Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Gonzales Defends No Legal Rights for Gitmo Detainees

It's not exactly a surprise that Alberto Gonzales told the Associated Press today that the Bush administration's policy of holding detainees at Gitmo indefinitely without charges or trial was "absolutely the right decision." His legal reasoning for defending the unprecedented (in the U.S.) decision to abandon the principle -- enshrined in American law since the birth of our nation and going back all the way to the Magna Carta -- that the individuals within a society have certain basic legal rights that government cannot deny or infringe upon, is quite astounding.

"I take issue with folks who say people are being mistreated in Guantanamo," he said, adding, "I don't know what I say to Mom and Dad if their son or daughter is killed by someone we once held at Guantanamo."

Those Gitmo detainees are treated fine, and besides, we have to hold them forever because if we let them go they might kill Americans in Iraq or Afghanistan and then we'd have to explain it to Mom and Dad. What kind of logic is that? What does Gonzales say to Mom and Dad if their son or daughter is killed by insurgents in Iraq? What explanation does he give Mom and Dad for their son or daughter having been ordered to go to Iraq for reasons of urgent national security that did not exist; and that in fact were shameless lies? Are Americans to believe that Alberto Gonzales is concerned about the possible future deaths of Americans caused by former Gitmo detainees when he is clearly not concerned about the daily actual deaths of Americans caused by terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan? Even though his boss's war policy is directly responsible for the manufacture of more and more of those terrorists?

If Gonzales' justification for holding over 500 Arab and Muslim men for the rest of their lives, absent any charges or trial, is to be logically consistent, then he would also have to support life sentences for anyone convicted of a violent crime. Because what would he say to Mom and Dad or sis or brother or grandma or grandpa if a former convict, released after serving a less-than-lifetime sentence, were to commit an act of violence against their loved one? That is the logical conclusion of an argument that the only way to guard against any future act of violence is to keep the violent offender in prison forever.

In truth, though, I really don't think Gonzales', or George W. Bush's, opposition to releasing Gitmo detainees if they cannot come up with the evidence to charge them with specific offenses, has anything to do with fear that such detainees will go back home and kill Americans. I think it has much more to do with Gonzales' and Bush's unwillingness to admit that their anti-terror policies have been a miserable failure. If every detainee had to be charged or released, probably about 95 percent of them would end up being released. And of course that would be an obvious admission that the entire policy of detaining Arabs and Muslims indefinitely without trial was a mistake of historic proportions. To keep from having to admit that, Gonzales and Bush would keep those approximately 550 men at Gitmo in a legal black hole forever.

No comments: