America has for some time now been a supposed beacon of fighting for human rights and fighting tyranny in our foreign policy. On so many occasions, when declaring war, or addressing the nation, Presidents of all kinds cite our freedoms, democracy, and human/civil rights, as a cornerstone of our efforts. We have been ‘underwriters’ of freedom for fifty years now. A nation that has fought for the greater good and wants to bring peace and democracy to everyone that deserves it, while bringing those that oppose it to justice. This has been our mantra for as far back as my research has found.
In recent times though, we have been neglecting human rights here at home, and recently a debate has started to brew over providing those very rights we stand for to those that we deem undeserved. Presidents Obama spoke of closing Gitmo by January 2010, but in recent months has realized that it will not happen in that time frame. Gitmo stands as a facility the houses ‘detainees’ that are connected to terrorist organizations and have ties to Al Qaeda networks with aspirations of hurting innocent people in the name of Allah and to fight oppression. These people have been tortured, harassed, and humiliated over the years and have denied every right that we, as a nation, stand for.
In recent months the talk of closing Gitmo has caused a firestorm of debate about what to do with these detainees. It seems that no prison wants them, and no one wants them on American soil. We all seem content holding them, off American shores, and just imprisoning them out of sight and out of mind. The issue presented, of putting them in our prisons, is that they may convert prisoners and be able to plot further American attacks once out of Gitmo. My contention on the subject of putting them in American prisons is that they will have no more power there than in Gitmo. What do you think American citizens in prison would do if they found out a terrorist was being transferred to their prison? I believe that those terrorists would be dead in about 24 hours. They would be killed by the Americans in our prisons. Isn’t this what the blood thirsty patriots want? The lives of those connected to 9/11 dead?
These terrorists, no matter how ‘evil’, have been denied the very human rights we as a country have declared wars to protect. As men in the custody of US forces on a military base makes them POW’s or at the least prisoners. The issue with them coming to US prisons would mean that, to put them there, they would have to have access to council and stand trial for their crimes. You can’t put someone in prison who was not tried and sentenced. So what this means is that we would have to try every one of them based on evidence of their crimes and sentence them. This process could take years, and I am betting ten bucks against a bucket of clams that some of the cases would be pretty thin to say the least. So we don’t want to face the fact that we may have to release them based on a lack of hard evidence in our beloved justice system. We are all content keeping them as ‘detainees’ and denying them everything this country represents.
Let’s say we were willing to try them and presented the evidence we had against each of them, do you think they can get a fair trial in this country? That is one of the stipulations of the justice system in selecting a jury, a ‘fair trial’. You must be convicted by a jury of your peers…they really don’t have any peers in this country and I would have to claim a mistrial if they were convicted. There is no place in the industrialized world that would garner them a fair trial in any real sense of the word. These men would never get a fair shake in America, or with any of our allies. And once they are in the system their defense team could claim mistrials, file appeals, question evidence collection, counter sue for human rights violations, unfair trials, et al. They could be released based on shoddy evidence chain of custody. We would have to face that our hatred and fear of these men might be largely unsubstantiated, then we might actually feel bad about how we have treated them, God forbid we need to apologize for our actions.
There is the very acceptable idea of extraditing the prisoners to their home countries for trial. Why not? Afghanis, Pakistanis, et al, would be sent home to stand trial. Would it be corrupt? Probably. But then we can wash our hands of it and stop being the human rights violating country that we are. Besides, let’s just say that they got to walk free after a corrupt trial, we are sending a ton of troops and forces back in to Afghanistan, we’ll find them at some point (we know what they look like) and we can execute them as casualties of war without looking like barbarians just using capital punishment while in our custody to kill them. This is really the only logical way to close the facility, and get what we Americans think we want, blood.
What if we did what a lot of men might want to see. Just let them loose on America streets and put up posters of their faces. Just let them loose in America and see what happens. I am pretty sure that Americans would be just fine with the nation declaring open season on these men. Martial law would provide immunity for all Americans to grab a gun and shoot these men on sight. In about 48 hours every single one of them would be dragged through the streets and hung from light posts along Mina Street in Anytown, USA. What, too barbaric? Well you don’t want them in our prisons, you don’t want trials, don’t want to extradite them, and they simply cannot stay at Gitmo, so what do you want? Do you even know?
The real issue is that this nation is participating in an act that is deplorable, detaining ‘suspects’ without any of the rights that American law dictates they must have. I doubt that any have been fairly tried. I doubt that any have seen a legitimate lawyer, and I know for a fact they have been very mistreated under the Geneva convention and well as UN agreements. We have acted as beasts in treating these hostile prisoners with almost no respect for the human rights we seemingly have shed blood to protect and spread. The activity of holding them at Gitmo without trial or conviction is the same practice the Nazi’s used with Jews and allied forces POW’s in WWII. It is the same type of practice we used on American soil when we put Asian-Americans in camps without any evidence of wrong doing or conspiracy against the US. Right this second, as we speak, men are being treated in the same way the Nazi’s treated us, and Americans, as whole, seem to be ok with this practice.
America is now going to put in to action a troop surge to root out Al Qaeda forces and establish a stable Afghanistan spreading peace, security, and human rights in the region. Our underlying motive is always security and respect coupled with rights that every man deserves. As a side note we spread democracy, which inherently includes the pursuit of justice. As a nation we have a very rickety soapbox to speak from if we continue to mistreat and deny our ‘detainees’ the very rights we are trying to spread overseas. This nation cannot hope to truly achieve its goals if we say one thing and participate in actions that run contrary to our foreign policies. If we are to truly accomplish the goals we hope to, and are to gain the trust and admiration of countries and their populations we must first and foremost lead by example. Bush even said that we would not stoop to the level of the terrorists, and we have in our treatment and rendition of those we held captive; some may argue that this has only strengthened their resolve creating an intractable situation overseas. We must be a beacon for other countries to aspire to in every way if we are to be a model of international citizenship. The days of our father’s “Do what I say, not what I do,” mentality has passed if we are to inspire trust and develop relationships with those that we influence.