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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

fallout from Guantánamo Bay « Previous | |Next »
May 24, 2009

The cartoon refers to former Michigan Governor John Engler recently suggesting last week that the more than 200 prisoners currently housed at the soon-to-be-closed Guantánamo Bay, Cuba prison be relocated to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the home of the Big 3 auto companies. Michigan must be in a bad way, economically, with Chrysler and General Motors in, or facing, bankruptcy.

ThompsonMGitmo.jpg Mike Thompson

Meanwhile, Obama's fine rhetoric about the US Constitution, American values, transparency, oversight, the state secrets privilege, and the rule of law sits uncomfortably with his policy of a system of "preventive detention" without a trial, to keep locked up indefinitely people who, in his words, "cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger to the American people. That is at odds with the US system of the rule of law that is based on charges or proof of any crime having been committed.

The gap between rhetoric and reality is explicitly covered by "The War on Terror"---meaning the US is at war with al Qaeda and its affiliates in Afghanistan-Pakistan -- and the need for a War President to keep Americans safe and secure. Either there's due process or there isn't. If the USist locking people up because of what they say and not because of what they’ve done, then its a very different democracy to the one lauded by Obama.

Jack Goldsmith, a former Bush OLC lawyer, in The Cheney Fallacy at the New Republic observes:

Former Vice President Cheney says that President Obama's reversal of Bush-era terrorism policies endangers American security. The Obama administration, he charges, has "moved to take down a lot of those policies we put in place that kept the nation safe for nearly eight years from a follow-on terrorist attack like 9/11." Many people think Cheney is scare-mongering and owes President Obama his support or at least his silence. But there is a different problem with Cheney's criticisms: his premise that the Obama administration has reversed Bush-era policies is largely wrong. The truth is closer to the opposite: The new administration has copied most of the Bush program, has expanded some of it, and has narrowed only a bit. Almost all of the Obama changes have been at the level of packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric. This does not mean that the Obama changes are unimportant. Packaging, argumentation, symbol, and rhetoric, it turns out, are vitally important to the legitimacy of terrorism policies....

This interpretation increasingly looks to be an accurate account of the Obama administration's terrorism policies with Obama's embrace of Bush's policies interpreted as governing from the center.

This is the argument that Glenn Greenward is making. It is a persuasive one. It does seem as if most of the prisoners believed to be dangerous but who couldn't be prosecuted were detained from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 12:28 PM | | Comments (3)
Comments

Comments

Republicans shriek, "evil terrorists in the heartland!" and Democrats roll over.

In his speech Obama says about indefinite detention:

This is the toughest issue we will face. We are going to exhaust every avenue that we have to prosecute those at Guantanamo who pose a danger to our country. But even when this process is complete, there may be a number of people who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States. Examples of that threat include people who have received extensive explosives training at al Qaeda training camps, commanded Taliban troops in battle, expressed their allegiance to Osama bin Laden, or otherwise made it clear that they want to kill Americans. These are people who, in effect, remain at war with the United States.

As I said, I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people. Al Qaeda terrorists and their affiliates are at war with the United States, and those that we capture – like other prisoners of war – must be prevented from attacking us again. However, we must recognize that these detention policies cannot be unbounded. That is why my Administration has begun to reshape these standards to ensure they are in line with the rule of law. We must have clear, defensible and lawful standards for those who fall in this category. We must have fair procedures so that we don’t make mistakes. We must have a thorough process of periodic review, so that any prolonged detention is carefully evaluated and justified.

If we can't prosecute-meaning that we can't legally prove they are actually dangerous -- then they'll remain in jail indefinitely with no recourse.

Unfortunately in tough times America needs an external enemy more. Otherwise it risks implosion.