Sunday, 6 May 2012

The Guantámano ‘trials’

The outcomes of the military commissions being held at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo are pre- determined as is the winner—Osama bin Laden. His scheme was to provoke the collapse of western democracy, and he has been fabulously successful so far due to what soccer players know as an ‘own goal’. Thanks to the collective response to his act of murder, our existence as a nation of laws is now in serious peril.

Obama promised two days after his inauguration to close down our 21st century Devil’s Island, and he could have done it then or for at least a year afterward. He would have taken a lot of flak, but just imagine how compelling a case he could have made for adhering to the rule of law, come what may. If you take a strong, principled position, even people who loathe you and hate your idea will respect you.

Instead, Obama collapsed in the face of criticism, and the crazies hate him more than ever. He put off the decision and allowed his opponents time to raise hell and pass a series of restrictive laws. In that first period he could have simply brought the prisoners to the mainland, put them on trial and told the people flailing their arms hysterically to get a grip because we use courts and legal procedures here, like it or not. Even later, Obama could have vetoed the congressional interference, but he didn’t.

Obama even undercut his own lapdog Attorney General by allowing local authorities to overrule the attempt to bring Guantánamo detainees to trial in federal courts, a rather shocking cave-in to the states. (By contrast, any state that wanted to pursue criminal charges against corrupt banksters was quickly brought to heel by Obama’s federally-empowered finance czars.)

The November election is now set between two candidates who are committed to the executive’s power to indefinitely imprison detainees based on a phony theory of permanent war (against ‘terrorism’). Obama could have carved out a different stance, and if he had, there would be a dissident constituency left behind even if he lost. Citizens who have been watching Law & Order and police shows for decades could have been challenged to understand that this time, above all others, we had to stick to our time-honored guarantees of due process in courts with judges, adversary attorneys, evidence and juries. A lot of people would have agreed, and the rest would have faced a powerful set of arguments.

Instead, we have bipartisan consensus that habeas corpus is inconvenient. This is the disastrous outcome that bin Laden tricked us into inflicting upon ourselves.

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