Would be millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam was sentenced to a 22-year prison term yesterday, and U.S. District Judge John Coughenour, a Reagan appointee, used the occasion to decry the government’s use of secret tribunals and other tactics that abandon “the ideals that set our nation apart.”

“The tragedy of Sept. 11 shook our sense of security and made us realize that we, too, are vulnerable to acts of terrorism,” said Coughenour in a voice edged with emotion. “Unfortunately, some believe that this threat renders our Constitution obsolete. … If that view is allowed to prevail, the terrorists will have won.”

As far as Iranian-American filmmaker Cyrus Kar is concerned, these ideals have already been abandoned. In an interview today on NPR’s Day to Day, Kar describes his 55-day ordeal, imprisoned in Iraq by American forces who knew he was innocent.

Kar had gone to Iraq, with permission from the US government, to complete work on a documentary about Persian emperor Cyrus the Great. While riding in a hired taxi, he and his cameraman were arrested at a checkpoint after washing machine timers were found in the trunk. Such timers are sometimes used as parts in roadside bombs.

The two were blindfolded, handcuffed, charged as enemy combatants, and subjected to humiliation and abuse by US soldiers. They even served a stint at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, where a guard smashed Kar’s head against a cinderblock wall, and his cameraman was forced to publicly disrobe.

The taxi driver admitted the timers were his, and an FBI investigation cleared Kar within 10 days of his arrest… but the military refused to release him until the day before a hearing in federal court. When he asked the military why it took 45 days to release him after they learned of his innocence, Kar was told: “bureaucracy.”

Kar is not so sure.

“You have to be really, really gullible to believe that it is this well established process that won my release and that the release curiously came the day before the attorneys of President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld had to appear in court. It’s just too much of a coincidence, and I honestly believe and I’m quite certain that I would have been there for a long, long time had the ACLU and the press not gotten ahold of this and driven this case home.”

Once a supporter of the war, Kar now believes the occupation is doomed, and says if an American is treated so inhumanely, imagine what ordinary Iraqis are going through. But the worse part for him was losing his faith in American justice.

“I came to realize that I’m not considered an American. Being an American is an exclusive club that really wants no part of folks of my ethnicity.”

Judge Coughenour is right. Once we abandon the ideals that set our nation apart, we all cease to be Americans.

I just listened to a much more in depth interview with Kar on the CBC’s As It Happens. (RealAudio stream.)

Kar gives more details of the circumstances surrounding his arrest, and his treatment at the hands of American soldiers, including the unique culture of abuse at Abu Ghraib prison. As an Iranian born American, who served in the US military, and has now been victimized by it, Kar has unique and disturbing insight into what he saw happening on the ground in Iraq.

“There are a lot of innocent people sitting in jail — don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of really evil bad people I saw there too — but that makes it even more egregious to lock innocent people up, and that only leads to a growing insurgency, an insurgency that’s picking up speed. It is far more dangerous to go to Iraq today than it was right after mission had been declared accomplished, because the insurgency has been mushrooming, and the only reason it’s been mushrooming is because unfortunately we are creating… we are sowing the seeds of our own destruction, and it’s leading to the senseless deaths of a lot of American soldiers there.”


  1. 1

    proud leftist spews:

    Judge Coughnour is living proof of the brilliance of the nation’s forefathers in establishing the lifetime tenure of federal judges. He can call a spade a spade and not have to face retribution. He can point his finger at an administration that pisses on the Constitution while screaming that burning a flag requires jail time.

  2. 2

    pbj spews:

    Yeah I liked that lenient sentence he gave to the fucker. I suppose when they light off a nuke in a US city that leftist judge will pin a medal on the guy.

  3. 3

    pbj spews:

    Ressam can get off in 14 years due to credit for time served and good behavior. The prosecutor wanted 35 years. Once again it illustrates why liberals should never, ever be in charge of national security.

  4. 4

    marks spews:

    Pardon me, Goldy, as I run through this �ordeal� with loads of skepticism:

    The two were blindfolded, handcuffed, charged as enemy combatants, and subjected to humiliation and abuse by US soldiers.

    Um, they were in a COMBAT ZONE carrying items used to kill in an area patrolled by our Men and Women in the armed forces. The humiliation and abuse of GOING TO PRISON really sucks…

    They even served a stint at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison,

    I thought they demoted that general officer…

    where a guard smashed Kar�s head against a cinderblock wall,

    Did the guard apologize?

    and his cameraman was forced to publicly disrobe

    Have you ever seen those robes? They could hide a two-humped camel under them! What would you expect?

    What Coughenour, the Reagan appointee, said is good. I hope we no longer have terrorists go to trial against a framework known as the UCMJ, which all of our military veterans know is a way to circumvent the Constitution. We can�t have good order and discipline in the ranks of terrorists, now, can we? We must, though, in our military…

  5. 6

    Goldy spews:

    Marks… yeah, how about it. (I fixed the italics thing for you.)

    Did you listen to the audio clip?

  6. 7

    marks spews:


    Of course not…that would require ears, which are currently hard to come by…

    I will get back to you when I have found them, thanks…

  7. 8

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    I never got any leniency from Coughenour when he was one of my law professors. If you showed up for his class unprepared, he was all over your sorry ass. He had zero tolerance for lazy law students.

  8. 9

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Reply to 7

    I didn’t have any problem coming by ears. I have plenty of ears. My ears are 40% of my body mass. Maybe 50%. It’s not my fault you’re ears-challenged. You probably don’t have a cottontail either.

  9. 10

    marks spews:

    Actually, Goldy, this reminds me of when I was in the Navy and I left my briefcase outside the Division office on my ship after morning muster. My LPO (not knowing it was my briefcase) called the Master at Arms and the briefcase was cordoned off and inspected by our armed forces security.

    Within my briefcase were schematics of generic IFF Mode IV systems. None of the schematics were marked with the important “SECRET” stamp, yet I was victimized for two friggin months while the MAA “investigated” the Mode IV items (I could go into the Walker angle, but that should be considered redundant).

    Bottom line, I find nothing wrong with holding Cyrus, even for months, but if our soldiers actually mistreated him, that is wrong. In the audio, I would say the matter is not settled.

    RR @9,

    Er, no, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn the other night…

  10. 11

    Goldy Loves Terror spews:


    Why don’t you put a couple washing machine timers and some modeling clay in your backpack, and then head to SeaTac and go through security a few times and see if anyone notices. And if they do, would you blame them for asking you some tough questions? You probably would.

    Did it occur to you that the guy was not in America when this happened? It’s nice of you to imagine a happy place where everyone listens to NPR and Air America and plays by the rules, but that’s not Iraq right now. And it’s not even the US. Will there be some mistaken identities? Yeah. Will there be some stress on the Constitution? Yeah. (Oh, And your selective defense of the Constitution is, in and of itself, laughable. Normally to you it’s a living document open to daily reinterpretation.)

    But seriously, in a world where someone could walk up to you outside the cafe while you are getting your coffee tomorrow and blow themselves up, you’ve got to suspend some of your naivety.

  11. 12

    Puddybud spews:

    Yesterday, my son and the wife went out in NYC. My son noticed a man wearing a trenchcoat with a large briefcase in 99 degree weather walking down the crowded street. Every one else was scantily dressed in the high heat and humidity. He was a darker skinned person. It scared the crap out of him. Now maybe the person was weird or he was testing people looking him over. You never know. But when something happens, these same lefty people will be screaming help us, help us, and they will be complaining that Bush isn’t doing enough. You lefties can’t have it both ways.

  12. 14

    Roger Rabbit spews:


    All we’re asking for is invade the right country. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask for. Not to us liberals, anyway.

  13. 16

    marks spews:


    I think, beyond the Holiday Inn reference, that I did not engage in hyperbole. At what point do you presuppose our armed forces safe? They are not safe, whether in South Bend, Indiana or Baghdad, Iraq, though in South Bend, they are more likely to live the way they wish…

  14. 17

    marks spews:

    RR @13

    My wife…and she does have some cute bunny ears…and I will slug you if you get near her, only because I am forced to violence because she demands it….

  15. 19

    Roger Rabbit spews:


    That’s understandable. I’d slug me, too, if I caught myself messing with my wife.

  16. 20

    Donnageddon spews:

    PuddyBud @ 12 Interesting story. But your conclusions are a little suspect.

    I can only speask for this lefty, but I am already complaining that Bush is not doing enough. HIs has grossly underfunded “homeland” security. He is spending all the money that could be used to ensuring we have adequate security and inspections in this country on a War-built-on-lies in a country that posed us no threat, and shuffling the proceeds to his base (you know- the haves, and have mores)

    You can never stop a determined person who is bent on killing themselves and taking other innocent lives, but we could be doing so much more to keep a large scale attack from happening again.

    But Bush doesn’t care about you and me. We are not his base.

  17. 21

    Goldy spews:

    Puddinghead @12,

    When I was thirteen, I went to NYC to see Monty Python perform live. It was an unseasonably hot spring day, in the mid-eighties, and who should we pass on the street, but Salvidore Dali, wearing a heavy fur coat.

    I suppose today it would have been a shame, but understandable, if he had been chased into the subway by plain clothes officers and had eight slugs put into him… just to be on the safe side.

    We are vulnerable to terrorist attacks because we have a free society, and it would be rather pointless to give up the latter in order to protect ourselves from the former.

  18. 22

    Goldy spews:

    I just posted an update that includes a link to the audio clip of a much more in depth interview Kar gave on the CBC’s “As It Happens.” As it turns out Kar has served in the US military, so he has some good insight into what he experienced on the ground in Iraq, and makes some very disturbing observations.

  19. 23

    antidote spews:

    Gosh, puddybud@12, that must have been horrible! We all KNOW how those “dark skinned” people ARE! Imagine, having to be on the same STREET with one! And to think he was wearing HEAVY clothing! Like, say, undershirt, shirt, vest, suitcoat, overcoat. I mean, in New York, NOBODY dresses like that!

    Or do they?

    Well it doesn’t matter. Because we all KNOW how THEY are.

  20. 24

    Puddybud spews:

    Antidote@23: It was 99 degrees outside in the early afternoon. You walk 30 yards and you break out in a sweat.

    Don*****don: Congress allocates funds. If the president in his budget “underfunded” HS, then Congress should do the job. Unfortunately the pork flows this year so they can go back next year and say “See what I did!”. I am against pork on both sides of the aisle. I said it on SP and I’ll say it here. I hate pork-barrel spending.

  21. 25

    Puddybud spews:

    Goldy, good point on the free society. But we as people can be vigilant regarding whom we see and what they do. The person who wears his device on his back will do damage to his immediate vicinity. You can’t stop that. But the person who leaves his load then runs off should be visible to many people if they are not so into their little world. People who decide to read newspapers or sleep on the train and then a bomb goes off are NOT being vigilant. When I get on a subway now I am watching everyone!!!

  22. 26

    Felix Fermin spews:

    We all need to be vigilant against potential terrorist acts in our midst – that is just common sense – but let’s please keep it in perspective. We as individuals are far more likely to die in a car crash than to fall victim to terrorism. Heck, we’re more likely to be struck by lightning or win the lottery.

    There is an alterior motive to all this fear-mongering about terrorism. Why doesn’t Faux news run a scroll bar that warns us of the risks of crossing the street (“Crossing Street Risk Alert: ELEVATED!”). The threat of terrorism is real and we should deal with it, but it is not reason to throw our civil liberties out the window – we need to keep it in perspective!

  23. 27

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Comment on 25

    The main threat to my survival is the airhead who is too busy blabbing on her cell phone to look where she’s driving her car.

  24. 28

    dj spews:

    I’ve said it before. . . . democracy is tough love. If you want freedom and democracy, then you must be able to tolerate a small amount of personal risk. There is no way around this trade-off, you want freedom, you get risk. You want a sanitized and risk-free life, forget about freedom.

    The assholes who are willing to give up freedom to reduce their risk of death or injury almost imperceptabally are either not thinking or are blatently anti-American. Giving up freedoms for a tiny decrease in risk of death or injury, discredits (and tragically so) those who have died to preserve these very freedoms.


    (Blogging from a public library near Chicago today. . . unfortunately, my 30 minute time limit is up).

  25. 29

    Donnageddon spews:

    @24 You mean the REPUBLICAN congress is not doing its job!

    And Puddy, you know damn good and well that if Bush wanted these homelzand security programs fully funded, the would be fully funded. Denial of that fact is denial of a round earth.

  26. 30

    Roger Rabbit spews:

    Comment on 2

    We can always count on pbj to make some ignorant, inane comment. If Ressam has access to nuclear weapons, I’m sure that’s news to the CIA, among others. Any farmer can get his hands on enough conventional explosives (or ingredients to make them) to blow up a city block. Sure, Ressam is a terrorist who belongs behind bars — and he IS behind bars, and will be an old man when he gets out. In his case, I don’t think the difference between a 22 year or a 35 year sentence is going to make much difference. There’s a reason why prosecutors make plea bargains and judges honor them — and it’s precisely the reason you mentioned. Ressam isn’t going to light off a nuke in Seattle or anywhere else, but the information he provides — given an incentive to provide it — just might lead the government to people who might eventually have the ability to do that.

    I think I’ll let the professionals handle this one, while armchair generals like pbj can spout off their ignorant nonsense in a dark corner somewhere.

  27. 31

    marks spews:

    Roger Rabbit @30

    I think I’ll let the professionals handle this one

    I agree. But I won’t abdicate my responsiblity to second-guess if something goes amiss. Is that a good thing, or not?

  28. 32


    We all KNOW how those “dark skinned” people ARE!

    I know I know— They are victims! I nailed this one cuz I got my donk hat on. Ok I cheated a little and looked at the donk list of victims.. so sue me. Hey now I am a victim.