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 it yesterday.
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 conventions.
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 around.
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 control.
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?!