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It was a bright sunny morning in May 2012 when I drove off the ferry from Tarifa, in Spain,into the port of Tangier. After doing battle with the Moroccan bureaucrats to import the motorbike, I drove along the seafront, the Yamaha 750’s engine purring softly. I followed the signs through the city to the motorway. Traffic was light and I stayed well within the speed limit, keeping a look-out for traffic cops. Assume they’re everywhere.

You’ll never be wrong, because they are. This was confirmed when I passed a clump of trees that overhung the road. Standing in the shadows were two policemen with a radar gun.

The motorway was built on a raised embankment, which meant I could see into the open country. Morocco has its own version of ghost estates, fields full of unfinished apartment blocks. Another town, another property bust. In the lush farmland, ripening green fields of grain swayed in the breeze. Farmers ploughed their fields, some driving tractors, some walking behind oxen. In flooded fields, workers planted rice. In their straw hats, they looked like blacks picking cotton in the deep south of America a hundred years ago. A land of contrasts.

Going south, the air got warmer. Driving the bike at a hundred and twenty kilometres per hour was like being in a gale. The noisy, buffeting wind was mostly hot and my jacket bulged with the air blowing up my sleeves. I crossed a wadi, a wide area of low ground where a river snaked lazily to the sea. Then the landscape changed and the road was lined with trees on either side. Power lines crossed overhead on poles topped with stork’s nests. After a hundred miles I pulled into a service area. I filled the tank and enjoyed a lazy cup of coffee. I was the only European.

My fellow travellers eyed me curiously. They seemed friendly. I was surprised, though perhaps I shouldn’t have been, to find that there was a mosque beside the café.

Shortly afterwards the autoroute joined the bypass around Rabat. I passed a glossy glass-fronted IT centre called Technopolis. Further on I passed a signpost for Temara. I was especially observant of the speed limit, not least because the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, a Moroccan intelligence agency known for human rights violations, operates an extrajudicial detention facility, or black site, financed by the US Central Intelligence Agency at Temara. Despite having no legal authority to arrest or detain suspects, the DST holds and interrogates individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism-related activities. Some of them have been arrested in other countries by the CIA as part of their War on Terror and flown to Morocco on the CIA’s aircraft. Because there is no legal authority under US law for the involvement of the CIA in the operation of black sites, the issue remains controversial and the UN has begun to investigate. However, I passed by safely and drove on to Casablanca.

Traffic was heavy, but eventually, I found the hotel I’d booked and checked in. In the last couple of days I was reminded of driving past Temara by the publication by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence of the executive summary of its report on the CIA’s interrogations of suspected foreign terrorists in the wake of 9/11, some of them described as torture. Reactions from politicians vary between former Vice President Dick Cheney saying “The report is full of crap” to Republican Senator John McCain’s observation that “It is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for
good in the world.”

You pays your money and you takes your choice. The Washington Post points out that the report does not include Morocco, which was not a CIA-controlled facility.

From → General

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