In recent days, Egypt has distinguished itself as the country to which to send terrorist suspects. The reason? Egypt is outstanding in the brutality it uses to extort confessions from suspects.
On May 12, The New York Times reported that “the United States and other countries have forcibly sent dozens of terrorist suspects to Egypt.” The Times’s report is based on conclusions reached by Human Rights Watch. The report noted that between 1994 and the attacks of September 11, 2001, there were 63 recorded cases. The total number, including post-9/11, may come to more than 200.
The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights reported in May that it had uncovered 292 cases of torture between 1993 and 2003, and 120 of them led to death.
The victims are listed as “detainees.” They are not called “prisoners of war,” probably because international law calls for certain legal procedures that entail some special considerations. So, what is a “detainee”? It is a word of recent vintage. My edition of Webster’s Unabridged Encyclopedic Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1997, does not include the word. Detainees are people who, contrary to American tradition, are not innocent until proven guilty; they are held guilty until proven innocent — which cannot happen since they are never brought to a formal trial.
Which still leaves us with the question as to why Egypt is the choice land to send suspects who will be quizzed in torturous ways. The basic answer is that Egypt is a rare nation in its ethnic composition and is under fire from its neighbors who do not like the way it is running its government. It is almost 100% composed of Muslims. But they are all Sunni Muslims and they do not believe in a state dominated by the clergy with a constitution based on the Koran.
To the Jihadists, like Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda followers, Egypt is an enemy. The Jihad is a holy war that will go on forever until all nations not run by the Koran have been conquered. And then run by the clergy.
The Egyptian government is very much aware of the fact that enemies who want to see the Egyptian regime toppled surround Egypt. So, in self-defense (as they see it) the government has perfected a system of torture to hunt down any suspects anywhere in the world who someday may turn on Egypt. This way, the government can submit them to their ruthless torture system. And it is understandable that they welcome the cooperation of other nations, including the American government, that help them lay their hands on suspects.
Does this mean that in the war on terrorism, the United States is using terrorist tactics, albeit through a back door, because these tactics are less visible than what has gone on in Guantanamo and in Iraq prisons?