“As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our founding fathers, faced with perils that we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.” – excerpted from President Obama’s inaugural address
The United States is a country of breathtaking highs and soul-crushing lows. One of the lowest low points in American history is the tragic reality of the Guantanamo Bay detention area, also known as Gitmo. For over one hundred years the US Navy has maintained this base on the southern tip of the island of Cuba. The proximity of the base to the US mainland coupled with its location in a country with whom we have no diplomatic relations has made Gitmo a unique asset for the US government.
The fact that it was not on US soil means that the laws of the United States did not apply. The fact that it was located in a country where we have no diplomatic relations means we did not have to care about what the host country thought of our activities there.
The Bush administration took advantage of these facts to create a specialized prison to hold what were called “enemy combatants”, which they defined as anybody the President said was involved in terrorism against the United States. Think about that for a minute – all it took to be sent to Gitmo was the President stating that you were an enemy combatant. No trial. No jury. No lawyers. No hearings. No rights. No Constitution. No Geneva Convention. Nothing. Just imprisonment by Presidential fiat.
Sounds like the old Soviet Union to me, doesn’t it? Remember those days, when the USSR would throw comrades into prison for political reasons and just make them disappear? Remember how outraged we were by that? But with the dawn of the “War on Terror” we ended up with our own American Gulag. Now, we did not imprison millions at Gitmo, only hundreds, but that doesn’t make it any less wrong. Picture a serial killer who murders 25 people and compare him to a dictator who causes the genocide of hundreds of thousands. Do we forgive the serial killer because of the smaller scope of his crime? Of course not. The nature of the crime is so heinous that scale doesn’t matter.
And such is the case here. We, the United States of America, took foreign nationals from foreign soil and imprisoned them with no rights or due process, with no method to appeal their case, without even a sentence to mark the time – just open-ended imprisonment until such time as we decided we wanted to do something with them.
Quite frankly, my opinion is that Bush and Cheney