Politics Due Process?

Abu Zubaydah appeared before a US Government hearing at Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility and asked to be released. Zubaydah has been at Guantanamo since 2006 after first being detained by the US in 2002. Described as a high official in al Qaeda, Zubaydah has never been charged nor has he had a “day in court” in the 14 years since his arrest.

Zubaydah’s Alice in Wonderland experience, of course, is similar to most other Guantanamo detainees. The US has found it easier to detain and lock suspect terrorists up in Guantanamo and near impossible to process the detainees in a legitimately recognized judicial system.

The way into Guantanamo was straight forward, the way out was an unfathomable maze.

Zubaydah’s plight again shines a light upon the narrow thinking right and the wobbly kneed left. At stake is the reputation, if not the future health of America’s judicial system, a tradition of “innocent until proven guilty”. Guantanamo stands with the best of third world countries judicial practices.

Where has the left political world been? Why have they not demanded that Guantanamo detainees be brought to the US and processed under established civil courts?

The standard reply is that the detainees represent the worst of the worst and keeping them out of the US is a step in assuring US citizens’ safety. This answer of course is patently bogus given that the likes of Ted Kaczynski (the uni-bomber) are safely held in Super-Max prisons for years. So, what is the reason?

IMO, the answer lies in domestic politics. George W Bush’s Administration opened this can of worms when it apprehended al Qaeda operatives, tortured them for intelligence reasons, and tossed them into a detention center outside the jurisdiction of US Courts. Later the Administration even paid “bounties” to foreign countries if they turned over “suspicious” individuals to US authorities. These suspicious individuals were shortly transported to Guantanamo.  The Bush “hawks” had never thought the matter through because they were so tough on terrorists and quite frankly, they could do it.

So, where is the politics.

Domestically, the Republican Party had hijacked the “law and order” and “national security” labels for political purposes.  The GOP could not reconsider and allow the public to think Guantanamo was mistake (for fear losing political face).

Democrats, cowardly chose to say “me too” on national security and felt boxed being unable to claim national security and then support closing Guantanamo.

The GOP controlled Congress even went to the extent of denying any funds to close Guantanamo and open already existing but empty super-max facilities in the US. (Talk about digging a hole and pulling the dirt in on top of you.)

At present, in order to release a detainee from Guantanamo, the Secretary of Defense must assure Congress that the detainee represents no further risk to US interests. The argument is no longer about justifying “indefinite detainment”, but about presumed guilt and without any judicial process.

Hmmm. It seems our current lot of political leaders were absent when their law schools taught about “due process”.

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