We Americans have begun --
and fallen short in -- one of the most important debates in our history.
the moment that Dan Rather and Mary Mapes broke the story of Abu Ghraib
on "60 Minutes" and Sy Hersh wrote his comprehensive story, the American
President, the American Congress and the American people should have
demanded full investigation of the total range of detainee issues and
authoritatively applied the rule of law, across the board.
this day, we have not met that obligation.
Guantanamo remains in business and even after a historic Supreme Court
decision that outlawed some of the worst procedures, the President
maneuvers to salvage his disastrous mistake at Guantanamo, while
Congress now maneuvers to delay a resolution until election day grows
closer which in my experience is danger for truth, justice and the
Trust me; the partisan Republicans prepare the ground to accuse
advocates of the rule of law of being "soft on terrorists"; trust me,
the consultariat class of Democrats will include some who will advise
Democratic leaders to hedge their bets and shirk their duty, as they
Trust me, the Rovian mentality will be to use illegal detention policy
as a wedge issue with the hope of maintaining control of Congress and
appointing yet another Justice Alito, which will legalize what is
currently illegal by votes of 5-4. No doubt, the man in the running for
the worst Attorney General in the history of America, alongside the
likes of John Mitchell, has probably prepared a contingency opinion
restating his legally defamatory view that the Geneva Convention is some
quant irrelevant relic made obsolete by the politics of war fever.
Guantanamo is the evil cat with nine lives. When Dana Priest wrote her
award-winning and path-breaking reports in the Washington Post revealing
allegations of secret prisons with more unsavory practices, Guantanamo
the Center for Constitutional Rights recently released its voluminous
and sweeping report on detainee abuses, which should be read by all,
Guantanamo survived intact.
after the Supreme Court issued a historic ruling Guantanamo remains
intact and the maneuvering continues with the usual delays.
issue should NOT be decided with delay while our politicians are
campaigning in the weeks before their re-election. It should and can be
decided NOW, based on the rule of law, based on the Supreme Court
decision, based on traditional values, based on our national interests,
and based on the higher standards and strong protections of military
is my preemptive answer to what is coming if this issue is decided,
unconscionably, on the brink of national elections.
First, the ideas and rules of the Geneva Convention are strongly and
powerfully supported by virtually the entire leadership of every branch
of our military. Geneva was created to protect our values and our honor,
and Geneva was created, and supported by our military, to protect our
troops. Only the ideologues and partisans with no personal experience in
war, could dare to suggest otherwise.
Second, the Abu Ghraibs, Guantanamos and excessive casualties of
civilians are one of the greatest single benefits to the terrorist
enemies of America, Israel and democracy.
Historians will look back on these days and ask: why were our
politicians so unaware of this obvious truth; so willing to let
practices continue that create grave damage to our credibility and
reputation throughout the world; so destructive to our standing in the
battle of ideas that is essential to our war against terror; so casual
in continuing practices that are recruitment advertisements for new
terrorists; and so willing to fall for the politics of the Big Lie when
it is Bin Laden who benefits from these practices, and our troops who
would benefit from their end?
Regarding Guantanamo, there are two ways of complying with the rule of
law, and the common sense of how to prevail in the war against terror,
by ending the practices that help Bin Laden and other terrorists. We can
close Guantanamo or open it to proper legal procedures; both are
preferable to the wrong, disastrous and continuing course today. Both
can be initiated together and immediately.
is true that there are logistical issues about closing Guantanamo; it
should have been done long ago; these issues could and should have been
resolved had our President and Congress been more wise and true to our
values and our interests.
we should apply all means for Congress, including Senator McCain, to
move immediately to write standards that comply with honor, law and our
interests. This issue must not be decided by election-year politics, or
by the politicians and their consultants who have a sorry history, in
both parties, under such circumstances.
can initiate today, immediately, procedures to open Guantanamo to
establish the rule of law, the checks and balances, the right to
counsel, and the minimal procedures that befit our democratic nation. I
have proposed a fully empowered independent commission led by a
distinguished jurist with world-wide credibility, such as Sandra Day
O'Connor. Obviously, neither Administration nor the Democrats, both of
whom I have approached privately at high levels, long ago, with this
suggestion, have taken this advice.
Actions can be taken today, to restore the checks and balances which
would eliminate the worst abuses, while we move to longer-term and
I learned preparing my paper on Justice Jackson, was that diligence,
commitment and an unyielding stance in support of basic values of
Americanism are essential. Any maneuvers, delays, triangulations,
evasions, partisanship or posturing on these fundamental American
notions is a road to trouble that hurts our troops and creates more
terrorists faster than we can kill them. I would state with 100 percent
certainty that if Justice Jackson were with us today, he would have long
ago issued a clarion call and waged an aggressive campaign that would
have ended these abuses long ago.
the name of protecting our values, protecting our troops, and killing
the terrorists rather than recruiting more of them we should act now, to
set things right.
Attorney General Gonzales is wrong; Justice Robert Jackson was right;
and America will never stand for our highest ideals or win the real war,
until our leaders know the difference.
Brent Budowsky was an aide to U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen on intelligence
issues, and served as Legislative Director to Rep. Bill Alexander when
he was Chief Deputy Whip of the House Democratic Leadership. Budowsky
can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org..