The Guantanamo Dilemma: Bush Mess Continues to Damage US

The problems facing the Obama administration in closing Guantanamo Bay appear mainly to center on finding a place for the prisoners to go. Very few of them are ever going to be tried. There is a handful of the truly murderous among them– the big al-Qaeda leaders caught mainly by Pakistan security forces, and those none of us would like to see free. While Andy Worthington has shown that very large numbers of the prisoners had never been terrorists in any rational use of the term– and many had been sold to the US by the Taliban and were innocent– the problem is that the ones remaining are more likely actually to have been militants in some cause. What could the the US have done with Uighurs who fled Urumqi to Afghanistan and got picked up there because they were hanging around with Taliban? The Uighurs have nothing against the US and are not a danger to it. If they had been sent to China they might have been executed or (further) tortured. The solution, of getting small islands to take them, wasn’t very satisfactory. It caused a diplomatic incident with the UK, and the Uighurs have been permanently severed from their friends and family. This is a kind of “social death,” which is a key feature also of slavery.

The problem ultimately derives from Bush-Cheney’s attempt to create a realm of extra-judiciality, a place where no law operates, no habeas corpus is granted, where the individuals concerned are at the complete mercy of the king (oops, I mean president). Many Bush-Cheney policies resembled the Bill of Attainder and other 18th-century royal abuses, for the end of which the US Founding Fathers labored.

I wrote as far back as 2005:


Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware has now called for Guantanamo to be closed down. Absolutely right.

The main reason is not that it is a continued scandal and creates a very poor image among Muslims worldwide of the United States. This allegation is true, and the US press has done a poor job of covering the continued fall-out of the Quran desecration story among Muslims world-wide. But it isn’t the main reason the prison should be closed.

The main reason is that the Bush Administration established the prison at Guantanamo in hopes of gutting the Bill of Rights. They wanted the prisoners there to be beyond the law, outside the framework of judiciality. They would have no lawyers. They would be tried only if the administration wanted to try them. They would be held indefinitely. They would be outside the framework of US law and also of the Geneval Conventions– though Rumsfeld keeps slipping and calling them prisoners of war.

Terrorists are dirty criminals who should be tried, and if found guilty, put away for life. Terrorists are criminals. They are not non-human, and any attempt to create a category of human beings to whom the protections of the law do not apply is an attempt to undermine the Republic. It is a return of the Bill of Attainder, a feature of absolute monarchy that the Founding Fathers stood against. It is something to which even Rehnquist is opposed.

Once it was established that these Muslims could be treated in this way, Bush would be a sort of absolute monarch over all such detainees (remember that some of them might be innocent for all we know) And then gradually others could be added to the category of the “rights-less.” The Patriot Act II envisages stripping Americans of their citizenship for supporting terrorist organizations. Without citizenship, they would not be afforded the protections of the Constitution. And gradually, in this way, the American nationalist Right would be able to circumscribe that pesky Bill of Rights, which so interferes with Executive (i.e. Royal) Privilege. The legal minds on the American Right have clearly been annoyed with the Bill of Rights for some time and the speed with which they foisted the so-called PATRIOT Act (makes it kinda hard to oppose, calling it that, huh?) on an unwary Congress, which had no time to read it, suggests that they had a lot of these ideas on the shelf ready to go.

Guantanamo Prison should be closed because it was conceived as the beginning of the end of the American Republic.’

Some of the difficulties now facing Obama in closing the place remind me of the problems abolitionists in the 19th century had in giving manumitted slaves a new place in life. Lindsey Graham’s desire to lock up the prisoners forever without a trial makes me wonder if there just has to be somebody somewhere enslaved to make certain regional elites in the US happy.

Aljazeera English reports on the difficulties facing President Obama in closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay:
in this regard:

Aljazeera Arabic actually had a reporter arrested for trying to report from the Afghan front, and he is planning to sue George W. Bush for wrongful imprisonment.

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