I was reading an article from the The Scotsman this morning about the agreement between the US and the UK not to allow the death penalty for certain UK citizens who are detained at Guantanimo Bay and found myself feeling empty on this issue.
I understand that 9/11 was a tragedy and that it was an attack on the core values of the United States. Further, I acknowledge that, although I am a resident of the highly-affected Washington, DC metropolitan area, I was out of the country at the time of the attacks and therefore may have a somewhat skewed perspective on what happened.
With those acknowledgments aside, though, I am growing more concerned about the erosions of the core values of the United States in response to the terror designed to attack those values in the first place.
Today's Scotsman article points out that even though the detainees are going to be spared the death penalty, they will still be tried by military tribunals that will limit their rights basically to nil.
Certainly, these folks at Gitmo were combatants on the field of battle in Afghanistan. Further, unlike many other combatants who were let go at the end of the original hostilities, the US government appears to believe that they have some special information or abilities that require them to be detained incommunicado.
However, I can't help but wonder if we have given up some of our core values by pursuing the course of indefinite detention and military tribunals for these offenders.
It would stand to reason that if the United States wants to show the world that we are truly the bastion of freedom and democracy that we like to tout to the world, we should go over the top to afford even the most extreme cases the rights that we hold dear.
I can see no reason that a jury in the United States would fail to convict criminals against whom the government has a good case. In fact, I don't think anyone around the world would be believe that the US could find a jury that would be sympathetic in the country, even if it plumbed the depths of the most radical anti-administration, anti-government organizations.
It is this point that is taken up by the Economist in their cover story from July 10th, Unjust, unwise, unAmerican. The article reminds the reader first that not only did the Economist back the Bush administration's moves into Afghanistan and Iraq, but it also guided that more freedom should be exchanged for more security. However, this article focuses on the issue of justice and the question of why the administration would choose to create what the Economist calls a "shadow legal system" instead of requesting changes for the existing system in order to streamline trials for these types of offenders and to provide for safety and security.
It's a question that is worth asking and one worth answering.