Our American Perspective

I edited a story that aired on KQED this morning about a Lebanese-American man, a U.S. citizen, who was seized by state security in the United Arab Emirates nearly three months ago. The man, named Naji Hamdan, has not been charged, and the Emirates haven't seen fit to explain why he's in custody. One reason for that may be that the United States asked the UAE to pick the guy up because the FBI considers him a terrorism suspect.

That surmise aside–the allegation is made in a lawsuit that's supposed to be filed today on Hamdan's behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union–the U.S. embassy in the Emirates seems in no hurry to find out what's happening to an American citizen held without charge by the local secret police. It took the embassy 51 days after the arrest to meet with Hamdan in prison. In response to inquiries from Hamdan's family and Rep. Maxine Waters of Los Angeles, a consular official described the meeting, the prisoner's status, and then offered this perspective on the situation:

"This extended detention, while very unusual from our American perspective, does not run counter to the laws of the United Arab Emirates."

See? The situation only seems unacceptable because of our American perspective. If someone disappears you, accuses you of being a terrorist, roughs you up, and god knows what else–well, you have to understand that's the way they do things in their own country.

Put our pretensions to global omnipotence aside. Put aside, too, our rhetoric about democracy and due process. Still: wouldn't you hope for a little bit more from your government if you found yourself tossed in some hole without explanation?

Here's a story on the case from McClatchy: Did U.S. Push Detention of American Without Charges?

Here's the link to our story, by Rob Schmitz of KQED's Los Angeles bureau: Naji Hamdan case.

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2 Replies to “Our American Perspective”

  1. This reminds me of the movie, Rendition. Except in that fictional case, the CIA guy, who was in on most of it, but kept in the dark about some of it, got a conscience after the prisoner admitted to something he did not do. I think. It’s been a while since I saw the movie.

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