Over these many years, setting our sights only so far as the "War on Drugs", and what a crock of bull that was, to these new "wars" - the war on terror, the war on sex offenders, and what is likely next...... ? ... America has quite willingly "gone to war" over philosophical and behavioral issues.
War's ultimate purpose is to create and maintain power by the simple expedient of taking the power from someone else. But, like the proverb about a poker game - if you can't tell who the sucker is, it's you! Well, so in war. If there is no clear enemy, then likely your government has actually decided to wage war on its own citizenry with the belief that the people hold far too much power.
In case those of you out there don't understand how the war on sex offenders is relevant.... consider the vast and ever growing number of people who have now become tertiary citizens despite having "served their time". Meeting the punishment bestowed by the judge, they find that there is no real end to the penitence deemed necessary.
So, to my point: How to create an enemy: I give you Gitmo. Are the men incarcerated there innocent, guilty, mistaken identity, in the wrong place at the wrong time...? Well, no one is telling, and there's just no way to find out.
Who cares? you may ask. Well, you should. We now have laws in effect that can place a person in lockdown at Gitmo, an American Citizen, with no right to Habeus Corpus, no personal rights, no freedom for the brave.... Yep, what was seen to be ok when "The Heathen Enemy" was being locked up for rumor and innuendo, transported out of their own country against their will, locked into a prison with no chance to see their family.... well, it's coming home to roost in our own back yards.
Remember the saying "how you treat the least of yours..."? Well, see now we have this sticky problem. We have taken these men, removed them from their homes, their lands, their property and family, off to another country, locked in prisons and denied many of the rights we "enjoy" as citizens - which, by the way, is why they are in Gitmo and not in the States where they would receive those personal rights. The reason many are there is due to accusations by others, snitches - who always tell the truth, of course - and not necessarily any real evidence. Now, would they be angry, resentful, even a bit psychotic and anti-social? Would they be even more open to "America the Great Satan" preaching? I think, that no matter what, we have created enemies who we cannot simply cut loose with any degree of certainty they wouldn't eventually find a way to have their revenge. By failing to follow the tenants of our country's origination, we have painted ourselves into a corner from which there is no good option. And, we did it out of vengeance.
Some people dislike the ACLU. Some say they are killing America. I say they are an incredibly important (and even more so as we slip into this 30-second news bite attention span mentality), hugely necessary check on the powerful and domineering.
Please read this and tell me what you think:
By Michael Kaufman, ACLU of Southern California
This past week, I traveled to Guantánamo Bay to observe military commission hearings, continuing the ACLU’s long-standing commitment to be present at each and every hearing of these deeply flawed tribunals. Six days of pre-trial hearings were scheduled in the capital cases of the five defendants alleged to have participated in the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans and the hearings were postponed due to Tropical Storm Isaac’s then-imminent arrival. But during my brief time in GTMO, I had a window into the military commission proceedings that left me deeply concerned about their fairness and legitimacy.
During my time in GTMO, I had the opportunity to hear from prosecution and defense attorneys, and a number of other people involved in the military commissions. Through these conversations, I was struck by the commissions’ departures from basic features of federal court practice that I had taken for granted as essential to any legitimate legal system: transparency and adequate funding for the defense.
Two examples demonstrate these problems. First, the government has asserted that any statement by the defendants should be treated as “presumptively classified” because they were “exposed” to classified interrogation methods while in CIA custody. To date, the government has deemed classified even the defendants’ statements relating to the government’s well-established and acknowledged use of torture and other inhumane and illegal interrogation techniques. The government has then used that overly-broad classification as the basis to seek closure of the military commission to the public whenever torture, abuse and CIA prisons might be discussed. The ACLU has filed a motion before the military commission challenging this perverse use of classification to try to cover up government wrongdoing. That motion will be argued at the next hearing, now rescheduled (weather-permitting) for October.
The absurdity of the government’s position was starkly illustrated during a press conference with counsel for both parties. A reporter asked defense counsel whether a defendant wanted to be present in court for the upcoming hearings, but defense counsel stated he could not respond because the answer would be “presumptively classified.” While the moment was humorous, there are real harms that result from over-classification: it limits defense counsel’s ability to use information learned from their clients to develop a defense, and it limits the public from learning about our government’s shameful history of torture.
There are other ways in which the military commissions have frustrated defense counsel’s ability to represent their clients. Several of the motions on the calendar concern defense requests for funding to retain experts who they claim are essential to their investigations. However, these requests were denied by the Convening Authority – a Department of Defense political appointee who oversees not only funding for the defense, but also the selection of trial judge, the jurors and the charges.
Leaving defense resources at the mercy of the Convening Authority presents obvious and unacceptable conflicts of interest. Worse still, the defense must notify the prosecution of any request for funding – and permit them to oppose any such request – which forces the defense to reveal confidential case strategy information. These restrictions do not apply to the prosecution, which does not need to seek the approval of the Convening Authority for individual funding requests or notify the defense of their proposed expenditures. It is unfathomable that this kind of unfair advantage to the prosecution exists in a trial that could potentially result in a death sentence.
To have any chance at being viewed as just, the military commissions must be fair and transparent. I hope that Judge Pohl will take steps to address these issues during rescheduled hearing dates in October.