Props to the U.S. Supreme Court for making the right decision regarding Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, et al. This was the case about whether the Geneva Conventions apply to prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay. The Bush administration argued that the Gitmo detainees were not, technically, prisoners of war and, therefore, not eligible for Geneva protections.At issue in the case was habeas corpus, the requirement that the government show legitimate reason to detain someone. Thanks to this ruling, the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay have come another step closer to receiving the same legal protections as you and me.
Now, I really hadn't planned on writing about this decision. It seems so utterly obvious why Guantanamo Bay detainees deserve due process; I just figured it would be argued, re-argued and over-argued a million times in the opinionsphere before I could ever publish a single word about it.
Instead, I watched and listened as the right-wing blubbermongers blubbered on about how the court's decision puts the rights of foreign terrorists above the safety of Americans, that terrorists aren't deserving of habeas corpus because of their heinous actions and that the decision will cost American lives because the terrorists will all stampede out of Guantanamo like horses running from a burning stable.
So I waited for somebody on the left to respond with the obvious retort, but nobody did: Not Olbermann nor Abrams nor Maddow nor Huffington. Not Stewart, nor Colbert, nor Behar nor Whoopi. Not Donahue, Franken, nor Triumph the Insult Dog (Et tu, Insult Dog?) And certainly not Colmes, of Hannity and Colmes fame, the show I was watching that made me finally decide to write this column.
Oh sure, the lefties made lots of other arguments, like that denying Geneva Conventions destroys our rule-of-law credibility, that trial-by-military-tribunal raises separation-of-powers concerns and that this decision does not let the terrorists run free; rather, it merely asks the government to prove its cases. All of those are excellent points. But nobody pointed out the obvious reason, the ultimate reason—the reason for which all the other reasons exist as to why the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay deserve equal protection under the American legal system, which is this: Innocent until proven guilty. Duh!
This is Constitution 101, people. It's not about the odiousness of the crime you are accused of; it's whether you committed it in the first place that matters. That's why we require the judicial branch of government to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt using due process.
Remember due process? Habeas corpus, Miranda rights, jury of one's peers, probable cause, protection from cruel and unusual punishment and the equal-protection clause, which is founded on the idea that all men are created equal—not just Americans. Oh, and how about the right to a speedy trial? Is it too much to ask to not have detainees rotting away in Guantanamo Bay for six years before the government decides to try them?
Due process, man. It's not just a series of loopholes designed to let criminals go free because we love criminals so much we want them back on the streets so we can marry them. Due process is the idea that laws and legal proceedings are fair, that the government cannot arbitrarily deny a person's rights to life, liberty or property and, as with the Hamdan case, that the executive branch can't round people up and throw away the key simply because doing so aligns with its agenda.
I have no doubt that at least one person in that Gitmo hellhole doesn't deserve to be there. Probably even more, when you consider why, when and how they were collected—during the fog of the Afghanistan war, by teenage soldiers who were scared shitless and receiving faulty intelligence from mercenary informants looking to make a buck.
And if I'm wrong about this, then fine—prove it! Prove Salim Ahmed Hamdan is a terrorist. Prove it the right way, the fair way—the American way.
Last week, on Hannity and Colmes, I heard guest John Kasich say this: “It's astounding to compare a [terrorist] to a United States citizen. To say someone who engineered 3,000 deaths on 9/11 should somehow get the same rights as an American citizen, it's insane.”
John Kasich, as you can well see, is a blubbering baboon.
Of course you can compare terrorists to Americans. It's like comparing apples to fruit bowls: Terrorists are people who commit atrocious acts, and Americans are people who live inside the arbitrary borders of America. Terrorists can be Americans, just as easily as apples can be in a fruit bowl. In fact, Americans like Tim McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, Jeffrey Dahmer, Sam Bowers (Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan), Eric Rudolph (“The Birmingham Bomber” of abortion clinics), Klebold and Harris (Columbine) and Muhammad and Malvo are all as despicable as the people who orchestrated 9/11.
Is Kasich saying these American terrorists are more deserving of due process because they're American? What kind of cowshit is that? What does it matter if they live inside the arbitrary borders of the United States? What does it matter if they were rounded up during a war, or during a police action, or during a goddamn clambake? What does it matter how evil their crime or how many killed? What matters is that we prove they did it.
Innocent until proven guilty.
I know, I know, it's a phrase so often repeated that we've become desensitized to its value. However, contained in this one sentence is the ocean that is our Constitution. Perhaps that's why nobody's mentioned it yet, because sometimes you can't see the ocean from the boat.
Or maybe it has been mentioned and I just haven't heard it. All I know is, when I was lying on the couch watching Colmes getting his ass kicked up and down the studio by Hannity and Kasich, well, I had to speak up. I couldn't take the chance that this discussion could continue without it being said somewhere, by someone. So I'm saying it now: A person is innocent until proven guilty. If that concept is fair and right for us, then it's fair and right for all.