Thursday, June 29, 2006
Guantanemo, and a call to arms.
"They just did it to make us look bad."
"They have no value for life, not ours, not their own."
"They're the bad guys, and we're the good guys." Hey, that's a good line; I wonder if our soldiers have to keep repeating that, as they strap prisoners in a chair, leaving them immobilized, to stuff a tube down their throat and force food into their belly.
"We have to force them to eat", the explanation comes, "can you imagine the uproar if we let them die?"
Yes, indeed. There'd be an uproar, just as there was when we did let three prisoners in Guantanemo commit suicide.
And there should be an uproar. One of the suicides was cleared for release; do you really think he was a terrorist, engaging in a final strike against America? That he'd survived all those many months of interrogation, and stayed quiet, so they thought he was safe to be released, just so he could hang himself to embarrass us? Come on; that's not just a bad excuse, that's a piss-poor excuse for an excuse.
In a sense, the military creepy-guys who made that claim are right. Yes, this was a method of warfare, known as passive resistence. The idea is to shame your enemy into doing what's right. And it doesn't tend to work too well on the enemy that's got its boot on the back of your neck, because that enemy is usually too angry to think about shame. But when the rest of the world sees it, well, that's when you hope that something will change.
Should the rest of the world be pressuring us to change? Should we be ashamed of what's happening? Should our allies look us in the eye and say "this is not the America that we knew, loved, and respected"? Sadly, yes... they should.
The America that they respected would have held a fair hearing for detainees. The detainees would have lawyers, and yes, we'd have taken a chance that maybe we'd release a couple of terrorists, because freedom is too goddamned precious to take away from an innocent person. If we weren't pretty sure that a person was guilty, we'd let them go. And if they thumbed their nose at us and said "hah hah, you let me go!" we'd look back and say "But if you come after us again, we will get you again."
The America that the world loved would never - never - have gone to war if there was another way. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Admiral Yamamoto said "I fear we have wakened a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve", and he was right. And since that day, America has stood as a defender, not an attacker.
The America they knew would not have had the photographs from Abu Ghraib published, because Abu Ghraib would never have happened. If it had, the corruption that allowed it to happen would have been rooted out, and no one would pretend that it was "a few bad apples."
Because, you see, the Fay report said that Abu Ghraib happened in part because the soldiers felt that the Geneva Conventions did not apply to the Global War on Terror, and believed - because the Bush administration had linked the two so many times - that the Iraq war was part of the GWOT.
The America they knew would never, never, never have violated the Geneva Conventions, those absolute minimum standards that any civilized nation would insist on following in a war... not because the enemy deserved to be treated well, but because no civilized nation could contemplate breaking those rules. War might be necessary, but the good guys follow the rules... always. It's no virtue to follow the rules only when the rules are easy and useful.
Should we be ashamed of the actions taken by the Bush administration, and allowed by the Congress? Should we say "those prisoners in Guantanemo deserve fair hearings, and have a right to go free, unless we can prove the've done something wrong!"
Thankfully, today, we don't have to. The Supreme Court did the hard work for us.
The President must follow the law, just like everyone else. And Congress has made the law, and has demanded that we follow the Geneva Conventions. No more holding detainees and taking a risk that we're punishing - and sometimes torturing! - innocent people. These people need to get fair hearings, not the military tribunals the Bush administration envisioned.
Thankfully, today, we can say that America has been set back on the right track, and might someday be the America that was known and respected throughout the world.
But we don't know what tomorrow will bring.
Congress could change the law; Congress could say that we don't have to follow the Geneva Conventions. Congress could say that we don't need to follow the rules that we would demand of any civilized nation. And if Congress changes the law, the Supreme Court might let the new law stand. Congress just passed an anti-torture bill, but they let President Bush explain that he didn't feel bound by it. Congress can't roll over for him again.
America is a civilized nation. Moreover, it's the most powerful, most technologically advanced, and wealthiest nation on the planet. We can fight, and win, the war on terror without having to violate the rules of civilized warfare. Sure, the terrorists might break the rules... but they're the bad guys. We're supposed to be the good guys, and we were, until George W. Bush decided we shouldn't be, and forced our military and our intelligence agencies to violate the basic standards of decency.
The Supreme Court did its part. Now its time for all of us to do ours... to remind him who his boss is. Telling him the boss's name might even remind him of that document that he's sworn to uphold and protect: "We, the people of the United States." It's long past time we took our country back.