Tuesday, February 24, 2004

David Cole: 'Guantanamo Bay continues as a blot of shame on the U.S.'

It's interesting that, in this article, Donald Rumsfeld is quoted as saying that because the people at Guantanamo are Enemy Combatants that you have to treat them differently than car thieves and other more run of the mill criminals.


But not in the way that Rumsfeld thinks.

You see, the people in Guantanamo Bay were not Al Qaida members, they were people from foreign countries fighting in Afghanistan for the Taliban. It wouldn't make a difference if they were in fact Al Qaida members, either, the same conclusions would follow.

Those are that political crimes are not as serious as common civil crimes; fighting in a foreign army is not the same as murdering someone in cold blood in civilian life. Being a terrorist motivated by political convictions is not the same as being someone who just wants to cause random chaos and damage against people, although both may inflict real harm.

It's recognized that political crimes are largely crimes of ideology, as opposed to pathology, and that because of that the people involved are not dangerous to others in the same way that a psychopath on the street may be. Because of this, international law says that, yes, you should treat these people differently---you should be easier on them.

Which doesn't mean not bringing them to trial for crimes they've committed and giving them lengthy prison terms if they are found guilty, it means, instead, not subjecting them to torture while you hold them.

POWs have legal rights, and they have these rights because if you said that someone fighting in the opposing army was a dangerous psychopath because he was out there killing people you'd be laughed off whatever podium you were on. What exactly does the U.S. army do, then? Would we like it if the opposing forces took our soldiers and handcuffed them blindfolded to a fence in a kneeling position because we were 'imperialist psychopaths bent on destruction?'.


And if the crime of masterminding terrorist operations mandates people treating other people like dogs then Ken Lay of Enron should be going to Guantanamo, because essentially mental crimes like conspiracy are what he's facing too.

International law is a bitch;
If you don't want our soldiers to end up being treated like those people on Guantanamo if, in some conflict, the other side gets an upper hand, don't set the precedent by treating POWs caught in Afghanistan the same way now.

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