Neither the Free(d) Nor the Brave

As Glenn Greenwald continues to remind us, there is something inherently comical in the right wing’s insistent irrational fears about putting criminals in American jails. Nevertheless, other nations are not so afraid of justice. Bermuda and Palau apparently are taking in the Uighurs who have been in the Guantanamo for seven years. The U.S. government has known for years of their innocence, but has kept them in cells because it didn’t want to offend the Chinese (who finance our government and wars).

In another example of hypocritical journalism by the New York Times, Timothy Egan questions whether, due to local politics, the American student charged with murder in Italy will receive a fair trial. At least she gets a trial. Italy, like other nations, is even trying terrorist suspects, instead of locking them up in offshore torture shelters. Why? Because that’s what civilized nations do.

Numerous countries that aren’t the U.S. — including those targeted by Terrorist threats at least as serious as those faced by the U.S. — have routinely and repeatedly given what are called “trials” and “due process” to those it accuses not merely of harboring terrorist wishes, but also actually having carried out atrocious terrorist attacks.  During the Bush era, even the U.S. — when we were moved to do so — successfully did the same.

Giving real trials to people whom the state wants to imprison — even accused Terrorists — is what civilized, law-respecting countries do, by definition.  By contrast, lawless and tyrannical states — also by definition — invent theories and warped justifications for indefinite detention with no trials.  Before the U.S. starts talking again about “re-claiming” its so-called leadership role in the world, it probably should work first on catching up to the multiple countries far ahead of it when it comes to the most basic precepts of Western justice — beginning with what ought to be the most uncontroversial proposition that it will first give due process and trials to those it wants to imprison.  Shouldn’t the claim that the U.S. cannot and need not try Terrorist suspects be rather unconvincing when numerous other countries from various parts of the world — including those previously devastated by and currently targeted with terrorist attacks — have been doing exactly that quite successfully?

But best of all is the Obama Administration’s justification for covering up photos of torture under the umbrella of state secrecy, completely undermining the Freedom of Information Act. Once again, Mr. Greenwald:

Whether there is value in disclosing these specific torture photographs is a secondary issue here, at most [though in light of the ongoing debate in this country over torture and accountability, as well as the irreplaceable value of photographic evidence in documenting government abuses (see Abu Ghraib), the value of these sorts of photographs seems self-evident].  A much more critical issue here is whether the President should have the power to conceal evidence about the Government’s actions on the ground that what the Government did was so bad, so wrong, so inflammatory, so lawless, that to allow disclosure and transparency would reflect poorly on our country, thereby increase anti-American sentiment, and thus jeopardize The Troops.  Once you accept that rationale — the more extreme the Government’s abuses are, the more compelling is the need for suppression — then open government, one of the central planks of the Obama campaign and the linchpin of a healthy democracy, becomes an illusion.

Where does all of this leave us? In a land that is not of the free, not of the freed, and certainly not the brave.

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Filed under Essays, Obama 44

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