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Guantanamo, Shmantanamo - Not the Real Problem

Suddenly, it appears that everybody is concerned about Guantanamo Bay. Amnesty International says it’s a gulag. Bush and his Republican buddies say it’s a model prison. Some - both Democrats and Republicans are included - say tear it down. Other Americans say we must clean up the torture and then Guantanamo will be kosher. I say, Guantanamo, shmantanamo - the real problem is not physical torture but our tortured policy of militarism and the eclipse of due process.

Immediately after 9/11, all of us were scared out of our wits. This includes our leaders. Among some of us the fear decreased somewhat. However, too many of our leaders remained petrified. President Bush was so afraid, he insisted that we need to reduce some liberties in order to achieve greater security. It was easy at that time to get the Patriot Act passed. It was easy for Bush to proclaim and for Congress to approve that arrested terrorists and "war" prisoners were "enemy combatants" who did not deserve Geneva Convention protection. Fear was so great that our leaders decided to incarcerate these "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo Bay, in order to keep them away from American jurisdiction that would require due process for the prisoners.

Yes, this is exactly the reason for imprisoning these suspects in Cuba. We could not offer them trials because we were scared that a prisoner might say something in a trial that would help terrorists still at large.

Since then we embarked on a militaristic program. Just try to count how many times Bush spoke about the "war on terror." Attacking Afghanistan was OK. But attacking Iraq was not. Now we know that it was accomplished with a long series of lies. Advancing militarism to the point where we lose concern for fair play and corrupt the fundamental American value of due process, leads to further corruptions, such as torture and renditions. When Amnesty International called Guantanamo a gulag, our American pride sank precipitously. What an awful day!

So, many prominent people are calling for closing Guantanamo. Former president Jimmy Carter said:

"The U.S. continues to suffer terrible embarrassment and a blow to our reputation... because of reports concerning abuses of prisoners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo."

Brian J. Foley, a professor at Florida Coastal School of Law, goes further:

"At this stage, closing Gitmo would be an empty gesture unless the abhorrent policies of torture, rendition and imprisoning people without appropriate evidentiary hearings to determine guilt or innocence are changed....Otherwise it's just a shell game, and these activities will simply be offshored elsewhere."

Exactly. Guantanamo is not the problem. The problem is that to defend America, Bush decided to use unAmerican means. America believes in the rule of law - in this case, the Geneva Convention. America believes in due process - for everyone. There should not be one rule for Americans and another rule for others. We must treat everyone the same way. We must do so always - especially during periods of crisis.

What's the point of fighting for America by destroying what America stands for?

Guantanamo, shmantanamo - the real problem is that we have diverted from the American path. Let's restore some rights in the Patriot Act. Let's change our policy so that Guantanamo is not needed. Let's make sure everyone, including "enemy combatants" has due process.

Posted by Paul Siegel at June 22, 2005 2:00 PM