This is why we need to be vigilant with regard to "short-term"
extensions of militarized state power. These extensions seem
to make so much sense at the time, after something really
scary just happened and we are worried that something really
scary might happen again and we have to do something about
Remember when the government started temporarily holding
people who were suspected of connection to terrorist
networks at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. military base? Remember
that they were holding them without charges until the
government could figure out the appropriate plan of action?
It seems they have decided on a decidedly inappropriate
appropriate plan of action. The temporary arrangement is
beginning to look very permanent.
Frank Griffiths repored for the Associated Press on August
25, 2003 that the military is building another camp at
Guantanamo Bay. The facilities have transitioned from
temporary chain-link holding cells to walled rooms with
flushing toilets and your typical permanent prison features.
Typical permanent prison features, that is, except for
access to a lawyer, a right to appeal, and knowledge of what
the charges are.
Perhaps the system should not work the same way the rest of
our justice system works, because these people are being
held in connection with what is being called a war.
In that case, perhaps they should be considered, logically,
prisoners of war. But they're not. They are being subjected
to marathon interrogations, denied the ability to
communicate with the outside world, and treated in numerous
other ways that violate the relevant international
One big one: the tribunals in question have the power to
impose the death penalty. Are we really going to start
summary execution of enemy combatants? If we go down that
road, we will almost certainly be witness to atrocities
inflicted on U.S. American prisoners of war.
Whatever you think of international agreements and treaties,
the ones that prevent people from beating information out of
our volunteer soldiers are probably good ones to keep
Keep an eye on this situation. Contemplate the fact that
people are being held indefinitely, without explanation,
without access to anyone who can help explain their
situation, without access to any way to communicate their
situation to people outside, with the threat of the death
penalty hanging over their heads.
It is easy to think of these people as convicted criminals
or future airplane-crashers. It is nice to think that we
have caught the bad guys and are keeping them under
But there are reasons we have legal protections — to
prevent ideologically motivated abuse of the system of
legitimate violence, and to admit that sometimes our
suspicions and accusations are wrong. Think about what the
future might look like if we allow this to go on.
At least they have flushing toilets. This is a new thing?!