Wednesday, February 08, 2006

NATIONAL JOURNAL: Guantanamo's Grip

I came across this link over at Shakes' place. It's not that there's anything really new in this piece, it just a well-written article that nicely points out most of the problems with the Bush administration's treatment of so-called 'enemy combatants'. It's very interesting and horrifying to read the story of detainee 032, Farouq Ali Ahmed. Neatly illustrated are the pitfalls involved in the way these people were identified and detained in the first place, the dubious methods used to gather evidence against them, and the injustice of military tribunals which answer to no one but the president.

What sticks out to me in all this is the importance of due process. Everyone is entitled, by virtue of being a human being, to due process. It doesn't matter where you're born, what your religion is, who you hate, who you love, what you've done or what you're planning to do. Due process means being subjected to and protected by the rule of law - codified, recognized law. Due process is not one hearing in front of a panel of biased judges, where your accusers have legal representation and you don't, where you can't examine the evidence against you, and there is no appeal. In any other context or country, this would be described as a kangaroo court, and Bush and all his supporters would rail against it, and call for freedom and democracy.

Now I do understand that many, if not most of the prisoners in Guantanamo are terrorists or have provable, meaningful ties to terroists. But it doesn't matter if every last one of them is 9/11-conspiring, baby-killing, al qaeda-loving mass murderer, each one of them is still entitled to due process. In reality, you know that not every one there is guilty, but there's no way for an innocent man to prove it.

Many of you will cry "Wait, these scumbags aren't state-sponsored, they're not covered by the rule of law, they're just terrorist thugs!" Fuck that shit. Maybe you've never heard of the Declaration of Independence We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This statement is fundamental to American values. That says all men, not just Americans, not just state-sponsored warriors. No, it doesn't come right out and say all men are entitled to due process, and I'm not implying that the Declaration is part of the law of the land. I'm just using the Declaration as an example of bedrock American values, values where all men are equal before the law, regardless of where they were born.

The way Bush and his buddies treat these people cheapens all of us. And it doesn't stop with foreign combatants, they're not above using these same reprehensible tactics on US citizens either, just look up Jose Padilla. A bad guy? Most likely. A criminal? Probably. Entitled to due process? Absolutely!

The bottom line is that we, as Americans, as human beings, should be above this kind of shit. Down this road lies tyranny. We should have the determination to prosecute suspected terrorists to the full extent of the law, and the resolve to stand by the principle of innocent until proven guilty. If we can't do that, or won't do that, then we ought to stop all the bitching about human rights and democracy, because until we do, we're just fucking hypocrites.

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Toast said...

Awesome post, Chris. Great fuckin' post.

Chris Howard said...

Thanks. I've had that one rattling around for a while.

Toast said...

Ah, to be new to blogging again and have all my Great Thoughts still unthunk... (sigh)

Lex said...

Bravo. I am way beyond tired of Americans arguing that "just barely, if at all, better than the terrorists" constitutes an acceptable, even laudable, standard for American behavior. The contempt for America inherent in such an argument is staggering.

John Howard said...

Excellent post, Chris. These are the kinds of things that I often mean to say, but instead just end up in some rant where I say fuck a lot and call people assholes.

Toast said...

These are the kinds of things that I often mean to say, but instead just end up in some rant where I say fuck a lot and call people assholes.

Yeah. Me too. It's a disability, you know? Like Blogger Tourette syndrome.

Chris Howard said...

These are the kinds of things that I often mean to say, but instead just end up in some rant where I say fuck a lot and call people assholes.

Yeah, but yours are funny. Still, I'm satisfied with the way this one turned out. I did break out with one fuck. I actually had an angrier paragraph in there with more profanity, but I couldn't get it to fit in right.

John Howard said...

I think the one fuck is pretty effective.

beakerkin said...

The laws do not apply to unlawful combatants . This is not a law enforcement issue in any definition . Nor are those being held classified as POWs.

No trials and let them rot in Gitmo. The leaders of Code Pink should be sent for giving $600,000 to our enemies in Falujah. Protesting is one thing providing money to our enemies is treason.

John Howard said...

beakerkin, you completely missed the point (as usual), which is regardless of what the law allows, we should treat everyone well, and assume everyone is innocent unless we can prove otherwise.

No trials? Why not? If they're guilty, then surely that will come out, and if they are not, then we certainly don't want to hold them. At least I don't, why would you? You like to torture innocent people? And once again, you end your comment with something completely beside the point.

Chris Howard said...

The laws do not apply to unlawful combatants

I addressed that criticism, which I knew would be coming. I believe my comment was "Fuck that shit". There are plenty of places in the world where people are arrested for dubious reasons and held without a fair trial, but the US shouldn't be one of them.

beakerkin said...


As usual you think this is law enforcement. Terrorism is not a law enforcement issue it is asymetrical warfare. The people in Guantanamo are unlawful combatants and not POWs. They have zero rights except the right to sit out
and enjoy Lifetime movies and SpongeBob.

Being a member of Al Queda is not a dubious reason in any rational description. Al Queda has commited several acts of warfare against the USA mere membership is grounds for a stay at Gitmo.

They should be joined by members of Code Pink who clearly violated the law. The people who raised and gave the money to our enemies should be offered denaturalization or Gitmo.

Invention of imaginary Civil rights
is what the left does best. Listen to Mark Levin and you might learn a thing or two by accident.

John Howard said...

beakerkin, why do you intentionally miss the point of everything? I know you're not stupid, so you obviously do it on purpose. Yes, they're unlawful combatants and they don't have any rights. The point is they should have rights. Everyone should have rights.

Do you seriously think everyone there is a member of Al Qaeda? If you do, then maybe I was wrong about you being stupid. And even if they are all guilty, that again is beside the point, since no one has at any time had to demonstrate their guilt. We can never know for sure that anyone is guilty of anything, unless their accusers are required to prove it.

I don't know anything about who Code Pink has given money to, but it's ridiculous to suggest they should be put in jail. But then, I guess you're in favor of putting everyone (probably except you) in jail and sorting out what crime (if any) they've committed later.

The whole point of this post is that these civil rights should not be imaginary. Any country that claims the moral superiority that we do should treat all people (even our enemies) like we would want to be treated. Certainly the guilty should be punished, but that guilt should have to be determined first, and they should have some way to answer their charges. How can you think anything else is acvcceptable?

michelline said...

I did break out with one fuck.

Actually, I counted 1 fuck, 1 fucking, and 1 shit. Might have missed more. Anyway, this was a really great post and I'm very proud to be married to a man that thinks this way. A man who actually lives his principles and doesn't just pretend as so many others do. (Not to point any fingers... Republicans... cough cough)

beakerkin said...


You missed the point giving money to our enemies in a time of War is treason. This iseactly what Code Pink did and its leaders should join their friends in Gitmo.

The entire Code Pink membership has now given probable cause for Government spying.

Its odd how your memory seems to fade when Far left groups commit treason. Sorry John treason and sedition are against the law.

Please feel free to run on civil rights for terrorists and traitors.
You forget we are at war.

Chris Howard said...

You forget we are at war.
No we're not forgetting. Being at war doesn't justify eveything. If it did, there would have been no Nuremburg trials.

You still haven't specifically addressed the main point of my piece, which is everyone should have basic human rights. So the question is - Why do you believe that some people have basic human rights and others don't? The followup question is why do you believe that some people are guilty until proven innocent? Terrorists and traitors should be punished appropriately, but your view doesn't allow us to figure out which people are actually terrorists and traitors. You assume if the government detains someone, that person is guilty. You should read this sometime. Universal Declaration of Human Rights

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