Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Replacing Guantanamo

The White House announcement of a venue for the replacement of Guantanamo is great news, of course, in that it brings closer the closing date of that iniquitous prison.

I would be celebrating this with more enjoyment if it were not accompanied by the announcement that none of the terrorists initially moved to this new facility will be there as the result of trial, or for the purpose of standing trial. At best the procedure they will be subjected to will be a military tribunal, a process which prior to Bush was reserved for the battlefield and used only when a proper trial was impossible. Many of them will be held without even a pretense of trial of any sort, making this new prison merely Guantanamo by another name.

As Glenn Greenwald points out at Unclaimed Territory, it is usually the case that when the prosecution has insufficient evidence to convict a suspect, or when the evidence he has is tainted and he cannot use it, he is required to release the suspect from custody. President Obama has decided to follow the Bush protocol of not bringing those suspects to trial and not releasing them, but merely holding them in prison indefinitely without trial instead.

“I taught the constitution,” Obama said in his campaign, “I understand the constitution. I will restore the constitution.”

Well, I didn’t teach the constitution, but I sat in a classroom with a man who did, and I served in the Navy to defend the constitution. The constitution that I know guarantees a trial by a jury of one’s peers and a right to face one’s accusers. It does not restrict those rights to citizens, it says that those are the processes of justice that will be used in this nation, and it does not say that they will be used only when convenient.

When George Bush used the AUMF of 2001 as authorization to imprison without trial I said that he was wrong; that the act did not justify his action, and this nation does not imprison without trial. I am not going to say that Barack Obama is right when he uses the AUMF of 2001 as authorization to imprison without trial, as he is doing in the justification of moving “detainees” to this new prison without trial.

He promised to close Guantanamo; he’s merely replacing it.

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