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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Guantanamo Bay - wasted opportunity

The prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay and other 'special' prisons represented a huge opportunity for the Americans and for the world. This opportunity was and is being wasted.

Many of the prisoners come from countries where justice, as we know it in the west, does not exist. Many of them have been victims or perpetrators of human rights abuses. Many of them have experienced both.

Imagine for a minute, if, after capture, they were mirandized. "You have the right......." "If you cannot afford a lawyer.......Anything you say......." etc. etc. Imagine if habeus corpus was strictly applied. Imagine if a hot-shot lawyer was appointed for them and he did his level best to defend them. One thing America has in abundance is lawyers - probably more than it has troops in Iraq. Finally imagine if they had a jury trial in which every fairness was practiced and they were given full opportunity to state their case, in person or through their lawyer.

We're not talking here about being soft. If a prisoner is convicted of planting bombs in America; If he is convicted of killing citizens of his own country, by all means apply the full weight of the law as it would be applied to an American similarly convicted. However do it within the law and with full fairness.

Sure some prisoners would literally get away with murder. Sure, many of them would go home boasting about how they pulled the wool over the eyes of the "stupid Americans" but even the hardest cases would have experienced a way of justice, and by association in their minds, a way of life that they never even dreamed of. When they got home some would extol the virtues of the American way of life. They would not survive long. Slightly cleverer terrorist/freedom fighters would tell about their trial and how they out-foxed the Americans. These would live longer and would start to get the message through to their brothers of how the American system works. The smartest T/F would keep quiet but in their minds this vision of a fair system would take root and grow, displacing their fanaticism. Whether they wanted to or not, all their subsequent experiences at home would be judged against what they experienced in America. Remember that most of these prisoners are young men and some of them will grow into the leaders of the future. What a chance we have missed to plant the seeds of democracy in their minds and plant the T/F's throughout the world's conflicted countries.

Make no mistake about what this would do to them. It would be far kinder to continue to treat the T/Fs the same way they are being treated at present. Sure it must be pretty unpleasant while they are incarcerated but they return to their countries and their comrades with their belief system intact. "America is the great satin." "Anything we did or will do against Americans or their interests is perfectly justified." "America is evil." And they return as heroes who have withstood the worse America has to offer. Treat them fairly, on the other hand, and they return with a huge conflict in their minds. "America treated me better than my own country ever did. " "It is not justified to kill such people. " "Americans are not evil." And in their own minds they are not heroes. Some will get themselves killed pretty quickly after they return. Some will even go schizophrenic from the mental strain and the remainder will go on to continually make comparisons between life in their own country and what life in America must be like based on their experience of the American justice system.

What of their feelings for America. The main reason that citizens of other countries have a problem with America is because of the way America treats them with condescension and a complete lack of respect. Nothing makes a man more rabid than to be humiliated and treated as an inferior. All these fanatical young men, treated with respect by a regime that had them totally in its power, would go back to their countries with a totally new world view. Even the ones which were convicted and served jail time would realize the fairness of the system they went through. And ..... jail time ...... there is another opportunity and another story.

Following such a policy toward foreign prisoners is not a quick fix for the problems of the world. It looks far beyond one election cycle. It looks to the good of our children and grandchildren. Treating a single prisoner this way would do very little. Building up a cadre of such people in these conflicted countries would be quite a different matter.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Reminded me of Fogerty's Wish it Were True. We teach by example. When we will we ever learn?

Looking forward to dropping by, enjoyed the article, bookmarking now...