It is hard to imagine being abducted, away from your family for eleven years, chained, beaten, with no hope for freedom even when your captors know you did nothing to be there ... that is the case for eighty six men held at Guantanamo Bay prison facility.
Neighbors turned in rivals, bounties were paid, and many times the wrong person was taken simply for wearing a certain brand of wristwatch in the days that followed the invasion of Afghanistan. The United States had no evidence of wrongdoing in many cases and has concluded no charges could be filed against these individuals. Some prisoners were cleared for release in 2007, some in 2010 -- yet they are still locked in cages.
With no hope for release -- even though they have been cleared for repatriation or transfer -- many of the detainees have figured out how to get out. In a box. They are starving themselves. Our government's response? Fly medics in to force feed them. Why? So you can continue to indefinitely detain them? It's like reviving a guy on death row who has attempted suicide. Bring them back so you can make it personal?
Who are we?
Our country's founding principles of habeus corpus were in a direct response to the "lock them away in the Tower" abuses in Britain. We were going to be different. Oh, I know Guantanamo isn't on American soil, but our flag flies over that prison -- the same one we pledge "liberty and justice for all" to.
After World War II, we tried the Nazis in the Nuremberg Trials. Justice Robert Jackson said we did so not because they deserved a trial or justice. Clearly, they had not bestowed such things on their millions of victims. He said we tried them because of who we are. Because we are better than Nazis. We are ruled by laws.
"The privilege of opening the first trial in history for crimes against the peace of the world imposes a grave responsibility. The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant, and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated. That four great nations, flushed with victory and stung with injury stay the hand of vengeance and voluntarily submit their captive enemies to the judgment of the law is one of the most significant tributes that Power has ever paid to Reason."
Hard to read that and not feel pride. It was more than "winning a war" -- it was maintaining judicial order. The boundaries.
We also tried and executed the Japanese after convicting them of waterboarding -- torture -- in the trials of the Pacific. That is why we are less than we were then. We are no longer under the rule of law.
It is about who we are -- not who they are.
Oh, I'm full of solutions. President Obama can do something about the situation. Eighty-six captives were cleared by the Bush and Obama administrations.
Let them go.
Put a chip in the detainees (don't tell them), and let them go. It would be cheaper to pay some guy in a basement to watch 86 blips on a screen for the next 50 years than to continue holding them for another month. Instead, we waterboard them with Ensure to keep them alive when they are starving themselves.
Justice Jackson warned what would happen if we ignored justice. "We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well."
"If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us."