Following briefings by Obama administration officials (who declined to be identified), both the New York Times and the Washington Post reported yesterday that the government is planning to introduce a new review system for the 600 or so prisoners held at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan, which will, for the first time, allow them to call witnesses in their defense.And Ackerman notes:
On paper, this appears to be an improvement on existing conditions at the prison, but a close inspection of the officials’ statement reveals that the proposed plans actually do very little to tackle the Bush administration’s wayward innovations regarding the detention of prisoners in wartime, and, moreover, the officials also provided the shocking news that prisoners are currently being rendered to Bagram from other countries.
“They’re setting up what amounts to a CSRT,” said David Remes, the legal director of the non-profit Appeal for Justice law firm who represents 19 Guantanamo detainees. A CSRT is the acronym for a Combatant Status Review Tribunal, the old mechanism at Guantanamo to adjudicate not a detainee’s guilt or innocence, but whether he constituted a threat to U.S. national security. Detainees were at the mercy of hearsay evidence and had the burden of proving that they weren’t a threat and the government’s case against them was erroneous. The Bush administration contended that CSRTs provided all the process rights to which Guantanamo detainees were entitled. But in 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in the landmark Boumediene case that detainees were entitled to habeas corpus protections.Finally, as Andy Worthington makes clear, from the statements of U.S. officials on the "new" policy, at "no point... was any mention made of the government’s obligations to hold prisoners seized in wartime as prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions."
And so, Remes said, several years and several thousand miles later, here we are again.
And that is the point, isn't it? The U.S. government, seemingly no matter what executive is nominally at its head, operates a military policy that is scornful of the needs or opinions of its populace. (This was clear with the Iraq War.) The obliviousness to which the supposedly liberal blogosphere in general treats these issues makes one think of what liberals of another generation used to say about feckless GOP President Gerald Ford, that he couldn't chew gum and walk at the same time.
With the the most popular sites in the liberal blogosphere transfixed by the fight for full healthcare (a noble cause), and various trivial scandals (e.g., the latest Kayne statement, or the Joe Wilson "no"), articles on the war, or on torture and attacks on civil liberties are left to a committed but small handful of bloggers.
In the 1960s, an old peacenik slogan went: "what if they gave a war and nobody came?" Today, in the 00s, one could rewrite that: "what if they gave a war and tortured prisoners, and kidnapped people and locked them up forever, shredding age-old rights protections, like habeas corpus, and nobody gave a damn?" No wonder Obama isn't afraid to escalate the war in Afghanistan, even when his head general says that the terrorist Al Qaeda isn't even a real presence there anymore.
You'd think I'd have to make up ironies like this last point, but no need to anymore, not in an America that is unconscious of itself, like a big, lumbering, destructive lunatic on a binge, afraid of itself and of the world in general, but unable to exercise self-reflection, or correct course before it is too late.