Thursday, January 25, 2007

And Justice For All?

...with Liberty and Justice for all. Idle words, I'm afraid.

I often wonder how we can hope to be the shining beacon of democracy when our very own democratic principles have been undermined to help further a so-called war on terror. Innocent until found guilty in a court of law has turned into kidnapping with out a criminal charge, extraordinary rendering to secret prisons, guilty until proven innocent, held indefinitely without charge or trial, no rights to an attorney, no writ of habeas corpus, torture and unusual punishment to get confessions, even executions of totally innocent people.

Under the current law, the President is authorized to seize American citizens as enemy combatants, even if they have never left the United States. And once kidnapped into this perverted system, they cannot expect a trial by their peers or any other of the normal protections of the Bill of Rights. Essentially anyone can simply be declared an enemy combatant and be whisked away to be tortured without probable cause.

According to Pentagon figures, approximately 380 detainees have been released countries since 2002. Guantanamo still holds about 395 detainees, almost none of whom have been charged with a crime. Why? Are we patiently waiting until they incriminate themselves with a false confession? Are we afraid they may reveal that Gitmo sole purpose is a torture camp? Who knows how many have disappeared to a ghost network of detention facilities and secret prisons like the "Salt Pit" and naval ships.

On one hand, the President tells us that we don't torture, but on the other hand, John Yoo publicly argued there is no law that could prevent the President from ordering the torture of a child of a suspect in custody – including by crushing that child’s testicles. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has re-defined torture so that only interrogation techniques which caused death or pain equal to that associated with organ failure constitute torture. He approved a legal memo defining torture so narrowly so as to authorize practices such as “waterboarding,” denial of pain killer medication, simulated drowning, and threatening to transfer detainees to other countries’ interrogators. It has been well publicized that the US now outsources "stress and duress" interrogation (torture) to governments that routinely torture prisoners.

On such example is the case of Syrian-born Canadian Citizen Maher Arar who was kidnapped at JFK International airport and rendered to Syria where he was beaten with a metal cable, tortured and forced to make a false confession. The American government still firmly denies any wrongdoing although Arar was cleared of all charges.

With its conduct in the war on terror, the Bush administration has made the world less secure, weakened America's influence, and betrayed the very principles America believes in. If I had know this is how the US actually practices democracy, I would have never become a naturalized Citizen.

It's time to start the next hundreds of hours to restore what were once the foundations of our democracy.

1) If we don't want our own servicemen to be tortured, then we must put an end to torturing or outsourcing torture.

2) If we are a just nation, then we do not have a need for secret prisons. We need to close torture facilities such as Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, the Salt Pit, etc.

3) If we are a civilized nation, we need to re-affirm adherence to Geneva Conventions.

4) Our foundation of democracy is our Constitution. However, it has been largely dismantled. We need to restore basic rights such as habeas corpus and due process of law.

5) If there are truly terrorists, then why can't we use normal police procedures, present evidence, try and convict these alleged terrorists? Let's do real police work instead of hunting-down, torturing and executing people on mere rumors.

6) We need to investigate the wrong-doings of this administration concerning the treatment of detainees and/or prisoners. Officials that have openly endorsed torture need to be held accountable. We need an investigation into these allegations. I.e. It's time to impeach Alberto Gonzales.

7) We owe an apology to the falsely incarcerated detainees.

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