Opinion
Join The Times' book club. This month's selection: "Cadillac Desert"
Opinion Top of the Ticket

Permanent imprisonment at Guantanamo betrays American values

One hundred prisoners held in the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are engaged in a hunger strike -- a desperate attempt to get the attention of President Obama, who was elected in 2008 having promised to shut the place down. Not only did Obama fail to close the facility, his administration has neglected to appoint anyone to oversee repatriation of the 86 current prisoners who have been cleared for release.

Among the 166 detainees at Guantanamo, some, no doubt, are true enemies of the United States. It is no secret, however, that hapless fringe characters and many completely innocent men were also swept up in the fog of the George W. Bush administration’s "war on terror" and sent to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo. A Kabul taxi driver who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time spent a year of his life in detention. One British citizen spent five years imprisoned because he looked like somebody else who was an authentic bad guy. An Afghan who had fought alongside American troops at Tora Bora was accused falsely by someone with a grudge against him and ended up with a one-way trip to Cuba.

It is absurd to have to point this out, but too many members of Congress seem to have forgotten: The American Revolution was fought, in part, on the principle that no person should be kept in prison without a chance to defend himself, face his accusers and be judged by a fair court. Abandoning this American ideal, Republicans have blocked most efforts to do anything but keep these alleged “enemy combatants” locked up with no hope of justice. To his discredit, the president has shied from the fight, letting political considerations deter him from upholding a core promise of the Constitution.

Sure, the argument is made that, because the Guantanamo detainees are not U.S. citizens and are quasi-prisoners of war, they do not have rights, but that argument is counter to bedrock American beliefs. The Declaration of Independence says all men are endowed with the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights have been taken away from these prisoners. It is time for the government to prove that they gave up those rights by committing acts worthy of imprisonment. And it is way past time to release those who already have been determined to be of no threat to this country.

There are few acts more tyrannical than keeping innocent men captive. It is no secret that this has been happening at Guantanamo and that it is an intentional political choice. This dishonors America. It is a cruel hypocrisy that, ultimately, makes us no better than a banana republic.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Time to wake from the American Dream and face retirement reality

    Time to wake from the American Dream and face retirement reality

    The retirement plans of more and more Americans are about as connected to reality as Grimm’s Fairy Tales. Grim is exactly what it is going to be for these folks when, in their 70s, their 401(k)s have petered out, they have no pensions and no income except what they get from the tottering Social...

  • The hawks are squawking about Obama's rubbery red line in Syria

    The hawks are squawking about Obama's rubbery red line in Syria

    The hawks are squawking. Congressional conservatives and the right-wing media are blasting President Obama for going soft on the Syrians.

  • Don't hide L.A. County's legal bills

    Don't hide L.A. County's legal bills

    Los Angeles County pays a lot of money to private law firms to defend against lawsuits brought by people who assert they were beaten, mistreated or abused while in custody, especially in the county's notorious jails. In order to adequately assess how well the county's sheriff and Board of Supervisors...

  • The false populism of George Pataki

    The false populism of George Pataki

    I keep thinking we're done with George Pataki — but like an order of bad clams, he keeps coming back up on me.

  • Will Gawker go union?

    Will Gawker go union?

    As union membership declines, even modest unionization efforts take on symbolic importance. Each case seems like a sign of things to come. Success or failure at the individual level seems to portend success or failure for the broader movement.

  • California agriculture: It's worth the water

    California agriculture: It's worth the water

    Pundits here in drought-stricken California have become fond of proclaiming that farms consume 80% of the state's water and generate only about 2% of its gross domestic product. "Why devote so much of our water to an industry that contributes so little fuel to our economic engine?" they ask.

Comments
Loading