Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Creating Terrorists

There has been quite a lot of discourse on the topic of Obama's continuation of Bush's policies in regards to political prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and so I thought I'd write a few words about it.

There has been a huge public outcry over the potential closing of Guantanamo. Right-wingers have been up in arms over the possibility of a few detainees (note: they are not necessarily terrorists) being transferred to supermax prisons, or, even worse, being given a fair trial.

What are we afraid of?

If we're afraid that they will escape, then we're being irrational. This is not going to happen.

But it could be something else. And I believe it's the fear that they will be given a trial, and they will be found not guilty, and that they will then be released.

There is a legitimate concern here. These detainees have been tortured so badly that their confessions are inadmissible in a court of law, and in all likelihood, even if some of them are guilty of something, they cannot be convicted in a fair trial.

My response is: so what? Then let them go.

As a matter of principle, most of them should be released right now. If they are threats to us, then so be it. We brought this upon ourselves. And if we truly believe in freedom and the rule of law, then we will have to accept the consequences.

But as a practical matter, we should also release most of them now, and try the rest immediately. The fact that this unjust system exists is one of the greatest terrorist recruiting tools Al Qaeda has. The danger that the detainees represent to us is dwarfed by the opportunities for radicalization that they represent around the world.

There is one other thing that bothers me. I believe that the unspoken fear people have is that we've taken innocent people, tortured them so badly that they now hate America more than anything on earth, and will do anything in their power to harm it. And so we would rather just write them off as casualties- as more unfortunate collateral damage in an already unjust war.

I hope that we can confront this fear and overcome it. For it is enabling us to act as a country without a conscience. It is a great tragedy, and a shame on our nation, that we've allowed this to happen. That, in the face of undeniable evidence that we were wrong, we continue to perpetuate this crime.

President Obama was elected by people who believed that this policy was morally wrong. He has apparently turned his back on his beliefs. Let's not let him forget that.

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