Posted by on January 11, 2012 in Blog
David Cole has a fantastic piece in The Nation about the ten year anniversary of the first indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay, exploring many of the legal, political, and social obstacles to the abolition of the most glaring modern contradiction of our civil liberties.
Though the government has released over 600 of the 779 original detainees–itself an indictment of the “worst of the worst” narrative we were originally fed about the Guantanamo detainees–Cole provides a compelling explanation for why, “in another way, Guantánamo is a deeper problem today than it ever was.” The normalization of these "war-time" policies has changed the nature of our perceptions: “no longer a temporary exception, it has become a permanent fixture in our national firmament.”
Cole explains the many ways in which Congress has effectively made it “impossible for President Obama to deliver on his promise to close Guantánamo.” Though the courts have several times challenged the legality of the continued arbitrary detention of over a hundred persons, Cole identifies the primary remaining obstacle as a twisted manifestation of post-9/11 risk aversion:
“What seems to drive Congress and the courts is the desire to eliminate any risk, no matter how remote, that a detainee might harm us in the future. Neither Congress nor the courts, however, seem to have any problem with the countervailing risk, namely that we may be needlessly and arbitrarily locking up human beings for years who pose no threat whatsoever.”
Most importantly, even though Congress, the courts, and the Bush and Obama administrations all deserve a sizable share of the blame, Cole also rightly lays much of the blame at our own feet, and our willingness to let our government violate civil liberties as long as they confined their activities to foreign nationals on foreign soil. But, after the recently-signed National Defense Authorization Act enshrined the legality of indefinite detention for American citizens on American soil, there has never been a greater urgency to “insist that our government heed the calls for justice that the world has rightly made.”comments powered by Disqus