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I just spent the last hour scanning the Arab and Middle Eastern press, looking for reactions in the last few days to the release of the Bush administration's torture memos. Nothing. I looked for more recent reports of Sunday's revelations that two of the 9/11 suspects were waterboarded 266 times between them (rather than the "few" times the Bush administration claimed). Nothing. (Surely I'm somewhat mistaken? Please, send in links if I am. I'd be happy to post them.)

It's not surprising. Torture doesn't make news in the Middle East, where regimes are so busy torturing their prisoners, repressing any news of it and forbidding human rights organizations from peeking in that the prisons of Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Morocco were favorite destinations for Bush's "rendition" program--you know, the CIA's frequent-flying rogue operation that took innocent men like Canadian-Syrian Maher Arar and Lebanese-German Khaled el-Masri and slammed them in those prisons for some contracted torture and undue process.

Big on torture and institutional brutality, those regimes aren't about to draw attention to their bad habits by making a fuss about those of the United States. To the contrary. They can now use the American example as justification for their own. Which is where this story of torture memos really returns. It's not just about what it says about the United States. It's what it enables other countries to do to their own, under cover of American example.

That silence you hear in the Middle East is the satisfied silence of complicity.

That's why the debate over whether releasing the memos or not, revealing torture methods or not, is itself an attempt to deflect more than blame and domestic responsibility. It's an attempt to narrow down the consequences of the last eight years' abuses to something of an aberration, an exception resulting from exigencies of the moment, when it was anything but. It was a systematic re-routing of American ideals that rippled out across the world, the repressive Middle East especially, as validation for torture and brutality as a means of state control.

And that's why the Obama administration is wrong to stop merely at the release of the memos without pursuing the case to its just conclusion.

The Middle East press may be silent on the torture memos. No reason to mum along. Read my article, "Torture Memos and Accountability"

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