“Guantanamo” Means Shame

March 31, 2006

I can have nothing new to say on this subject, but to add my voice to others embarrassed by our country's current bosses' capriciousness with the Constitution and what we thought were supposed to be American values: fairness, the rights of the individual, devotion to rule of law.

I am ashamed by it.

I try honestly to think whether anyone in power can believe the Guantanamo arrangement has any upside. They must believe so to stick with it, or simply be terrible cretins, because the moral ugliness of it, the damage to the nation's reputation, and most especially the ill-will engendered can not serve for any good. In its effort at balance NPR reports that "supporters say the camp is a valuable source of information and vital to the U.S. effort to combat terrorism." So give 'em a trial so that info gets out… Even if there are hardened terrorists among the crowd there (and I don’t deny that possibility), the claims and statistical probability of innocence among the majority of them are probably only fueling the fires of more hardened terrorists not stuck in the Pearl of the Antilles.

And, oh, the preposterousness of having a prison (and naval base) in the territory of a country we have no truck with? The absurdity is so large it gets lost from view. Why not have a POW camp in Iran then? North Korea?

The rationale for keeping people imprisoned, unvisitable, far from home, with no charges or hope for redress, is that they were "picked up in the field of battle." His Honor Justice Antonin Scalia (a class act), claims, “War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts.” Yeah, we're all about only doing what we “have to,” that's the American way. Nevermind that this war isn't a "war" in the traditional sense. We didn't give trials to POWs in previous wars because, first of all, most of them were in uniform and not denying they were enemy combatants, plus, there was some understanding that eventually, one way or another, the war would be declared at an end. There's no indication that anyone in power thinks the amorphous war with undefined enemies we're in will end anytime before the sun burns out. It definitely won't if we treat the people who already hate us in ways to make them hate us more. In Scalia's words: “Give me a break.”

Hey, Jill Carroll could be considered to have been picked up "in the field of battle," and they just released her today (for which, hurray).

I am not a Christian, but I see the nobility and virtue (as well as difficulty) of turning the other cheek, of loving thine enemy. How do fundamentalist Christian war-making types reconcile those tenets of the religion, I wonder?

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