Wednesday, November 26, 2003

A "monstrous failure of justice"

It was shocking to see terrorists flying jet airliners into the World Trade towers and the Pentagon two years ago. But almost as shocking to me has been some of the ways our leaders have responded to these attacks. At first we did what was necessary. We went into Afghanistan where we knew that Osama bin Laden was holed up. As an added bonus, we also got to knock the awful Taliban government out of power. Unfortunately, bin Laden escaped and rather than continuing our efforts to track him down President Bush has taken the country on a bloody wild goose chase looking for non-existent weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Knocking out the Baathist regime in Iraq may have been a good goal, and it would have been another nice bonus like knocking out the Taliban, but this time there was no group of Al Queada leaders holed up in a cave somewhere. The people who perpetrated the 9-11 attacks are now busy blowing up synagogues in Turkey while we have our hands full fighting a guerrilla war in a country that had nothing to do with the 9-11 attacks in the first place.

But that is not the only shocking thing in post-9-11 U.S. behavior. The other shocking thing is the way we are dealing with the more than 600 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The other day we were taken to task by one of the top judges in Britain.

"The purpose of holding the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay was and is to put them beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts and at the mercy of victors," he was quoted as saying."

A Pentagon spokeswoman quickly retorted. "These are people who intended to kill innocent civilians in our opinion," lawyer Ruth Wedgwood said.

But if we believe that, why don't we charge them with those crimes and give them the opportunity to defend themselves? Somehow I'm having a hard time believing that all 600-plus detainees at Guantanamo are dangerous Al Queada operatives. It is very possible that we inadvertently rounded up some people who were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In his speech Tuesday evening, Lord Steyn rejected the Bush administration's position urging the British government to unambiguously condemn the "lawlessness" of the detentions, Channel Four News reported.

"As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice I would have to say that I regard this as a monstrous failure of justice," he said.

It looks like the Supreme Court may step in soon and perhaps will put the situation right again.

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