Thursday, January 11, 2007

Voices in the Wilderness

Yes, I should be blogging about Iraq and the President's speech. . . but my instant analysis is that Bush is offering just more of the same. Half a million troops in May 2003 or fall 2004 might have made a difference but once the mosque in Samarra was bombed(February 22, 2006) the game was up. See the always wise Juan Cole if you want more.

And it is the fifth anniversary of the detentions at Guantamo Bay, Cuba. Helena Cobban brings us more on that. It is worth noting the legal basis for the treatment of the detainees was set by the first President Bush when he used the base to detain Haitian refugees, who, at the time were universally suspected of being HIV positive. See chapter two of Paul Farmer's Pathologies of Power, entitled Pestilence and Restraint: Guantanamo, AIDS, and the Logic of Quarentine,"page 57:
Since Guantanamo is not technically on U.S. soil, the Bush administration lawyers developed a torturous rationale: (now quoting from Ingrid Arneson of the Nation) "While conceding that the Haitians are treated differently from other national groups who seek asylum in the US, the Government claimed that the US Constitution and other sources of US and international law do not apply to Guantanamo -- this despite the fact that the US military base at Guantanamo is under the exclusive jurisdiction and control of the US Government." Guantanamo thus became a place where non-US nationals could be stowed away in a sort of lawless limbo, out of reach of US or international law. Officials charged with upholding US law could intercept refugees, take them to a US military base, and openly declare any actions taken there above the law. Neither the hypocrisy nor the irony was lost on the Haitians.
Although the Pathologies of Power book came out in 2003, Farmer originally wrote the piece on Guantanamo in 1994! Few would or could stand up for poor Haitians possibly ill with AIDs (clearly the "least of these" in the 1990s) and thus was laid the legal basis for detention that now threatens the rights of us all. From Farmer's account it appears that the Haitian refugees faced physical and social conditions quite similar to the current detainees.

Treating the military base at Guantanamo like it exists outside of the bounds of the US Constitution yet firmly inside our control is nonsensical. It led to cruel and unusual punishment for Haitians fleeing vicious repression and it continues to blot our moral standing in the world today. As Helena Cobban says:
The detainees against whom there is solid evidence should be tried, and if found guilty , incarcerated. Let's see and fully examine all the evidence. The rest should be released and given help for their rehabilitation after their years of dehumanizing detention.

After five years the world's sole superpower can't determine who are the bad guys they've detained and who are unluckly Afghan farmers?! Come on! Read Helena's piece in the Christian Science Monitor.

We can do better.

You won't find quoting Christian scripture very often but remember Matthew 25:31-46. In language that reminds me so much of the Quran, it evokes Judgement Day with Jesus separating the sheep from the goats and the righteous are told "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of my brethen, ye have done it unto me."

Google led me this sermon from the Reverend Barbara Green based on the words in Matthew and grappling with the very issues of torture, detention, and Guantanamo. She concludes her sermon from October 26, 2006 in Houston, Texas with these words:
As I was preparing this sermon, I admitted to my college-student daughter that I had some
trepidation about bringing this issue into worship. She said, “Cut it out, Mom! This isn’t some partisan debate on some obscure budget amendment. This is torture!” That directness is what I would bring to you this morning. Torture is a military issue, and a hard-nosed political issue. But it is also a profoundly moral and spiritual issue. It is wrong. When it is perpetrated in our name “unto one of the least of these, my brethren,” it is the responsibility of all of us.

No comments: