Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Good Start

It looks like our new president is immediately taking steps to return us to some semblance of sanity. Closing Gitmo and "formally banning torture" has to be done to restore America's image in the world, and after all Obama promised to do it on the campaign trail.

More importantly it is the right thing to do.

Think about it, we actually reached a point where a federal judge (with a conservative pedigree) publicly stated that our government tortured people at Guantanamo. Including people we didn't have enough evidence to try for the crimes they allegedly committed. I think we stepped through the looking glass around 2001.

This was a no-brainer, but I'm glad to see it actually being done.

One interesting angle to this story is the push back military lawyers gave to the Guantanamo tribunals. Military defense attorneys and prosecutors refused to participate in the trials because they were rigged and based on flimsy evidence. That's pretty brave for people themselves subject to military justice. These men and women really are America's finest.

Recently I've read a few commentaries asking "how can we release these dangerous people?" I'm having a hard time understanding this. Last time I checked we judge whether people should be locked up based on whether we can prove they committed dangerous acts, not based on an assumption that they will. We don't just label people "dangerous" and forget about proving it. If these people really are criminals or terrorists - prove it.

If the proof exists, there are plenty of talented prosecutors capable of getting a conviction.

Obama is doing the right thing here. He needs to take it a step further though. It's not enough to stop the torture, we need to prosecute those responsible. Based on the administration's "look to the future" message I'm not hopeful we will though.

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