Sunday, December 26, 2010

The End Does Not Justify the Means

As we celebrated Christmas yesterday, opening presents, listening to Christmas music, preparing and sharing a special Christmas meal together, I could not help but think again of Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, the two young Americans imprisoned in Iran with no certain end in sight. Shane and Josh were arrested along with Sarah Shourd (Shane's fiance) on the purported charge of trespassing. When Sarah was released in September, after 410 days in solitary confinement, it was the first time the captured hikers were permitted to meet their lawyer to learn what they had been arrested for. The families of Shane and Josh have now missed two Christmases without their sons.

The situation is made more complicated because apparently the U.S. is detaining a number of Iranians. It is a fact that doesn't get much coverage in the news. And then the mind begins to drift again to Guantanamo where the U.S. harbors prisoners without due process.

The Guantanamo situation shows straight up that the Iranians aren't the only "bad guys" who do this kind of thing. This excerpt from an Andy Worthington article in The Public Record seems to reveal frightening parallels.

To be fair, some sort of review process, involving lawyers, is better than a process in which prisoners designated for indefinite detention without charge or trial are given no opportunity to contest the Task Force’s decision, but as Laura W. Murphy, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington legislative office, told the Post, “Indefinite detention without charge or trial is wrong, whether it comes from Congress or the president’s pen. Our Constitution requires that we charge and prosecute people who are accused of crimes. You cannot sell an indefinite detention scheme by attaching a few due-process baubles and expect that to restore the rule of law. That is bad for America and is not the form of justice we want other nations to emulate.” **

The article this passage was extracted from deals with the complications of closing Guantanamo. President Obama seemed to make this a major objective when he was elected two years ago. Some said it couldn't be done, or wouldn't. But why? Is it because the things our government has been doing there might not be humane and had best not be revealed?

We've been told that these are terrorists who will go back to threatening our freedom and causing havoc for us. But as time unfolds we have learned that many of the detained have had hearings in which U.S. court judges declared they should be released, yet they remain detained. Why? Does our government have something to hide?

As is so often the case throughout human history, when the ruling powers flex their muscles innocent people are hurt. What will it take to end injustice in this world?

Our Founding Fathers fully understood that the path to end injustice was to support a free press that could bring light to the dark places where secret things slither and crawl. They also reinforced the notion that those who govern are themselves to be held accountable for their actions. Civilized nations are nations under law, and justice is blind, meaning the priviliged are as accountable as the common.

All this to say my heart goes out to Josh and Shane, and their families... and to all who are unjustly imprisoned by institutions that separate them from their families and loved ones.


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