05 August 2009

Beverly's hope for justice gradually coming to fruition

The debate about the terrorism detainees at Guantanamo these days is not about whether they will be brought to justice, but when and where. Beverly Eckert would have relished this progress. As noted in an earlier blog entry, her final trip to Washington, DC, was to urge President Obama to close the detention facility and to bring suspects such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to trial in the US. With a new president, there was optimism that new policies would bring justice at long last. Under the Bush administration, the handling of the detainees was marred by incompetence, incoherence, and illegality, delaying or destroying any chance for justice, and blackening the reputation of America, whose leaders in earlier times took pride in adhering to the rule of law.

Political opponents of President Obama have seized upon his swift detainee justice initiative by successfully whipping up grassroots hysteria opposing the plan. The detainee issue, as noted in the previous blog entry, has been made one of those which divides 9/11 family members rather than unite them. Just as among the general population, for the large part it pits 9/11 family members who support of the president against those who oppose him. In many respects, then, this is a debate not about security or justice but about politics. There is no question that if President Bush had proposed the same plan, the debate would flip to the opposite political pole, with Republicans touting "swift justice" and Democrats engaging in "terrorists in our backyard" fear-mongering. However, to be fair, even now there are many Democrats who have been swept up by the visceral but unfounded fear that putting people who plotted attacks or gave material support into high-security prisons is more dangerous than, say keeping mass murderers there, which is already the case. Just the vague term "foreign terrorist" expectedly inspires greater fear than even "mass murderer." To gauge how politically motivated the feverish opposition to Obama's plan for bringing terrorists to justice, notice how those who most loudly denounce the plan raised not a whimper of dissent against the location of Timothy McVeigh's incarceration.

According to yesterday's Associated Press article by Devlin Barrett, the current range of possible venues for trial and incarceration include facilities in New York, Alexandria, VA, and federal facilities in the Midwest, including Fort Leavenworth, KN. Even if Beverly were still alive to join the debate and urge those wavering to try the suspects here and now, it is clear that some detainees will never be brought to justice because of the grave errors of the Bush administration. In her letter to President Obama, Beverly wrote this would be the biggest injustice.

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