Friday, March 9, 2007

Guantanamo Chutzpah

I suppose I could have climaxed my "billionaires club" post by assigning the Chutzpah of the Week award to Steve Forbes and all who sail under him; but last night's BBC news kept me busier than usual. These days I am more interested in the way we are now engaging in "dueling narratives" with China over the question of human rights; and, with that as context, I feel that last night's BBC report from Guantanamo probably deserves pride of place in the chutzpah "bake-off." I base this on the rather shabby way in which the United States is trying to turn due process into a Potemkin village (i.e., nothing more than facade). The facade in this case concerns the hearings that have been scheduled for fourteen Guantanamo detainees. The purpose of the hearing will be to decide whether each detainee is an "enemy combatant," subject to prosecution by a military trial. The good news is that that government is finally deciding to do something with these fourteen detainees other than "disappearing" them into the Guantanamo detention system. The chutzpah, however, comes from one of the ground rules behind the hearing:

The hearings are being held with no defence lawyers present, and human rights groups say the panels of three military officials could consider evidence obtained by force.

In other words, having invented the construct of "enemy combatant" to legitimize the denial of due process to a suspect, the hearing that will decide whether or not the suspect is an "enemy combatant" will, itself, turn a blind eye to such due process. Some might argue that this is just "business as usual" in Guantanamo; but this week it seems appropriate to use the Chutzpah Award to remind us than any progress we may have made with the electoral process last November is still not being felt where we have committed what may be one of our greatest affronts to justice in the history of the United States.

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