For most of us, closing Guantanamo is the first step in redemption. I know, I know, it is just a place, but it epitomizes all the values we lost on the way to “winning the war on terrorism’, which of course is unwinnable. You can’t win a war against a tactic. It has been in use since the beginning of time, but I digress. President Obama has issued an Executive Order (REVIEW AND DISPOSITION OF INDIVIDUALS DETAINED AT THE GUANTÁNAMO BAY NAVAL BASE AND CLOSURE OF DETENTION FACILITIES) in accordance with his campaign promise and they are coming out of the woodwork saying it can’t be done. “Be afraid America, these are very bad people.” “You can’t put them in my state.” “Maybe they ought to go to Alcatraz” (Representative John Boehner). Boehner also repeated the bogus number of 61 detainees who have returned to the battle field. More about that in a minute. It is pure fear tactics all over again.
First and foremost let’s remember we started with 800 detainees and have now cut it down to less that 300. Most had nothing to do with terrorism and have been horribly treated because we threw out the rule of law. The stated figure of 61 detainees claimed to have returned to the battlefield, only one has been unquestionably identified as a fighter for al-Qaeda (Wikapedia). There may be more, but it certainly is not the 61 they are using to scare you. But before you are shocked, shocked, shocked that a few have returned to the battle ask yourself a couple of questions:
- First considering their treatment, wouldn’t you hate the United States?
- Second, ever consider the recidivism level from our own prisons? If you don’t think we are releasing very dangerous Americans to our own streets you are in la-la land.
- Third consider who most of these guys are in Guantanamo: Ignorant, not well-educated peasants. I am quaking in my boots. You should be much more afraid of those who were recruited from the better-educated Muslim societies because we established Guantanamo and used torture.
- Finally consider why these guys were released if we know they are so dangerous? Could we not support the charges and why not?
Okay, lets get to the heart of the matter, the really dangerous ones which are probably countable on one or at most, two hands. The argument goes that we know they are criminals but cannot use the evidence we have because it is badly tainted and they might go free. Therefore we must come up with a way to preventatively detain these bad guys. I don’t buy it and neither should you. First, if the only evidence they have may be disallowed because of the improper way it was obtained (torture), it is highly unreliable anyway. If they can’t rebuild their cases with real evidence and try them in a real court, these people need to be released, period.
Think about it this way. If we decide that there is a certain class of people who don’t deserve the rights and protections we hold so dear, who draws that line about who does and does not deserve them. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights….” Our basic values say all men, not just the ones who are specially chosen. If we deny those rights from some subclass of men, we no longer are who we think we are nor are our rights secure. So when do I do or write something that someone thinks makes me a danger to them (some think that as I currently write) and decides to include me in that subclass that no longer has his basic rights.
I will accept that we do preventatively detain some people deemed mentally incompetent and are deemed a threat to themselves or others. But the process for doing this is well defined, and we are talking about provable mental impairment, well documented in law. But when we start incarcerating people because we think they might commit a crime we are starting down the slippery slope of defining subclasses of people who don’t enjoy self-evident truths. If you believe this is justified then 80% of our own criminals should never be released from our own prisons.
What I see in the scare tactics being used is raw cowardice. Nobody said being an American and standing up for our ideals was going to be easy. In order to uphold our principles some dangerous people may get released. Some innocent Americans may die. But what the cowards want you to do is throw away what you stand for so you won’t be afraid. I find it highly ironic that those that support the continuation of Guantanamo and preventative detention are the first to wave the flag and the last to want to suffer the hard consequences of our beliefs. In other words they are cowards because they lack the courage of their convictions. They are afraid to stand up for the very American Ideals they tout.
Simply put: Charge them, try them, or release them. It is who we are. If they come back as terrorists on the battlefield, they will die as terrorists on the battlefield. But if we can keep our values in tact, they will have a hard time justifying their hostility toward us and those that paid the ultimate price defending us will have died for something important.