Saturday, July 01, 2006

Republican Use of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

“The accused are not entitled to a fair trial because they are guilty. I find it shocking and deplorable that there are people in this country who would give the most despicable people in the world access to some of our more cherished institutions, such as a right to be presumed innocent. I think these people are guilty. I am sickened by those who think that I should have to prove their guilt in a trial.”

If you look at the bulk of the objections to the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Hamden v. Rumsfeld, this is largely what they say.

According to an article in the Washington Post, the Republicans are considering a plan to use the decision in Haydan vs. Rumsfeld, that declared Bush's military commissions for detainees at Guantanamo Bay illegal, as a political bonus.

Tony Nelson, identified as a GOP political strategist, said, “"It would be good politics to have a debate about this if Democrats are going to argue for additional rights for terrorists." Also, Tom Liddy said, "It will be worse for the Democrats to be seen as favoring the terrorists than favoring the New York Times."

These individuals are effectively saying that they seek to score political points by spreading a lie. They are assuming that these detainees are guilty and that we are not, for example, dealing with people who picked up a gun because they heard that a foreign army had marched into their country. We are assuming that these people are actually guilty, and that they are not, for example, people “fingered” by others who have a reason to try to get rid of them for such petty reasons as to remove them as competitors in business, politics, or love – or out of simple maliciousness.

Somebody who truly cares about justice would say that we should call a particular group “terrorists” only after we have had some sort of fair trial – a trial designed to determine the truth of the matter – and that trial actually gives us good reason to believe that they are terrorists. After we have separated the terrorists from the not-terrorists, then we can have a debate over what we should do with those who have been shown to be terrorists.

Nelson, Liddy, and any Republican strategists or commentators who share their view are telling us that they do not have any interest in truth or justice. In fact, these statements make it quite clear that they have no qualms against promoting deception as a means of acquiring political power.

Their statements are deceptive and unjust in two ways.

Presumed Guilt

First, they are deceptive because they report something that we have no reason to believe is true, that all of these detainees are guilty. They are all “terrorists.” However, in over 4 years, the Bush Administration has only found enough evidence to charge 10 of the detainees with any sort of crime. These people, even if they are guilty, would mostly be peons in the Al Queida system. In the mean time, out of nearly 1000 who have gone through the prison, 149 have been set free, and 89 have been trusted to the courts of other countries.

This suggests that the criteria for calling a prisoner a “terrorist” and sending them to Gitmo was fairly low. This, in turn, gives us reason to doubt that all of the remaining detainees are “terrorists”, and that no fair trial could possibly find them innocent. This, in turn, means that Liddy and Nelson are likely “bearing false witness” against these detainees by saying that they are all terrorists.

From this we may infer that the standards of evidence used for sending people to Guantanamo Bay were rather low, and there is no absolutely no reason to believe that all of the remaining detainees are “terrorists.”

In fact, I wonder if the Bush Administration is so eager for secret trials with secret evidence precisely because he does not want to be caught with the embarrassment of having it be known that we Guantanamo Bay houses a handful of low-level al-Queida members among hundreds of people who were guilty of nothing more than taking up arms when a foreign country entered their land or of being the victim of somebody willing to use the Americans to get rid of a rival.

Of course, the Bush Administration will insist that they are guilty. However, this is entirely what the institution of courts is for. They are a place where those who assert guilt go to rational and disinterested third parties and prove that they actually have a good reason to believe that the accused are guilty. This is the place where the people get to discover if the Bush Administration has been rounding up terrorists, or rounding up people it calls terrorists so that it has not wasted American lives and money.

Once we know that they really are terrorists, then we can discuss what to do with “the terrorists.” Then, people like Nelsen and Libby can make comments about what the Democrats want to see us do to the terrorists.

Democratic Action

Not only are Nelson and Libby probably “bearing false witness” against many of the detainees in Guitanamo Bay, they are “bearing false witness” against the Democrats. Democrats are no more “favoring terrorists” than Republicans are “abusing a group of people who have been rounded up so that they can be used as props in a Republican PR campaign.” Democrats are no more arguing for “rights for terrorists” any more than Republicans are arguing against “rights for innocent people used as props in a Republican PR campaign.”

Think about how a morally good person should react if a Democrat were to step before the cameras and say, “"It would be good politics to have a debate about this if Republicans are going to argue for the right to take innocent people, call them terrorists, and torture them because the Republican PR machine could use the footage.” Think about how a good person would react to a Democrat who said, "It will be worse for the Republicans to be seen as calling innocent people terrorists because they could not find the real thing.”

These types of statements would be making unfounded assumptions, and would be just as evil and immoral as the statements that Nelson and Libby made in fact.

Promoting Injustice and Bearing More False Witness

Also, many people like Nelson and Libby who seek to use these lies to secure vote for the Republican Party claim to worship a God that prohibits them from “bearing false witness.” Yet, we have irrefutable evidence that they are bearing false witness. They are almost certainly bearing false witness against a detainee who is not a terrorist by calling all detainees terrorists. They are also bearing false witness against Democrats who are “favoring terrorists” in the same way that Republicans are “using innocent Arabs as props in a PR campaign.”

These people also claim that their piety means that they can be particularly trustworthy in defending justice. Yet, "bearing false witness" is itself a fundamental injustice, as is violating the principle of presuming a person innocent until proven guilty.

This gives us good evidence that the public support for those who are currently in government comes from people who have no particular affection for either truth or justice. People with an affection for truth will not support those who lie like this. People with an affection for justice will not support these fundamental violations of the principles of justice.

Note: I know that I said yesterday that I would discuss elements of Thomas' opinion yesterday. However, I decided that these infractions of the moral values of truth and justice provided a greater concern.

No comments: