Thursday, January 12, 2012

A very unhappy anniversary: Guantanamo turns ten

Once upon a time, the United States of America believed in something called due process of law. The United States of America believed so sincerely in due process of law that the nation enshrined a right to it in the fifth amendment to its founding document, the Constitution.

I quoted the fifth amendment to the Constitution of the United States just last month, in Rescuing freedom from U.S. government predation, but I don't suppose it could hurt to quote it again, with the same emphasis as I added last time around:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Pretty unambiguous, or so one hopes when one drafts an amendment to a constitution.

So yesterday, 11 January 2012, was a sad day for anyone inclined to think well of the Constitution of the United States. Yesterday marked ten years since the opening of the prison at Guantanamo Bay. There was a fine op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle to mark the occasion, contributed by the convener of the Bay Area Religious Campaign Against Torture, Northern California's affiliate of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture -- a woman by the name of Louise Specht. Her piece was titled Ten years later, Guantanamo still harms us all.

Not everyone agrees with Ms. Specht. There were only a few comments to the article on the SF Chron's website as of about 8pm last night, all of them sharply disagreeing with or missing the point of her position. But, hey, the intertubes permits each of us to express our opinion, or to echo somebody else's.

I'm going to echo the opinion of Louise Specht today. Literally. Here's some of what she wrote in yesterday's op-ed:

[...] Bush administration officials have admitted ordering torture against prisoners in Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Iraq and secret sites in third-party countries, yet no one has been held to account for violating U.S. law. Their illegal actions and the recent passage - and signing by President Obama - of the National Defense Authorization Act have undermined fundamental structures of law and morality that are our heritage as Americans.

It's as if we have built a fort out of earth we've dug out of a levee, as we attempt to protect ourselves from a hypothetical future threat by undermining the bulwark that keeps us safe every day.

When members of the Bush administration ordered our military and civilian contractors to employ tactics of torture, they misused the United States' legal authority in order to engage in illegal actions, undermining U.S. law.


Where are we now, 10 years after the first hooded and shackled prisoners stumbled off a cargo jet and behind the bars of Guantanamo? The United States is widely seen as a nation that abandoned its values under threat. [...]
I assume more people read the SF Chron than Daily Kos, but I could be wrong about that. In any case, another excerpt-worthy piece was published yesterday by Timothy Lange, who posts diaries on Daily Kos as Meteor Blades and is a member of the DK staff. His piece yesterday was titled Un-Occupy Guantanamo and give the land back to Cuba. It's mostly about Lange's argument that the U.S. ought to get the heck out of this occupied corner of the island of Cuba, but he had this to say about the prison operated by the U.S. government at the naval base there:

Today, on its 10th anniversary, three years after President Obama signed an executive order to close it, the prison at Guantánamo remains open and the indefinite detention of its remaining inmates is enshrined in the law, the product of another executive order signed in March 2011 and the recent National Defense Authorization Act. One of the prisoners still there is Suleiman al-Nahdi. Like several dozen others, he was cleared five years ago for release. The way things are going, he may well live out his life in the tropics.

Two evils in one. Our nation's imperialist past, denied, glossed over, rationalized and justified under American "exceptionalism" and, contradictorially, by its self-interested Manifest Destiny. And America's imperialist present, backed both by a core military budget that is larger in real terms than any since the end of World War II and slated to grow larger still over the next decade, and by a law that permits indefinite detention of anyone executively deemed a terror suspect.

While no new prisoners will probably ever be sent to Guantánamo, its unending presence as naval base and precedence as stolen foothold are a stain our leaders would excoriate were any nation not a U.S. ally operate such an facility on seized foreign territory.


Not a happy anniversary.

Related posts on One Finger Typing:
Rescuing freedom from U.S. government predation
News cycle, information glut
TV Debate on Nuclear Weapons Needed Now

Thanks to Act Against Torture for the photo of a 20 March 2006 action demanding "that the U.S. end its heinous practices of torture and indefinite detention; and end the war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan." I took many of the photos on the linked page of the AAT web site, but not the one used in this post ... I'm afraid I don't remember which photographer ought to be credited, my apologies.

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