Wednesday, March 17, 2010

TERRORISTS - March 18, 2010

In the colloquy surrounding the detainees at Guantanamo, we hear them often referred to as terrorists. In view of this characterization, the claimant argues that we owe them no slack, nothing as arcane as the procedure we call by the name of due process. All we need do is condemn them to the garbage heap as guilty, and only our infinite decency should keep us from having them drawn and quartered without further ado. But the advocates of infinite punishment never question what we actually know about these captives, and seem to think it unnecessary to inquire into that apparently arcane datum. In most cases we know only that George Bush has put his signature to a document calling them that, and maybe less. We know that many were handed over to US forces in exchange for a bounty payment, and can well believe that the accusation was passed up the chain of command without any means of verification until it reached a level where it was no longer available for doubt, all without any addition of substantiating facts. If we decided that we need to assure ourselves that these people were in fact terrorists, we would honor our chosen practices and subject their cases to due process. In fact, we do now know that some were guilty only of something like changing a plane in NYC, and were mistaken for another person with a vaguely similar name or face. Instead of the standard practice we have for inquiry into such things, we often shipped them off to places where they could be tortured into signing a confession that would be taken as proving their guilt. All in seeking to force those we had somehow taken prisoner to be considered proven of the alleged crimes. And in certain civilian crimes, a sensationalist reporter will write that a captive is guilty of a heinous offense, and then the public will decide that he is not worthy of such decency as is to be found in our criminal law. It is the way of the lynch mob, and the public has no appetite for the assumption of innocence or the civilized practice of our Constitution.

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