Friday, June 10, 2005

Support America and Close Gitmo

In a speech on Tuesday, Former President Jimmy Carter called for the US to shut down the Guantanamo Bay prison to demonstrate the US commitment to human rights. The Carter Center issued this proclamation on their website:
Despite President George W. Bush's bold reminder that America is determined to promote freedom and democracy around the world, the U.S. continues to suffer terrible embarrassment and a blow to our reputation as a champion of human rights because of reports concerning abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guanta¬°namo.
This follows on the heels of the Amnesty International Report 2005 Speech to the Foreign Press Association, where Irene Khanat, secretary general, used the highly-charged word "gulag" to describe US detainment camps:
Nothing shows the disregard of international law as clearly as the attempts by the US, UK and some European countries to set aside the absolute prohibition of torture and ill treatment by re-definition and "rendering" or the transfer prisoners to regimes that are known to use torture. In effect sub-contracting torture, yet keeping their own hands and conscience clean. Under this dangerous agenda, justice is not only denied, it is also distorted.

In the US, almost a year after the Supreme Court decided that detainees in Guantanamo should have access to judicial review, not one single case from among the 500 or so detained has reached the courts because of stonewalling by the Administration. Under this agenda some people are above the law and others are clearly outside it.

Guantanamo has become the gulag [of] our times, entrenching the notion that people can be detained without any recourse to the law.

If Guantanamo evokes images of Soviet repression, "ghost detainees" or the incommunicado detention of unregistered detainees - bring back the practice of "disappearances" so popular with Latin American dictators in the past. According to US official sources there could be over 100 ghost detainees held by the US. In 2004 thousands of people were held by the US in Iraq, hundreds in Afghanistan and undisclosed numbers in undisclosed locations.

AI is calling on the US Administration to "close Guantanamo and disclose the rest". What we mean by this is: either release the prisoners or charge and prosecute them with due process.
On the Fox News Sunday, AI's US Chief William Schulz further elaborated on the Soviet gulcomparisonion:
We do know that at least some of the 200-some prisoners who have been released from Guantanamo Bay have made pretty persuasive cases that they were imprisoned there, not because they were involved in military conflict but simply because they were enemies of the Northern Alliance, for example, in Afghanistan or that they happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

So the question is: How did they get there in the first place? And ought they not have an opportunity to at least make their case for their potential freedom?
These reasonable assertions seem to summarize the much-lauded intentions of the First, Fourth and Six Amendmentsnts of the US Constitution. Many international laws also echo the same commitment to justice and equality.

So why are so many Americans okay with Gitmo?

Despite all of the blind patriotism in the US, many Americans are perfectly comfortable with the concept of "indefinite detainment". The focus on "moral values" in the November Election Cycle seems to represent a cherry-picking of sorts. These "values" apply to some types of behavior, but not others. The "morals" affect some people, but not others.

I think most of the reasoning stems from the complacent assumption that all detainees are un-American and terrorists. Because of the heinous acts of terrorism, detainees don't enjoy any right to a speedy trial and shouldn't be pampered by the articles of the Third Geneva Convention. Embracing the fear of terrorism above all else, many Americans have placed a unwavering faith in the federal government to make the determination between terrorist and non-terrorist.

Despite the absence of transparency afforded by a trial or judicial review, many conservative blogs and some main stream media outlets contribute to this "fight fire with fire" rhetoric. Many of these ignore the important distinction between accusation and guilt, assuming that all terrorist suspects must be guilty. This of course, justifies the expanded powers of the Executive Branch and the human rights abuses it demonstrates. After all, "power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

One of my favorite blogs, Sons of the Republic puts it this way:
Terrorists should not feel safe or secure in this country. They should fear that everyone they deal with is out to get them. They should be paranoid that every single phone call, email, or instant message they send is being read, and that every knock at their door is a Federal agent prepared to send them to Allah.

You'll forgive me if I don't really care about the civil rights of terrorists and those that support them.
This just smacks too much of the "us vs. them" paradigm that many Americans have been suckered into. It is in protecting the civil liberties of these few, that all of our civil liberties are salvaged. The right to trial and redress is paramount to our democratic system. Thomas Jefferson put it best:
I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.
Isn't it the values of this country we are trying to protect from the terrorists? Enemy combatants, detainees, informants, Taliban officials, suspected Al-Queda agents - everyone should be guaranteed the right to hold their imprisoning government accountable. Without their rights being honored, how can any US Citizen make claim their inalienable rights?

Remember, those rights not granted to the federal government and state are inherited by the people. The more our representatives cede our rights to the government, the less we have to protect. Raise your voice and be a true patriot.

If you support America, sign the petition to close down Gitmo.

Update 6/12/2005:

Many conservative blogs seemed more focused on the differences between Gitmo and a Soviet gulag, than in the actual issues AI raises about the Gitmo facility itself. One such conservative blog,
Grand Daddy Long Legs unfortunately much wasted energy on the issue of the term "gulag" using a point-by-point strategy that sadly is not used in addressing the real issue of US detainment.


Post a Comment

<< Home