FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Where’s the Rule of Law in Our War on ISIS?

by

The San Bernardino massacre has elicited from politicians and others many calls for stronger military action and even demands for travel restrictions on Muslims and the closing of mosques.

In his oval office address to the nation on December 6, President Obama rightly called on Americans “to reject proposals that Muslim Americans should somehow be treated differently.” He assured the nation that our success in defeating terrorists “won’t depend on …abandoning our values.”

Yet in a seeming contradiction, he promised to hunt down terrorist plotters “in any country where it is necessary” and use air strikes to “take out ISIL leaders and their infrastructure in Iraq and Syria.”

Before 9/11 our “common values” included respect for the rule of law. Not any more, it would seem. Over the past decade and a half, we have witnessed increasing disrespect for the rule of law. Preemptive strikes, targeted drone killing and the torture, sexual humiliation and forced feeding of prisoners at Guantanamo violate basic legal norms for human rights and the conduct of war– norms which the U.S. helped establish in the wake of World War II.

The main obstacle to the rule of law today is Guantanamo. As a continuing monument to such prison abuses as torture, forced feeding and indefinite detention, Guantanamo is a valuable resource for ISIS in its radicalization and recruitment of young Americans.

Despite President Obama’s first day in office pledge to close it down, Guantanamo continues to confine many innocent prisoners, claim huge sums from taxpayers and shame all Americans by what it represents to the world.

According to the nonprofit organization Human Rights First, 107 prisoners remain in Guantanamo (down from the total number of 780). The current roster includes:

* Detainees approved for release: 48,

* Detainees convicted by military commission: 3,

* Detainees currently being tried by military commission: 7,

* Detainees being held without charge or trial: 49.

Of the current Guantanamo population, 90 (84% of the total) have been imprisoned for more than ten years.

It costs US taxpayers approximately $387 million a year to operate Guantanamo (an annual cost of more than $3 million per prisoner).

According to Andy Worthington (closeguantanamo.org), the group of prisoners recommended for prosecution includes Mohamedou Ould Slahi, author of the recent bestseller, Guantanamo Diary.

Given Slahi’s “extraordinary account of rendition, captivity and torture” and the apparent failure of his captors to elicit evidence of wrongdoing despite more than 15 years of interrogation and imprisonment, his continuing incarceration raises a serious question: are the CIA and DOD continuing to detain him in order to continue to block disclosure of the names of his torturers (redacted from his published account)?

Sadly, the ongoing affront to the rule of law has raised few eyebrows in the media or in government institutions charged with legal oversight. Rarely, do we hear reference to law or legal norms by our elected officials. Indeed, the Department of Justice appears complicit in the torture scandals of Bush/Cheney.

TV anchors and newspaper reporters blithely echo the demands of political candidates that the U.S. “carpet bomb” Islamist targets and “take out suspected terrorists” anywhere in the world. They ignore international laws and conventions that put a strict limit on preemptive strikes and prohibit the endangering of civilians.

More distressing is the general failure of our religious institutions, universities and bar associations to speak out against the current degrading of the rule of law. Why has there been no strong outcry from the nation’s premier law schools as they witness military strikes that violate the UN Charter and international conventions? Why do they ignore the lack of due process, indefinite detention and the inadequacies of jerrybuilt “military commissions?”

Why have our churches, synagogues and mosques not questioned human rights violations (some detailed in the recent Senate report summary) including the now regular use of drones for targeted killing and the reliance on torture and force-feeding?

Bombing, drone strikes and internal restrictions on the freedom of religion and movement are more likely to breed terrorists than build security. If we should, as our President suggests, avoid abandoning our values—values that include respect for the rule of law– we should accelerate the Periodic Review Boards (PRB) process, free Guantanamo prisoners approved for release and try the remainder in U.S. courts.

Before his term of office ends, the President must fulfill his promise of 2009 and close Guantanamo, with or without Congressional support.

More articles by:

L. Michael Hager is cofounder and former Director General, International Development Law Organization, Rome.

February 19, 2018
Rob Urie
Mueller, Russia and Oil Politics
Richard Moser
Mueller the Politician
Robert Hunziker
There Is No Time Left
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Decides to Hold Presidential Elections, the Opposition Chooses to Boycott Democracy
Daniel Warner
Parkland Florida: Revisiting Michael Fields
Sheldon Richman
‘Peace Through Strength’ is a Racket
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Taking on the Pentagon
Patrick Cockburn
People Care More About the OXFAM Scandal Than the Cholera Epidemic
Ted Rall
On Gun Violence and Control, a Political Gordian Knot
Binoy Kampmark
Making Mugs of Voters: Mueller’s Russia Indictments
Dave Lindorff
Mass Killers Abetted by Nutjobs
Myles Hoenig
A Response to David Axelrod
Colin Todhunter
The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector
Cesar Chelala
A Student’s Message to Politicians about the Florida Massacre
Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail