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US Treatment of Prisoners Accused of Terrorism Is Becoming a Scandal

The various reports of mistreatment of Muslims accused by the Administration of being terrorists are becoming so widespread that it is reaching scandalous proportions. In Iraq, Abu Ghraib is the most widely known, but there are allegations of mistreatment at other Iraqi facilities. Several prisoners are reported to have died in US custody in Afghanistan. There are numerous reports of mistreatment of prisoners at Guantanamo. Finally, there are prisoners who are unaccounted for although they were arrested or captured by US police or military; most of these are thought to be in countries that will torture them on behalf of the US under a process called rendition.

Today there are reports that a judge has blocked the transfer of 13 Yemenis from Guantanamo to some unknown site. Apparently the Administration wished to transfer them somewhere, because it is afraid that the US court system, in accordance with recent decisions by the US Supreme Count, will assert its authority over them and make the government prove that it has some legal basis for holding them. Attorneys got wind of this plan and got a judge to block their transfer while the courts still had authority over the prisoners. Much to the government’s dismay, the Supreme Court held that keeping prisoners at Guantanamo did not prevent the courts from having jurisdiction over them. So, the administration apparently wanted to move them farther away to a foreign country where the Supreme Court would have less basis for exercising its authority.

It remains to be seen, but some justices on the Supreme Court may not like the government’s attempt to undermine the Court’s ruling and avoid its jurisdiction by moving the prisoners. That, plus the disturbing stories of how the prisoners that were captured by US authorities have been treated in foreign countries under the extraordinary rendition process, may cause the Supreme Court to extend its reach farther than it has in the rulings to date.

The whole matter of treatment of prisoners taken in the “war on terrorism” disgusts me. I am deeply disappointed that the US has stooped to terrorist methods in fighting terrorism. When the government abandons our system of laws under the Constitution, the terrorists have won a battle, if not the war. I was disappointed that Kissinger and Holbrooke today on CNN’s Late Edition failed to roundly condemn the process of rendition, although they certainly did not say that it is a good thing.

America has ceased to be a shining city on a hill, which it has been at some times in the past, if not at all times. Lights of freedom, honor and dignity are going out all over the America. Part of the reason for this is that many in government are cowards. They avoided service in Vietnam. Even if they are too young to have served in Vietnam, they are not interested in serving the country, but they came into power interested in milking the country for every red cent they could get. Then when they were laying the foundation for paying off all the powerful interests that put them in power — passing tax cuts, etc. — terrorists attacked us. The attacks succeeded because the administration was asleep, and now is terrified that there will be other attacks. Partly they are afraid that they will die, and partly they are afraid that if they fail to stop another attack the American people will wake up and turn against them for their failures. Therefore, they have panicked and resorted to torture and other illegal or immoral means to try to stop another attack, when the proper response would be to look the terrorists in the eye, and say, “You can’t make me stoop to your level. I can beat you by fighting you legally and morally.” But this group of cowards can’t face up to that.

Some time ago, Pat Buchanan said on the McLaughlin Group television show that midway through his second term, George Bush II would be mired in a huge scandal. He didn’t say what it would be, and probably was just extrapolating from the experience of previous two-term presidents: Clinton’s Monica scandal and impeachment, Reagan’s Iran-Contra, Nixon’s Watergate, etc. However, the high-handed, illegal, immoral treatment of those captured by US authorities in the war on terrorism may be it.

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