Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The injustice of Guantánamo Bay

As news reaches Cranmer that the inmates / prisoners / detainees of Camp X-Ray are embarking on a mass hunger strike, he feels a sense of moral outrage at the way these people are being treated.

If The Guardian is to be believed, some are being transferred from Camp X-Ray to Camp Six, ‘where inmates are locked in windowless cells with steel walls for 23 hours a day’. They sound like animals awaiting vivisection. They are force-fed when necessary, some have committed suicide, and ‘their sole contact with the outside world comes from yelling through the food slots of their cell doors’. The isolation endured by the Guantánamo prisoners is deemed to be ‘maddening’, with some now undergoing treatment in the mental health unit of the camp after suffering breakdowns.

These men have now been held for five years. No nation has persuaded the United States of the moral repugnance of Guantánamo, not even the United Kingdom, when the US Government arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned even British nationals as part of the ‘war on terror’. The possession of a British passport used to mean something. It demands ‘in the name of Her Majesty all those whom it may concern to allow the bearer to pass freely without let or hindrance, and to afford the bearer such assistance and protection as may be necessary’. The pleas of Her Britannic Majesty’s Secretary of State fell on deaf ears.

The Constitution of the United States is conveniently codified, and emanates from the 18th-century English mind. It resonates with the rights of ordinary people to be protected from the acts of an overbearing, tyrannical government. The ‘land of the free’ is fully cognisant of clause 39 of Magna Carta, which states:

No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or outlawed or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go or send against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.

In Guantánamo there is no trial by one’s peers, no Habeas Corpus, no presumption of innocence, and therefore no hope. If freedom is ‘the gift of God Almighty to each and every person in the world’, this barbarous inquisition must be terminated.


Blogger Surreptitious Evil said...

I can only agree with your Grace. Not only the mere existence of the camp, conveniently outside of any legal jurisdiction, but the actual treatment meted out to people "innocent until proven guilty" is a disgusting stain on the hono(u)r of the US military and, guilt by association, the British government.

In all of the fuss regarding the "Iraq 15", it was clear that, in the minds of many (not just far left moon-bats), the existence of Guantánamo severely diminished the right of the British government to justifiably complain about the treatment being granted our sailors and marines.


10 April 2007 at 10:35  
Blogger Newmania said...

Rubbish this is a war and they are detained for its duration in the usual way. They would not need to be force fed if they would eat. Frankly I couldn`t care less if they do not
I challenge you to find one British detainee for whom British ness is not a farcical set of entitlements and no more . There is no-one there that I consider to be British and if they are so stupid as to go to the lengths they have to appear to be foreign combatants there is little one can do for them.. There is no earthly purpose to be served expect to our enemies by submitting POWs to civilian law .The constant implication that the US is no better than the forces it opposes is a decadent sophistry all to beloved of the Guardian reading fraternity , whose search for things to protest about, has lead them to support one of the vilest Fascist regimes of the 2oth and 21st century. A nadir well described in Nick Coens excellent book What’s Left

No doubt your Grace finds me shallow and inattentive of the finer points at issue here .I see it as an example of any civilisation having to negotiate with its values for its defence.The phrase is Golda Meir`s made at the time of the Munich slaughter of Jews.

Oh BTW thankyou for the laugh about moral authority and Iran. Ha ha ha

10 April 2007 at 10:43  
Blogger Cranmer said...

Mr Newmania,

His Grace has not mentioned 'moral authority' or 'Iran' anywhere. You are indeed inattentive to think he has, and delusional to think he would juxtapose these terms. Iran is but a shadow of the meaning of 'civilisation'.

On your substantive point, wars have rules, and the alleged crimes of combatants ought to be heard in a court of law. To berate His Grace for quoting The Guardian (which he rarely does) is fatuous when your own opinions are forged by a superficial media. His Grace is merely making a case for justice and fair trial. To object to that is remarkably uncivilised.

10 April 2007 at 11:25  
Blogger Terry Hamblin said...

You seem to have swallowed some of the propaganda put about by the anti-vivisection movement. Animals waiting to take part in medical and scientific experiments are treated much more kindly than this.

10 April 2007 at 12:00  
Blogger Newmania said...

Well I am honoured to be noticed especially in the after-glow of your Graces star performance in the documentary concerning Tyndales Bible last night.

1 Iran / morals -Sorry I was referring to Surreptitious Evil just above not your Grace

2 Wars have rules yes and they are being followed by the West . As to whether one accepts that the UN is a fit body to adjudicate on such matters I have doubts. The case made is that these are civilians which I dispute. I would draw your Graces attention to the robust defence of the arrangement by the Australian PM along the lines I have suggested.( Which I came across in the Spectator )

3 -when your own opinions are forged by a superficial media……… That’s a little harsh but probably my fault. I did not mean to include your Grace,in the Generically dismissive term” Guardian reader”. I meant to point out that the “Guardian Reader” and /or Liberal soi disant would be delighted to agree your Graces point, for reasons of which I disapprove. Any implication of impoliteness to your Grace I regret and plead clumsiness of expression.

Justice and fair trial. – See above , not in civilian terms say I .

PS I think my views are probably formed by my father as much as by any other source and in essence have altered little since I was about thirteen some thirty years ago. This is very likely even worse than being informed by the superficial media …….

Trust your Grace enjoyed a happy Easter.

10 April 2007 at 12:18  
Anonymous Observer said...

On your substantive point, wars have rules, and the alleged crimes of combatants ought to be heard in a court of law

Wars do not have rules.

There were conventions imposed after 1908 - Hague Conventions and what is now known as Geneva Conventions but these only apply to signatory states

They do not apply to freelancers which was a disappointment to Sin Fein-IRA when Long Kesh was operating, even though the British were so thoughtful as to let terrorist suspects administer themselves within the camp, and even to assassinate prisoners in custody.

So it is hard to find a man with an AK47 and call him a representative of a state, let alone a state signatory to a treaty or convention.

Taleban regime in Afghanistan was recognised de facto only by Saudi Arabia and The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, by no other sovereign state or international body. All those fighting with Taleban were automatically denied any protection of any Conventions.

In fact under Geneva Conventions on Occupation the de iure legal system in place prior to Occupation should be maintained which makes any legal protections in the First World irrelevant.

As enemy combattants such persons should really have been killed. That the Americans bought prisoners wholesale from the Northern Alliance is a weak aspect of this point, but for civilian courts in one country to try combattants in a foreign war is I believe also prohibited in the Geneva Conventions, since combattants commit no crime by fighting.

There were US airmen put on trial in Tokyo, and I believe in Ruesselsheim near Frankfurt after their aircraft was shot down; they were executed. This was a breach of Geneva Conventions.

The simple fact is that there are no international agreements to protect freelancers engaged in military conflict; there were no extenuating circumstances for The Red Brigades, the Baader-Meinhof, the IRA, the Symbionese Liberation Army, the PLO, the PFLP, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas, etc etc to grant them the benefits of state protection.

I do not know how any state could recognise each and every armed group as having legal rights as combattants for actions carried on against a sovereign state against installations or allies of the sovereign state overseas.

Guantanamo seems less a divergence from a fixed body of law, than an innovation in how sovereign states must deal with teleological acts of violence directed against its existence and security.

10 April 2007 at 13:18  
Blogger Newmania said...

Most interesting Observer

10 April 2007 at 13:25  
Anonymous Alexander Scott said...

As an American, I admit that I am biased in favor of American policy. I would like to make some point to His Grace, which he may digest to whatever ends he wishes.

1. As was said above, these are not POWs but irregulars who have no Geneva rights. They have no uniform or rank, and historically such men would have been hanged or shot summarily (the Brits and Yanks have ceratinly done so to each other, although this is past His Grace's time).

2. Solitary confinement for dangerous Americans is the same as you have described for these men. Whether or not it is barbaric, it is no worse than any other dangerous criminal in the American penal system can expect.

3. It is difficult for me to believe that prisoners at Gitmo are treated so badly. We in the States constantly hear scandals about how toilets must be positioned properly, food cooked to Halal specifications, and soldiers must never touch the prisoners' Korans. That is, these things are being done but if there is ever a slip then it becomes a scandal. Such reporting seems penny-wise but pound-foolish if more serious infractions regularly occur.

4. Likewise with the prisoners being forcefed; it is a shame that they do not like their Halal meals, because it is certainly better than our soldiers eat. However, just as we won't allow them to commit suicide, despite the fact that it would reduce our burden, so allowing them to starve themselves is uncivilized.

5. Finally, these are dangerous men. I read at least one account where a prisoner was released and was found to be fighting again. Many of these men are trained in how to "act" the prisoner, to use our judicial system against us, to invent atrocities or commit them against fellow prisoners and blame the US. If you will consider the case of Lynne Stewart you will see that even their attorneys cannot be trusted to not pass aid to the enemy. There cannot be any good-faith dealings with many of these people.

Nevertheless, I am pleased that His Grace (and I hope that I have the appellation correct; in the States we would say "Mr. Cranmer", but I don't wish to break with decorum) retains an interest in human dignity and welfare. Even Gitmo prisoners deserve such.

10 April 2007 at 15:09  
Anonymous The Clarendon Code said...

"in the States we would say "Mr. Cranmer", "

I doubt it, you even address judges as "Your Honour" but that of course only applies to Circuit Judges here.

Then again, in the USA you do not have a Pope or an Archbishop, offices many centuries older than your country........but we still think of His Grace even though he was murdered by the wife of the King of Spain

10 April 2007 at 16:06  
Anonymous david aberdeen said...

I must thank your Grace with your erudite comments on Guantánamo.
This whole issue sticks out like a shore thumb, it is incredibly bad politics and does nothing but help feed the arguments of those that believe that the United States is nothing but an imperialist bully and acts as a powerful instrument for extremists. The real sore point however is the moral and ethical dimension which you highlight and I am a bit dissapointed with some of the comments so far.
This is hardly a regular war with regular armies and part of the problem with these detainees is that we don't know whether these are indeed enemy combatants, terrorist guerrilla members or the victims of faulty intelligence. How can any civilised individual sit back and justify what has ocurred with the lame excuses which we've heard?, are we to abandon the rule of law? are we to abandon our morals? are we to abandon justice? where do we get our ideas of justice from? These are certainly not godly actions and I am quite dissapointed not to hear stronger objections from my fellow christians from the US.
P.S. Yes I like to read The Guardian sometimes though I find it is best to read news from a wide variety of sources.

10 April 2007 at 23:37  
Anonymous ASimpleSinner said...

I sometimes think of these folks in sunny Cuba and think about how deprived they are...

At least their counterparts - Christinas impisoned in Muslim lands - get the dignity of persecution and martyrdom.

These poor bastards must suffer the indignity of being locked up on a Carribean island while being afforded decent healthcare, 3 balance (halal) meals a day, access to chaplains and are deprived the right to die fighting the infidel.

Is there enough room on a souvinir T-shirt to print My brother got to die a martyr fighting the infidel in Afganistan as a non-national independant combatant and all I got was time in a tropical prison with medical, dental, balanced meals, access to my religous texts and this lousy t-shirt!?

11 April 2007 at 08:53  
Anonymous Alexander Scott said...

>>"in the States we would say "Mr. Cranmer",

I apologize - what I meant to say is that, not being Anglican, RC, Orthodox, or English, I don't know the proper appellation for His Grace and can only hope that by following precedent on this site I have got it right.

As analogy, I have seen as shorthand on many US sites the notation "+[name]" for a bishop, "++" for archbishop, and "+++" for Canterbury. I have the impression that it would be insulting to refer to the name alone but the jargon remains foreign to me. In the absence of knowing the correct title, I would probably just add "Mr."

11 April 2007 at 13:36  
Blogger DumbJon said...

The dead giveaway is that the human rights posse - folks who make their millions finding bizarre and surreal interpretations of the legislation - have been forced to fall back on yattering about 'natural justice' and 'civilised values'. Isn't there something strange about people who yammer on about the 'rule of law' being so reluctant to actually quote any laws.

In actuality, the rules of war are a model of clarity here. Why not ? The folks who drew them up couldn't predict the rise of the Taliban, but they already had the examples of pirates and slavers, to name but two.

By any reasonable standard, these people are illegal combatants. Even if they were members of a sovereign countries armed forces, their tactics and mode of fighting would still render them outside the protections ascribed to lawful combatants. US troops would have been quite within their rights to execute them immediately.

Few things can be more perverse than the suggestion that those who have renounced the standards of legal warfare should - precisely by virtue of not being lawful combatants - be given all the legal protections normally granted to citizens.

12 April 2007 at 12:21  

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