Thursday, January 22, 2009

On Closing Guantanamo

It is heartening to see the Obama Administration take concrete steps towards closing the Guantanamo bay (Gitmo) prison and other secret CIA prisons. Because the whole idea of secret prisons is what one associates with rogue governments - like Nazi Germany. Not the US - the self-proclamied model democracy for the rest of the world.

Gitmo goes against every liberal principle that America prides itself for. In the US, you are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. But in Gitmo, you are presumed guilty unless proven innocent. There's 265 detainees in Gitmo - of which people expect more than a 100 are innocent. (Some 60 are cleared for release already- but their countries won't accept them back!) 470 have already been released without being charged, clearly indicating that they were imprisoned without cause.

Isn't that an egregious travesty? An egregious travesty that 600 innocent people have been detained for no fault of their own in the most depressing place on earth? If you imprisoned one innocent US citizen without giving him or her the right to a fair trial in the US, all hell would break loose.

Commentators have not stressed this point enough. The US government is holding some prisoners arbitrarily (without cause). This is as bad as what Bush killed Saddam for doing. It is tough to imagine such a situation this day and age, especially in an "enlightened democracy". The Bush administration seemed be stuck in the 1400s in attitude. Disgusting. And finally, good riddance!

America has a wonderful judicial system. If you c0mmit a crime in the US, odds are you will be caught and sent to jail. If you murder someone, then you can even be sentenced to death. With this the case, why the hindrance of trying some of the Gitmo detainees here? If there is evidence against some of those terrorists, then it is inconceivable that the terrorists will be released. It is absurd to think that Khaled Sheikh Mohammed will ever be roaming the streets of NYC any time soon. He will probably be living inside one of those maximum security prisons, with (one hopes) a physically abusive room-mate. He might even get the fatal injection. I'm all for that if there's evidence against him.

And if there's no evidence against some prisoners, why on earth should they be incarcerated*? Let the innocents go! Don't mope about them roaming free. You're innocent too (odds are). And you're free. Don't you sense a pattern here? If you don't commit a crime, then ought you not be free?

To me there's no difference between a serial rapist and a terrorist. They're both horrible people. Why does the serial rapist also not deserve the hopeless isolation of a Gitmo, if someone who you think is a terrorist does?

Obama looks like a smart principled man, clearly intent on bringing the US out of the dark ages that the Bush/Cheney arrogance has buried them into. One can only wish him the best of luck. Terrorists are enemies of liberalism. And with Bush and Cheney in power, it looked like the terrorists had prevailed over liberalism. One hopes that Obama turns this thing around.

* It could (and has been) agrued that evidence is not usually gathered by troops who do capture terrorists - because the troops are not trained policemen. This is clearly an impediment to a proper trial. There will always be a scarcity of evidence against these "enemy combatants" for this very reason.

In my opinion, this ought not be a reason to deny them of a trial. Because, one must honor the possibility that the suspect in question is actually innocent. Judges are smart. They can make a case-by case judgement, trusting witnesses rather than docmentary evidence.

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