Friday, April 27, 2007

Legal Labyrinth

Good lord, I'm tired of all this.

Where does this keep coming from? Why does this keep happening?

I dunno, man . . . even when it's obviously a conspiracy, I'm hard-pressed to figure out what the conspiracy is about. I'm not willing to stop at Racism—certainly it's a huge factor, but the administration's ridiculous desires for revenge and secrecy don't start and end on that word. The administration is already in power, and we have reached a point where all this is not really helping them maintain it, and yet they keep pushing it. And they know they can't stay in power forever—it isn't *really* like they're dictators propagating this system. If we don't believe in the reality of the war on terror, if we believe the myriad reports that say most Guantánamo detainees are innocent bystanders, what is pushing those in power to this point? Maybe I'm naïve, in fact I probably am, but since I've never quite believed in evil, I really can't figure out what would be keeping them here. Nothing I can come up with seems powerful enough.

The other trouble is, to me the violations are obvious, blatant, because I think of everything as being under the control of the U.S. Constitution. Guantánamo certainly doesn't have a constitutional leg to stand on, but I keep hearing corners of arguments about how different, how distinct, military law is. Can anyone out there speak to that?


At 11:22 AM, Blogger tyromaven said...

The Geneva conventions were an attempt to create legal structures around wartime/military actions.

The U.S. is not a signatory to the Geneva conventions. Even those conventions are non-binding; they're meant to shame non-compliers and give dissenters a formal ground for their opposition to a particular nation's behavior.

On the why side:
There's a real difference between what everyone believes to be happening (gross violations of rights, lying, political corruption), and what politicians have to admit they are doing. Retaining GB is part of maintaining plausible stories about the Iraq war, 9/11, terrorism, al Qaida. Can you imagine any administration official saying "Yes, we've wrongfully imprisoned innocent bystanders whom we identified as enemy combatants. Yes, we broke every legal convention, and we're freeing all these angry, disenfranchised and wrongfully imprisoned individuals. But--BUT: the war in Iraq is still legitimate; Haliburton has a right to all those profits; Republicans should still be elected to local, state, and national office; and no one in the administration should be tried for war crimes. Completely disregard the large amounts of property the Bush family has purchased in Paraguay--the man behind the curtain is not important."

See, the problem with admitting any one thing is that there are too many other things to admit, and too many people who will feel the effects long past the administration's term: businesses and life-time Reps, Senators, Governors.

Or, you know, somebody's got a pathology about being embarrassed. Lord knows I do. I think I'd stop it short of wrongfully imprisoning others.

At 11:33 AM, Blogger tyromaven said...

I'm hoping someone knows more about military law re: tribunals.

From what I get, military courts are primarily for soldiers on your own side. Usually wartime activities take for granted that they know who the other side is when they start taking prisoners of war--which is not what the detainees at GB are. There'd be more legal grounds for them if there was.

Naw, someone got really creative with legal classifications in naming the people held at GB as "detained" rather than "imprisoned".

It's quite a resourceful trick, actually, if you consider that the best story you could tell about the process is that these legal inventions allow the good people a chance to get whatever information they need in whatever way possible.

And there are people who buy that story. Even some profound humanists I know have said that this is exactly what a smart government should do to protect its citizens, but that it should be done precisely, quickly, and with some actual results.

The trouble with that story is that there haven't been any results. And too many other mistakes.

At 12:18 PM, Blogger jayne said...

Hark! There is an **excellent** This American Life emission devoted entirely to Guantanamo politics and storytelling, "Habeas Schmabeas." They just (today) updated the broadcast from last year too:

Notable is the interview with two former detainees.


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