Posts Tagged ‘Guantanamo’

Today the Obama administration announced that trials of five people accused of participation in the 9/11 attacks will be held in New York City in Federal Court. It was also announced that five other Guantanamo detainees will be tried by a military court for their part in the attack on the USS Cole.  It’s about time.  The Bush administration did nothing during eight years in office to mete out justice to these individuals.  Instead they have all been held without trial at the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba.  One can only wonder at the thought processes of the people in the Bush administration.

Guilt and innocence are black and white. A person has either committed a crime or they haven’t.  The government either has proof of their guilt or it doesn’t.

Predictably, the extreme right wing of American politics, i.e. the Republicans are upset about the Obama administration’s plans to conduct a trial in New York City. It seems that these people would prefer a hanging without a trial.  Or, as they shout loudly, they would prefer a military trial where the defendants won’t have the same rights to a fair trial that Americans enjoy.  And then, of course there is the Republican “concern” about putting these people in American prisons if they are found guilty.  It seems that they feel that American prisons are not too dependable.  What if these people escaped? So, these confused Republicans like the idea of keeping them in a makeshift prison camp in Cuba where they seem to feel escape is impossible instead of a maximum security prison in the U.S. from which no one has ever escaped.

The holding of trials in New York City is exactly what should be done.  NYC is the scene of the crime.  The people of New York City, who will be the jurors in these cases, will have the opportunity themselves to determine the guilt or innocence of each defendant. This is the epitome of American justice.  So what are Senators Cornyn, Smith, McCain and Lieberman worried about? (I know that Lieberman is not a Republican, but he might as well be and give up the sham of pretending to be an Independent.) Do they think our system of justice is inferior to the military system?  Really?  Is that what United States Senators think these days? Do they think that maybe these people won’t be convicted because the evidence is not compelling enough? Well…. isn’t that what a trial is all about?

Let’s suppose that in the case of one of these individuals that the government doesn’t actually have any proof that this person committed the crime of which they are accused.  Let’s say that maybe the government only has a strong suspicion and maybe some hearsay evidence that no court would admit as evidence.  So maybe they get found innocent.  What is wrong with that?  A person is either guilty or innocent.  You either have the proof or you don’t.  If you don’t have the proof how can you put someone to death?  Are the Republicans looking to hold fair trails or would they just prefer a witch hunt where you judge the person guilty without evidence and then you just kill him. Is that the Republican concept of justice?

Let’s suppose that one of these people is put on trial and the jury finds them innocent because the government has no proof that they are guilty. What should be done?  Should we kill them anyway or should they be set free?  My guess is that these Republican Senators would prefer the “kill him anyway” approach.  This is how far the Republican Party, in all its paranoia, has drifted away from truth, logic, justice, and American ideals.  We cannot be afraid of holding a fair trial even for Osama bin Laden if he is captured.  Facts are facts. Truth is truth. We either have the evidence or we don’t. If we don’t have the evidence, how can we pronounce anyone guilty of anything?

It is my guess that the government has a massive amount of evidence against each of these individuals. It is my guess that they will all be found guilty and be sentenced to death. Why are these Republicans so upset? Do they have no faith in American justice or would rather not have justice at all? Should we just hang them all because they look guilty or because they are Muslims? Could it be that the only “proof” we have is from confessions made during waterboarding torture sessions?

Whatever the worries of the ultra-right wing Republican Party, there is no excuse for not providing American justice for these people. Anything else is a vote of no confidence in our democracy.  It is a vote of no confidence in our system of justice.  It is a vote of no confidence in the ability of ordinary Americans to be part of a jury and come to the correct decisions.

The thing I don’t understand is this: how can these U.S. Senators say these outrageous insults about our American system of justice and then still call themselves Americans? Perhaps they need to resign from the Senate and let some true believers in American ideals take their place.

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The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp stands as a monument to the hypocrisy of the George Bush/Dick Cheney administration. So-called “captured enemy combatants” have been secretly transported to Guantanamo from various locations around the world, while the Bush administration denied that these people were entitled to any rights under the Geneva conventions, which governs the treatment of prisoners of war.  Only the convoluted minds of Bush, Cheney, and their gang could say with a straight face that people who were captured during the “War on Terror” are not prisoners of war.  It is the twisted minds of this gang of “patriots” who chose to deny these prisoners the basic human rights that the U.S. has sworn to uphold under the Geneva accords.  It is these people who even sanctioned the use of torture on these prisoners in order to try to gain information.  Far from being inspired by Thomas Jefferson, this President and Vice-President more legitimately owe their vision of the appropriate treatment of war prisoners to Edgar Allen Poe’s story, The Pit and the Pendulum.

Now, President Obama seems to be wrestling with George Bush’s dilemma: should we close Guantanamo and bring the prisoners to the U.S. for trial? For Bush the answer was a firm “NO”. This is because he felt that if the prisoners were brought to U.S. soil then they would be entitled to the rights of a U.S. citizen – like the right to a fair trial.  A fair trial? Yes, something that George Bush was determined that they would not have.  Wait a minute.  Just wait a minute. A fair trial is not some sort of lofty “Americans only” right. It is a human right – it is a right that every person on earth has.  It is one of those self-evident rights that everyone is born with –  it is one of those rights that Jefferson spoke so eloquently about.  The Bush/Cheney denial of a fair trial to these prisoners was not a denial of American rights; it is a denial of human rights.

None of us should be afraid of giving any captive a fair trial.  Why should we be afraid?  They are either guilty or they are not. We either have evidence of their guilt or we don’t.  And if we don’t have any evidence of their guilt then why in the world are we holding them captive?  Keeping people prisoner when you have no valid reason to believe they are guilty of a crime is lunacy – which probably begins to explain why Bush/Cheney locked these people up and threw away the key.  Oh, I know the story about classified information – you know, the evidence that condemns these people is so secret we can’t tell anyone about it.  I don’t believe it.  There are plenty of people – thousands, I’m sure – who have all sorts of security clearances who could be on a jury for these cases.  That argument doesn’t make any sense – it’s just Bush/Cheney lunacy again.

So what can Obama do? First, get these people out of Cuba and bring them to the U.S. for trial.  Now, a lot of people say they are afraid of having these “terrorists” in their local prison, and I suppose they might have a point.  Just in case these people are as dangerous as Bush/Cheney have claimed, they need to be locked up in an ultra-secure facility that is in nobody’s backyard.  What could be better than Alcatraz?  I know it is no longer an active prison – but it could be reactivated for this particular task.  There is no record of anyone ever successfully escaping from Alcatraz. So, the first step is to do a quick rehab of a section of Alcatraz, in order to make it habitable again. With enough priority, I expect this could be done in six months.  The work could be even be paid for with the economic stimulus package.  Think how many construction jobs it would create!

Then the trials would begin in the Federal courts.  Let the government make its case against each prisoner and let the courts decide innocence or guilt.  Those who are convicted of serious acts of terrorism could be sent right back to Alcatraz for a life sentence.  Those who are found “not guilty” would be returned immediately to those countries of which they are citizens.  It seems pretty straightforward to me.  People are either guilty or they are not.  This Bush/Cheney imprisonment-and-torture-forever-on-suspicion-of-guilt is as unAmerican a process as anything ever dreamt up by the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition.  It is more than unAmerican, it is a disgrace to humanity, and it is a blot on each of us until we bring it to an end.

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