Thursday, May 21, 2009


During the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States gained control of the entire island of Cuba after Spain refused to recognize its independence. In 1903 the United States accepted a perpetual lease from the first president of Cuba, an American citizen, for the area around Guantanamo Bay, at the southern tip of the island, for coaling and a navel station. In 1934 the lease was made permanent unless both parties agreed to break it, or the U.S. abandoned the property. After the revolution of 1959, the base was exceptionably unpopular with the Castro regime, and the leases validity was challenged by that government. The U.S. argued that since Castro did cash the first rental payment offered to his regime, that action validated the lease, and we are there to this day. In 2002 a small portion of the navel station was used to detain several hundred men, some caught by American forces in Afghanistan, though most were sold to U.S. forces by warlords and others who received a bounty for each individual, providing a vested interest in turning in as many suspects as possible, regardless of actual guilt of connection to terrorists organizations.
According to Wikipedia, since 2001, 775 detainees have been brought to Guantanamo, some children as old as 13. Of these detainees, 420 have been released without charge. This demonstrates that all of those that are brought to the facility are not automatically guilty of any crime. Of all the detainees brought to Guantanamo Bay only 3 have been convicted of any charge.
President George W Bush designated the detainees "enemy combatants," rather than prisoners of war, contending that they are not obligated to conform to the rules of the Geneva Convention, and since the facility is on foreign soil they are not entitled to protections provided by U.S. law. They are in limbo, and can be held without charge for as long as the military, and the Bush administration wanted. Accordingly, accusations of torture and prisoner abuse have been made, and Guantanamo Bay has become an international symbol for the the reckless disregard for law, and barbaric interrogation techniques practiced under the Bush administration, and a recruitment tool for enemies of the United States.
During his campaign for the presidency, Barack Obama promised to close the detention facility at Gauntanamo Bay. After winning the election, he signed an Executive Order stating it would be closed within one year.
Yesterday the U.S. Senate voted 90 to 6 to withhold funds to close the detention facility. Only 6 democrats voted for it. The explanation provided was the Obama had not yet presented a plan on what to do with the 240 remaining detainees.
The republicans, with Dick Cheney at the lead, have used this issue to promote fear, stating repeatedly that these "terrorists," are the "worst of the worst," and that these detainees must stay at Gauntanamo, and the facility kept open. They say the detainees cannot be brought on American soil and tried under U.S. law because they are just too dangerous. They claim that the president plans to bring them here and set them lose within our communities. They really say that. They have already judged these individuals, even though they have not been brought to trial, or military tribunal, and vilify them as monsters capable of anything, and the only place they can be kept safely is in Cuba. Congressmen and women, and Senators, have said they will not accept these prisoners within the districts, even some democrats, and even the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid.
Well, as Rachel Maddow rightly pointed out last night on her program, one thing the United States is really good at is locking people up in prison. We really love to do that. We love to do it so much that our country has the highest incarceration percentage than any other country in the world. 1 out of every 100 people in the United States is behind bars. Incarceration is a highly lucrative business in this country, with prisons operated by private contractors, who have a profit interest in maintaining a high prisoner rate. That is a whole problem in itself, but my point is that we are very good at imprisoning violent offenders, domestic terrorists, murderers, and just about anyone else.
So if we can safely hold the likes of Charles Manson, Theodore Kaczynski (uni-bomber), Richard Reid (shoe bomber, and no relation to Harry... I think), as well as other assorted serial killers, rapists, and murders, I'm fairly certain we can handle the 80 or so Guantanamo detainees that the U.S. still plans to prosecute, in a fairly secure and safe manner, finally bringing these individuals into the legal system, and close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, thereby denying our enemies a tool for recruiting new members, and help to keep our country safer and less likely to be attacked again, as we were in 9/11.
I assure you, dear readers, our president has no plans to let these detainees run around our communities and cities on their way to court. It is extremely unlikely you will ever run into Khalid Sheikh Mohammed at your local 7 Eleven anytime soon.
I suggest it is time to release the men from legal limbo, put them to trial in our legal system, discover their guilt or innocence, and either release them or sentence them appropriately.
And close the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay. Then maybe we can get to work on all the other prisons we operate around the world.

No comments:

Post a Comment