Sunday, December 26, 2010

SENTINEL EDITORIAL: In Guantanamo, we reject our own standards of right and wrong

New Hampshire Sentinel Source

Published: Sunday, December 26, 2010

For all its accomplishments, the Obama administration has failed to make good on a promise to end the detainee scandal inherited from the Bush years. Two years after pledging to shutter the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba and try many of its inmates in civilian courts, the government still holds people there who have never been charged with anything, and who may be left in limbo forever.

In a nation whose judicial system is the envy of the world, and which touts itself as a force for human rights, this is astonishing.

All the more remarkable is the fact that Congressional Democrats have had a hand in perpetuating the Kafkaesque system of indefinite detention, making them as complicit as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, among others, in rejecting their own nation’s legal traditions — the very traditions that should make the United States the beacon of light that it presumes to be.

This past week the Democratically-controlled Congress set new limits on transferring any of the current 175 inmates out of the Guantanamo prison, effectively removing any chance that any of them will be subjected to American civilian justice.

If there are defects in that system of justice, then by all means repair them. But no one is saying that our courts are flawed; no one is saying anything except ‘Keep them in the hole’ — the kind of tough-guy injunction that never requires an explanation.

The administration, whose attorney general has long wanted to try Guantanamo detainees in federal court, is up against a lot in Congress: jingoism, fundamental misunderstandings of what America stands for, and an apparent lack of faith in our ability to argue a criminal case in public.

Finally, the administration is up against political priorities that value tactical advantage over everything else — the very same priorities that left the strategic arms limitation treaty twisting in the wind for months on end. With the new alignment on Capitol Hill, the chances of any improvement on this are zero. With regard to the prison in Cuba, that’s not merely a shame. It’s an outrage that ought to embarrass every American.

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