Obama’s Speech on Detainees
In his speech yesterday, President Obama had a chance to state obvious truths that haven’t been getting much airtime – like the fact that the prisoners at Guantanamo are no more dangerous than the mass murderers, already convicted terrorists, and crazed maniacs of various kinds already housed in prison here – with his characteristic eloquence. While it’s refreshing to hear the president discuss these matters rationally after all these weeks – years, in fact – of silly fear-mongering, it would be more refreshing if the substance of his judicial actions wasn’t a continuation of the irrational and unconstitutional policies that caused the detainee tragedy in the first place.
His insistence on preserving the power of the president to hold people without charges, for instance, is exactly the same position first introduced by the Bush administration, and is wrong for exactly the same reasons. Glenn Greewald puts it well:
What Obama is saying is this: we’ll give real trials only to those detainees we know we will convict. For those we don’t think we can convict in a real court, we’ll get convictions in the military commissions I’m creating. For those we can’t convict even in my military commissions, we’ll just imprison them anyway with no charges (“preventively detain” them).
Giving trials to people only when you know for sure, in advance, that you’ll get convictions is not due process. Those are called “show trials.”
I understand the impulse to trust Obama. He’s so smart, he’s so nice, he cares about the average person, etc. etc. I agree. And I’m sure the 25% of people who still trust Dick Cheney or the 50% who inexplicably wanted to drink beer with George Bush in 2004 felt the same way when these lawless policies were created. They approved of the policies because they approved of the guy advocating them. But that is sheer foolishness. Giving the government dictatorial powers is not in the best interests of the country, no matter how benign the dictator.
Contact the president to express opposition to indefinite detention here.
Guantanamo image courtesy of Time