are like people." I don't think that's true at all. Countries, even dictatorships, are run by many people; and while individuals can be brave and self-sacrificing, entire groups are less likely to do that. If all countries in the world were one person, enough of them would finally gang up together and turn on even the biggest and most frightening bully. But with countries? Catch any diplomat saying to several others, "Let's all tell X we've had enough", unless, of course, X would be a suitably small and weak victim, as Iraq was - and as human rights are.
And so all Germany needed to be silenced was this: "Our intention was not to threaten Germany, but rather to urge that the German government weigh carefully at every step of the way the implications for relations with the US".
It is unbearable to do nothing; if anybody has any ideas, I want to know about them.
(In the unlikely event that this blog ever gets important enough that I should conveninently vanish for typing these words, please could somebody save them?)