Thursday, June 05, 2014

America's Greatest Shame.

Gitmo.  Guantanamo Bay.  Also known as GTMO and the Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp.  Wikipedia says this about it, in part:
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (also called Gitmo or GTMO by the U.S. Army, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Coast Guard personnel stationed there[1]) is located on 45 square miles (120 km2) of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, which the United States leased for use as a coaling and naval station in the Cuban–American Treaty of 1903. The base is on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas U.S. Naval Base, and the only U.S. military installation in a country with whom the United States has no diplomatic relations.
It speaks about the Detention Camp thusly:
In the last quarter of the 20th century, the base was used to house Cuban and Haitian refugees intercepted on the high seas. In the early 1990s, it held refugees who fled Haiti after military forces overthrew president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. These refugees were held in a detainment area called Camp Bulkeley until United States district court Judge Sterling Johnson, Jr. declared the camp unconstitutional on 8 June 1993. This decision was later vacated. The last Haitian migrants departed Guantanamo on 1 November 1995. 

The Migrant Operations Center on Guantanamo typically keeps fewer than 30 people interdicted at sea in the Caribbean region. 

Beginning in 2002, a small portion of the base was used to detain several hundred alleged combatants at Camp Delta, Camp Echo, Camp Iguana, and the now-closed Camp X-Ray. The US military has alleged without formal charge that some of these detainees are linked to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. In litigation regarding the availability of fundamental rights to those imprisoned at the base, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that the detainees "...have been imprisoned in territory over which the United States exercises exclusive jurisdiction and control."[49] Therefore, the detainees have the fundamental right to due process of law under the Fifth Amendment. A district court has since held that the "Geneva Conventions applied to the Taliban detainees, but not to members of Al-Qaeda terrorist organization."[50] 
 My attention has been redirected to this facility due to the fact of five detainees (members of the Taliban, thus POWs and not terrorists) being swapped for an American serviceman held by the Taliban for five years.

I am not going to relate the history of the detentions there.  The Wikipedia article has enough of that.

Instead, I am going to note, again, that this facility is, in my opinion, ill-advised at the very least, and at the most, probably illegal.  Certainly, our detention of Al Qaeda personnel there without charge for numerous years is unConstitutional and most probably a violation of International Law.

It sure as hell is a direct violation of everything this country is supposed to stand for.  Our Constitution is the legal blueprint for our nation's government.  It contains the powers that we, as the grantors of that power, allow our government to have and wield.  It also contains certain restrictions on power that prevent the government from doing certain things to people under its control.

Let's look at that statement again.  There is nothing in the constitution that restricts those guarantees of freedom from government over-reach to only citizens of this country.  It repeatedly uses the term "The People".

The restrictions are to government power, and are meant to prevent the government from taking certain actions against people.  Like, for instance, the fifth Amendment:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise

infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of
a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval
forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War
or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same
offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be
compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,
nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without
just compensation.
emphasis mine.

Both phrases are being repeatedly and constantly violated in the case of the Al Qaeda prisoners in Gitmo.  Only about five of them have been afforded some form of due process, and a couple of dozen more are supposedly due for some form of prosecution, but to date have not been charged.

Some of them have been held for over ten years.  WITHOUT CHARGE.

There is also nothing in the Constitution that (contrary to the thinking of the Bush Administration) says that those protections stop at the border.  The constitution is as much in full force and effect anywhere the United States Government operates on soil International Law says is American controlled.  Which includes the United States Navel Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Moving on from the strict legalities, this shit is just wrong.  For decades after World War II, the US has fought against human rights violations by other countries around the world.  We have excoriated them in the press and at the United Nations.  We have held our heads up high and berated other countries' governments using names of all kinds for violating human rights.

Rights which WE are violating at this very moment in the camps at Gitmo.

Hypocrites.  WE are hypocrites.  Our government is being supremely hypocritical by keeping these men in detention while holding others to a higher standard.

The fact that the American People are not demanding an end to those violations means that we ourselves are hypocrites.

Shame on us.

It will take decades of hard work and a perfect record to erase this shame.  The amount of work future generations of Americans will have to do to convince the world that we really are better than that is enormous.

We will likely never live this down.

Close Gitmo, Mr. President.  Close the detention camps.  Either charge the bastards or let them go.  But stop violating the very values our country was founded on.  Defy the Republicans and shame them in front of the entire world.

Our reputation demands it.  Human decency, above all, demands it.

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