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Haunted by Guantanamo Detentions

This week the US Federal Court in D.C heard a habeas corpus petition from several detainees held as “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay. These petitions are consolidated in Boumediene v. Bush. In the aftermath of Rasul v. Bush and Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, courts are filling with such petitions. There are sixty cases pending at this court alone, and several more across the nation.

Boumediene was a Red Crescent worker taken into custody during the routing of Taliban forces and held for three months at a base in Bosnia. A Bosnia court ordered him released for lack of any good reason to hold him. However, upon his release he was immediately picked up again and handed over to the US military who removed him to Guantanamo Bay. After almost three years, he and several other detainees have gained access to an attorney, and the government is left making absurd remarks when forced to account for their actions.

The exact legal position of these detainees is under dispute, and certainly the War on Terror must be prosecuted vigorously, but the Bush administration needs to reassess its detentions of these individuals. Charge them, or release them immediately. Their status is a festering lesion on our body politic. Habeas corpus was such a vital element of the rule of law that the Founders saw fit to write it directly into the original Constitution. It was the only individual right so enshrined before the Bill of Rights. Though the Guantanamo Bay detainees are clearly not citizens, this kind of detention is anathema to the American ethos. Detaining alleged enemies without formal accusation for years. Denying them a trial. Affording no access to family or counsel. Holding them incommunicado indefinitely. Isn’t this (among other things) what the bad guys do? Isn’t that how we know they are bad guys?

Despite the fact that our nation is bathed now in a constant white noise of liberal contempt for American policies and values, it is not villainous to question the government’s actions in this situation. Indeed, it might be the most patriotic position to take. The cost of detaining these people in this way is simply too high.

"As soon as men decide that all means are permitted to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy" -Dawson

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 3, 2004 9:57 AM.

The previous post in this blog was Having a Tolerant, Inclusive Holiday in Denver.

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