Friday, June 13, 2008

More on Gitmo and the Supreme Court

A few emails raised some issues regarding the Supreme Court's decision to allow detainees of Guantanamo Bay to challenge their imprisonment.

Issue 1: The US Constitution protects American Citizens and aliens ON United States territory. Since Guantanamo bay is in Cuba and the detainees aren't American, they shouldn't be given Constitutional rights.

Rebuttal: Guantanamo Bay is effectively United States territory. It was a military base cynically established 90 miles from Florida's coast to allow the government to detain 'enemy combatants' without having to worry about pesky things like the Constitution. But for all intents and purposes, it is American territory. American troops. American equipment. American fences protecting American turf and American burgers and hot dogs served in the canteen. As damned-as-near it, it's American soil and to argue it isn't is just semantics. That's why the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees have Constitutional rights.

Issue 2: The detainees are Prisoners of War and therefore don't have the same Constitutional rights as defendants in Criminal cases.

Rebuttal: I can see the logic behind this - we certainly didn't offer Japanese or German prisoners of war Constitutional rights during World War II. However, the reality is this: Nobody's quite sure if these detainees are enemy combatants or not. I remind you of the 13 year old held without charge in Gitmo for two years (and then released.)

Because of the ambiguous nature of the 'war on terror,' we're left with the burden of proving that these detainees are enemy soldiers and not just Afghanistani goat herders. The burden of proof hasn't been met - and therefore the government can't treat these detainees as prisoners of war on innuendo alone.

Conclusion: The words 'piss up' and 'brewery' spring to mind - as in 'couldn't organise one.'

During the start of the war, when public opinion was behind them, the military should have made public record of how and when these detainees were captured - and, most importantly, WHY.

Instead, the murky government has scooped up people (perhaps even at random) and held them without charge for years. Are they guilty? Apparently, we the American public aren't privileged enough to find out. All we're 'privileged' enough to do is see our tax dollars go towards paying to incarcerate these people.

If the government wants to spend our money running an internment camp, I think it's only fair that they show us what the people who are interned there are guilty of.

Americans believe in certain inalienable rights extended to all men (not just US citizens). That much is 'self evident' (according to the Declaration of Independence.) No American authority has the right to take those inalienable rights away from anybody - at least not without good evidence.

When it comes to Guantanamo Bay, we've been bullied into surrendering other people's Constitutional rights. That's the start of the slippery slope towards surrendering our own.

1 comment:

The Chemist said...

All excellent points. I have only one point to add: If we indeed consider things like trials, justice, and legal advice rights, then there is something to keep in mind: Rights are not negotiable, otherwise they wouldn't be called rights. We have a word for that other thing: "privileges", a word I don't see anywhere near the habeas corpus part of the constitution.

If anyone is interested, this is excellent reporting by the people at This American Life:

It's free to listen.