May 23, 2009

MAYBE THE POINT IS JUST SO SIMPLE THAT ONLY THE STUPID CAN GRASP IT...:

The Gordian knot of Guantánamo Bay (Christopher Caldwell, May 22 2009, Financial Times)

On Wednesday, Mr Obama had a meeting with civil-liberties activists that left many of them dissatisfied, because he tried to put forward a concept of “preventive detention”. As he put it in his speech the next day: “There may be a number of people [at Guantánamo] who cannot be prosecuted for past crimes, in some cases because evidence may be tainted, but who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States ... Let me repeat: I am not going to release individuals who endanger the American people.” Few politicians have been as honest as Mr Obama in exposing the contradictions of their own policies. But contradictions they are. If you hold people without trial, you violate due process. You have the Bush policy, diluted only by the passage of time. [...]

Mr Obama hit the rock of public opinion last week. The Senate, which his party controls, voted 90-6 against closing Guantánamo. The Democrats’ Senate leader, Harry Reid, explained that he did not want terrorists released in the US. “No one’s talking about releasing them,” said an incredulous reporter. “We’re talking about putting them in prison somewhere in the United States.” Mr Reid replied laconically: “Can’t put them in prison unless you release them.”

Bloggers snorted at the stupidity and cravenness of this remark and, in his speech, Mr Obama repeated the bloggers’ red herring that “nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons”. But Mr Reid is right. Bringing Guantánamo prisoners to the US is safe only if you assume they will not receive a fair trial. In a system that guarantees due process, if you cannot charge a person or if a judge finds his interrogation unconstitutional, you release him. Mr Obama’s constitutionalism is underwritten by the Bush war on terror.

That is why Mr Cheney’s big push has been successful. It confronts Mr Obama with a Gordian knot that he dare not cut. A constitution that enshrines rights is an asset, but it does not come free. If it did, every country would have one. Eight years ago, Americans reckoned that some rights were worth trading for security. If they want those rights back, they will probably have to trade some security. That is the bargain. Until Mr Obama admits it he will be tangled up in an illogic from which no oratory can extract him.


...but the Constitution doesn't enshrine any rights for our foreign enemies. So, in fact, the security we gain by denying them any rights would actually be free.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 23, 2009 7:21 AM
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