It’s easy to argue that the constitutional right to face your accusers and force the government to give defendants their day in court for a fair trial is a massive part of what every member of Congress agonizingly gushes about upholding these days.
Then how is it that this same body of extreme constitutionphiles can live with themselves after keeping Guantanamo Bay prison functioning as an American black hole for more than 15 years?
Japanese detention, segregation, racism, misogyny and child enslavement pale compared to human rights violations the United States continues to flaunt at Guantanamo. There, 91 men accused of being at war with us continue to be held without the legal due process that our Constitution demands, which human decency demands.
Neither I nor others aghast that this prison remains open are blind to the fact these “detainees” were captured because they were soldiers of real or loose-knit armies from across the Middle East. Many have been intent on killing U.S. soldiers or in some other way plotting against our country. The chances are very good that most of these men, if not all, are guilty of what they haven’t even formally been charged with and deserve a punishment equal to their crimes.
Instead, this Congress chooses to sentence them unjustly to what amounts to an American death camp.
Many if not all of these prisoners don’t know which crimes they’re being accused of. There is no system of justice afforded them. We don’t even offer them a kangaroo court to just say, “you’re guilty and you’re going to stay for 20 years, so get over it.” Instead, the United States participates in a human-rights nightmare at Guantanamo that we have berated other countries for, such as China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.
There is no shortage of members of Congress who agree with this assessment, and who understand how this unjust prison enflames our enemies in the Middle East, provoking them to fight even harder against us. But there aren’t enough straight-thinkers to overcome the foolishness and fear of cowardly politicians unwilling to do the right thing because it is the difficult thing.
As President Barack Obama has pointed out, we must either try and sentence these prisoners, or release them. Anything else is flagrantly un-American.
Our federal courts system have become experts at trying all sorts of terrorists. Many of those terrorists are rightfully convicted and sentenced — to prisons right here in Colorado.
The solution is to transfer what the government predicts will be 60 remaining suspects to a variety of mainland prisons and immediately begin trying them as we would any non-citizen accused of committing a crime. If we cannot fairly try and convict these suspects, we must let them go, just as we insist other governments do all over the world.
There is no defensible reason why at least some of those prisoners shouldn’t serve out their sentences in Colorado prisons, and it’s little more than partisan politics and demagoguery preventing it from happening.
Those who cowardly say that they will fight to keep Gitmo prisoners from being brought to super-secure Colorado prisons ignore the fact that by the very act of perpetuating Guantanamo Bay, they directly and indirectly endanger all of us, and especially members of the military we send to the Middle East to fight against monsters who would perpetuate prison situations like this one.
If the prisoners are guilty of what we have informally accused them of, prove it. Convict them. Sentence them. Punish them. But we cannot hold these men without due process because it is anathema to the very foundation of the United States government.
And in Colorado, where we have sent countless sons and daughters to fight to preserve the very form of justice flagrantly being withheld from these enemies, we do not cower from hard choices and even harder realities, despite the fearful rants from U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, and Reps. Mike Coffman, Ken Buck, Doug Lamborn and Scott Tipton. Even U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet has now opposed a Colorado transfer, instead offering unsatisfactory alternatives and no demand that we live up to our human rights responsibilities.
It was a massive and onerous mistake for the Bush Administration to ever open the prison at Guantanamo Bay without a clear plan for justice and human rights, but it’s one that brave Coloradans are willing to do their part to correct. We don’t have to wait for history to judge and condemn this Congress for flagrant human rights violations against our enemies at Guantanamo Bay — the outside world already sneers at our hypocrisy and cowardice, and rightfully so.
Close that heinous prison and extend to our enemies there the civilized due process we demand the rest of the world provide its criminals and enemies. Stop whining about the danger of bringing accused criminals to Colorado or anywhere else in the United States, when the very act and operating Gitmo endangers the entire country.
Nobody wants to live near dangerous criminals, and it’s clear that adults in the country must press for doing what’s right no matter how difficult or unsavory it is. Obviously the country’s politicians don’t have the temerity nor the ethical fiber to handle it.
Follow @EditorDavePerry on Twitter and Facebook or reach him at 303-750-7555 or [email protected]