Thursday, August 16, 2007

What have we become?

Have you ever read something so disturbing, so troubling, that it made you sick? As I neared the end of Sean Flynn of GQ's article about Army Major Tom Fleener and Lt. Commander William Kuebler, my arms and legs still aching from a debilitating workout the day before, my stomach started to turn over on itself.

Flynn was writing about Guantanamo. The focus was not torture, terrorists, or abuses; it was about the circumvention of law and the policy changes that have molded the current day United States into the antithesis of what the country was founded upon. I know, lofty.

President Bush and his proponents have always been right, 9/11 changed our world; it was not however, towers collapsing that changed things, it was the direction our nation was steered towards as a response. Our world is changed. Instead of a country based on principles of freedom, freedom that we are trying to export to the rest of the world, we are a country guided by Machiavellian/Bill Parcels accountability. It's not how you do it, it's simply that you do it and you get the results you wanted. This should come as a surprise; as a nation we are socially at odds with that concept. I want to re-iterate, by "as a nation", as I am referring to a nation of Democrats, Republicans, Independents, etc. perhaps it should resonate even deeper with those that consider themselves Republicans. How you do it is always a fundamental concern; the practices of Enron were largely criticized as it ruined thousands of people at the expense of the few, the lip synching of Milli Vanilli signaled their fall from grace, we extol the virtues during every presidential election of the self-made man who climbed the social ranks out of poverty, and you better be ready to defend yourself if you get caught with a sleeve full of cards at a poker table. In short, we hate cheaters. In the opinions of Major Fleener and Lt. Commander Kuebler, that's just what the government and military have transformed us into, cheaters. We are not upholding the spirit or the principles upon which our laws were created and that they exist to defend. There should be a real debate over what is more important, a hypothetical protection of ethics and morals or an at-any-cost defense of our soil against any perceived threat, real, unsubstantiated, or fictitious. I think while pragmatics would steer you towards the latter if there actually was a real immediate threat, but if the former is not what we are embracing, our war on terror/expansion of freedom is a nothing more than a sham. Without principles, what exactly are we defending?

In the interest of fighting a "war on terror", the rule of law has been thrown out the window. You can argue to no end that those in Guantanamo are real live terrorists and hundreds of crisis was averted by their detention. The reality of the situation is that we have subverted the presumption of innocence, denied habeas corpus, and made no attempt to uphold the "prevention of ex post facto application of criminal laws". Flynn points to the updating of the Military Commissions Act (MCA) of 2006, "It was an astonishingly radical law. For one, it gave the president the authority to declare anyone, captured anywhere, an enemy combatant who can be jailed indefinitely and without charge, precisely the sort of power against which the colonists fought the revolution." Precisely what the colonists fought against, that should mean something to all of us that wave the American flag and put a yellow ribbon on the back of our cars, it really should. What makes and has made our nation great is not our symbolism, but protection of the basic tenets of our democracy. Fear and fear mongering has changed the meaning of 'protection' from building on principles laid out in the Constitution and Bill of Rights to a very real policy of detain, torture, or kill anyone who supposedly threatens our nation. That alone should give us pause.

We should think hard, if it were an American that was suspected of terrorism by a foreign entity and jailed indefinitely without due process, habeas corpus, knowledge of the evidence being presented against him, the presumption of innocence, and all other aspects of the American justice system, would we find that acceptable?