June 6, 2005
The Pentagon released this news late Friday in order to defeat the US news cycle, which closes down for the American weekend. I deliberately kept it for Monday morning.
The Pentagon now admits that it found evidence in its files of the Quran being "mishandled" at Guantanamo. (Muslims would say "defiled.") All this after poor Newsweek was pilloried by the Bush administration. Moreover, I cannot for the life of me understand why the Pentagon thinks all the interrogation techniques used at Guantanamo were carefully recorded for posterity.
Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware has now called for Guantanamo to be closed down. Absolutely right.
The main reason is not that it is a continued scandal and creates a very poor image among Muslims worldwide of the United States. This allegation is true, and the US press has done a poor job of covering the continued fall-out of the Quran desecration story among Muslims world-wide. But it isn't the main reason the prison should be closed.
The main reason is that the Bush Administration established the prison at Guantanamo in hopes of gutting the Bill of Rights. They wanted the prisoners there to be beyond the law, outside the framework of judiciality. They would have no lawyers. They would be tried only if the administration wanted to try them. They would be held indefinitely. They would be outside the framework of US law and also of the Geneval Conventions-- though Rumsfeld keeps slipping and calling them prisoners of war.
Terrorists are dirty criminals who should be tried, and if found guilty, put away for life. Terrorists are criminals. They are not non-human, and any attempt to create a category of human beings to whom the protections of the law do not apply is an attempt to undermine the Republic. It is a return of the Bill of Attainder, a feature of absolute monarchy that the Founding Fathers stood against. It is something to which even Rehnquist is opposed.
Once it was established that these Muslims could be treated in this way, Bush would be a sort of absolute monarch over all such detainees (remember that some of them might be innocent for all we know) And then gradually others could be added to the category of the "rights-less." The Patriot Act II envisages stripping Americans of their citizenship for supporting terrorist organizations. Without citizenship, they would not be afforded the protections of the Constitution. And gradually, in this way, the American nationalist Right would be able to circumscribe that pesky Bill of Rights, which so interferes with Executive (i.e. Royal) Privilege. The legal minds on the American Right have clearly been annoyed with the Bill of Rights for some time and the speed with which they foisted the so-called PATRIOT Act (makes it kinda hard to oppose, calling it that, huh?) on an unwary Congress, which had no time to read it, suggests that they had a lot of these ideas on the shelf ready to go.
Guantanamo Prison should be closed because it was conceived as the beginning of the end of the American Republic.