Friday, May 27, 2005

Rights? You want Rights? I got your Rights Right Here!

The horrendous abuse of human rights represented by the detention of subjects without legal recourse at Guantanamo makes a mockery of American constitutional justice. This point is taken up by Thomas L. Friedman’s New York Times piece today.

Shut it down. Just shut it down.

I am talking about the war-on-terrorism P.O.W. camp at Guantánamo Bay. Just shut it down and then plow it under. It has become worse than an embarrassment. I am convinced that more Americans are dying and will die if we keep the Gitmo prison open than if we shut it down. So, please, Mr. President, just shut it down.

Friedman’s argument is that world perception of US maltreatment of people thrown into the Guantanamo camp is far more detrimental, even dangerous, to Americans than the possible acts of any of the detainees themselves. As I read Friedman’s column, which comes from a background of understanding and immersion in the international problems of Europe and the Middle East, I imagined the right-wing response to his advice and suggestions. I have heard loud-mouthed radio pundits including Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and others, describe what a mess there would be if the US justice system treated suspected terrorists held at Guantanamo like regular criminals with attorneys and constitutional protections. The fact that some of those held are not even remotely connected to terrorism, and the nature of individual mistreatment at the camp, is a separate issue. The very existence of this slap in the face of humanity and American fair play, which is what Gitmo has become, is the entire problem.

Why care? It's not because I am queasy about the war on terrorism. It is because I want to win the war on terrorism. And it is now obvious from reports in my own paper and others that the abuse at Guantánamo and within the whole U.S. military prison system dealing with terrorism is out of control. Tell me, how is it that over 100 detainees have died in U.S. custody so far? Heart attacks? This is not just deeply immoral, it is strategically dangerous.
It makes so much sense—I’m with you, Mr. Friedman.

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