From McClatchy Newspapers (Knight-Ridder as was), which has probably been the best, most forthright mainstream service covering the Bush Imperium’s wars, comes the story of a U.S. citizen who fled the violence spread by the Bush-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, only to find himself thrust back into captivity in Ethiopia by American agents.

Of course, he wasn’t a “real” American, in the Bushist sense. He was one of “them” — Amir Mohamed Meshal, 24. And he committed three cardinal sins in the eyes of the Imperium: he happened to be in a “regime change” target country when the Bushists pulled the trigger; he was a Muslim; and he refused to confess to being a member of al Qaeda — even though FBI agents in Kenya strongarmed him with the threat of turning him over to torture chambers in Ethiopia. And true to the spirit of that great American cross-dresser, J. Edgar Hoover, they were men of their word — they gave him, a fellow American, to Ethiopia, despite admitting that there were “no outstanding charges” against him and no plans to arrest him. There is another term for that condition: “innocent,” as we used to say in the old days, before the Unitary Executive descended from the Holy Crawford Cowpat and delivered us from the rule of law. Here’s how McClatchy tells it:

American’s jailing in Ethiopia raises questions about U.S. role
Excerpts: A U.S. citizen who was caught fleeing the recent fighting in Somalia was questioned about links to al Qaida by the FBI in Kenya, then secretly sent back to the war-ravaged country, where he was turned over to Ethiopian forces.
Amir Mohamed Meshal, 24, is now imprisoned in Ethiopia, where the State Department’s 2006 human rights report says “conditions in prisons and pre-trial detention centers remain very poor” and “there were numerous credible reports that security officials often beat or mistreated detainees.”

The fact that Meshal has landed in an Ethiopian prison without any semblance of due process raises new questions about what role the rule of law plays in the Bush administration’s war on terrorism. Other suspected terrorists or “enemy combatants” have been exposed to extreme interrogation methods, secretly sent to countries that practice torture, held for extended periods without charges or lawyers, or put under surveillance without court warrants.

[This is the kind of context, the kind of reality that you might find — sometimes — in the 27th paragraph of a typical Washington Post story, yet here it is in the third paragraph. This kind of thing too had a name in the old days: we called it “journalism.”]

An American official who met Meshal in Kenya but wasn’t authorized to discuss his case publicly told McClatchy Newspapers that the U.S. Embassy asked Kenya to release Meshal so he could return to the United States. There are no outstanding charges against Meshal, and U.S. law enforcement officials weren’t planning to take him into custody, the official said. “The Kenyan authorities decided otherwise. It’s not something we have control over,” the official said. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said the U.S. has protested Meshal’s deportation.

Human rights groups in Kenya and the United States, however, disputed the contention that the U.S. was powerless to win Meshal’s release from Kenyan custody before he was deported. “Anyone who tells you that the United States doesn’t have the clout to convince the Kenyans to return an American citizen is either misinformed or lying,” said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch, in New York.

Kenya and Ethiopia are key allies in the Bush administration’s battle against Islamic extremism in Africa, and President Bush has requested a total of more than $1 billion in aid for the two countries in fiscal 2008, making them among the largest recipients of U.S. aid in Africa….

Meshal’s saga appears to have begun began late last year, when Ethiopia sent troops into Somalia to help crush the Islamic Courts Council, an alliance of militias that the Bush administration alleges is an al Qaida front. The administration backed the Ethiopian operation with training, intelligence, special forces, and aerial surveillance, and worked closely with Kenya, Ethiopia and the interim Somali government to capture suspected al Qaida members and other potential terrorists….

While Meshal was jailed in Kenya [for immigration violations after crossing the border in flight from the war], he told other detainees and Muslim human rights activists who visited the group that FBI agents had threatened to send him back to Somalia if he didn’t admit he was an al Qaida member. Meshal said he was an American citizen from New Jersey, that he’d recently been in Dubai, and that he’d gone to Somalia to practice Islam under the Courts regime, which had imposed Islamic law on much of the country.

Meshal told the human rights activists that FBI agents drove him to a hotel in a U.S. Embassy car for an interview on Feb. 5. He said the agents told him to confess to being a member of al Qaida or they’d send him to Mogadishu, the Somali capital, according to Omar Mohammed of the Nairobi-based Muslim Human Rights Forum, who spoke regularly with Meshal in prison. “He was informed that he was in a lawless country and had no right to legal representation,” Mohammed said. “He was being treated as a terrorist.”

Mohammed said that Meshal had told him that the FBI agents had showed him photos of several people and told him they’d been taken at terrorist training camps in Somalia. Meshal said that when he denied knowing the people, the agents threatened him with torture and said they’d come back the next day, according to Mohammed…Two U.S. officials in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Meshal was turned over to Ethiopian forces in Somalia and is being held in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Maybe the Ethiopians will be able to persuade him into confessing. If not — well, he’ll just be one more wood chip on Bush’s growing pile. But who’s counting? And who cares?

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