Indefinite Detention Here And Abroad

For several decades, the US government – in annual “human rights” reports issued by the State Department (reports mandated by the US Congress) – has formally condemned nations around the globe for the practice of indefinite detention: imprisoning people without charges or any fixed sentence. These reports, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in her preface to last year’s document, are grounded in the principle that “respect for human rights is not a western construct or a uniquely American ideal; it is the foundation for peace and stability everywhere.” That 2011 report condemned numerous nations for indefinite detention, including Libya (“abuse and lack of review in detention”), Uzbekistan (“arbitrary arrest and detention”), Syria (“arbitrary arrest and detention”), and Iran(“Authorities held detainees, at times incommunicado, often for weeks or months without charge or trial”).

In Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government is engaged in a fierce and protracted battle over the fundamental right to be free of indefinite detention. Specifically, the US is demanding that the governments of those two nations cease extending this right to their citizens. As a Washington Post article this morning details, Afghan President Hamid Karzai is insisting that the US fulfill its commitment to turn over all prisons, including the notorious facility at Bagram, to Afghan control, but here is one major impediment [emphasis added]:

“Afghan and U.S. officials have also disagreed on the issue of detention without trial. Washington wants the Afghan government to continue holding certain prisoners it views as dangerous, even if there is not enough evidence to try them.

“Aimal Faizi, the chief spokesman for Karzai, told reporters Monday that detention without trial is illegal in Afghanistan and that more than 50 Afghans are still being held in U.S. custody at Bagram, 35 miles northeast of Kabul, even though they have been ordered released by Afghan courts.”

The US has long been demanding that the Afghan government continue the American practice of indefinite detention without charges, and still presses this demand even after the top Afghan court in September ruled that such detentions violate Afghan law. Human rights workers in Afghanistan have long pointed out that America’s practice of imprisoning Afghans without charges is a major source of anti-American sentiment in the country. In a 2009 interview, Jonathan Horowitz of the Open Society Institute told me: “The majority of the people who I have spoken to cite the way that the US captures and detains people as their main complaint against the US, second only to civilian casualties.”

It is ironic indeed that the US is demanding that the practice of due-process-free indefinite detention be continued in Afghanistan and Iraq, two countries it invaded and then occupied while claiming it wanted to bring freedom and democracy there. But on one level, this is the only outcome that makes sense, as a denial of basic due process is now a core, defining US policy in general.

The Obama administration not only continues to imprison people without charges of any kind, but intended from the start to do so even if their plan to relocate Guantanamo onto US soil had not been thwarted by Congress. At the end of 2011, President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act which codifies the power of indefinite detention even for US citizens, and – after an Obama-appointed federal judge struck it down as unconstitutional – continues vigorously to fight for that law. And, of course, the power to assassinate even its own citizens without a whiff of due process or transparency – the policy that so upset Afghan officials when it was proposed for their country – is a crowning achievement of the Obama legacy.

It’s hardly unusual, of course, for the US government self-righteously to impose principles on the world which it so flamboyantly violates. Indeed, such behavior is so common as to barely be worth noting.

Just this week, President Obama managed with a straight face to defend Israel’s attacks on Gaza with this decree: “there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders.” As Liliana Segura, Jemima Khan and Reason’s Mike Riggs all quickly noted, this pronouncement came from the same man who has continuously rained down missiles on the citizens of Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. Meanwhile, UN Ambassador Susan Rice took to Twitter last night to denounce changes to a draft UN resolution that condemns “extrajudicial killing” – even as her own nation and its closest Middle East ally continue as the global leaders of this practice...

This hypocrisy is so sad on so many levels.  The first level is comprised of the acts themselves, extrajudicial imprisonment and murder.  The second level is the fact that the corporate media-now stenographers for the bankster government-did not call out the regime on the policy itself or the hypocritical explanations such as “no country on Earth would tolerate…”  Lastly, it is sad that with few exceptons the American people passively tolerate these affronts to humanity and fail to perceive that we are in Germany during the mid-1930s:  Extrajudicial murder and imprisonment, controlled media, population made desperate with economic concerns, false flag events, wars and planning for wars.  Why do I get the feeling that this won’t end well?  Is it something that I read?

…”The meaning of World War Two for me was being victorious.  That was what the war movies taught us, what John Wayne taught us.  We conquered the world.  We were riding it, taking it for everything it was worth.  We were the giants.  We could do what we wanted to do…

The economics have changed.  People are grabbing what they can grab before the bottom falls out.”…

        -Steve Mc Connell, quoted in “The Good War”- An Oral History of World War Two by Studs Terkel, p.583.

Yes, and the economy didn’t change by itself.  Great, great book!

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