The alleged abuses and religious desecrations at Guantanamo are disturbing if true. However, what really upsets me about the Bush Administration’s approach to the Guantanamo situation is their total disregard for American traditions of due process and Constitutional rights.
In Senate hearings on Tuesday, the Bush Administration said the inmates could be jailed there “in perpetuity.”
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
That’s in our Constitution, the supreme law of the land. However, this is what was said in the Senate yesterday:
Delaware Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden asked Deputy Associate Attorney General J. Michael Wiggins whether the Justice Department had “defined when there is the end of conflict.”
“No, sir,” Wiggins responded.
“If there is no definition as to when the conflict ends, that means forever, forever, forever these folks get held at Guantanamo Bay,” Biden said.
“It’s our position that, legally, they can be held in perpetuity,” Wiggins said.
Every single clause of the Sixth Amendment is violated in Guantanamo.
I completely agree with Sen. Patrick Leahy’s take on the situation: “Our great country, America, was once viewed as a leader in human rights and the rule of law, and justly so. Guantanamo has undermined our leadership, has damaged our credibility, has drained the world’s goodwill for America at an alarming rate.”
I understand that there’s a question about how much the Geneva Conventions apply to the prisoners in Gitmo. However, when we start ignoring our own Constitution and depriving the accused of any legal due process rights, we’ve severely damaged our claim to moral leadership in how to deal with people we don’t like.