Thursday, May 21, 2009

Liberty for all?

President Obama spoke earlier today about the need to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. There are many things I could say about the president and his policies, especially on this issue. For now, though, I have only one thing to say: I disagree with him.

Here is an excerpt from the president's speech:

"Finally, there remains the question of detainees at Guantanamo who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people.

"I want to be honest: this is the toughest issue we will face. We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who have received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, commanded Taliban troops in battle, expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

"As I said, I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture – like other prisoners of war – must be prevented from attacking us again. However, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. That is why my Administration has begun to reshape these standards to ensure they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible and lawful standards for those who fall in this category. We must have fair procedures so that we don't make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified."

I'm not a lawyer; just a young man who grew up on lawyer shows, like Ally McBeal, The Practice, Law & Order, and Boston Legal. Aside from the characters and all their flaws, the one thing that the writers seem to want to make clear in every episode is that justice is paramount. The characters defend, in properly dramatic fashion, the rights of rapists, drug dealers, murderers, and more than a few corrupt politicians. The ideal seems to be that, no matter how despicable a person may be, the law must be upheld in pursuing, prosecuting, and punishing them.

In the case of the suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, I say there is no reason we should not already be actively investigating and determining the guilt or innocence of every detainee. Whether it's done in civilian courts, military tribunals, or an international war crimes commission, I don't really care. Once the investigations are over, though, and every potential enemy combatant has had his "day in court", comes the moment when the jury says either "guilty" or "not guilty". The guilty are sent back to prison; the not guilty are free to go.

No one, I'm sure, wants a potential suicide bomber walking the streets, or worse, boarding a plane. The president has rightly identified the most difficult decision he must make in this area: what to do with those people we know, but cannot prove, are terrorists. Perhaps we would all like to do what the president seems to propose, and what his predecessor did: indefinitely hold these "unproven" terrorists until we're sure they will never harm anyone ever again. That is not justice, however. I'll say it again: no matter how despicable (or even dangerous) a person may be, the law must be upheld. If you can prove guilt, then incarcerate them; execute them, if you feel it's appropriate. If you cannot, though, then set them free. Set spies and satellites and Special Forces to watching them for the rest of their lives, but set them free.

There are many things the president has said, done, and proposed in the war on terror with which we can all take strong issue. Personally, I have many objections to his policies. For each of those policies, though, he seems to fight on the side of justice for all. Only in this area does he seem prepared to ignore that ideal.

I object.

1 comment:

  1. It means that under the umbrella of the "terrorism" we are allowed to violate the law? foreign and domestic, because we don't allowed any country to violate the rights of the american people (spies, soldiers, anyone) who were prosecuted or acussed in another countries, we even send troops to countries that posed a threat to american interest in the World. Alongside the history of the American Foreign Policy, we shape the very existence of many countries, politically, economically. You don't need to be a genius to read history to see how many times we saw the "other way" allowing dictatorial governments to take power in the name of the National Security and that's how you create all the dictatorship from the left wing, that came as a consecuence of the wrongdoungs of our politicians. Do you ask yourself how can be that an assasin as Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and some others are so "popular" from the "Rio Grande" down (for those who don't know Rio Grande is the border with Mexico), it's simply because our "interest" were not always the best interest of those countries, and we allowed corrupt governments, dictatorships, torture, empoverment, instead of helping them to grow, we give them tirany and opression, in the name of democracy, so what is the opposite of that? Comunism, and since we tell them millons and millons of time that the communista are the bad guys and we are the one, but we give them what we did, they start looking the "other side" to see if the left is what we said it is and in the process we create Chavez, Ortega and some others.
    Coming back to Guantanamo, the deal it's easy, you have the LAW, abide to it. Find "something" legal under the law that keeps those bastards out, but do it under the law, otherwise we are no better than those countries that we complain. Don't expect that everybody follows you if you are not the example, lead by example. Even those who terrorize us have rights, even if we don't like it, otherwise we are creating martyrs out of a simple criminal, and United States cannot allow to have more Osama-like people because we violate all the principles of the law. We put them in Guantanamo to get a legal glitch that say they are not in American soil therefore they cannot be treated under the American Law, and we create another monster, we put them under cuban law (Guantanamo is Cuban soil)? Under International Law? (we are violating international agreements that we sign), therefore, under what Law we gonna judge this people. Like I said I don't want them free but we have to do it under the law, and if we can't, then release it someplace were thay can not pose a threat to the United States. Are we risking our security? NO, I don't thnk so, because I believe our Armed Forces, Intelligence Community, and Security Forces of this, and another countries are doing an excellent job, protecting us from that threat. Otherwise we are diminishing all the work and effort of all the agencies to make us safe. Too many people already pay with blood for us to be safe. There are 241 prisoners left at Gitmo, transfer them either to a maximum security prison in the states (after all they are enemies of the US) or transfer them to another country where they cannot leave and make any damage to the US, but if you have them on the limbo, it will make us liable to the same rules (any dictator that wants to "prosecute" americans under the suspicion of terrorism against his regime) What we will do then, if we set the precedent???
    "I may not agree with you but I will do everything to keep your right to disagree with me", that's what make us better from any other government.
    Set the example, otherwise they will keep hating us around the world....